An Idyll of 1745 by Sir John Everett Millais, painted in 1884.
Today is the 269th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden.
The painting shows three Scottish peasant girls listening intently to the flute of a drummer-boy from Cumberland’s army during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. That children from opposing sides of a bloody conflict can come together peacefully is meant to be an improving message for all adults. Such idealised views of children as paragons of innocence, truth and morality, were common in Victorian art. On the other hand, it could be argued that to have created a sentimental costume piece from such a violent conflict, Millais has shown an insensitive attitude toward Scottish history.
However, this painting can also be seen as an allegory for the stable Union to come. The children’s friendship possibly represents the overcoming of previous embittered memories of past wrongs, their shared kinship symbolising the end of a difficult, turbulent, process of union that had begun in 1701. After all, the battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle, and the Rebellion of the ‘45 was the last civil war, ever to be fought on mainland British soil.