The enigma of Prince Charlie and the Holy Grail
Link between Jacobite hero and occult monument unveiled in competition to crack unbreakable’ 18th-century code
By Peter John Meiklem
21 November 2004
A MYSTERIOUS link between Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Holy Grail and an 18th-century occult” monument is set to be revealed this week as the results of a competition to crack a 250-year-old secret code are announced.
Ten seemingly unconnected letters, carved on a monument built on a Staffordshire estate, provide the location of the Holy Grail, according to legend. But in two and a half centuries nobody has been able to break the code.
In May, Shugborough Estate, which owns the monument, launched a national competition in conjunction with the second world war code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, for amateur and professional code-breakers. The results will be announced in a press conference on Thursday.
One of the competitions leading entrants reckons that the key to the mystery can be found in the life of the Scottish legend Charles Edward Stuart ? Bonnie Prince Charlie ? who tried to reclaim the British throne in 1745.
The entrant, whose identity will remain a closely guarded secret until Thursday, believes looking at the carved code in a mirror reveals a key date in the princes life which connects him to the Holy Grail legend.
Professor Alan MacInnes, from Aberdeen University, thinks the idea has historical backing. He said Bonnie Prince Charlie was one of the leading Freemasons in Europe after the failure of the 1745 rebellion and that this groups links to the Grail legend were well known.
If the theory has any credible link with the Holy Grail then it will rest with the Freemasons,” said MacInnes.
Corinne Caddy, a spokes woman for Shugborough Estate, said the Grail rumours were founded on the historical links between the monuments first owners, the Anson family, and the Freemasons. The Holy Grail is a strong masonic symbol, she explained.
Robin Nicholson, curator of the Drambuie Collection of Jacobite art, said the codebreakers idea of using a mirror to crack the code would tie in with the kind of art often commissioned by Jacobites.
Anyone openly supporting Prince Charlie could be executed for treason , Nicholson said, so hidden pictures needing special mirrors to view them properly became common.
There were very strong links between Jacobite art and Freemason art, he added. He said the Stuarts were the last royal family in Europe to believe they ruled because God had appointed them.
They didnt believe they were directly descended from Christ, but they did think there were strong links,” he said.
It was very common for the prince to be linked with Christ in art, he added, and it was definitely one of the metaphors for the Stuarts. The motto on a lot of the art was He Will Return”, and Bonnie Prince Charlie was seen by Jacobites in terms of the second coming, Nicolson said.
When he was was born, there is a legend that there was a bright star in the sky just like the one seen on the day of Christs birth.”
Bletchley Park veteran Oliver Lawn, who cracked thousands of Nazi codes on the famous Enigma machine, was among those who tried to unravel the 10-letter mystery.
He said the Jacobite idea was just one possible solution to be considered. A mirror image of a painting by Nicholas Poussin is also engraved on the monument and mirrors were a common feature of his technique, he explained.
He said the solution probably had very little to do with numbers and a lot more to do with 18th-century occultism”.
The actual Holy Grail was of little significance, he added. What is important is the symbolism it provoked during the historical period. The same occultist imagery can be seen in the Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh.”
Murlyn Hakon, a spokesman from Bletchley Park, said they had received 130 entries to the competition from all over the world. He said the code had puzzled great thinkers, including Charles Darwin, for hundreds of years and he couldnt yet confirm if they had a definite solution to the mystery.
All of our entrants think that theyve cracked it, but some of the professional code-breakers think that it’ almost too short to find a discernible pattern,” he added.
Hakon said many local people thought that William Anson, the man who built the estate, had left a message for his mistress, who lived nearby.
People did those kinds of things in those days and, if thats the case, then no code-breaker will ever be able to crack it,” he said.
Shugboroughs Caddy said that the Jacobite idea was interesting but it was only one of many different ideas that they had looked at.
The code has been an enigma to us for years and years and the mystery is extremely well known locally. Many local people have their own ideas what the code really means.”
She said she had seen some very strong and very interesting views put forward.
We will be very interested to see the results because so many people in the past have tried to crack it and failed. We want to see if anybodys been able to do it this time.”