OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Scenes of Prince Charlie's Times

Pages: <1> 2

It is one of the paradoxes of life that the Scottish people, reputed to be the most practical and prosaic of mankind in ordinary affairs, should have so picturesque and romantic a history. To most people the two familiar chapters in the story of Scotland are the tragic drama of Mary Stuart and the story of Prince Charles Edward's splendid and futile adventure in 1745.

The story of the " Forty-five " has every element of enduring human interest. It tells of the last struggle of a lost cause. It is full of deeds of heroic daring and romantic adventure. The events are far enough away tp have become a legend, and yet they are near enough to be almost a living memory. Many a Scottish family treasures Jacobite relics and Jacobite traditions. As one reckons time in the history of nations, the Rising is almost a matter of the day before yesterday. The present writer has known a venerable gentleman who in his youth talked to an old shepherd who, as a herd laddie on the Braes of Atholl, saw the Prince's men march by on their way to Perth.

All the Central and Western Highlands are haunted by memories of the Prince. We shall follow him through some scenes of the drama.

It was on July 25, 1745, that Prince Charles landed in Arisaig from a French ship, the Doutelle. Ever since the failure of the affair of 1715 one Jacobite plot had succeeded another; plans had been laid for Spanish or French invasion, but none had materialised. It was only after the English defeat at Fontenoy in May 1745 that Charles decided to wait no longer for foreign help, but to try his fortune single-handed among his own people. After an adventurous voyage, and a narrow escape from capture by a British cruiser, he landed at Eriska in the Hebrides on July 23. Two days later he entered Lochnanuagh, and landed at Borrodale.

On the following day MacDonald of Clanranald, MacDonald of Glenaladale, and other local Highland chiefs, came to meet him. They were unanimously of opinion that the enterprise, under the existing conditions, was hopeless, and advised the Prince to return to France. But Charles would not hear of retreat. Even Lochiel, the most zealous of Jacobites, thought there was no chance of success, and implored Charles to abandon the expedition, or at least to remain hid till some of his friends should meet for consultation. Charles answered that he was determined to put all to the hazard.

"In a few days," he said, "with the few friends I have, I will erect the royal standard and proclaim to the people of Britain that Charles Stuart has come over to claim the crown of his ancestors, to win it, or to perish in the attempt. Lochiel, who my father always told me was our firmest friend, may stay at home and learn from the newspapers the fate of his Prince."

Lochiel gave way. "No," said he, "I will share the fate of my Prince, and so shall every man over whom nature or fortune has given me any power." Lochiel's adhesion decided the future of the enterprise. His example was followed by all the Jacobite clans. On August 19 the standard of insurrection was raised at Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel. The spot is marked by "Prince Charles's Monument," a conspicuous object from road or rail as one travels westward from Fort William. Behind it the dark hills of Moidart form a fitting background for the first act of a tragedy. The standard was unfurled by the old Marquess of Tullibardine, who had been attainted for his share in the 15. The Prince's proclamation was read, and a Commission of Regency in his favour by his father, James Stuart, "King James III and VIII." On the same day the Prince was joined by Lochiel with 700 Camerons and by Keppoch with 300 MacDonalds. During the following week he marched northward, and reached Invergarry.

Charles's dramatic landing in Scotland was a complete surprise to the Government. Troops were hastily collected at Stirling, under the command of Sir John Cope. Cope left Stirling on the 20th, marched north by Crieff and Aberfeldy, and on the 26th reached Dalwhinnie. He had intended to march to Fort Augustus by the Corryarrack Road, but the Jacobites had been too quick for him, and had seized the Corryarrack Pass. He was not prepared to attack the Pass in the face of a determined enemy, so decided to continue his march northward to Inverness.

The Prince's way to the Lowlands was thus left clear. On August 31 he reached Blair Castle, the historic seat of the Dukes of Atholl, and on the evening of September 4 he entered Perth.

At the "Fair City" he remained for a week, and was joined there by many leading Jacobites, including the Duke of Perth, Lord George Murray, Laurence Oliphant of Gask, and Robertson of Struan. On September n the march was resumed. The Forth was crossed on the I3th, and on the i6th the Prince reached Corstorphine, in the outskirts of Edinburgh, and thereupon demanded the surrender of the capital of Scotland.

When it became known that Cope had refused battle to the Prince's army, and that the Highlanders were actually advancing on the Lowlands, consternation prevailed in Edinburgh. The ancient and historic city was almost defenceless.

Edunburgh in those days was very different in. appearance from the city of to-day. The new town was not yet built. The old city was protected on the north by the Nor' Loch, lying where Princes Street Gardens now are, and was surrounded on the other sides by the old Flodden Wall, dating from the sixteenth century, and of little use as a modern-defence. There was a handful of soldiers in the castle; the only other forces in the city were the old Trained Bands and the Town Guard, the old "Town's Rats," neither of whom were of any military value. Nevertheless, it was determined to make an attempt to defend the town. A volunteer force was raised, and an effort was made to put the walls in a state of defence.

News had come that Cope was returning by sea from Aberdeen, and the object of the authorities-was to hold the town till his arrival. Gardiner's dragoons, who had been sent to oppose the passage of the Forth, had retreated to Coltbridge, a mile west of Edinburgh, where they were joined by Hamilton's dragoons from Leith. On the approach of the Highlanders both regiments fled by Leith to Haddington. When the Prince's summons was received, negotiations were opened to gain time. Deputations came and went. The problem was solved by Lochiel.

the night of the 16th, with 700 Camerons, he rushed the Netherbow Port, the fortified gateway, now demolished, which separated the city from the Canongate, and on the morning of the 17th the clansmen marched up the High Street with pipes playing. No further resistance was offered. Only the castle remained in Hanoverian hands. At noon the Prince marched through the King's Park and entered Holyrood, "the unhappy palace of his race," and King James VIII was proclaimed at the Market Cross by the heralds and pursuivants. The army thereupon encamped at Duddingston, under the crags of Arthur's Seat.

In the meantime Cope was on his way south. On the same day on which the Prince entered Edinburgh, Cope landed at Dunbar and commenced his march on Edinburgh. It was resolved to give him battle. On the 20th the Highland army, with the Prince at its head, marched from Duddingston by Musselburgh to Tranent, and lay all night on the moorland to the east of that village, the Prince sleeping on the ground in his plaid.

Next day the Battle of Prestonpans was fought. Early in the morning, under cover of darkness, the Highlanders marched down to the sea and formed line of battle to the east of Cope. As the morning mist lifted they rushed forward to the sound of the pipes. Not for the first time regular troops were swept aMay by the terrible charge of the claymore. The battle was a mere rout; it was over in five minutes. "All the infantry of the King's army," says John Home, who was an eye-witness, " were either killed or taken prisoners, except about 170."

Cope's guns, tents, baggage and military chest were captured. He himself fled to Berwick, where he was grimly received by old Lord Mark Kerr with the remark: " Good God! I have seen some battles, heard of many, but never of the first news of defeat being brought by the general officers before."

On the next day Charles Edward Stuart re-entered Edinburgh in triumph.

The weeks which followed Prestonpans were the halcyon time of Jacobitism. The insurgents were flushed with victory and confident of success. The Prince spent his mornings in the camp and the council chamber; in the evenings, says Home, "he received the ladies who came to his drawing-room; he then supped in public, and generally there was music at supper, and a ball afterwards." The women were devoted to his cause, and many jewels and heirlooms were sold for his service. Money was levied from the city of Edinburgh; arms were obtained; recruits came flocking in. By the end of October the army had increased to nearly 6,000 men; two troops of cavalry and a train of artillery had been formed, and it was time to march into England.

By this time Marshal Wade was at Newcastle at the head of a powerful force. Charles was eager to fight him. It was decided, however, to cross the Border at Carlisle, so as to give the Jacobites of the North of England, where the cause was strong, an opportunity to rise.

The army marched south in two columns. Charles marched out of Edinburgh on October 31. On November 10 Carlisle was reached, and the town and castle surrendered on the 15th. Preston, where the Jacobite invasion of 1715 had been broken up, was reached on the 27th, Manchester on the 29th, and Derby on December 4.

The adventurous invaders were now within 130 miles of London, but they were in a perilous position. There had been no rising in England. No help had come from France. Wade was between them and Scotland. The Duke of Cumberland was in Staffordshire with ten thousand men, and a third army, commanded by George II in person, defended London. The Prince was all for a dash on London, but the chiefs were of one mind that the only wise course was to return to Scotland and await French help. On December 6, Black Friday, to Charles's intense chagrin, the retreat began. The Border was recrossed on the 20th, and on the 26th the Prince reached Glasgow. The garrison which had been left at Carlisle surrendered to Cumberland. In January 1746 the cause had its last gleam of sunshine; General Hawley was defeated at Falkirk, and had to retire to Edinburgh. But Cumberland was coming; the Jacobite army was wasted by sickness and desertion; and at the end of January it was reluctantly decided to retire to the Highland hills.

We are now near the last act of the drama. In March the Prince was at Inverness. Cumberland, now in chief command in Scotland, marched north from Edinburgh on January 30, and reached Aberdeen on February 27. Early in March the movement of troops toward Inverness began. On April 14 Cumberland reached Nairn.

On the same day the Prince took up his quarters in Culloden House, three miles east of Inverness. The men bivouacked in the heather. In the morning the army was drawn up on Culloden Moor in order of battle, but no enemy appeared. It was reputed that the day was Cumberland's birthday, and that the English troops were celebrating the occasion.

It was decided to attempt to surprise Cumberland by a night march and an attack at dawn. The attempt was a failure. The march was badly timed; day broke when the Jacobites were still four miles from Nairn; surprise was impossible, and there was nothing for it but to return. The men got back to their camping ground at Culloden dead beat with hunger and fatigue.

On the morning of the fatal i6th of April Cumberland advanced, and by midday the armies were in touch. Cumberland had about 8,800 men, the Prince nominally about 8,000; probably not more than about 5,000 actually took part in the battle. Artillery fire began about one o'clock. About an hour later the clansmen charged through a storm of grape and musketry. It looked for a moment as if Prestonpans were to be repeated; two battalions broke; two guns were captured. But the second line stood firm; the Highland attack, now disordered, was received with a tremendous fire; the assailants fell in heaps in front of the bayonets; at last the survivors retreated in confusion. The fighting was over in twenty-five minutes. The cavalry began the pursuit; a general advance was ordered; the retreat became a rout. It was all over. The cause was lost.

E play was over, but there was an ugly epilogue of vengeance: state trials in London, Kilmarnock and Balmerino brought to the block on Tower Hill, hangings and transportations in England, and ferocious military executions in Badenoch and Lochaber. From the Government's point of view severity may have been justified, but nothing can justify the atrocities which are proved beyond dispute against Cumberland and his troops, and which earned him the name of the Butcher.

After the battle the Prince fled along the shore of Loch Ness. Next morning he reached Invergarry, and on the following day he started on foot across the hills for Morar. For the next five months he was a hunted fugitive in the Western Highlands and the Isles. There was a price of 30,000 on his head-to a Highlander of those days wealth beyond the dreams of avarice-but he was never betrayed.

Our chief source of knowledge about his wanderings is the "Lyon in Mourning," the remarkable series of first-hand narratives collected by Bishop Robert Forbes, now in the National Library at Edinburgh. It is full of hairbreadth escapes and romantic adventures-Charles's stormy voyages and hidings in the heather, his sojourn with the Eight Men of Glen-moriston, his visit to Cluny's Cage on the skirts of Ben Alder, and the famous achievement of Flora MacDonald.

In June the Prince was in Benbecula in the Hebrides. His position was dangerous, and growing more dangerous. Government troops in large numbers were being landed in the islands; parties of regulars and militia were hunting him; the coast was closely watched by the King's ships. Failing a passage abroad, his hope of safety lay in getting over to Skye, but every ferry was guarded.

Flora MacDonald, who was a daughter of Mac-Donald of Milton, in South Uist, undertook this service. She procured a pass for herself, a manservant, and her maid, Betty Burke, described as an "Irish girl." Betty was none other than the Prince in petticoats. A piece of the dress he wore and a piece of his apron-string are preserved inside the binding of the "Lyon in Mourning." Miss MacDonald hired a six-oared boat to take the party across the Minch. They reached Skye after a perilous voyage, and after being fired upon by a militia party, and found friendly shelter in the house of MacDonald of Kingsburgh.

>>> Next page >>>
Pages: <1> 2

Pictures for Scenes of Prince Charlie's Times

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About