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Culloden Marker

The Government Army

The Jacobites

The Battle


Culloden 1746: The Highland Clans' Last...Charge


Culloden and the '45

Culloden Moor 1746

Culloden Moor 1746 (Osprey Campaign S.)

Charge of the

Charge again

Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Culloden

The politics behind the Jacobite rebellions of the 18th century were as simple and as complex as the blood relationships which governed the lives of royal families all over Europe at that time. In 1688 an overwhelmingly Protestant English people grew heartily sick of their Catholic Stuart king and his pretentions to absolutism. James II, whose father had been beheaded on the orders of Oliver Cromwell and whose brother had only been restored to the throne in 1661, was deposed in favour of his sister Mary and her Dutch Protestant husband William of Orange. Unfortunately, they died childless and the throne passed to James' second sister Anne. This poor woman spent most of her life in childbirth and her tragedy was to bear seventeen children in all and see not one of them live past infancy. The next in line were the children of Sophia the Electress of Hanover and when Queen Anne died in 1714, George Elector of Hanover became George I of Great Britain. In Scotland he was known as the "wee German lairdie". All the time the exiled James and his son brooded in their palace of St. Germain in France.

Those who supported James were known as Jacobites, from Jacobus the Latin rendering of James. Though Jacobite sympathies in England grew hot and cold in parallel with the general level of political contentment, there was little chance that England would ever seriously contemplate a Stuart restoration with it's accompanying Catholic baggage. In one place, however, the Stuarts could depend on a great deal of support and that was in the Highlands of Scotland. There had been an invasion scare in 1708 and a French fleet had actually got as far as the Firth of Forth before Admiral Byng and the Royal Navy drove it off. The most serious of all the Jacobite attempts to overthrow the government, however, came in 1715. It was led by a Scots lord, the Earl of Mar who had the unfortunate nickname of 'Bobbing John'. Mar had originally been an enthusiatic supporter of the Hanoverians, but when he was snubbed by the new king he took himself north and somewhere on the journey became a committed Jacobite. He raised the standard of the Stuarts on the Braes o' Mar and the Mackintoshes and the Mcdonalds came to join him. Stirling was held for the government by the Duke of Argyll and in an attempt to take the rebellion into England, Mar sent Mackintosh of Borlum and 2,000 men across the River Forth, down through the Borders and into the northern counties of England. Borlum picked up some support along the way, notably Viscount Kenmure and his borderers, but the ordinary folk gave him no help and in England were downright hostile. Linking up with the Earl of Derwentwater and his English Catholics, the Jacobites attempted to invade Lancashire but were stopped at the town of Preston. For two days of bitter street fighting they battled a superior government army but were finally forced to surrender.

Back in the north Mar was indecisive and unable to provide the passionate leadership that a call to rebellion requires. Early on his men had occupied Perth and Inverness but no French warships bearing either the 'rightful king', gold or weapons had come to his aid. In October after sending Borlum on his melancholy mission to defeat at Preston, Mar came came down from the Highlands and in the shadow of the Ochil Hills, not far from the town of Dunblane, his men met the Duke of Argyll in open battle on the field of Sheriffmuir. Mar's army was twice as large as his opponent's and on the right of the Jacobite line the MacDonalds broke the government infantry and the horse behind them. On the left, however, Argyll's men did much the same and like some great bloody rotating wheel the battle was fought out indecisively. It was not a fight that either could claim a victory (though both did) and at the end of the day Mar retreated to Perth and Argyll still held Stirling and the roads to the south. The battle had been fought on that same Sunday that saw Borlum surrender at Preston.

Just before Christmas James II's son, who had styled himself James III since his father's death in 1701 and whose reputation has laboured under history's title of 'the Old Pretender', finally landed at Stonehaven in the north-east of Scotland. He was a cold man and did little to inspire those few who had stayed loyal to Mar after Sheriffmuir. With winter raging, no French troops or supplies and Argyll marching north against him, on February 4th he and Mar took ship for France. Neither would ever see Scotland again.

The government were not as vicious in their pacification as they would be after the next great rising and only two of the leaders, Derwentwater and Kenmure, were beheaded. A series of roads were built into the Highlands by General Wade and a string of forts constructed down the line of the Great Glen. The clans were ordered to disarm but they handed in only old and rusty weapons, hiding the best for later use. That would come almost thirty years later and would be led by the Old Pretender's dashing young son - Bonnie Prince Charlie.

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