One of the most colourful and dramatic moments in the political / military historiography of 17th Century Scotland……
In the aftermath of James II/ VII’s supine abandonment of the throne of the Three Kingdoms following William of Orange’s hostile invasion in December 1688, the English Parliament fell over themselves to hand the crown to William and his good lady wife, Mary, as joint sovereigns.
The representatives of Scotland’s citizenry, conveniently present in London at the time, were summonsed to the royal presence that they might advise their Majesties on the most diplomatic manner in which to impose the same transition on the northern kingdom.
Amid much tiptoeing around vested interests it was recommended that a Convention be summonsed to gather in Edinburgh in March to pontificate and ultimately adjudicate on the appropriate decision: William or James.
On the 14th of March the Convention assembled in the ancient capital of Scotland. It was conducted in the same tiresome manner in which these issues are dealt with today; slowly, ponderously, to no good effect and all the time crying out for the decisive intervention of men and women of vision and courage.
Some who had once been for James were now for William. Others couldn’t make up their minds and amid it all courageous men of conscience, Dundee and Balcarrres principally, recoognising the constraints under which they worked, toiled to do what was necessary to achieve the required outcome.
The one factor in favour of King James’ cause was that Edinburgh Castle was held for him by the Duke of Gordon. Gordon, however, was a creature of his time; feckless and fearful and reluctant to put himself in a position where his status or political life was threatened.
It required stealthy visits under cover of night by Dundee and Balcarres to prevent the erstwhile nobleman from handing over the Royal fortress to the Williamites during the critical phase.
Ultimately, as the days and debates wore on, all could see whence the wind blew and one by one the nobility of Scotland, recognising where there best interests lay, gradually put aside their loyalty to their one true Monarch and, reluctantly or otherwise, backed the usurper.
Claverhouse led the, now, rebel cabal which determined that the best course of action was to convene a rival convention in Stirling that might deliberate on the matter in a safe environment, more conducive to balanced decision making. Those principals, still loyal to King James, agreed to leave the capital early on the morning of Monday 18th March.
At the appointed hour, Bonnie Dundee, at the head of his troop of horse which had been under his command through the previous ten years; at Drumclog, Bothwell Bridge and throughout his tenure as Sheriff of Dumfries and Wigtownshre, now assembled in the early morning sunshine.
It would have come as no surprise to the King’s future Lieutenant-General that they stood and waited alone. After a modest pause Dundee led them forth of the city, pausing only for that momentous moment when he climbed the rocks of Edinburgh Castle to the Postern Gate, where once more he sought to impose his moral and physical courage on Gordon to hold the castle for King James, come what may.
And then they were gone. That lone troop of horse, heading north up that road which in four months time would end at the Battle of Killiecrankie.