The Ardgour Regalia was likely commissioned for Alexander Thomas Maclean, 15th Laird of Ardgour (1835-1890), and supplied by Millidge & Sons of Edinburgh c1871. The exquisite cased set of Victorian Highland dress accessories has remained in the hands of Alexander’s descendants until 2021, when it sold at auction by Sotheby’s for $24,617 (USD) to a private collector.
The hallmark on the sporran’s cantle dates the set to c1871, coinciding closely with the death of the 14th Laird, Alexander Maclean (1799-1872). The date of the hallmark suggests that it was likely commissioned to mark the succession of the 15th Laird.
Alexander was born in Madras, India in 1835, and educated at Harrow. He entered the civil service of the East India Company in Bengal in 1857. He rose to the position of judge of the high court of judicature at Fort William, retiring with honors in 1884.
An oak case with a fitted blue baise interior includes a printed label indicating Millidge & Sons of Edinburgh, retailed the set. Each accessory had made-to-shape compartments. Secured with brass mounts, the lid has a plaque engraved, ‘A.T. Maclean ESQR of Ardgour’ below the Maclean crest. The case measures 4 in. high, 37 1⁄4 in. wide, and 18 1⁄2 in. deep.
The set included a pair of engraved pistols measuring 9 inches long, a silver-metal mounted cairngorm set decorative powder horn, the mounts of which are profusely decorated with the flowers of the Union and with an applied Clan Maclean badge. The larger stone is foil-backed with three securing rings.
The black thick-milled wool, toorie-toped, and beribboned (adorned with trailing ribbons) Glengarry bonnet was created by luxury Edinburgh clothier Alexander Cruickshank & Sons.
A small Celtic revival gem-set silver-metal broach measuring approximately 2 in. is fastened over the rosette beribboned cockade, elegantly echoing the inner styling seen on the larger Silver Plaid Broach.
The gem-set ebony hilt of the Highland dirk is adorned with silver mountings; its scabbard fitted with knife and fork below an engraved Maclean crest cartouche. The steel blade measures 18 in. long.
The silver-metal plaid brooch measures 4 3⁄4 in. across, and is a stunning example of the Victorian love of the Celtic revival style. The plaid broach is mounted with both faceted and cabochon (unfaceted) cairngorms and profusely worked with thistles.
The plaid broach is often called a cairngorm, because of they are traditionaly set with the smoky yellow/gray cairngorm quartz from the Cairngorm Mountain range.
From the black leather shoulder strap, a sword would have been worn. The leather strap is fastened with silver-metal mounts that are profusely worked with a thistle motif matching the regalia accessories.
The finial is engraved with the Maclean of Ardgour crest and motto, ‘Altera Merces’. The reverse is marked ‘Meyer & Mortimer’, a luxury London tailor still located on Savile Row who at the time of this commission had been in business for a century.
A stately silver-metal buckle fastens the heavy kilt belt. The buckle highlights the Maclean of Ardgour crest and motto, ‘Altera Merces’. The buckle is heavily adorned with the applied thistle motif consistent with the other accessories of the regalia.
The reverse of the buckle is also marked ‘Meyer & Mortimer’, indicating it was likely produces as a set by the luxury clothier. These pieces closely resemble the thistle motif of the sporran cantle.
The dress sporran is silver mounted with a silver cantle finely worked with thistles and centred by an engraved coat of arms of the Maclean of Ardgour. The cantle was engraved by Edwin Millidge of Millidge & Son in Edinburgh in 1871. The sporran has with three woven and coiled silver-thread tassels on a white horsehair background. The purse is made of maroon tooled leather, and has two interchangeable silver-metal dark horsehair tassels. The cantle is 6 1⁄4 in. wide and is worn from a silver-metal chain.
Two silver mounted carved ebony and gem-set sgianan-dubha remain in exceptional condition. Translated, ‘hidden black’ a sgain-dubh was worn hidden away in the hose (tall socks). The sgian-dubh was an accessory no Victorian-era Scottish gentleman was without as it hearkened to the days when it was customary to leave one’s weapon outside when entering another’s home. Each of these sgianan-dubha still have their original leather scabbards and are remarkably well preserved.
The paste shoe buckles are two inches wide.
Two small silver garter-buckles are decorated with thistles.