After a long day of driving and exploring rural Scotland, Neil and I spent the night in the city of Inverness. Inverness is located on Scotland’s northeast coast where the River Ness meets a triangular inlet of the North Sea, known as the Moray Firth. Inverness is the largest city in the Scottish Highlands and serves as its cultural capital. Unfortunately, Neil and I didn’t have time to explore Inverness further as I had plans the next morning that immediately took us 9 kms (5.6 miles) east of the small city to the windy upland plain of Culloden Moor1—which famously served as the stage upon which the Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16, 1746.
The Battle of Culloden was the final conflict of the Jacobite Rising of 1745-1746, a movement led by Charles Edward Stuart (nicknamed “Bonnie Prince Charlie”) to gain the British throne on behalf of his father, James Francis Edward Stuart—the son of King James II and VII, who had been deposed and replaced during the Glorious Revolution of 1688-16892. Stuart’s Jacobite (from the Latin version of James, Jacobus) supporters had thus far been undefeated in the battles of the Uprising3. On April 16, 1746 the Jacobites faced off against a force of British Government troops led by Prince William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, the third and youngest son of King George II. The battle was over in less than an hour as the Jacobite forces were outnumbered and outgunned. Around 1,250 Jacobites were killed and a similar number were wounded; in contrast, the British Government’s army suffered only 50 dead and less than 300 wounded. It was the last pitched battle4 to take place on British soil.
Before continuing, I want to note that there is a mythology attached to the Battle of Culloden—and the Jacobite Rising of which it is a part—that attempts to simplify it as a conflict between England and Scotland. This is not entirely accurate. Although it is true that the majority of the Jacobite army was Scottish, it’s important to know that its ranks also included a sizeable amount of soldiers from England, Ireland, and France5. It’s also crucial to recognize that not all Scottish clans favoured Charles Stuart—a fair number of them supported the Hanoverian monarchy of George II, and thus fought with the British Government army6. Please keep this in mind as you read this post, especially when I get to the section that discusses several of the monuments that were installed on the battlefield in 1881, such as “the English Stone.”
I first learned about the Battle of Culloden while reading Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander, which features a plot in which the main protagonist travels back in time to 18th century Scotland. The major events of the story are shaped by the Jacobite Rising of 1745-1746, and the heroine is aware that the Scottish Highlanders she comes to know and love will very likely be killed in the impending final conflict. I read this book around 1995-1996 and it immediately kindled my interest in historical fiction. In addition to Gabaldon’s other novels, I sought out other stories that were set in Scotland and England during this and earlier time periods. When the opportunity to travel to the U.K. arose in 2016, I made it a priority to visit some of the historic sites that I had read about. This included the place where my love of reading about time-travel and Scottish history began 20 years earlier: the Culloden Battlefield.
In the 18th century, this stretch of boggy, heather-clad land was actually known by a different name: Drumossie Moor. The moor was located uphill from the village of Culloden, which itself was originally a series of estate houses that were attached to Culloden Castle. Drumossie Moor was used as common grazing land by tenants of the Culloden Castle Estate. Culloden comes from the old Scottish Gaelic term Cùl Lodain, meaning “back of the small pond” (Cùil Lodair in modern Scots Gaelic).
Culloden Castle was a 16th century Jacobean castle that belonged to the family of Duncan Forbes, a Scottish lawyer and politician. In 1745, Forbes was Lord Chief Justice of Scotland and a supporter of the Hanoverian monarchy of George II. Forbes was one of several prominent Highlanders who believed that Charles Stuart’s movement to restore his father’s throne was doomed to fail. In fact, Forbes was instrumental in convincing other powerful Highland chiefs not to join the uprising. In spite of Forbes’ opposition to his cause, Stuart requisitioned Culloden Castle as his lodging and battlefield headquarters three nights prior to the final conflict (Forbes was elsewhere at the time). As a result of its proximity, Culloden Castle lent its name to Stuart’s ensuing battle. As the account of this military action grew into legend, Culloden started being used more often in place of the original name of the moor—Drumossie—upon which the fighting took place (the moor is still sometimes referred to as Drumossie; I’m going to call it Culloden moving forward to avoid confusion). Culloden Castle was later extensively remodelled in the 1770s. The new residence was called Culloden House, and today it is a hotel.
The Culloden Battlefield is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, which aims to restore it as closely to its 1746 condition as possible. Visitors can explore the battlefield using a series of footpaths. There is also a visitor centre that shares the story of the conflict from the perspectives of both the Jacobite and the British Government forces. The displays feature various artefacts from the time as well as recent archaeological discoveries such as musket balls, buckles, coins, and a Jacobite pewter cross that was likely dropped during the battle. A highlight of the visitor centre is a 360-degree battle immersion theatre that features a re-enactment of the conflict. It makes for a very informative visit although, sadly for me, photographs were not permitted inside.
The highlight of a trip to Culloden Moor is, of course, a tour of the battlefield itself. Neil and I walked through it during the morning of June 21, 2016. It was a windy Midsummer’s Day where the sun blazed down intermittently between fast-moving clouds. Bright flashes of sunshine would suddenly be choked by oppressive grey shadow, and then just as suddenly reversed—an agitated spotlight. I felt like we were in another place where the veil between past and present was thin. There was something about standing there that a history book (or blog post) can’t quite impart. A mood, I typed out when I first started writing this post, that can’t be recreated by a museum or a visitor centre, no matter how interesting and informative the exhibits. I didn’t realize until I got further into researching and writing this post that my ability to have that exact experience was the result of decades of work that the National Trust for Scotland had undertaken, precisely so I (and other visitors) could have the privilege of feeling that way7. Although the National Trust’s goal to restore the battlefield is still a work in progress, what they have accomplished so far is exceptional—I wish that I hadn’t taken it for granted at the time. (More information on the National Trust’s efforts can be found later in this post).
Before we check out the battlefield, I’m going to provide you with a map below that shows the initial position of the armies prior to the commencement of battle. This will help orient our visit. The Jacobite forces are shown, in blue, on the left side. The British Government troops are located towards the upper right, in red. There are a few things I want you to note on the map, as I’ll be discussing each of them in turn. First, there is a white line that runs through the middle of the battlefield. This was not present at the time of the conflict; it indicates the present location of the B9006 highway that connects Inverness (to the west) with the town of Nairn (to the east). This stretch of the highway was actually constructed in 1984-1985 as the realignment of an earlier public road that had been built further south in 1835 directly through the clan graves. The National Trust for Scotland hopes to move this part of the B9006 highway even further north in the future, so that more of the Culloden Battlefield can be effectively protected and accessed by the public. Second, there is a white square labeled “Leanach” found between the first and second lines of the British Government army, just to the left of the “Ligonier” Regiment. This indicates the location of an 18th century farmhouse, Old Leanach Cottage, that we’ll visit later in this post. Third, towards the bottom of the right page, you can see several white lines that indicate the former walls of the “Culwhiniac” and “Leanach” enclosures. These enclosures were probably used at the time for winter grazing and/or manuring; we’ll be taking a peek at their partial reconstructions towards the end of our visit.
I’m now going to take you on a tour through some of the main features that can be seen on the Culloden Battlefield. We’ll begin by exploring the area where the front lines of the Jacobite and British Government armies were drawn up prior to the start of battle, as depicted in the map above. There are a few highlights that can be seen here, including coloured flags and stone regimental markers. Then I’ll take you through a series of monuments that commemorate the people who were killed during the battle; most of these can be found in the middle of the site, where the heaviest fighting occurred. We’ll then check out Old Leanach Cottage before concluding with the partial reconstructions of the Leanach and Culwhiniac Enclosures.
The location of the front lines of the Jacobite and British Government armies are indicated, respectively, by blue and red flags.
Stone markers can be found along the Jacobite and British Government battle lines, as seen in the photo below. They indicate the placement of the various regiments at the beginning of the battle.
Following are several photos of Jacobite regimental markers whose clans I can trace my family ancestry to: Clan Stewart of Appin and Clan MacLaren (who fought together in the Appin Regiment); Clan Stewart of Atholl (who were part of the Atholl Highlanders Regiment); and the Regiment of John Roy Stewart. The first marker is for the Appin Regiment, which contained 250 members from Clan Stewart of Appin and Clan MacLaren. They were located towards the far right on the front line of the Jacobite forces. A very distant grandfather, Donald MacLaren, served as a Captain for the 125 MacLarens in this regiment. He survived the battle at Culloden, but was later captured8.
Below is a view of the battlefield from behind the Appin regimental marker. If, like me, you’re trying to imagine what the members of Clan Stewart and Clan MacLaren would have seen, try to do so without the pine trees—they wouldn’t have been growing there at the time (I’ll explain why later on).
A wider perspective of the battlefield from behind the Appin regimental marker.
Below is a marker for the The Atholl Highlanders Regiment, which was located at the far right of the Jacobite front line in three battalions. Their 500 members came from Clan Murray, Clan Ferguson, Clan Stewart of Atholl, Clan Menzies, and Clan Robertson.
The next marker is for John Roy Stewart’s Regiment of 200 men. Note that, in Scots Gaelic, John Roy Stewart’s name is Iain Ruaidh Stiùbhartaich; I find it fascinating that Iain (further Anglicized as Ian) is the Scottish version of John.
Next up on our tour is a series of commemorative monuments that can be found on the battlefield. Most of these were added to the site in 1881 by Duncan Forbes, the last laird to live at Culloden House (and a descendant of the aforementioned Duncan Forbes, who owned Culloden Castle). The map below shows the locations of these monuments on the battlefield. We will visit, in the following order: the memorial cairn; a series of headstones that indicate the graves of the clans; the Irish Stone; the French Stone; the Well of the Dead; the English Stone; and the Cumberland Stone. Please note that the figure below dates to 1993, so it contains some outdated information. Archaeological work in 2001 has since indicated that the army lines stretched a little farther south than they are depicted on this map. This information also led to the later relocation of the Culloden Visitor Centre and car park.
The first monument on our list is the memorial cairn, which is located in the midst of several mass graves that contain the remains of around 1,250 Jacobite soldiers who were killed during the battle. Local legend holds that the burial mounds remain green because heather will not grow over them.
The memorial cairn stands 6.1 metres (20 feet) tall. Its plaque reads: “The Battle of Culloden was fought on this moor 16 April 1746. The graves of the gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland & Prince Charlie are marked by the names of their clans.” This latter statement is made in reference to a series of headstones that Forbes also had mounted on the battlefield in 1881, which are said to indicate the locations of these clan graves.
The figure below provides a rough idea of where the various clan graves and their associated headstones are located on the battlefield.
The majority of the clan graves and their corresponding headstones can be found in the centre of the battlefield where the heaviest fighting occurred. They can be found alongside traces of a public road (shown in the picture below) that was built through the middle of the clan graves in 1835, and then later moved in 1984. These headstones are said to indicate the burial places of specific clan members. However, there is some question about whether this is an accurate claim as they were added to the site 135 years after the battle9. I don’t have the expertise to judge whether the placement of the headstones and the names on them are indeed factual, or if it would be better to consider them as being more symbolic. Ever the peacemaker, I’m inclined to think the truth involves a bit of both: that, yes, the headstones for the most part indicate the location of graves that contain many of the bodies belonging to the suggested clan, but they don’t tell the entire story. Personally, it doesn’t matter that much to me whether or not all specific members of a clan are buried directly underneath a headstone that names them. It’s enough to know that there are several mass graves in the area that contain the bodies of over a thousand passionate soldiers who died fighting for the Jacobite cause. The headstones are a nice way to commemorate them, whether or not they are geographically exact.
With all that in mind, I have included a few photos of some of the clan headstones that I came across below. The first one honours the men of Clan MacGillivray, Clan MacLean, Clan McLachlan, and the Atholl Highlanders—which consisted of members from Clan Murray, Clan Ferguson, Clan Stewart of Atholl, Clan Menzies, and Clan Robertson.
Below is the headstone for Clan Stewart of Appin. Note that at the top of the photo, towards the middle, you can see a distant red flag indicating the front line of the British Government army.
You can see the flag better in the next photo.
Another view of the Clan Stewart of Appin headstone.
I noticed that someone had left a bouquet at the Clan Fraser headstone, which I thought was a nice tribute. It features thistle, Scotland’s national flower.
I had never seen blue thistle prior to our trip to Scotland. I didn’t realize that there was a variety of this prickly plant that could be so beautiful!
Clan Fraser, 400 strong, fought on the front line of the Jacobite forces at Culloden. They were located to the immediate left of the Stewarts of Appin and MacLarens.
I did not take pictures of all the clan headstones during our tour of the battlefield (which I regret), but I was able to source the ones I missed from elsewhere on the Internet. Below are the headstones for Clan Cameron, Clan Donald (accompanied by the Keppoch Stone), Clan Mackintosh, Clan MacGillivray, and a headstone for the “Mixed Clans.” Clan Cameron, whose stone is shown first, was one of the first to support Stuart upon his landing in Scotland. Their clan chief, Donald Cameron of Lochiel (known as “Gentle Lochiel”), was initially skeptical of Stuart’s ability to lead an uprising, but soon pledged his allegiance and became one of Stuart’s closest champions.
The Clan Donald headstone is situated 274 meters (900 feet) northwest from the other graves on the battlefield. It marks the approximate location of a grave that was locally known as the resting place of the Donalds, but was later lost during forestry operations in the area. This stone was erected in 1966 by members of the Clan Donald Society “to honour all MacDonalds killed at Culloden and in the battle elsewhere.”
The Keppoch Stone can be found west of the Clan Donald headstone. It is said to indicate the place where Alexander MacDonald, 17th Chief of the Keppoch MacDonalds, was mortally wounded during the battle. It differs from the rest of the monuments because it is a glacial erratic stone rather than a headstone.
Clan Mackintosh, whose headstone is shown below, is an interesting example of how family units could be bitterly divided over their support of or opposition to the Jacobite cause. The clan chief, Aenas (Angus in English) Mackintosh, had a company of men that fought for the British Government army—this was with Lord Loudon’s regiment of Scottish Highlanders, also known as the Black Watch. Aenas’ wife, Lady Anne Mackintosh (née Farquharson), on the other hand, was a passionate Jacobite. In 1745, at the age of 22, she was able to recruit 200-400 men from Clan Mackintosh and the confederation of Clan Chattan (with whom Aenas also served as a chief) for Charles Stuart and his Jacobite movement. As women were not allowed to command in the field, Lady Anne chose Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, the chief of Clan MacGillivray, to lead her Farquharson regiment of 250 men10.
Members of Clan MacGillivray, whose stone is shown below, fought with the regiment of Clan Chattan at the Battle of Culloden. Clan Chattan is an association of 12 Highland clans of which Clan MacGillivray and Clan Mackintosh are both members. Each clan in the confederacy has their own chief, with all of them united under and bound by the leadership of one supreme chief—in 1745, this was Aenas Mackintosh of Clan Mackintosh. In spite of this, most of Clan Chattan supported Charles Stuart. And so the Chattan Regiment had one of its other member chiefs, Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, chief of Clan MacGillivray, serve as its commander. MacGillivray was an imposing figure, standing 1.95 metres (6’5″) tall. You’ll recall that MacGillivray had also been asked by Lady Mackintosh to lead her Farquharson regiment. This was no problem for MacGillivray, as both regiments fought side-by-side in the middle of the Jacobite’s front line. A little more information on MacGillivray can be found later in this post in my discussion on the Well of the Dead.
The final Jacobite headstone, shown below, is one that is dedicated to the “Mixed Clans.” This probably serves as the burial place for those who couldn’t be sorted into a specific clan. But it raises a question for me that relates to the composition of the Jacobite army: What happened to the soldiers who weren’t Scottish? Where were the bodies of the English, Irish, and French soldiers buried? Were they put in this grave? Or were they buried somewhere else that went unmarked? It’s probably impossible to know the answer to this. But I think it’s important to remember, as you tour the Culloden Battlefield, that it wasn’t just Scottish people who died for the Jacobite cause. Not everyone managed to get a headstone. This is a good thing to keep in mind with many historical sites and monuments.
Although knowledge of the burial places of the non-Scottish Jacobites was lost over time, I am pleased to say that their service was not. Two memorials were later added to the Culloden Battlefield to honour the Irish and French regiments that served with the Jacobite army. The first of these, the Irish Stone, was installed in 1963 by the Irish Military History Society. It honours the Irish Piquets11, a regiment that was composed of soldiers from the Irish Brigade of the French Royal Army, as well as a French-Irish cavalry regiment known as FitzJames’ Irish Horse. The Irish Stone can be found in the spot where the Irish Piquets were stationed at the beginning of the battle.
The plaque on the Irish stone, shown below, begins, “Culloden. 16 April 1746.” The next sentence, translated from Irish, reads, “The breed of Kings, sons of Mileadh [the legendary founder of the Irish race], eager warriors and heroes.” It continues, in English: “Near here, fighting for Prince Charles, stood the Pickets of the Irish foot regiments in the French service; 700 yards to the south-east was a squadron of Fitz James’s Irish horse. They suffered heavy losses.”
The second memorial, the French Stone, was erected in 1994 by the White Cockade Society, a living history and re-enactment organization that celebrates the Jacobites and the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland. The stone honours the service of the French Royal Scots, a French military regiment that was mostly made up of Scottish exiles; they were also variously referred to as the Royal-Ecossois, the Jacobite Royal Scots, and Lord John Drummond’s Regiment. The regiment was first formed in 1744 under a 1743 order. During the 1745-1746 Rising, Jacobite service was indicated by white cockades worn in the hat. The French Royal Scots were later disbanded in 1762, at which point its members were mostly absorbed by the Irish Brigade. The French Stone can be found where the French Royal Scots were positioned prior to the battle.
Near the clan headstones are the remnants of a stone-lined rectangular well known as “the Well of the Dead” because several wounded and dying Jacobite soldiers drank from it after the battle.
Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, the Chief of Clan MacGillivray, was killed near the Well of the Dead. He is said to have led the charge of the Farquharson and Chattan regiments with such ferocity that he broke the front line of the British Government army before he was killed. A stone commemorates the place where he was struck down.
The so-called “English Stone” was erected by Forbes in 1881 to indicate the burial place of those who died fighting for the British Government army. It is located east of the graves of the clans and the Well of the Dead, in an area behind the front line of the British Government army that is known as the “Field of the English.” The engraving on the stone reads: “Field of the English. They were buried here.” However, research has indicated that there is no mass grave located by this stone. The nearest one is actually about 45 meters (150 feet) away. As a result, the English Stone provides a good case for how Forbes’ 1881 monuments may be more symbolic than factual. Another issue with the stone, and the field to which it refers, is that the soldiers in this army weren’t entirely English; forgetting, for example, that four of Cumberland’s sixteen infantry regiments were Scottish and one was Irish.
We are now going to go about 500 meters (0.31 miles) east of the British Government army’s front line to visit the last of the many stones associated with the Culloden Battlefield. The so-called “Cumberland Stone” is not actually part of the National Trust site; it is a 2 minute drive or 9 minute walk east of the visitor centre’s parking lot. The Cumberland Stone is a large glacial erratic boulder that is reputed to have served as a place where the Duke of Cumberland stood during part of the battle or, alternately, as a spot where he ate a meal afterwards. The boulder would have offered a good vantage point as it stands 1.6 metres (5.25 feet) tall and 16.3 metres (53.5 feet) in circumference—the trees that currently surround it would not have been present at the time. However, Cumberland was on horseback during the Battle of Culloden so it is unlikely that he would have used this boulder as a lookout; it is also located too far away from the front line of the British Government’s army for it to have been useful. Nevertheless, the rock assumed this mythology. In 1881, Forbes had the words “Cumberland’s Stone” carved into the rock face. Four metal rungs were also added to the boulder at some point to help people climb onto it more easily.
The photo of the Cumberland Stone shown below was taken in the 1880s by Scottish photographer George Washington Wilson, prior to the planting of a conifer plantation on the Culloden Battlefield in the 1920s. Some traditional thatched cottages are shown in the background. The photo gives you a good sense of how open the landscape of Culloden Moor used to be (minus the cottages).
With the stones covered, we will now return to the main part of the battlefield. This is where we will find Old Leanach Cottage, shown below, which was built in 1760 after the Battle of Culloden. The walls feature a mixture of stone and turf, while the roof thatching is made from heather that was collected from the battlefield. It is said to stand on the site of an earlier turf-walled cottage that had found itself flanked by the first and second lines of the British Government forces during the conflict, and was later used as a field hospital for government troops. This newer farmhouse was lived in until 1912. It fell into disrepair, but was later restored by the Gaelic Society of Inverness12. In 1970 the National Trust used the cottage to house a small exhibit about the Battle of Culloden until a new purpose-built visitor centre was opened adjacent to it in 1972. Old Leanach Cottage was closed to the public when Neil and I visited, but it was reopened in 2019 as a temporary exhibition space.
A short walk southwest of Old Leanach Cottage will bring you to a stone wall, shown below, that was built in the mid-1990s to show the approximate location of a small section of the former Culwhiniac Enclosure. During the battle, the stone walls that outlined the Culwhiniac and Leanach enclosures added a layer of complexity to the Jacobite army’s position on the field.
I’ve re-posted the battlefield map below and zoomed in on the area of the enclosures. One of the Jacobite generals, Lord George Murray, had been aware of the tactical weakness that they posed prior to the battle. However, the Jacobite army was already stretched very thin, so Murray was unable to station any soldiers within the enclosures. You can see that this was not a problem for the British Government army, as they had three regiments placed there.
During the battle, the Argyleshire Men were able to tear down part of the wall in the Culwhiniac Enclosure, which allowed the supporting cavalry regiments to pass through and advance on the rear line of the Jacobite army. They were then able to use this secure position to fire on the Jacobites as they tried to retreat.
That concludes my highlight tour of the Culloden Battlefield! I am now going to shift my discussion towards the history of the site following the battle, and explain how it came under the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
Culloden Moor underwent considerable change and development during the two centuries that passed after the conflict. Visitors were drawn to the battlefield as early as 1746, even though at the time there was little for them to see beyond the burial mounds13, their rounded green surfaces still distinguishing them from the rest of the black heath landscape. The moor and the battlefield within it were gradually swallowed up by new agricultural and forestry projects. Bullets and armour fragments were occasionally discovered as native moorland was plowed for the first time. The most intrusive change, already mentioned, came with the construction of a public road (B9006) through the middle of the battlefield in 1835.
On the centenary of the conflict in 1846, approximately 3,000 people gathered at the battlefield in commemoration. This occasion encouraged local discussion about having a monument to the battle built onsite, but various efforts soon faltered—largely due to a lack of funding. The last quarter of the 19th century saw the landscape further claimed by new farmhouses, fields, and tree plantations. Soon, only a few small pockets of undeveloped moorland remained at the northern and westernmost ends of the battlefield.
In 1881, Duncan Forbes quietly arranged for the installation of the memorial cairn and the clan headstones, previously seen in this post. He likely paid for them out of his own pocket, and did so without any ceremony, press, or public fanfare (which was apparently in keeping with his character). The stones were locally sourced, and the labour was likely done by estate workers already employed by Culloden House. The 19th-century Duncan Forbes had thus undergone an interesting political reversal from his 18th-century ancestor with whom he shared a name, as his sympathy for the Jacobite cause moved him to create this first and lasting memorial to the fallen soldiers. It’s a good example of how divisive Charles Stuart could be: 136 years later, and different members of the same Scottish family still continued to hold conflicting political allegiances, even though the outcome of the Uprising had been long and decisively settled. It’s easy to imagine how fractious Stuart’s movement would have been at the time, when the Pretender-Prince’s conclusion was not yet foregone.
In the 1920s, the estate of Culloden House began to be broken up with the sale of various tenant farms. In 1925, a significant parcel of land was sold to the Forestry Commission. As a result, most of the Culloden Battlefield was planted with pine trees. A small area around the memorial cairn became the only area clear of any trees, and it became increasingly difficult for visitors to find any trace of the former battle site. In spite of this, tourist numbers at the battlefield continued to grow and concern was soon expressed about the lack of respect some of these people were exhibiting; litter and graffiti were particularly concerning. The Gaelic Society of Inverness began to play an active role in protecting and preserving parts of the Culloden Battlefield. They raised funds to repair Old Leanach Cottage, and also had railings installed around the memorial cairn to discourage vandalism and litter. The society also argued against the widening of the public road through the battlefield, even suggesting that it should be moved to prevent further disturbance of the nearby burial mounds.
In 1935, local outrage mounted when a bungalow was built in an area close to the clan graves, behind the English Stone, and opened a teahouse (variously referred to as “Achnacarry” and “the Clan Road House”). In 1936, a gas station was also installed nearby; its construction would have, most certainly, involved digging into a sensitive area of the battlefield. It was at this point that the Gaelic Society of Inverness invited the National Trust for Scotland to intervene.
The National Trust for Scotland was created in 1931 as a conservation charity that aims to protect and promote Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations to enjoy. The National Trust took over stewardship of the Culloden Battlefield in 1936, and has since worked towards protecting, conserving, and restoring the site. This was no small feat, as the land had undergone a lot of change since the 1746 battle. The first two decades of the National Trust’s leadership saw momentum begin to build for the project of saving the battlefield. Its first order of business was to retrospectively review and object to the planning application for the gas station. However, there was little the National Trust could do at this point beyond having the pumps re-situated. The battlefield’s first step forward came in 1937 when Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm gifted two small areas of land to the National Trust (1.11 acres and 0.12 acres, respectively). This marked the beginning of the National Trust’s quest towards gradually acquiring all of the land upon which the battle played out—a project that continues today.
A second positive step for the Culloden Battlefield involved the cessation of commercial activity at the controversial Achnacarry teahouse and gas station by 1940 (it remained a private residence). A third step forward came in 1944 when Hector Forbes, the 13th laird of Culloden, made a gift to the National Trust of 2.9 acres of land containing the graves of the clans, the memorial cairn, Old Leanach Cottage, and the Well of the Dead. He also sold the land with the King’s Stables Cottage12 (0.2 acres) to the National Trust for £25, and in 1945 made a further sale of the field that had the Cumberland Stone.
The preservation of the battlefield experienced a setback in 1946 when above-ground telephone cables were installed alongside the B9006 highway through the middle of the site—unfortunately, the National Trust was unable to prevent this as the land was not yet under its care. A fourth progressive step came in 1959 when Ian Munro, the son of Alexander Munro, added to his father’s earlier gift with a parcel of land (0.59 acres) that made it possible to link together some of the Trust’s properties. The acquisition of these Munro and Forbes properties were significant early milestones; however, the majority of the land making up the Culloden Battlefield remained under the ownership of individual farmers or the Forestry Commission.
The National Trust of Scotland continued to make steady progress with its restoration efforts throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 1962, the overhead telephone cables were moved underground. In 1968, the Highland Council designated the Culloden Battlefield as a Conservation Area14. In 1970, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission recognized that they had to work together on visitor management. Even though most of the battlefield remained inaccessible to the public, the memorial cairn and clan graves continued to draw a growing number of visitors to the site. More people were using cars or coach buses to travel to the battlefield and would park on the side of the road—right on top of the clan graves—since there was nowhere else for them to go. To discourage this, the National Trust purchased a small piece of land (0.86 acres) from the Forestry Commission and had a parking lot built 300 meters (984 feet) east of the memorial cairn. The National Trust also opened an exhibition about the Battle of Culloden in Old Leanach Cottage and built a footpath that linked the parking lot, the cottage, and the graves. The Forestry Commission placed regimental markers to indicate the battle lines of the two armies based on the research of Iain Cameron Taylor of the National Trust. They also operated two forestry rides. In 1972, the National Trust purchased the Achnacarry bungalow when it came up for sale. After reviewing a number of options for the residence’s use, it was decided that its prominent location and modern appearance had too negative an impact on the landscape; it was subsequently demolished. Also in 1972, a larger, purpose-built visitor centre was opened adjacent to the parking lot.
A coal boom in the mid-1970s led to the rapid expansion of nearby Inverness, resulting in increased pressure to sell the land around the battlefield for residential development. The National Trust tried to mitigate this threat by working to expand its holdings and, by 1981, had acquired 12.4 acres of land. However, the site was still surrounded by a conifer plantation, which made it difficult for visitors to imagine the full, open scope of the original battlefield. To resolve this, the National Trust made a significant purchase of 109.3 acres of land from the Forestry Commission for £33,000 (£15,000 of which was a contribution from the Countryside Commission for Scotland—now Scottish Natural Heritage). The sale took place on the condition that the land was cleared of most of its trees by the Forestry Commission, which was completed by 1983. It was hoped that the natural heath vegetation would soon return but, unfortunately, the tree-felling process left the ground in rough shape and provided a rich seed bed for invasive shrubs such as gorse, juniper, birch, and conifers. The tree plantation had forever changed the native landscape; without management, this area would now grow into birch dominated scrub before transitioning into woodland, rather than the desired heathland. This means that the battlefield requires constant maintenance in order to keep the invasive vegetation at bay. Still, this 1981 land purchase was a considerable achievement for the National Trust even if the landscaping ended up being more work than expected.
The purchase and clearance of forest from this section of the battlefield was also instrumental in accomplishing another major restoration goal: the long-desired realignment of the B9006 road. Negotiations for this process had first opened in 1946 and continued intermittently until 1983, when the National Trust worked out an exchange of land agreement with a neighbouring landowner, John Moir Alexander. With this final piece in place, the land needed to build the new road was finally secured. Construction to move the road north began in 1984 and was completed in 1985 (the two routes are compared in the diagram below). At last, the critical area of the battlefield containing the clan graves was secure from the continued physical harm that vehicle traffic and road work presented. Further, the historic integrity of the Culloden Battlefield could now begin to be recovered—a feat that the public road had formerly made impossible. The National Trust hopes to eventually move the road even further away from this new location, enabling broader protection of and public access to the northern half of the battlefield.
In 1989, the National Trust of Scotland made another critical land purchase of 37.8 acres at a cost of £30,720 (made possible with contributions from Ruth Berlin and Scottish Heritage USA, the Glencoe Foundation, and the Countryside Commission for Scotland/Scottish Natural Heritage). They did this as a defensive measure because this area south of the battlefield, which contains the so-called “Field of the English”, was on the verge of being sold for development. It is very fortuitous that they made this purchase, as recent archaeological evidence now indicates that this land was also involved in the conflict; the army lines stretched further south than originally thought. In fact, this discovery also revealed that the 1972 visitor centre (which was expanded in 1984) had been built across the southernmost part of the second line of the British Government’s army. Further archaeological work was undertaken in 2004 and 2005 to determine a more appropriate site further south for a new visitor centre, which was opened in 2008.
Efforts to protect and restore the Culloden Battlefield continue to this day. Unfortunately, only one third of the battlefield presently falls under the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The rest of the battlefield, as well as the majority of the land that makes up the Culloden Muir Conservation Area of which it is a part, does not yet have sufficient protection from developers. Development threats to the area have increased exponentially in recent years, with the location of controversial housing projects being approved as little as 1.6 kms (1 mile) from the National Trust’s site. The National Trust has supported applying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status in an effort to gain more protection for the area, but there is concern that such a bid could already be compromised due to these recent housing developments. There is hope that the Scottish Battlefields Trust will attempt to buy up privately-owned pockets of land as a safeguard. A consultation process, Culloden 300, was held in 2019 to gather insight on what the public would like to see happen in the area. It will be interesting to see what unfolds. I hope that the National Trust for Scotland will be successful in its continued project of protecting and restoring the Culloden Battlefield.
That’s it for the Culloden Battlefield! (Except for the footnotes, and they are extensive). I hope you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading!
1 A moor is a section of open and uncultivated land. It may be a heath (consisting of sandy soil and scrubby vegetation) or marshland, making it unsuitable for farming. It could also be a tract of land reserved for hunting.
2 For a timeline of events that chronicle the Stuart’s rise to and fall from the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland, scroll to the end of the footnotes section. Highlights include the Glorious Revolution, as well as several Jacobite Risings that took place between 1689-1719.
3 For a timeline of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, scroll to the end of the footnotes section.
4 A pitched battle is one in which both sides choose the fighting location and time. Each side has the opportunity to disengage before the battle starts or shortly thereafter. It is not a chance encounter (such as a skirmish) or an ambush, where one side is forced to fight at a time not of their choosing.
5 It has long been assumed that the majority of Charles Stuart’s supporters were Scottish Highlanders. Although this is technically true, the actual composition of the Jacobite army reveals that this is a slimmer majority than the legends suggest: 46% of the Scottish recruits came from the Highlands and the Islands, while 45% came from north-eastern Scotland and the Lowlands (25% from Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, and Forfarshire; 20% from Perthsire). The remaining 9% of the army consisted of English supporters and professional French, Irish, and Scottish soldiers who were in service with the French Royal army as part of the Irish Brigade or the regiment of French Royal Scots.
6 The Jacobite movement spanned a period of 56 years, with major periods of rebellion flaring up in 1689, 1715, 1719, and 1745. That’s a long time to believe in a cause, especially one that has yet to succeed. As a result, Jacobite loyalties were inconsistent. Having a certain family or region support the Jacobites in an earlier uprising was no guarantee that they would do so again in 1745. Participation in a failed coup had previously resulted in many people losing their land and titles, being imprisoned, and even executed. The decision to either support or oppose the Jacobite Rising of 1745 really came down to an individual assessment of risk versus reward. When Charles landed on the Scottish shores with nothing more than a 16-gun ship and a handful of men, his prospects seemed bleak. Many former Jacobites decided that they were not willing to risk everything on his behalf, and told him to go back to France. It says a lot about Charles’ personality that he opted to continue his quest, sparking a rebellion that—at its height—numbered 9,000-14,000 supporters.
7 It was easy for me to dismiss the visitor centre in favour of the perceived authenticity I had for the battlefield. However, it’s important to remember that the heart of the National Trust’s work at Culloden is the battlefield. The visitor centre is supplemental to the experience, and was built to accommodate visitor needs.
8 Donald MacLaren was injured at the Battle of Culloden, but managed to survive and evade capture for a few weeks. He was later caught in the steep hills (braes) outside of the hamlet of Lenie, where he was shot and wounded in the leg by a musket ball. Donald spent time in prisons at Stirling and Canongate in Edinburgh. Then, in August 1746, an armed guard began to escort him to Carlisle, where he was meant to undergo trial and likely face execution for his role in the uprising. About halfway through his journey, Donald managed to free himself from his restraints. While passing an area known as the “Devil’s Beef Tub” near the town of Moffat (74 kms/46 miles south of Edinburgh), Donald threw himself over the steep hillside of Errickstane Brae. Heavy mist provided him with cover as he made his way to the bottom. The guards tried to chase him, shooting their muskets randomly into the dense fog, but Donald successfully escaped. Locals would later refer to this spot as “MacLaren’s Leap.”
It is at this point that there are differing versions of the story. Oral tradition from descendants of Donald’s son, James (born 1742, emigrated to Canada in 1803), holds that Donald remained hidden in an area of boggy ground, covered with turf, until nightfall. Then, under the cover of darkness, Donald safely made his way to an old acquaintance who provided him with food and shelter until his death a few weeks later. Another version of the story, recorded by Bishop Forbes in 1769, alleges that Donald stayed at George Black’s house (12 miles north) for a night before returning to Balquhidder (a further 143 kms/89 miles to the northwest). According to a publication by the Scottish Historical Society, “The Prisoners of the ‘45” by Bruce Gordon Seton, Donald lived in Balquhidder disguised as a woman until an act of amnesty was passed. This doesn’t sound likely, but I prefer thinking that this last version is true!
One of the display cases at the visitor centre contained an 18th-century basket-hilted broadsword (with scabbard) that belonged to Donald MacLaren. Even though photography was not allowed, I really wanted to take a picture of an item that had once belonged to my 8x-great-grandfather. I didn’t want to get in trouble, though, so I quickly took it with my phone rather than my actual camera; that’s why the photo quality is not that great. Better than nothing, though! Below the sword is a copy of Redgauntlet, a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, which features a fictionalized version of MacLaren’s escape. At the bottom of the display case is a modern tartan that was woven using the surviving fragments of a suit of clothes that was given to Charles Edward Stuart by Catriona MacDonald, Lady Borrodale, when he sought refuge with her in the village of Arisaig after the Battle of Culloden. The original suit became a cherished memento of the lost Stuart cause, preserved through several generations of MacDonalds.
A closer look at the sword.
In front of the visitor centre is a pathway made up of individual tiles with clan names and symbols. The tile for Clan MacLaren (Clann Labhrainn in Scottish Gaelic) is shown below. Creag an Tuirc is Irish for “The Boar’s Rock”: the motto, rallying cry, and ancient meeting place of Clan MacLaren; the clan would gather at a boulder, the Boar’s Rock, that was located on a hillside overlooking Balquhidder. Ab Origine Fidus is Latin for “Loyal from the beginning.”
9 On the one hand, the dead were buried by local people who would have recognized some of the fallen fighters. Some of the rest may have been successfully identified by clan badges such as the clan-specific spray of leaves or flowers they wore in their bonnet. Identification by clan tartan would not have been significantly helpful because, at the time, the wearing of individual clan tartans was not a common and widespread practice. It’s possible some clans may have had something distinctive about the tartan they were wearing, based on the weavers and materials specific to their region, but our modern understanding of clan-specific tartans is largely a romantic Victorian invention. It’s hard to know how accurate the placement of bodies in the mass graves was. Maybe it was highly accurate, and oral tradition maintained and passed this information down through the generations as completely and correctly as possible. On the other hand, it is also feasible that the bodies weren’t all properly identified and buried, and that whatever information there was available about the burials changed with its re-telling over time.
10 In case you were curious, the Culloden Battlefield did not play host to an epic showdown between Lady Anne’s regiment and the men commanded by her husband. Aenas Mackintosh and his troops were captured by the Jacobites a month prior to the battle. Stuart had Aenas paroled into Lady Anne’s custody, saying that Mackintosh “could not be in better security, or more honourably treated.”
11 When King James II/VII was deposed during the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, the Irish Parliament and Irish army remained loyal to him. The subsequent Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland (1689-1691) saw fighting break out between those who remained loyal to James II/VII and those who supported the new monarch, William III of Orange. James II/VII went to Ireland in March 1689 to help with the rebellion. After the Irish army lost a couple of battles to the Williamites, James II/VII asked his cousin and ally, Louis XIV of France, to send him some French reinforcements. But Louis XIV had his hands full with the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697) and couldn’t spare the men. An exchange was arranged instead: Louis XIV would supply James II/VII with 5,000 French soldiers, but only if James II/VII sent him 5,000 Irish soldiers in return. In May 1690, the Irish Brigade was formed and sent abroad to become part of the French Royal army. In 1691, when James II/VII and his supporters conceded defeat in the Williamite-Jacobite War, a separate force of 12,000 Jacobites of the Irish army were sent to France—this departure became known as the Flight of the Wild Geese. At first these soldiers formed their own separate unit, “King James’-own-army-in-exile”, but later in 1697 they were disbanded and absorbed by other regiments including the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade became one of the elite units of the French army, with its ranks gradually acquiring French and foreign-born recruits. But its Irish-born officers and men often aspired to return to aid Ireland and regain their ancestral lands. They got the chance to do so in 1745 when the Irish Picquets—a composite battalion of infantry composed of members from each of the regiments of the Irish Brigade, plus one squadron of cavalry (FitzJames’ Irish Horse)—were formed.
12 The Gaelic Society of Inverness restored another building at the same time, known as King’s Stables Cottage, that is situated northwest of the main battlefield site. King’s Stables Cottage is a single-storey, 3-bay rubble cottage that was known to have existed in 1746. It may have been used to billet cavalry members from the British Government’s army for several nights after the conflict, hence its name.
13 One early visitor to these burial mounds may have provided modern researchers with an essential clue that will help them determine where the bodies of the fallen British Government soldiers were buried. A recent archaeological discovery unearthed an unusual foreign silver coin, dated to 1752, from the Duchy of Mecklenberg-Schwerin (one of the German Baltic states). The coin may have been dropped by a soldier who had served on the European Continent but, some time later, found himself in the Highlands—perhaps stationed at nearby Fort George. He may have taken some time to visit the graves of his fallen comrades when they were still marked in some way. Geophysical surveys indicate that there is a large burial pit located directly below where the coin was found.
14 In 1968, Culloden Battlefield was designated as a Conservation Area with the intention of encompassing the area associated with the battle of 1746. The boundary was drawn based on the understanding of the battle at the time and no amendments have been made since. It included the area where it was believed the Jacobite and government lines were positioned, and where the main hand-to-hand fighting took place. Recent research, including metal detector surveys and archaeological investigations, have increased knowledge of the battle and how it extends beyond the area currently designated as the Culloden Battlefield Conservation Area. There is an urgent need to revise and expand the boundaries of the Conservation Area based on this updated information.
2 Stuart Dynasty Timeline (17th-mid 18th century):
1603: death of Elizabeth I, ascension of King James VI of Scotland to the throne of England and Ireland (as James I). He is the first monarch to rule over all three kingdoms, and is a member of the Stuart dynasty2a.
1625-1649: reign of James I/VI’s son, Charles I. Charles I is executed at the height of the English Civil War in 1649. His two sons, Charles and James, flee England and live in France with their cousin, Louis XIV.
1660: English monarchy is restored. Charles I’s sons return to England and the eldest reigns as Charles II.
1672: Charles I’s second son, James, is revealed to have converted to Catholicism—a problem because anti-Catholic sentiment is high in England, and James is next in line to the throne.
1677: James reluctantly agrees to the marriage of his daughter, Mary, to the Protestant Prince William III of Orange2b.
1678-1681: Three Exclusion Bills seek to prevent James from succeeding his brother. The bills fail to pass, and the conflict splits England into two political factions: the Tories and the Whigs2c.
1685: Charles II dies without legitimate issue. His younger brother becomes King James II/VII of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Although many Whigs are discontent with having him as a ruler, they comfort themselves with the fact that his Catholic rule is temporary as his heir, Mary, is safely married to a Protestant.
1688: The Glorious Revolution is triggered in June when James II/VII and his second wife, Mary of Modena, give birth to a boy: James Francis Edward Stuart (somewhat unexpectedly, as the couple had been childless for 11 years). Whig politicians panic, as the rules of primogeniture mean that Mary and William are now displaced as James II/VII’s heirs to the throne in favour of this new Catholic son. They issue an invitation to William III asking him to intervene, promising him military and political support. William III lands in England with an invasion force in November. James II/VII decides not to take on William III’s army and flees England for France at the end of December. He lives with his family in exile at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, once more supported by his cousin, Louis XIV.
1689: In January, the English Parliament rules that James II/VII has abdicated his throne. They grant it to Mary and her husband, who rule it jointly as Mary II and William III. The Glorious Revolution has thus come to pass in England relatively peacefully. But Ireland and Scotland soon push back with two simultaneous Jacobite uprisings.
March 1689-October 1691: The Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland. Results in Jacobite defeat2d.
March 1689-February 1692: Scottish Jacobite Rebellion. Results in Jacobite defeat2e.
1694: Mary II dies without issue. William III is not interested in remarrying. Mary II’s younger sister, Anne (also a daughter of the deposed James II/VII by his first marriage) is next in line to the throne.
1700: Anne’s only surviving child2f, Prince William, dies at the age of 11. The English Parliament is nervous. Without issue, the throne is slated to pass from William III to Anne, and then to Anne’s Catholic half-brother, James FE Stuart.
1701: The English Parliament passes the Act of Settlement. This Act ensures that succession to the throne of England and Ireland can only be conferred upon Protestants, forever excluding Roman Catholics or persons married to a Roman Catholic (this was only repealed in 2015). This makes Anne’s first cousin, the Electress Sophia of Hanover (a granddaughter of James I/VI), second-in-line to the throne rather than James FE Stuart.
Also in 1701: James II/VII dies in France. Louis XIV declares that James FE Stuart is the rightful heir to the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland—a claim that would be repeated by Jacobites for the next 45 years. James FE Stuart is later referred to as “the Old Pretender” by his opponents.
1702: William III dies. Anne becomes Queen.
1706-1707: Acts of Union/Treaty of Union. The Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament unite to form the Parliament of Great Britain. Disappointment with this union later becomes motivation for nationalist Scots in the 1745 Uprising.
June 8, 1714: Electress Sophia of Hanover dies. Her son, George, becomes heir presumptive.
August 1, 1714: Queen Anne dies. The German House of Hanover replaces the Scottish House of Stuart2g as George I becomes the King of England, Ireland, and Scotland.
August 1715-February 1716: Jacobite Rising of 1715 led by James FE Stuart. Results in Jacobite defeat2h.
1716: Anglo-French Alliance formed. The death of Louis XIV, long-time supporter of the Stuarts, back in September 1715 put France in an uncertain position as his successor, Louis XV, was only five years old. The regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, is motivated to make an alliance with Britain. This means the end of French support for the Jacobites, and James FE Stuart leaves France to live in Rome.
1719: Jacobite Rising of 1719 with Spanish support. Results in Jacobite defeat2i.
1720: Charles Edward Stuart, son of James FE Stuart, is born.
December 1743: James FE Stuart names Charles his “Prince Regent.” This allows Charles to act in his father’s name.
1743-1744: James FE Stuart regains French support, and so Charles begins preparations for his own French-backed uprising. He is called “Bonnie Prince Charlie” by his supporters and “the Young Pretender” by his opponents.
2a In 1603, Elizabeth I was succeeded by her closest living male relative, James Charles Stuart (1st of his name in England, 6th of his name in Scotland). Elizabeth I and James I/VI shared a Tudor ancestor, Henry VII. Henry VII was the father of siblings Henry VIII (Elizabeth I’s father) and Margaret Tudor. Margaret Tudor was sent north to Scotland to marry James IV. Margaret and James IV had a son (James V), who then had a daughter (Mary, Queen of Scots), who then had a son (James I/VI)—making Henry VII the great-great-grandfather of James I/VI. Henry VII was the grandfather of Elizabeth I. So, this makes James I/VI a 1st cousin, twice removed, to Elizabeth I.
2b The principality of Orange grew up around a city of the same name that is located in the southeast of modern-day France, north of Avignon. The city of Orange dates back to at least 105 BC, when it existed as a Celtic settlement named Arausio (in honour of a Celtic water god). A sovereign principality ruled by the Carolingian counts of Orange dates to the 8th century. In 1163, the city of Orange and its principality became a vassal state of the Holy Roman Empire. William I (the Silent), count of Nassau, inherited the title Prince of Orange in 1544. He had estates in the Netherlands, and so he incorporated his holdings into the House of Orange-Nassau. This is what led Orange to becoming part of the United Provinces of the Netherlands (which was also referred to as the Dutch Republic). When William III died childless in 1702, there were three claimants to his title as the Prince of Orange. In 1713, the principality of Orange was officially ceded to France. In 1814, the United Provinces became the Kingdom of the United Netherlands, and was ruled by a member of the House of Orange-Nassau (the royal family kept the name Orange-Nassau, even though Orange was no longer part of the United Provinces/Kingdom of the United Netherlands).
2c These two political factions are the precursors to the modern political parties that share these names. The Tories supported James II/VII and fought against the Exclusion Bills. The Tories referred derisively to their rivals as “whigs”, a term that comes from the word “whiggamore”, which refers to a cattle driver/western Scotsman. I guess the Tories were trying to suggest that the members of the opposing party were backwards country bumpkins? Anyway, the name stuck. The Whigs were in favour of constitutional monarchism and opposed to the potential rule of the absolutist James II/VII. As Protestants, they also disproved of James II/VII’s conversion to Catholicism.
2d Williamite-Jacobite War. Unlike the English Parliament, the Irish Parliament ruled that James II/VII was still the rightful king; the Irish army also continued to support him. In March 1689, James II/VII landed in Ireland with French troops. He later fled back to France after his defeat in the Battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690. His desertion of his Irish Jacobite supporters earned him the title Séamus an Chaca, which translates to “James the Shit.” James II/VII would never again return to England, France, or Scotland. The Irish Jacobites were later decisively defeated on July 12, 1691 at the Battle of Aughrim, and the Treaty of Limerick that officially ended the war was signed on October 3, 1691. During this period, Irish Jacobite soldiers were shipped off to France, where they would form the Irish Brigade of the French Royal army (see footnote). In the late 18th century, Protestants in the northern Irish province of Ulster began celebrating William III of Orange’s victory at the Battle of Boyne with annual parades on and around July 12; these celebrations are known as “the Glorious Twelfth” or “Orangemen’s Day.” Similar events are held in other parts of the world where a lot of these Ulster Irish Protestants emigrated. These celebrations are controversial and they have been long accompanied by acts of violence, although they have been relatively peaceful since the 2000s.
2e Scottish Jacobite Rebellion. In March 1689, Scotland launched a partner rebellion to the Irish one. The Scottish Jacobites experienced a high point in their uprising with their victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie on July 27, 1689. But afterwards, there was a punishing series of government expeditions to subdue the Highlands. Two years later, the Jacobites were forced to agree to a truce. In January 1692, they formally surrendered to the government. On February 14, the Glencoe Massacre saw a state-sanctioned murder of 30 members and associates of Clan MacDonald, supposedly because the clan had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to Mary II and William III. The incident soured Highland attitudes towards the new regime, a long-held and remembered sentiment that would be later referenced by Charles Stuart in 1745.
2f Anne certainly tried her best to secure the throne. She had at least 17 pregnancies, with 12 of them resulting in miscarriages or stillbirths. She had 4 children who died before the age of 2. It must have been truly devastating when William died at the age of 11.
2g “It cam’ wi’ a lass and it will gang [end] wi’ a lass!” James IV of Scotland is reputed to have said this while on his deathbed in 1542. He was referring to how the Stuart dynasty gained the throne of Scotland through Marjorie Bruce (eldest daughter of Robert the Bruce, married Walter, High Steward of Scotland, gave birth to the first Stuart monarch, Robert II). James IV was also predicting that the Stuart dynasty would soon be lost through his daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots (all of six days old when her father died). The Stuart dynasty did end with a lass, but not for another 172 years with Queen Anne. And it was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, James I/VI, who expanded the Stuart dynasty beyond Scotland to include England and Ireland as well. I imagine Mary, Queen of Scots, saying, “Take that, Dad!” to James IV in reply. The Stuarts had ruled Scotland for over 300 years, and England for 85.
2h The Jacobites had a lot of early success in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. They had seized control of all of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth (near Edinburgh), with the exception of Stirling, by October. There were a number of English Jacobites involved, but the rising had more support in Scotland than England. By the end of 1715, the rebellion had all but collapsed. James FE Stuart landed in Scotland on December 22 but, by then, the tide had already started to turn in favour of the Hanoverian forces. He had arrived too late and without enough money, arms, and men. The Jacobite army was in retreat by the end of January 1716 and, on February 4, James FE Stuart left Scotland. He was no longer welcome in France as his father’s cousin, Louis XIV, had passed away in September 1715 and the new regency of Louis XV had now taken a pro-Hanoverian stance. Instead, James FE Stuart found refuge with the papal courts of Pope Clement XI and Pope Innocent XIII. He was offered the Palazzo del Re in Rome as his residence and a generous life annuity. James FES was treated well and lived in splendour. This allowed him to set up a Jacobite court-in-exile, which acted as an unofficial British embassy. He often entertained British travellers, regardless of their political affiliation, who were visiting Rome as part of their Grand Tour of Europe.
2i The Jacobite Rising of 1719 was another attempt to place James FE Stuart on the throne, and involved a plan in which there would be a dual invasion by Spanish troops in the southwest of England and Swedish forces in Scotland (these nations had their own axes to grind with England). However, the death of Charles XII in November 1718 meant the end of Swedish involvement. James FE Stuart traveled to Spain in anticipation of taking part in the Spanish-led invasion. In March 1719, the Spanish fleet was severely damaged by storms, leading to the cancellation of the English invasion; James FE Stuart was then forced to return to Italy. However, a small force of 300 Spanish troops were able to land in Scotland. They were joined by about 1,000 Jacobites, including Rob Roy MacGregor (read more about him in my post on Balquhidder), and set up a base at Eilean Donan Castle. This proved to be a short uprising, as the Jacobites were ultimately defeated on June 5, 1719 at the Battle of Glen Shiel.
3 1745 Jacobite Rising Timeline:
1740-1748: The War of the Austrian Succession pits many of the greater and lesser European powers against each other over whether Maria Theresa of Austria has the right to succeed to the Hapsburg throne when her father, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, dies. Britain is one of several countries that support Maria Theresa’s claim, while France and Spain are among those in opposition. The bulk of the British army is sent to fight abroad in Europe, which provides Charles Stuart and the Jacobites with an opportunity to launch a successful rebellion in their absence. France is eager to support the Jacobites, as it is beneficial for them to have British troops pulled away from the European battlefields to address civil discord back at home.
October 25, 1743: The Treaty of Fontainebleu is signed between Louis XV of France and his uncle, Philip V of Spain. They agree to cooperate against Britain and attempt a restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
November 1743: Louis XV advises James FE Stuart that there is a planned invasion of England in February 1744. James FE Stuart remains in Rome, while Charles makes his way to France to join and take part in the invasion.
March 1744: Louis XV cancels the invasion of England after storms in late February sink a number of French ships.
August: Charles travels to Paris, hoping to arrange an alternative invasion landing in Scotland. He meets with Sir John Murray of Broughton, who acts as a liaison between the Stuarts and their Scottish supporters. Charles relays his determination to come to Scotland, even if it is only “with a single footman.” Murray returns to Scotland and shares this news, but the Scottish Jacobites are reluctant to initiate an uprising without substantial French backing. Charles gambles that once he is in Scotland, the French will have to support him.
January-March 1745: Charles makes preparations for his journey to Scotland, including the purchase of weapons.
May 1745: French victory over British forces at the Battle of Fontenoy (in modern-day Belgium) encourages French authorities to provide Charles with two transport ships, the 16-gun privateer Du Teillay and the 64-gun warship Elizabeth (a former British ship that had been captured by the French in 1704). The Elizabeth would be used to carry the weapons and around 100 volunteers from the French army’s Irish Brigade.
July 15: Charles sets out for Scotland with the two ships on July 15. He sails on the Du Teillay, accompanied by a group of seven English, Scottish, and Irish followers of varying backgrounds (later known as the “seven men of Moidart”). John O’Sullivan, an Irish Jacobite exile and former officer with the French army, acts as Charles’ chief-of-staff.
July 19: Charles’ party is intercepted by a British ship, the HMS Lion, which engages with the Elizabeth. After a 4-hour battle the HMS Lion and the Elizabeth are forced to return to port. The Du Teillay continues on to Scotland with Charles and his companions.
July 23: Charles makes it to Scotland, but the loss of the Elizabeth with its weapons and men are a real blow. Many Scots are disappointed when Charles arrives without French military support. They advise him to return to France, unconvinced that he is worth the sacrifice. Charles is eventually able to recruit enough supporters, but the decision about whether to do so is tough for many.
August 9: Duncan Forbes (owner of Culloden Castle) sends word to London regarding Charles’ landing and gathering of troops. He discourages some Scottish nobles from joining the Jacobite cause.
August 19: Charles launches the Jacobite Rising of 1745 when he raises his standard on the shores of Loch Shiel in the Scottish Highlands, witnessed by an estimated force of 700 Highlanders. They then march on Edinburgh.
September 4: The Jacobites reach Perth, where they are joined by more supporters including Lord George Murray, a Scottish nobleman and soldier who had previously taken part in the 1715 and 1719 uprisings (and was subsequently pardoned for his role in them). His experience makes him a better candidate to command the Jacobites, so he takes over from O’Sullivan. Unfortunately, Murray doesn’t really get along with Charles and O’Sullivan, which will later impact his effectiveness in the role. The Jacobites spend a week regrouping.
September 17: Charles enters Edinburgh unopposed, although Edinburgh Castle remains in government hands.
September 18: James FE Stuart is proclaimed King of Scotland, and Charles his regent.
September 21: Battle of Prestonpans. The Jacobites go on a night march in order to surprise the British Government force commanded by Sir John Cope at Prestonpans, a small fishing town east of Edinburgh. Cope’s 3,000 recruits are inexperienced and break in the face of the Highland charge. The battle lasts less than 20-30 minutes and is a huge boost to Jacobite morale.
End of September: The Duke of Cumberland, commander of the British army in Flanders, is recalled to London with 12,000 troops. He is not happy about this, and wants to take care of the Jacobite threat as quickly and completely as possible.
Mid-October: Successful landing of French supplies of money and weapons on the Scottish coast.
October 30, 31: Meetings are held between Charles and his “Prince’s Council” of 15-20 senior leaders to discuss an invasion of England. The Scots do not want to proceed without English and French support; Charles promises this is forthcoming. The council reluctantly agrees to move ahead with an invasion.
November 4: The Jacobite army leaves Edinburgh. They are lightly-equipped, which means they can move fast. However, this lack of heavy weapons means that they will be at a disadvantage if they are forced to fight.
November 8: The Jacobites cross the Scottish border into England unopposed (a journey of 63 kms/39 miles from Edinburgh).
November 10: The Jacobites reach Carlisle (88 kms/55 miles from the border).
November 14: British Government forces retake Edinburgh.
November 15: The garrison holding the fortress at Carlisle capitulates to the Jacobites. The Jacobites soon head south, leaving a small force behind to defend the fortress.
November 26: The Jacobites reach Preston (140 kms/87 miles from Carlisle).
November 28: The Jacobites reach Manchester (180 kms/112 miles from Preston). Here, they are joined by a group of English recruits who form the Manchester Regiment.
December 4: The Jacobites reach Derby (88 kms/55 miles from Manchester). They have traveled 455 kms/283 miles total from Edinburgh, and are only 201 kms/125 miles from London.
December 5: The Prince’s Council meets to discuss their next course of action. The French and English support that Charles has promised has not materialized, and the Scots realize that he has been lying to them about it this whole time. The Scots feel they have gone as far as possible. Murray is worried that they will soon be surrounded by superior British Government forces: the Duke of Cumberland is advancing north from London with his army, and Field Marshal George Wade is moving south from Newcastle with his troops. The Scots want to return to Scotland and consolidate their position. They have heard that the French Royal Scots and the Irish Brigade have recently landed at Montrose (north of Edinburgh), along with large quantities of money, weapons, and ammunition.The Council votes in favour of retreat.
December 6: The Jacobites begin their journey back to Scotland.
December 18: Clifton Moor Skirmish. A small force of dragoons led by Cumberland make contact with a rearguard of Jacobite troops led by Murray. The short clash ends up being a draw in terms of casualties, with 12 Jacobites killed (1 wounded) to 10 British Government soldiers (4 wounded). But it is considered a strategic victory for the Jacobites, who are able to escape and continue their retreat into Scotland.
December 20: Jacobites cross back into Scotland. This is a considerable military achievement, which boosts morale. They are joined by new supporters and the regiments from France, bringing their numbers up to 8,000.
December 22: Cumberland’s troops arrive in Carlisle.
December 23: Battle of Inverurie. Fought north of Aberdeen by a group of Jacobites led by Lord Lewis Gordon. Jacobite victory.
December 29: The Jacobite garrison left behind at Carlisle is forced to surrender, ending their military presence in England. Most of them are made up of English recruits from the Manchester Regiment, and they are later executed.
January 8, 1746: Siege of Stirling Castle begins. Stirling Castle was one of the strongest fortifications in Scotland, and controlled access between the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Jacobites hope to use Stirling as a base from which to launch a second invasion of England. But Stirling is a tough nut to crack. The castle is being held by William Blakeney and a garrison of 600-700 troops loyal to the British Government.
January 17: Battle of Falkirk Muir. Government forces led by Henry Hawley advance north from Edinburgh to relieve the siege on Stirling Castle. Jacobite victory. Government troops retreat to Edinburgh.
January 30: The Duke of Cumberland arrives in Edinburgh with his army, and takes control of Hawley’s troops. He begins to advance on Stirling Castle.
February 1: The Jacobites choose to abandon the siege of Stirling Castle and retreat to Inverness for the winter. They are in no state to fight a decisive battle, and need time to regroup. The Duke of Cumberland marches north along the Scottish coast towards Aberdeen.
February 27: The Duke of Cumberland’s army enters Aberdeen.They decide to wait there until the weather improves.
April 8: The Duke of Cumberland resumes his campaign, and the army leaves Aberdeen. The Jacobites are short of money, weapons, and food. They decide it is better for them to fight a decisive battle sooner rather than later.
April 11: The Duke of Cumberland and the British Government army reach Cullen, 93 kms/58 miles east of Inverness.
April 13-14: Charles requisitions Culloden Castle (6 kms/4 miles east of Inverness) for his lodging and battlefield headquarters. There are only 3-4 days left before the Jacobites run entirely out of money and food, so they need to act quickly.
April 14: The Jacobites evacuate Nairn in the face of the approaching Government army. The Jacobites in Inverness leave their base and gather at a point 8 kms/5 miles east of the town. O’Sullivan recommends Drumossie Moor as a potential battlefield site. Murray disagrees, and suggests another potential site near Daviot Castle. However, this site is rejected because it fails to protect the road to Inverness. The issue of the battlefield site remains unresolved.
April 15: The Jacobites march out and take position on Drumossie/Culloden Moor, anticipating the arrival of the British Government army. At noon, news arrives that their would-be opponents are still camped at Nairn. It is the Duke of Cumberland’s 25th birthday, and it is being celebrated with 2 gallons of brandy being issued to each regiment. The Jacobites decide to try and repeat their earlier success at Prestonpans by launching a night march and catching the celebratory soldiers by surprise. But an hour before the Jacobites are due to set off, several of their soldiers begin to drift away in search of food. Charles insists they go ahead with the night march anyway. Speed is critical to the success of such a mission, but the Jacobites set out too late. Fatigue, darkness, and the rough terrain further undermine their progress.
April 16: At two in the morning, the Jacobites are still 6 kms/4 miles away from Cumberland’s camp; there is no way they are going to make it there before dawn. Murray decides to abort the mission. Most of the Jacobites make it back to Culloden Moor by five in the morning, drained and demoralized. But there is a significant number of Jacobites who don’t receive Murray’s message about the change in plan, and they end up scattered around the countryside in the ensuing confusion. Others collapse on the march itself, only to wake hours later after the battle is finished. Many of the men who make it back to Culloden Moor leave to scavenge for food. The Jacobite army is in a desperate state. In contrast, the British Government army wakes up rested and well-fed. They receive detailed battle orders, and are in good spirits as they set out. It is the exhausted Jacobites who end up being surprised by the arrival of Cumberland’s army just before noon, in the pouring rain, as they are still forming their line in battle order. The Jacobites’ position is further back than it had been when they took up their posts the previous day. Instead of being surrounded by open field, they now have stone enclosures on their right and left. Around 5,500 Jacobites gather to fight over 7,500 soldiers of the British Government army. Within an hour, it is all over.