The Duke of Atholl & His Private Army!

duke-of-atholl-atholl-highlanders-europes-last-private-armyNotwithstanding private contractor companies who are often characterised as being private army’s, there is actually one private army left in Europe – the Atholl Highlanders.

Although essentially a private guard, the regiment is technically part of the British Army, and still carries the Queen’s Colours.

In 1844, Queen Victoria presented the then Duke of Atholl with Regimental Colours, elevating the Atholl Highlanders to a private armed regiment.

A law in 1746, following Culloden, prohibited the wearing of tartan, kilts, the playing of bagpipes and (more significantly) the right of Highland Chiefs – regardless of their political persuasion – to raise private armed militia or armies. It was determined that only soldiers fighting for king and country had the right to bear arms.

By World War I the regiment had fallen into obscurity but in 1966 the 10th Duke of Atholl resurrected the regiment replete with pipe-band, received new Colours, and once again marched the Atholl Highlanders.

Every year, at the end of May, Blair Castle (the ceremonial home of the Duke of Atholl) in Highland Perthshire plays host to a truly unique event. The 100+ strong regiment of the Atholl Highlanders, including the pipe band, parades and is reviewed by their Colonel, the Duke of Atholl.

References & Further Reading

Murray, G. (2015) Europes Last Private Army, The Atholl Highlanders. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 06 November, 2016].

Moffet, R. (2015) You and Whose Army? The Story of the Atholl Highlanders. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 06 November, 2016].

YouTube: Uploaded: 24 October, 2009 by 19Jemess51.

Documentary: First aired by the BBC in 2015, The Last Dukes features the Duke of Atholl. Available periodically on the BBC iPlayer


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