Blupete's History Page

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A useful beginning, to the story of Culloden, would be where the Glorious Revolution left off. One of the results of this most important English political revolution was the removal of James the II and the placement, in 1689, of William and Mary on the throne of England. Mary was James' daughter; and, being raised a Protestant, acceptable to the English hierarchy. Mary died in 1694 and William continued on in his solidary reign for the next eight years until his death in 1702. Queen Anne -- another daughter of James the II, and, like her sister, Mary, raised a Protestant -- was then to take the crown. With the death of Anne, in 1714, the House of Stuart, as a royal line of kings of England, came to an end; for, these Protestant queens of England, were to leave no issue. Thus, there unfolded a dynastic crisis leading to the establishment of the House of Hanover.1

With the death of Queen Anne, the Elector George of Hanover, George I, took the English throne.2 George died in 1727; and his son, George II, took the English throne and continued to occupy it during the period under review.3

Today, Scotland and England are one: it was not always the case. Indeed, up to 1706, they were distinct and separate countries. For a better understanding of our subject, a short historical account of the union of Scotland and England is in order. It was to occur as a result of the Union Act of 1706. By it, on May 1st, 1707, Scotland and England were formed into one country, Great Britain. The passage of the bill was rocky. "The Unionists" in Scotland reminded their countrymen of the strength to be gained. England had just gained considerable international prestige as a result of Marlborough's great victories; and further, there was England's undisputed sea supremacy. Scotland, as a practical matter, had no army or navy and called on England for her protection. Further, Scotland was unrecognized as a nation by the European nations. In any event, Scotland could not get itself together as a nation; she had, nationally speaking, no political power; she was the last bastion of European feudalism, thoroughly divided by allegiances to numerous clan chiefs. Not to declare herself to be part of England was to leave her as an enemy of England and to "throw herself into the arms of the Jacobites and France, and in so doing sacrifice her Presbyterian Establishment."4 Despite the better arguments of "The Unionists"; the numbers and the passion favoured "The Non-Unionists." In any event, between the timing of its passage and with lots of money to ease it through: the Union Act was approved by parliament and Great Britain came into being.

"The Scotch church and the Scotch law were left untouched; but all rights of trade were thrown open to both nations, a common system of taxation was established, and a uniform system of coinage adopted. A single parliament was henceforth to represent the united kingdom; and for this purpose forty-five Scotch members, a number taken to represent the proportion of Scotch property and population relative to England, were added to the 513 English members of the house of commons, and sixteen representative peers to the 108 who formed the English house of lords."5
However, it is to be remembered, that the opposition to these measures -- then, through the years, and yet today -- was "bitter and almost universal." It is, with this background, that we might envision the following scene.

On July 23rd, 1745, a sailboat out of France quietly crept up to the shores of Eriskay, a small island, one of many that make up the Outer Hebrides in northwestern Scotland. There came ashore from this boat a group of eight men. One of these, but 25 years old, seemed to be the leader and spoke to his friends, sometimes in English, sometimes in French. A few kilted Scotsmen soon could be seen to meet them on the shore as a number of bags and boxes were off loaded. This, as unlikely a one that was ever to be seen, was an invasion. Charles Edward Stuart (1720-88) had come to take the English throne upon which his grandfather, James the II had sat, and from which he had been so rudely removed 56 years earlier.6

Charles Stuart had come to Scotland: his roots ran deep in that country. He and his few followers optimistically thought that the majority of the great Scottish clan chiefs would come to a Stuart's side: a Stuart of the royal Scottish line which went back to Robert the Bruce of 12th century Scotland; a Stuart who could trace his linage through a string of Scottish kings and to the throne of England, itself. His reception was not wholehearted. Macdonald of Boisdale advised him to return home. "I am come home, sir," retorted Charles.

We have seen where James the II had two daughters who had taken their turns as Queens of England between the years 1689 and 1714: Mary (1662-1694) and Anne (1665-1714). But, James the II had one other child, James Francis Edward (1688-1766). He was known as the Old Pretender. The Old Pretender, recognized and funded by the Pope, had made a couple of futile attempts to regain the English throne; but, in fact, spent most of his life in Rome only dreaming that he was the king of England. It was in Rome that a son was born to him, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart (1720-88), to become known in history as "Bonnie Prince Charlie," the Young Pretender. And, it was this man who, with seven of his friends, landed in July of 1745 at Scotland, on the small island of Eriskay.7

War, the War of the Austrian Succession, having broken out in 1744, the French decided that an invasion of Scotland, with Prince Charles Edward Stuart as leader, would confound the English and install a pro-French Jacobite on the throne. Having instigated the plot, the French were not over-generous in their support; it was Charles who raised most of the necessary funds. During July of 1745, Charles set sail for Scotland in the Du Teillay, with him was an escort ship, the Elisabeth. Off the Lizard the Elisabeth met and engaged an English man-of-war, the Lion. Both ships were badly damaged and Elisabeth was forced to retreat to France, carrying with her most of the invading force's arms and stores. Charles, in the Du Teillay, continued north, to Scotland; and, as we have seen, eighteen days after leaving France he went ashore at Eriskay.

Initially, as we have seen, things did not look too promising for Charles Stuart and his small band. Eventually, however, he won the grudging support of certain of the Macdonald and Cameron clans, such that, on 19 August 1745, Charles was to raise his father's standard at Glenfinnan. The Highlanders marched first to Invergarry, collecting support on their way. Charles arrived at Edinburgh on 16 September and the Government troops stationed there soon gave in. The Highlanders took control of the city in the name of King James VIII.

Shortly thereafter, the English general, Sir John Cope, arrived at the outskirts of Edinburgh and was then famously beaten by the Highlanders in the Battle of Prestonpans on the 21st of September. The Scots were on a roll: and with an army of 6,500; and believing that Charles's brother Henry was to come to their aid with a considerable French army -- they set out on November the 1st for London. By December 4th, the Highlanders reached Derby. Charles was confident of going on to take London but his staff thought otherwise. Having left Scotland and upon entering and proceeding through northern England, the army of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" stopped its growth, as there was little support for the Stuart cause in England. Resistance to their advance, however, amounted to little or none. Nonetheless, certain of the Scottish chiefs became increasingly nervous. Where was the British army? Was the promised French invasion on the south coast of England taking place? In fact, nothing lay between this Scottish army and London, but the chiefs had no way of knowing this. This increasing nervousness led, close to an unanimous recommendation. Reluctantly, Charles agreed to retreat to Scotland.

The Highlanders' retreat was an orderly one and by December the 20th, just six weeks after his campaign had begun, Charles was back in Scotland. On 17 January 1746 the Highlanders won their last battle, defeating Cope's successor, General Hawley, at Falkirk. Lack of fire-power prevented the Highlanders from taking Stirling Castle and, knowing the Duke of Cumberland's army to be heading north, they carried on to Inverness.

Charles had come with his Scottish horde to but a hundred miles or so from England's capital, and this was to cause considerable alarm in London -- to such an extent that the nobles, together with George the II, were packing their bags. The difficulty was that the cream of England's army was in Europe under The Duke of Cumberland, the son of George II. The duke and his forces were called home. However, to get the transports in position and to march the soldiers to the ports, took time. Great relief was to be felt in the halls of English power as word was received that the Scottish rebels were in retreat and Cumberland's army was in chase. Cumberland's experienced army, once reassembled on English soil, was to soon show itself as the efficient marching and fighting force that indeed it was. They would catch up with these Scottish rebels and deal with them, once and for all.

On the 16th of April, 1746, Charles' army of 6000 faced the 9000-strong army of the Duke of Cumberland on Drummossie Moor near Culloden, 5 miles from Inverness. The disciplined and well equipped English troops under Cumberland's command were, within an hour, to bring the Scottish rebellion to an absolute end. Over 1,000 highlanders were slaughtered, and, on Cumberland's orders, many more were butchered as they lay wounded and helpless.

Charles escaped to begin five months of hiding in the Highlands and Islands with a price of 30,000 pounds on his head. During all that time no one betrayed him. Famous among his exploits was his trip "over the sea to Skye" from South Uist, disguised as Flora Macdonald's serving woman "Betty Burke."8 On September the 19th, 1746, Charles Stuart sailed from Scotland, never to return. He spent the rest of his life in France and Italy, drowning his bitterness in habitual drunkenness. With his death in 1788, Charles Stuart was to leave behind a piece of history, which Scottish people world-over will forever remember; their Mecca, is a northern heath, which in 1746, was soaked with Scottish blood, near a place called Culloden.


[1] We learn (Chambers) that Queen Ann took no part in the politics of royal succession, though she was to immediately attach herself to her sister and her sister's husband, the Prince of Orange, upon their ascent in 1689. As I have pointed out, both Mary and Anne died childless. It is interesting to note that, in fact, Anne gave birth, indeed, to seventeen children. The only one that seemed to have survived infancy was the little Duke of Gloucester, but he too died in 1700.

[2] George I (1660-1727) was born at Hanover, the eldest son of Ernest Augustus of Hanover and of Sophia. It was through his mother that George had his connection to the royal English line; he was the great-grandson of James I of England. His principal credentials, however, was that he was a Protestant and was completely willing to subject himself to parliamentary authority. "George took little part in the government of the country the actual ruler being Sir Robert Walpole." One contemporary referred to him as a "honest blockhead" who looked forward every spring to his return to Hanover, there to spend the summer months with his family. (Chambers.) "The temper of George I was that of a gentleman usher; and his one care was to get money for his favorites and himself." (Green, vol. IX, p. 157.) George I "was a useful figurehead in a constitutional government, and rendered greater service than he may have intended to the country which adopted him." (Chambers.)

[3] Unlike his father, the "temper of George II was that of a drill-sergeant, who believed himself master of his realm." (Green, vol. IX, p. 157.) "Though George [2nd] interfered more in the government of the country than his father had done, the policy pursued during the first half of the reign was that of Walpole. ... he had no conspicuous virtues, and his worst vice was that common with his father, a propensity for mistresses." (Chambers.)

[4] For an accounting see Trevelyan's work, England Under Queen Anne, vol. 2, Ch. xiv.

[5] The story (recounted by Trevelyan) as the days ticked off leading up to the official day when England and Scotland were to be one, is, that, during the last days of April, thirty-one whales were found beached and dead on the sands of Kirkcaldie; their "monstrous presence" was regarded throughout the land as an evil omen. May first, 1707, in all of England, it was a holiday. In London, the Queen, "accompanied by four hundred coaches," proceeded to St. Paul's to give thanks for the greatest "victory" of her reign. In Scotland, they wept.

[6] Legend has it that seeds of a pink convolvulus (we know it by its common name, bindweed) carried on his shoes from France fell and germinated where he walked. True or not, the flower still grows on Eriskay and nowhere else in the Hebrides.

[7] From the French pretendre - to claim. The Old Pretender had married Clementine Sobieska who bore him two sons, Charles and Henry (born 1725). He believed that his sons should mix with Protestants as well as Catholics and saw to it that they did so. It is reported that Charles had a natural charm that won him support from a number of quarters.

[8] Flora Macdonald (1722-90) was not a political agitator or any great fan of the Jacobites. She simply helped Charles Stuart get away from the English and a fate, maybe of death, in the perilous days just after the Battle of Culloden. She was born in South Uist and lost her father at the age of two. At the age of 13 she was adopted by Lady Clanranald, wife of the chief of the clan. At one point, after the successful escape of Charles Stuart, Flora was, apparently captured by the British. Many Scotsmen had been taken into the British army and Flora was more fĂȘted then prosecuted. Indeed, Flora was to marry a British officer, another Macdonald from Kingsburgh, Isle of Skye. Her husband was to fight for the British during the American Revolution, and, indeed, she lived in North Carolina from 1774 to 1779. She lived out her years at Kingsburgh.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)