Tag Archives: James VII

16 April 1746: The Battle of Culloden Moor, The End of The Whole Jacobite Adventure

And so, 47 years and 3 days after Claverhouse first raised the Royal Standard on Dundee Law to initiate the military attempt to restore the Stuarts to the throne of their fathers, the last such efforts were crushed at Culloden Moor.

Culloden Moor, the final defeat (16 April 1746)

Culloden Moor, the final defeat (16 April 1746)

During this period there were five unsuccessful efforts to bring about the Stuart Restoration. Some of them, such as in 1708, barely got off the ground. Others, such as 1745, achieved enough sustained success over a period of months to create genuine grounds for optimism as to their possible success. But none of them really came close.

There are questions that we might ask concerning the entire adventure: was there ever, realistically, any hope for success? In the light of the huge sacrifices that were made over the years by those who strove to bring about the second Restoration, might greater efforts have been made in the first place to avoid the need? If success had been achieved would the world be a better place now? And, given that in the end the whole thing crashed and burned so disastrously, what are the positives that can be taken from it?

Was there any chance of success? Of course there was. But it would have needed a lot of ducks to line up nicely and a strong following wind. When Claverhouse kicked it all off on 13 April 1689 the prospects were slim. All the principals in England had repudiated James and signed up in support of William as king. Both English and Scottish Parliaments had deemed James to have absconded and anointed William and his wife in his place.

James VII/II flees to France (Dec 1688)

James VII/II flees to France (Dec 1688)

So the only remaining hope for those who wished to see James restored was with the common folk in Scotland and Ireland. Claverhouse followed a path that had been trodden so successfully by his kinsman Montrose a generation previously and forged an army from highlanders who, whilst among the finest fighting men in Europe at that time, were led by chiefs who were constrained by the most idiosyncratic mores that even the greatest of history’s military commanders would have struggled to assemble them together on a single battlefield. Assembling and preparing such an army in the first place was probably a greater achievement by Claverhouse than leading it to victory at Killiecrankie.

Claverhouse's victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689.

Claverhouse’s victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689.

With his death during the battle that powerful, unifying, commanding force was gone and with it any prospects of success. But what if he’d survived the fighting? There was no point in heading south as any support there was for James was fragmented and subdued. The choice would have been to ship the entire army to Ireland to join with James’ army there or to hold Scotland and await James’ arrival following his victory over William’s forces at the Boyne. And we know how that one turned out.

The 2nd Rising in 1708, when enthusiasm was re-ignited by the heavily opposed Union of Parliaments of 1707, was the only one of the five where no battle was fought and was also the only one where the sovereign-in-waiting turned up to participate in the process. However, it was a disappointed James (VIII/III) who sailed away from Montrose on a cold, wet night in February 1708.

In 1714 Queen Anne died without issue and the unified Parliament cast around Europe seeking a suitably Protestant candidate to be shipped in, declining the credentials of some 64 possible candidates before determining that Sophia, Electress of Hannover was sufficiently non-Catholic for their purpose. This pantomime re-ignited the process and the Earl of Mar raised the Standard to initiate the 1715 Rising.

The Earl of Mar raises the Standard (1715)

The Earl of Mar raises the Standard (1715)

Controversy still surrounds the major field action of that campaign, the Battle of Sheriffmuir. A cold and clinical assessment of that day, however, would decide that King George’s man, the Duke of Argyll, in preventing Mar’s army from heading south into England and joining forces with the Jacobite Army there, was clearly the day’s victor.

And it was here on Sheriffmuir, 13 November 1715 that hindsight would suggest the possibility of success came closest. That if Mar had not been Mar, but had been of the mettle of Claverhouse or even Lord George Murray, field commander during the ’45, that a proper, decisive effort would have been made. An effort worthy of those who fought and died through all of those campaigns, which would have seen Argyll’s army driven from the field.

But with the English end of the operation losing the Battle of Preston in shameful fashion at virtually the same time, those prospects would have become dimmed once more.

The 4th effort in 1719 saw often-promised foreign support materialize for the first time with Spanish Grenadiers participating in the only field action fought at Glenshiel. However, defeat was again the order of the day. And even victory would have left a small army isolated and far from where the key decisions needed to be made.

The Battle of Glenshiel (10 June 1719)

The Battle of Glenshiel (10 June 1719)

The ’45 is often portrayed as the closest that the Jacobites came to achieving the dream of a second Restoration. And with outstanding military victories over formidable, experienced redcoat formations at both Prestonpans in September 1745 and Falkirk in January of the following year, there were real grounds for optimism. Notwithstanding the decision to retreat back to Scotland when at Derby, some 71 miles north of London.


The Jacobite Army victorious at the Battle of Falkirk (17 Jan 1746)

The Jacobite Army victorious at the Battle of Falkirk (17 Jan 1746)

Once again, however, lack of support in England for the whole notion critically undermined the operation. And when Bonnie Prince Charlie, egged on by his sycophantic fellow-exiles decided that removing overall military command of the operation from Lord George Murray, who had masterminded the two earlier victories and taking that role on himself with all his palpable lack of military experience and understanding of the nature of the men at his command, was the best course of action then the die was cast.

When that last Jacobite Army lined up in the sleet on Culloden Moor that April morning, only hours after failing in the unsuccessful night march on Nairn and with one third of their number still engaged in foraging supplies far from the battlefield, the possibility of success grew slimmer with each passing hour.

The morning of the Battle of Culloden...exhausted after the failed night attack...awaiting orders that would never come..

The morning of the Battle of Culloden…exhausted after the failed night attack…awaiting orders that would never come..

Defeat was by no means inevitable but the lack of clear leadership then proved to be the decisive factor as the rank and file had to take it upon themselves to determine the best way forward.

And so it ended. And with the commencement of the Industrial Revoluton in Scotland some 14 years later with the opening of the Carron Ironworks, the Jacobite Risings passed into history.

If there had indeed been any prospects of success they were so slim as to be deemed, from our perspective, impossibly marginal. Better by far if away back in the dog days of 1688, James VII/II had taken it upon himself to become a leader of men and not a spineless oaf, and had led an army to threw William back into the sea. Then things would be different.

IF somehow any of these individual campaigns had succeeded, would we be any better of? Given what we know of the manner in which the early Stuarts engaged so enthusiastically in their pursuits of British interests then that would seem unlikely.

If the result had been to undo the disaster of parliamentary union then that would have been a step in the right direction. However, that would only have led back to the ridiculous and unsustainable situation with a single head of state and two parliaments of two nations with disparate and conflicting interests.

Are there any positives to take from it other than a host of images for shortbread tins and the basis of a healthy tourist industry today? Of course there are. Not least that all of this process did a little to sustain the notion that the interests of the people of Scotland are best served when they are controlled by the people of Scotland working with people everywhere else to make the world a better place. A debate which today takes place anew. Time will tell how this one works out.


13 April 1689, Bonnie Dundee Raises the Royal Standard

On 13th April 1689, Dundee raised the Royal Standard on Dundee Law and proclaimed his Majesty King James VII and II to be the true monarch of the three kingdoms.


James II again

King James VII and II

He had left the Convention of Estates in Edinburgh on 18 March once it became clear that those other Scottish nobles who had previously remained loyal to their monarch through difficult times had now forsaken him.

Despite the commitment of various prominent supporters to accompany him initially to Stirling to convene a Convention with the proper authorisation of King James, he had left the Capital accompanied only by his own small squadron of horse. Without his presence to oppose William’s interests, the Convention moved speedily to the business at hand.

On 20 March Dundee was declared an outlaw and six days later a party of Parliamentary heralds appeared outside his castle at Dudhope to publicly read out the outlaw declaration. With outstanding irony this document had, of necessity, been signed in the name of King James as William had not yet been proclaimed King of Scotland.

On 30 March his son was born and duly christened James, in honour of both his King and the Great Marquis. And a moment of personal pride and pleasure was afforded to him after all the troubling months. There would be no more such in the few months of life left.

Meanwhile the Convention still sat in Edinburgh with the Jacobite minority providing no opposition of any significance to the determined machinations of King William’s supporters. On 4 April, Sir John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair, who would go on to earn far greater ignominy in years to come with his involvement in the Massacre of Glencoe and the imposition of the Treaty of Union, moved the defining resolution that King James had ‘forefaulted’ his right to the crown. No Scottish Parliament had ever previously deposed the monarch but now the motion was passed with only 12 dissenting votes.

Then on 11 April the Convention passed a Claim of Right which confirmed James’ deposition and offered the crown of the ancient Kingdom of Scotland to William and Mary as joint sovereigns. Thus ‘thirty years of heedless misrule had brought inevitable catastrophe’.

Declared a rebel and an outlaw and with his commission as James’ Lieutenant-General having been intercepted, John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee led his handful of supporters to the top of Dundee law and unfurled the royal standard. His campaign to restore James to his throne had begun.


Dundee Law

Dundee Law, as it is today

The Massacre of Glencoe – the House of Orange Imposes the New Order

On this day in 1692 thirty eight men, women and children were murdered in their beds by a detachment of the British army who had been staying with them as guests. How did this deed of eternal infamy come about?

By early 1691 much of the political and military uncertainty of the preceding years had been resolved. The military efforts to restore King James dynasty to the unified throne had met with decisive failure both in Scotland, with the failure of Bonnie Dundee’s rising in 1689 and in Ireland with the defeat of an army led by James himself at the Boyne on 1690.


John Graham of Claverhouse who led the 1st Jacobite Rising

William II & III could now focus on taking the steps required to solidify the position of the House of Orange and ensure that all threat of the Stuart restoration was put to bed once and for all. Thus in early 1691 John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair was appointed Secretary of State of Scotland.

stair The Master of Stair, architect of the massacre

To William, Scotland was an irritating complication and the mostly Jacobite Highlands were a further annoyance. In Stair, William had a loyal servant, understanding of his master’s wishes and prepared to impose whatever repressive policies were necessary to fulfill these.

Stair determined, not unreasonably, given recent historical precedent, that there should be physical evidence of submission to the new regime by any who had taken part in military action against it. It was announced that the Privy Council of Scotland required all clan chiefs to swear an oath of allegiance to William, before a sheriff, or depute, by the end of the year or be treated as traitors.

Once James’ reluctant assent was given each of the chiefs duly swore the oath. The MacIan, chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds, who had been with Dundee throughout that first Jacobite Rising and had performed the full measure of his duty at Killiecrankie, tarried but eventually, in the dying days of 1691, made his way to FortWilliam to perform the task. When he arrived on Hogmanay, it was to discover that the senior officer of the Government garrison was not empowered to take his oath and he would have to travel to Inveraray to do so. Inevitably, he signed the document late. Nonetheless, the oath having been taken he returned to his people in the belief that he had complied with the new king’s demands.

ft williamFort William where the MacIan attempted unsuccessfullyto sign the Oath on Hogmanay 1691

However, his signed oath, forwarded to the Privy Council with due explanation, was refused. So by 11th January, Stair now knew that a single, small clan group had failed to take the oath in the stated time. And a chain of events was put into motion which would lead to an indelible stain on the political record of Stair and on William himself.

Stair concealed from William the fact that the MacIan had taken the oath. William, on the understanding that the Glencoe MacDonald’s had failed to demonstrate the required loyalty to the new order, duly authorized the full measure of retribution.

So the order was passed from the Secretary of State to the Commander of crown forces, thence to Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton in command of the Fort William garrison in Lochaber, and from him to the King’s officer in the field, Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon.

Captain robert campbell of glenlyonCaptain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon who commanded at the event

Glenlyon and his 120 redcoat soldiers duly arrived at Glencoe on 1st February, ostensibly an a tax collecting mission and were hospitably received by the MacIan’s people. And at 5 am on the morning of 13th February they rose up against their unsuspecting hosts and began to slaughter them. In the dark and the confusion many escaped leaving Glenlyon with but 38 corpses to show for his night’s work.

The Massacre of Glencoe

Campbell’s Redcoats execute the ‘Extirpation’ order

Treachery and the murder of women and children were not unknown in the highlands of Scotland but this was a deliberate act initiated by a monarch who had publicly given his commitment to the proper establishment of civil rights.

Glenlyon’s men were swiftly marched to Edinburgh and shipped thence to Flanders, far away from any direct questioning on their role in the atrocity. Stair remained entirely unrepentant over his involvement in the action, throughout the remainder of his political career. Happy to have served his master’s wishes and to have reduced in some small measure the possibility of further rebellion.
William , Prince of Orange

William II & III. The man ultimately responsible.

For three more years he remained in office despite the tumult of outrage. But in 1695 a Commission of Enquiry was finally conducted into the matter and all blame was apportioned to Stair who was duly removed from his post. In 1700 he was subsequently restored to his government as a member of ther Privy Council for Scotland and was created 1st Earl of Stair in 1703. He was able to play a not inconsiderable role in the fulfilling his now dead master’s ambition with the achievement of the abhorrence of Parliamantary Union in 1707.

January 24th 1679 – Charles II dissolves the Cavalier Parliament

On this day in 1679 Charles II dissolved the seemingly interminable Cavalier Parliament. This had opened almost 18 years previously in May 1661 but still sat for less time than Charles I’s Long Parliament of 1640 – 1660.

The first act of this august body was to pass the Sedition Act which declared the Solemn League and Covenant null and void and ordered it be publicly burned. 17 years too late in the mind of many, as by then the damage was done. The Solemn League, signed in 1643, was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the English Parliament by which the Scots agreed to provide military aid to the English against their mutual, lawful king, in exchange for their agreement to ensure the extirpation of papacy and prelacy and, ultimately and bizarrely, the imposition of the full weight of dogmatic Presbyterianism on the people of England.

the solemn league

   Solemn League and Covenant – publicly repudiated and burned by order of the Cavalier Parliament

Unsurprisingly there was a host of other legislation passed during this epic sitting and much repealing of legislation passed during the twenty years of the Long Parliament, so rigidly opposed to Charles I. Although at one point Parliament had to adjourn to Oxford to conduct its business due to the Great Fire.

great fire of london                                Great Fire of London – Cavalier Parliament moved to Oxford

This included the Militia Act which placed the command of the armed forces wholly and clearly under the King’s authority. Also the Indemnity and Oblivion Act which pardoned all involved in the regicide of Charles I in 1649 with the exception of those directly involved. Who was to be included on this list was the subject of rancorous debate for some two months as names were added to the original list of seven miscreants and others taken off. John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, walked free.

John Milton

John Milton – pardoned for his part in Charles I’s regicide

Ultimately only thirteen individuals were executed for this heinousness. Although nineteen were imprisoned for life and a further three, already dead by the time of Charles II’s restoration, had their bodies desecrated.

Also repealed was the Bishops’ Exclusion Act of 1642 which permitted the aforementioned Bishops to resume their temporal positions from which they had been heaved so unceremoniously by the previous regime. And the first licensing of hackney carriages took place.


Hackney cabs – first licensed by the Cavalier Parliament

However, after this promising start relations between the king and his parliament deteriorated. Prejudice against the King’s brother, the Duke of York and future King James II and VII, led to a raft of provocative legislation; requiring the taking of oaths renouncing papal authority, imposing the requirement of parliamentary consent to royal marriages and the threat of charges of high treason against the Duke of York led to a difficult and confrontational atmosphere reminiscent of the situation prevailing under Charles I twenty years earlier.

Ultimately the king’s disastrous foreign intriguing over the Dutch French war, with his foreign secretary Lord Danby, during which it was decided that marrying the Duke of York’s daughter, Mary, to William of Orange would be helpful and constructive step to ensuring the future prosperity of the Stuart monarchy, led to a situation of deep and mutual distrust which was tipped over the edge by the hysterical nonsense of the Popish Plot and Charles was forced to agree the parliament’s dissolution.




25th July 1689: The Two Armies Close

Dundee and his army have been camped at Castle Cluny in Badenoch for 2 days.  Although Cluny and his Mackintosh clansmen had been out with the army in the earlier part of the campaign two months previously, they had returned to Badenoch and Cluny had since resisted all Dundee’s efforts of persuasion to march once again to the King’s standard.

Such comings and goings were simply the way that the chieftains conducted themselves and while it grated with Dundee whose military career hitherto had been spent in considerably more disciplined surroundings, he adapted himself to the harsh facts of the situation and exercised his significant gifts of charm and personal authority.

While he was often able to demonstrate this in person, much of his communication with recalcitrant chieftains and potential allies had needed to be done by letter. During the four months of the campaign to date he had written dozens of such letters. And now with the decisive battle just 2 days away he bends once more to his pen.

Lord John Murray of Atholl had consistently refused Dundee’s persuasive efforts to support King James’ cause and indeed was now effectively in arms against him, Dundee did not yet give up on him. He writes to him one more time, outlining the success the King was achieving in Ireland, the likely size of the military support which would shortly arrive thence and the benefits which would inevitably ensue for the House of Atholl were Lord John to decide, even at this late hour, to place his support firmly with Dundee.

In truth things did not go well in Ireland for the Jacobite cause and any hopes that fresh troops would be sent to his assistance were in all probability his and his alone. Nonetheless, battle beckoned and Atholl’s support was required.

Dundee despatched the letter to BlairCastle, which Lord John was besieging, in the care of Major William Grahame and Gilbert Ramsay, an Edinburgh advocate, with clear instructions to wait for Murray’s reply. On their arrival Murray simply refuses to see them. As they wait they speak with the Atholl men in the siege lines around their master’s house. The support for King James among the common soldiery is clear to all.

Grahame and Gilbert return to Dundee’s camp this same day. It’s clear now that not only will Murray not rally to him but is in full cooperation with McKay. Dundee realises he must now head for BlairCastle directly or Patrick Stewart will be overwhelmed. The final rally for those not yet with the standard is still 4 days away but MacKay’s move north has pre-empted him. And his army is barely half that of McKay.

General MacKay, meanwhile, has reached Perth. His army comprises 4000 foot and 4 troops of horse. He also writes to Murray, outlining his expectations of him in the successful prosecution of his siege and that he is heading Murray’s way.

Its 2 days to the Battle of Killiecrankie.

17th July 1689: Blair Castle Falls to King James

Killiecrankie is 11 days away and Dundee is still camped in Lochaber as he seeks to strengthen the army that he commands for the King. To this end he continues to seek to persuade those powerful men in the highlands who have not yet declared their loyalties to come out for King James.

The Marquis of Atholl is one such man. He holds sway over a key area of the central highlands with the BlairCastle the centre point for the administration of his affairs and the key gateway between northern and southern highlands.

The Marquis himself has responded to the deepening political and military crisis initiated by William of Orange’s landing at Torbay and the subsequent usurpation of King James, by heading of to Bath on sick leave, leaving his affairs in the hands of his eldest son, Lord John Murray.

Lord John, a committed supporter of William, heads off to Edinburgh leaving, in his turn, BlairCastle in the hands of his factor, Patrick Stewart of Ballechin. He has urged his men that if they cannot support William they should support no one. From the safety of the capital he organises a rendezvous for all Atholl men at Pitlochry, ostensibly for consultations. He is deeply aware that most of his vassals would stand by James if a choice had to be made.

The King’s Irish reinforcements have now joined with Dundee, but his army still numbers no more than two thousand men. The Earl of Argyll, William’s man, has assembled three thousand of his clansmen in Argyll. General McKay, commander of the main government force of five thousand, is preparing to leave Edinburgh. There is a clear prospect of Dundee being attacked on two fronts within days.

The rallying of the remaining clans and possible further reinforcement from Ireland is scheduled for July 29th. Dundee needs to maintain his strategic position in the centre of the country but be close enough to the west coast should reinforcements appear.

And Dundee now moves with clear insight, decisiveness and confidence. Reinforced by the receipt of his commission as the King’s Lieutenant-Colonel he sends instruction to Patrick Stewart at BlairCastle to hold the fortress in King James’ name.

When Lord John Murray arrives at Pitlochry to organise his vassals into armed service for William he is given a letter from Patrick Stewart in which he explains that he is unable to attend this gathering as he has been given clear orders to hold BlairCastle.

Lord John, in all his discombulation, heads off to besiege his own home. The key to the north is in Jacobite hands.

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