John Graham of Claverhouse was a 17th century Scot, of minor nobility, who played a prominent role in the political and military events in Scotland during a particularly turbulent period between the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy under Charles II in 1660, and the Glorious Revolution in 1689.
His fame and infamy sit side by side in most common accounts of Scottish History. And of the many Scottish historical figures traduced by tradition (for example Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie), he has perhaps been treated the harshest. Born in 1647, his early military career was spent in Europe and was largely without incident bar a muted tradition that, at the Battle of Seneff (in modern Belgium) in 1674, he was involved in saving from likely death, William of Orange. Who, 14 years later, was to become with his sister, joint ruler of the United Kingdom.
In 1678 he was given a lieutenant’s commission in the newly raised Regiment of Horse Guards and in due course was dispatched to the south west of Scotland to begin his efforts to enforce law and order in that troubled area.Between 1682 and 1683 he served as Sheriff of Wigtown and was charged by the Scots Privy Council with the maintenance of law and order at a time when Covenanting conventicles (open air religious gatherings of the Protestant faithful) were deemed by the authorities to constitute a major threat to the political establishment.
The primary historical records indicate that he performed this difficult task well, treating all he came across with a fair and even hand
He was subsequently promoted to Colonel of the King’s Regiment of Horse and for the next 5 years was in the service of King Charles II and then his successor, James II, who created him first Viscount Dundee. At the end of 1688, when James was harried from his throne and supplanted by William and Mary, James commissioned Dundee his Lieutenant-General in Scotland. In the spring of 1689 Dundee raised an army in Scotland to restore James to his throne. In July of that year he led this army to victory over a redcoat army loyal to William. However, he was killed in the battle. With his death the driving force behind the rising was gone and King James’ army in Scotland was defeated a few months later. This first Jacobite Rising was followed by other unsuccessful movements in 1708, 1715 and 1719 before the Jacobite cause, restoring the Stuart monarchy to the throne of the United Kingdom, was finally put to rest at Culloden Moor in 1746.
Three centuries later the memory of injustices alleged to have taken place at his hands, and for which little or no evidence exists, are given prominence and his achievements ignored.
Firstly, prominent and highly acclaimed scholars have written false accounts of these events. Among these are Daniel Defoe, a 17th Century journalist and spy, and Thomas Babington Macaulay; a renowned politician and historian.
Secondly, equally prominent novelists, who deal entirely with fiction, have entwined Claverhouse in their novels and attributed to him words and actions which were simply not his. Foremost amongst these is Sir Walter Scott and in particularhis otherwise magisterial work Old Morality.
Thirdly, there are contemporay scholars who chose to present the events of the late 17th century Scotland as some simplistic, idealised struggle between simple, hard-working and God-fearing folk on the one hand and a rapacious, heavy-handed State bent entirely on the destruction of this honourable way of life.
It is the purpose of this website to redress this imbalance. To extol Dundee’s many demonstrable virtues. To highlight the many positive aspects of his life and career. And to bring to a wider audience the knowledge of the great man that he truly was.