Per Scriptum E. Wesley – Mackinac Center Intern
What is it about Scotland that has stirred the imagination for centuries? Aside from spectacular geography, one word answers this question, “heritage.” The struggles of Scotland may be largely understood as an endeavor to preserve a culture and people that resonate with valiant and independent principles. In this sense, Scotland embodies the highest ideals of conservative thought; preserving the true, good, and beautiful. Although misplaced, the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was certainly the last national moment of Scottish independent fervor, and marks the grave of Scottish autonomy and tradition. Any rebirths of Scottish culture since 1745 have been reenactments of earlier glory, such as the Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott craze of the 19th century and the Celtic music fad of our own day. With the last battle at Culloden, the English banned the kilts along with all Highland dress, destroyed the clan system, illegalized the carrying of all weapons in Scotland, and sealed the power of the English monarch over all Scottish subjects. The end of a civilization had come.
In 1320, the signers of the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath vowed, "for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule." Ever since that time, the Scots strove to maintain their autonomy. In 1603, King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, and became the "I" of England and Scotland. However, the Stuart kings proved too troublesome for the English and in 1688, William and Mary took the throne. In Scotland, many remained loyal to the old Stuart line, and began to think of the new British line of royalty as usurpers. Oddly enough, the English Parliament only gave William and Mary the English throne, and the Scottish question remained legally unanswered. However, English supremacy became clear on February 13, 1692, when King William ordered the Campbell clan to slaughter the MacIans at Glencoe because the MacIans had refused to claim allegiance to the new king. James VII of Scotland now tried to wrestle back his throne, but was repulsed at the Battle of the Boyne. Followers of King James became known as “Jacobites,” from the Latin for James. Parliament gave the throne to Queen Anne after William and Mary, which was yet another insult to Stuart inheritance. Although Anne was a Stuart, she was Protestant, and fit with what Parliament wanted from an English monarch. Under Anne, the Scottish and English parliaments were united forming the Union. With the advent of the German Hanovers in the early 18th century, the Jacobites began uprising in greater vigor. James VIII mustered the Highland clans to take back the throne in 1715, but failed when Dutch reinforcements came to George I’s aid. James VIII eventually retired from trying to wrench back the English crown, and lived in Rome as an exile. However, the Pope, Spain, and France all recognized the Stuart claim to the throne, and in 1745 the French volunteered an army and fleet to secure the British throne for the Stuarts. James VIII’s son Prince Charles agreed, but a storm destroyed most of the fleet and France withdrew the offer. Prince Charles was not dismayed and decided to make the trip himself, muster the clans, and bring Scotland to her highest glory.
After landing in the magnificence of his Highland home, Prince Charles on August 19, 1745 planted his standard at Glennfinnan. Thus, with only a prince, his escorts, and about fifty MacDonalds, the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion began. After the addition of 150 more MacDonalds, the sound of distant pipes was heard in the north, and about 1,000 Camerons soon threw in their lot with “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” In full Highland array, the Bonnie Prince rode through Scotland mustering his countrymen. This was the Scottish equivalent to the English myth of the return of King Arthur. Here was a direct descendent of Robert the Bruce, and the return of a future king. He is said to have even visited the ancient coronation place of Scone. On September 17, Prince Charlie secured Edinburgh, and on the 21st, his general Lord George Murray led his Highland men on to meet English General John Cope’s army. The ensuing battle of Prestonpans ended in about fifteen minutes after a Highland charge on the rear of the astonished and dismayed English army. Both armies displayed their unique glamour in the setup of the battle. Sir Walter Scott describes the armies:
When he had surmounted a small craggy eminence called St. Leonard’s Hill, the King’s Park, or the hollow between the mountain of Arthur’s Seat and the rising grounds on which the southern part of Edinburgh is now built, lay beneath him, and displayed a singular and animating prospect. It was occupied by the army of the Highlanders, now in the act of preparing for their march… The rocks, which formed the background of the scene, and the very sky itself, rang with the clang of the bagpipers, summoning forth, each with his appropriate pibroch, his chieftain and clan. The mountaineers, rousing themselves from their couch under the canopy of heaven with the hum and bustle of a confused and irregular multitude, like bees alarmed and arming in their hives, seemed to possess all the pliability of movement fitted to execute military manoeuvres. Their motions appeared spontaneous and confused, but the result was order and regularity; so that a general must have praised the conclusion, though a martinet might have ridiculed the method by which it was attained.
The sort of complicated medley created by the hasty arrangements of the various clans under their respective banners, for the purpose of getting into the order of march, was in itself a gay and lively spectacle. They had no tents to striket having generally, and by choice, slept upon the open field, although the autumn was now waning and the nights began to be frosty. For a little space, while they were getting into order, there was exhibited a changing, fluctuating, and confused appearance of waving tartans and floating plumes, and of banners…
When the Highlanders reached the heights above the plain described, they were immediately formed in array of battle along the brow of the hill. Almost at the same instant the van of the English appeared issuing from among the trees and enclosures of Seaton, with the purpose of occupying the level plain between the high ground and the sea; the space which divided the armies being only about half a mile in breadth. Waverley could plainly see the squadrons of dragoons issue, one after another, from the defiles, with their videttes in front, and form upon the plain, with their front opposed to that of the Prince’s army. They were followed by a train of field-pieces, which, when they reached the flank of the dragoons, were also brought into line and pointed against the heights. The march was continued by three or four regiments of infantry marching in open column, their fixed bayonets showing like successive hedges of steel, and their arms glancing like lightning, as, at a signal given, they also at once wheeled up, and were placed in direct opposition to the Highlanders. A second train of artillery, with another regiment of horse, closed the long march, and formed on the left flank of the infantry, the whole line facing southward…
Here, then, was a military spectacle of no ordinary interest or usual occurrence. The two armies, so different in aspect and discipline, yet each admirably trained in its own peculiar mode of war, upon whose conflict the temporary fate at least of Scotland appeared to depend, now faced each other like two gladiators in the arena, each meditating upon the mode of attacking their enemy.
After the stunning success of the Highland charge at Prestonpans, Prince Charlie was encouraged and invaded England with about 6,500 men (at Carlisle, it was discovered that desertions lowered their ranks to 4,500). On December 4th, the Jacobite army marched into Derby, 120 miles northwest of London. By this time, the English had mustered their armies, and 12,000 redcoats faced Prince Charlie on the road to London, with another army behind. Even though the Prince regretted it, the Prince’s advisors persuaded him to retreat back to Scotland. The Jacobite cause was closer to achieving its goal than even the Prince himself realized. In his book Culloden Moor and the Story of the Battle, Peter Anderson explained,
The invasion had been regarded at first with supineness by the English, as a piece of mere infatuation; and the leading Jacobites in England and Wales hung back, from distrust of the fortunes of so small a force. By this time, however, the nation and the government were thoroughly alarmed, and many well-wishers were on the very eve of joining the insurrection; while the French Ministry had made serious preparations for a large armament, and 10,000 troops were mustered, in order to a descent on the south of England. So it is probable that, had the Prince's eagerness to risk all the hazards of the die prevailed, his romantic enterprise might have achieved at least the temporary reinstatement of the Stuarts on the throne of Britain.
Fleeing through Carlisle, Dumfries, Nithsdale, Hamilton, and Glasgow, the Jacobites resettled at Falkirk. Here they won a resounding victory on January 17, 1746. However, the Duke of Cumberland had his revenge at the Battle of Culloden. Here, the Highlanders were routed and destroyed. The Duke of Cumberland had ordered to give no quarter to the Highlanders, and many of the wounded were ruthlessly slain. The casualties reveal the awful truth; 2,000 to 300.
After Culloden, the English had had enough of rebellion. Surviving Jacobites were hunted out and executed. One thousand Jacobites were sold into slavery to American plantation owners. One hundred more died on prison ships on the Thames River. Castles and homes were torched. Land was ceded to owners loyal to King George II. Clan allegiance to chiefs was dismantled, and the clan system ruined forever. Kilts, all Highland dress, bagpipes, and every weapon of any kind were banned throughout the Scottish Highlands. All hope for dismantling the Union, or reclaiming the Scottish thrown vanished. Scotland was no more.
The Jacobite cause was misplaced, and consequently fizzled out to devastating ends. Had Scotland fought only for her independence and not lauded the cause of their king above the cause of freedom, the Presbyterian Lowlanders might have agreed to fight in greater numbers than they did. With their help, Scotland might have succeeded in reclaiming its autonomy and history. As it was, Scotland suffered from the same division as Ireland, the Episcopal/Catholic Highlanders and certain subsets of Presbyterian Lowlanders refused to unite for their mutual freedom. As such, both became subsumed into Britain by force.
Image of Kirche in Glenfinnan from Wikipedia