Site icon Random Scottish History

Chapter 40 – Edinburgh in 1745., pp.322-329.

Provost Stewart – Advance of the Jacobite Clans – Preparations for Defence – Capture of the City – Lochiel’s Surprise – Entrance of Prince Charles – Arrival at Holyrood – James VIII. Proclaimed at the Cross – Conduct of the Highland Troops in the City – Colquhoun Grant – A Triumphal Procession – Guest’s Council of War – Preston’s Fidelity.

WE have referred to the alleged narrow escape of Prince Charles Edward in the house of Provost Stewart in the West Bow. Had he actually been captured there, it is difficult to tell, and indeed useless to surmise, what the history of the next few years would have been. The Castle would probably have been stormed by his troops, and we might never have heard of the march into England, the fields of Falkirk or Culloden. One of the most singular trials consequent upon the rising of 1745 was that of Provost Stewart for “neglect of duty, misbehaviour in public office, and violation of trust and duty.”

From his house in the Bow he had to proceed to London in November, 1745. Immediately upon his arrival he sent notice of it to the Secretary of State, and underwent a long and vexatious trial before a Cabinet Council. He was taken into custody, but was liberated upon the 23rd of January, 1746, on bail to the extent of £15,000, to appear, as a traitor before the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.

Whether it was that Government thought he was really culpable in not holding out the extensive and mouldering walls of Edinburgh against troops already flushed with success, and in opposition to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants, or whether they meant only to intimidate the disaffected, we shall not determine, says Arnot. Provost Stewart was brought to trial, and the court “found it relevant to infer the pains of law, that the panel, at the time and place libelled, being then Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, wilfully neglected to pursue, or wilfully opposed, or obstructed when opposed by others, such measures as were necessary for the defence of the city against the rebels in the instances libelled, or so much of them as do amount to such wilful neglect.” 

After a trial, which occupies 200 pages of an octavo volume (printed for Crawford in the Parliament Close, 1747), on the 2nd of November, the jury, the half of whom were country gentlemen, returned a verdict, unanimously finding Provost Stewart not guilty; but he would seem to have left the city soon after. He settled in London, where he became an eminent merchant, and died at Bath, in 1780, in the eighty-third year of his age. 

No epoch of the past has left so vivid an impression on the Scottish mind as the year 1745; history and tradition, poetry and music, prove this from the days of the Revolution down to those of Burns, Scott, and others; for the whole land became filled with melodies for the lost cause and fallen race; while it is a curious fact, that not one song or air can be found in favour of the victors.

Considerable discontent preceded the advent of the Highlanders in Edinburgh, which then had a population of only about 40,000 inhabitants. Kincaid tells us that there was an insurrection there in 1741 in consequence of the high price of food; and another in 1742, in consequence of a number of dead bodies having been raised. The former of these was not quelled without bloodshed, and in the latter the houses of many suspected persons were burned to the ground; and that imaginary tribulation might not be wanting, we learn from the autobiography of Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, that people now began to recall a prophecy of Peden the pedlar, that the Clyde should run with blood in 1744. 

A letter from the Secretary of State to the Town Council had made that body aware, so early as the spring of 1744, that it was the intention of Prince Charles to raise an insurrection in the Highlands, and they hastened to assure the king of their loyalty and devotion, to evince which they prepared at once for the defence of the city, by augmenting its Guard to 126 men, and mustering the trained bands. After landing in the wilds of Moidart, with only seven men, and unfurling his standard in Glenfinnan, on the 19th of August, 1745, Charles Edward soon found himself at the head of 1,200 followers, whose success in a few petty encounters roused the ardour and emulation of the Macdonalds, McLeans, and other warlike septs, who rose in arms, to peril life and fortune for the last of the old royal race.

The news of his landing reached Edinburgh on the 8th of August, and it was quickly followed by tidings of the muster in Glenfinnan, and the capture of a company of the 1st Royal Scots, at the Spean Bridge, by Major Macdonald of Teindreich. Early in July 5,000 stand of arms had been placed in the Castle, which Lieutenant-General Sir John Cope ordered to be provisioned, while he reinforced its ordinary garrison by two companies of the 47th regiment; and the Lieutenant-Governor, Lieutenant-general Preston, of Valleyfield (who had been appointed thereto in 1716), mustered the out-pensioners of Chelsea, and officered them, locally, from the half-pay list. 

Doubtful of the faith of Preston, as a Scotsman, the Government superseded him in command, and sent in his place Lieutenant-General Joshua Guest, an Englishman, who proved a staunch Jacobite, and on the approach of the Highlanders he was the first to propose a capitulation, a measure vigorously opposed by Preston, a resolute Whig of the old King William school, who thereupon undertook the defence, with a garrison which consisted only of the old Castle company, the two companies of the 47th, each mustering about seventy bayonets, under Major Robertson, the Chelsea Pensioners, and Lieutenant Brydone’s artillery company, which had landed at Leith on the 4th of September, and marched in with a great quantity of the munitions of war. 

The other troops in Scotland at this time consisted only of the 13th and 14th Light Dragoons at Edinburgh, the company of the Royals captured at Spean Bridge, the 6th Foot at Aberdeen, two companies of the 21st Scots Fusiliers at Glasgow, the 25th Edinburgh regiment in Fifeshire, two companies of the 42nd at Crieff, five of the 44th in the West, and another five at Berwick, the 46th (known as “Murray’s Bucks”) scattered over the Highlands, Loudon’s Highlanders (disbanded in 1749) stationed in the north; in all not quite 4,000 men; but, collecting these, Sir John Cope prepared to bar the prince’s way into the Lowlands. 

Quitting Perth at the head of little more than 2,000 men,1 only the half of whom had arms, the latter, on the 11th September, resumed his adventurous march southward, and crossing the Forth by the perilous fords of Frew, to avoid the guns of Stirling, he held on his way by the Scottish Marathon, by the Torwood and Linlithgow, traversing scenes that he, the heir of the ancient regal line, could not have beheld without emotion, engaged, as he was, on an enterprise more daring and more desperate than had ever been undertaken by any of his ancestors since Bruce fought the battle of Dalry. 

On the 17th he was at Corstorphine, less than four miles distant from the capital, and to avoid exposing his troops to the Castle guns in advancing, he wheeled southward towards Slateford, and fixed his quarters at Gray’s Mill, two miles from the city. 

Great was now the excitement within the walls. The militia, called the trained bands, consisted of sixteen companies, or 1,000 men, entirely undisciplined, and many of them entirely disloyal to the Hanoverian cause. In their own armoury the citizens had 1,250 muskets and 200 bayonets, 300 sets of accoutrements, a considerable quantity of ammunition, with seventy-five stand of arms and Lochaber axes belonging to the City Guard. On Sunday, 16th September, Hislop, keeper of this arsenal, issued 500 rounds of ball ammunition and sixty firelocks to each company of the trained bands, thirty-nine firelocks to the additional company of the Canongate-head, 500 rounds of ball to the Seceders, whose muster-place was the Infirmary, and 450 lbs. of powder for the cannon on the walls. All the rest he sent to the Castle. The banner borne by the Seceders is now in the Museum of Antiquities, and was once used at Bothwell Brig. It is blue, with a white St. Andrew’s saltire, charged with five roses, and the motto, Covenants, Religion, King, and Kingdoms

Towards the end of the preceding month the more zealous citizens had proposed to raise a regiment 1,000 strong for the defence of the town; but the royal permission therefor was not accorded till the 9th of September, and by the time that the Prince drew near only 200 men had been enrolled, all of the most dissolute character, and tempted by the proffered pay alone. In addition to these was the regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers, 400 strong, divided into six companies, and drilled regularly twice daily. Cannon from the ships at Leith were mounted on the walls together with swivels of pateraroes (i.e., small cannon). The ports were barricaded; there was much military bluster, with much singing of psalms; but as the Highlanders drew nearer all this show of valour died away. 

When the Prince’s vanguard was at Kirkliston, it was proposed by General Guest that the two Light Dragoon regiments, supported by the City Guard, the so-called Edinburgh Regiment, and 250 volunteers, should march out and give battle to the insurgents! 

The signal was given; on the forenoon of Sunday the 15th of September the clang of the alarm bells came during sermon, and the people rushed forth from the churches to find the detailed force drawn up under arms in the High Street; but the summons (said Sir Walter Scott, in the Quarterly Review,) instead of rousing the hearts of the volunteers, like the sound of a trumpet, rather reminded them of a passing knell. Most pitiful was the bearing of the volunteers, according to Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, who was one of them on this occasion. “The ladies in the windows treated us very variously; many with lamentation, and even with tears, and some with scorn and derision. In one house on the south side of the street there was a row of windows full of ladies, who appeared to enjoy our march to danger with much mirth and levity.” He adds that these civic warriors were about to fire on these ladies; but they pulled their windows down. 

Summoned from Leith, the 14th Dragoons came spurring up the street, huzza-ing and clashing their swords in silly bravado; the volunteers began their march, with wives and children clinging to them, imploring them not to risk their lives against wild Highland savages; but resolutely enough their commander ex-Provost Drummond led the way, till the most ludicrous cowardice was exhibited by all. “In descending the famous West Bow, they disappeared by scores under doorways or down wynds, till, when their commander halted at the West Port and looked behind him, he found, to his surprise and mortification, that nearly the whole of his valiant followers had disappeared, and that only a few of his personal friends remained. The author of a contemporary pamphlet – alleged to be David Hume – afterwards compared their march to the course of the Rhine, which at one place is a majestic river, rolling its waves through fertile fields, but being continually drawn off by little canals, dwindles into a small streamlet, and is almost lost in the sands before reaching the ocean.” It was said that the volunteers rushed about in the sorest tribulation, bribing with sixpences every soldier they met to take their arms to the Castle. 

The preposterous idea of meeting the Highlanders in the open field was abandoned; the remains of the force were led to the College yards and dismissed for the evening; but the City Guard, the men of the Edinburgh Regiment, and the cavalry, went out to reconnoitre as far as Corstorphine. Seeing nothing of the enemy, the famous and pious Colonel Gardiner of the 13th Dragoons, who commanded the whole, halted in the fields between Edinburgh and Leith, leaving a small party to watch the west road, while fresh volunteers came into the city from Musselburgh and Dalkeith. That night Brigadier Fowkes arrived from London to assume the command, and he at once led the cavalry towards Coltbridge, which spans the Leith, about two miles distant from the then city. 

Here a few Highland gentlemen, forming the Prince’s van, fired their pistols, on which a dreadful panic at once seized the 13th and 14th Dragoons, who went “threes about,” and, laden with all the property they could “loot” from Corstorphine and Bell’s Mills, were seen from the Castle and the city, flying in wild disorder eastward by the Lang Gate. At Leith they halted for a few minutes till a cry was raised, in mockery, that the Highlanders were at hand, when again they resumed their flight as par as Preston Pans. Then a cry from one of their comrades, who fell into a disused coalpit, filled these cravens with such ungovernable terror, that they fled to North Berwick. The road by which they galloped was strewn, according to Dr. Carlyle, with their swords, pistols, carbines, and skull-caps, which the mortified Colonel Gardiner, who had passed the night at his own house at Bankton, caused to be gleaned up and sent in covered carts to Dunbar. 

General Guest sent a detachment into the city to spike the cannon, which in his heart he had no wish should be used against the Prince, to save them for whom the Provost declined all permission that they should either be touched or removed; thus eventually the whole, with 1,200 stand of arms, became the prize of the Highlanders. Meanwhile the whole of the volunteers, “riff raff,” as the General stigmatised them, vanished. The Dalkeith men stole ladders, scaled the walls, and fled in the night; and the Seceders, who were the last to abandon their colours, eventually followed them. Then all hope of defending the city was abandoned; but still the gates were kept closed and guarded. The Whigs were utterly depressed, while the Jacobites were in a state of elation which they were at no pains to conceal, and from the ladies at their spinets, and the gallants in the street, was heard that song which Dr. Charles Mackay tells us was the most popular or fashionable one in the city during 1745-6, and of which two verses will suffice: 

“To daunton me, and me sae young, 
 And gude King James’s eldest son! 
 Oh that’s the thing that never can be, 
 For the man’s unborn that’ll daunton me! 
 Oh, set me ance on Scottish land, 
 With my gude broadsword in my hand, 
 And the bonnet blue aboon my bree, 
 Then show me the man that’ll daunton me!” 


“But to wanton me, to wanton me, 
 O ken ye what maist would wanton me? – 
 To see King James at Edinburgh Cross, 
 With fifty thousand foot and horse,  
 And the vile usurper forced to flee, 
 Oh, this is what maist would wanton me”

Certain commissioners were sent to Gray’s Mill to treat with the Highland chiefs for the deliverance of the keys of the city on the best terms; but of what passed at that conference little is known, save that at ten at night they returned with a letter from Charles, demanding a peaceable admittance into his father’s capital; but, aware that prompt measures were necessary, as Cope’s army in a fleet of transports was already at Dunbar, he detailed a detachment of 900 men under Lochiel, Ardshiel, and Keppoch, to advance upon the city, carrying with them powder to blow in one of the gates.

Crossing the Burghmuir by moonlight, they reached the vicinity of the Nether Bow Port, by entering under the archway near St. John’s Street; and the narrative of Provost Stewart’s trial records what followed then. The sentry at the gate stopped a hackney coach that approached it from the inside – the identical vehicle in which the deputies had returned from Gray’s Mill, and the driver of which wanted to pass out at that critical juncture. “Open the port,” he cried, “for I behove to get out.” “You cannot,” replied the sentinel, “without an order from Provost Stewart.” “Let the coach out instantly,” said James Gillespie, under-keeper of the gate, “for I have an order to that effect.” “Oh, sir, ’tis very well; you have the keys of the port and must answer for it,” replied the soldier, as he pulled back the ponderous gate in the arch between its two massive towers.

At that moment a Highlander sprang in and wrested his musket from him; it was the chief of Lochiel; and immediately the whole clan Cameron advanced up the street, with swords drawn and colours flying, their pipes playing 

“We’ll awa to Shirramuir, 
 And haud the Whigs in order.” 

Other noise there was none, and no bloodshed; not an armed man was to be seen on the streets, to the astonishment of the Highlanders, who saw only the people in their night-dresses, at the windows, by the light of the early dawn. 

They seized the Guard-house, disarmed the Guard, captured the cannon and arsenal, placed pickets at the eight principal gates with the utmost order and regularity, while the magistrates retired to their houses, aware that their authority was ended.

Generals Guest and Preston hoisted the royal standard on the Castle, and fired a few cannon to warn all to keep from its vicinity, and, meanwhile, after two hours’ sleep, Charles prepared to take possession of the palace of his forefathers. Making a tour to the south, to avoid the fire of the Castle till he reached Braidsburn, he turned towards the city as far as the Hare Stone, a mass of granite on the turnpike road near Morningside – the old banner stone of the Burghmuir. He then wheeled to the east by the beech-shaded Grange Loan (now bordered by villas, sequestered and grassy then), which leads by the old house of the Grange to the Causewayside.

Near Priestfield he entered the royal parks by a breach that had been made in the wall, and traversed the Hunter’s Bog, that had echoed so often to the bugles of his ancestors. Leaving his troops to take up their camp, about noon he rode – with what emotions we may imagine – towards old Holyrood, of a thousand stirring memories, attended by the Duke of Perth and Lord Elcho, with a train of gentlemen and the veterans of his Highland guard – veterans of Sherriffmuir and Glenshiel – eighty in number, at the very time that Sir John Cope’s armament was disembarking at Dunbar.

“On reaching the eminence below St. Anthony’s chapel and well, when for the first time he came in sight of the old palace, he alighted from his horse, and paused to survey the beautiful scene. The descending to the Duke’s Walk (so called because it had been a favourite resort of his grandfather, to whose flagrant misgovernment he owed his exile) he halted for a few minutes to show himself to the people, who now flocked around him in great numbers with mingled feelings of curiosity and admiration. Loud huzzas came from the crowd, and many of the enthusiastic Jacobites knelt down and kissed his hand. He then mounted his horse – a fine bay gelding, presented to him by the Duke of Perth – and rode slowly towards the palace. On arriving in front of Holyrood he alighted, and was about to enter the royal dwelling, when a cannon ball fired from the Castle struck the front of James V.’s tower, and brought down a quantity of rubbish into the court-yard. No injury was done, however, by this gratuitous act of annoyance, and the Prince, passing in at the outer gate, and proceeding along the piazza, and the quadrangle, was about to enter the porch of what are called the Duke of Hamilton’s apartments, when James Hepburn of Keith, who had taken part in the rising of 1715, ‘a model of ancient simplicity, manliness, and honour,’ stepped from the crowd, bent his knee in token of homage, and then drawing his sword, raised it aloft, and marshalled the way before Charles up-stairs.”

On this day Charles wore a short tartan coat, with the star of St. Andrew, a blue velvet bonnet, and white cockade, a blue ribbon over his shoulder, scarlet breeches, and military boots. Tall, handsome, fair, and noble in aspect, he excited the admiration of all those fearless Jacobites, the ladies especially. “All were charmed with his appearance,” says Home; “they compared him to Robert Bruce, whom he resembled, they said, in his figure and fortune. The Whigs looked upon him with other eyes; they acknowledged that he was a goodly person, but observed that even in that triumphant hour, when about to enter the palace of his fathers, the air of his countenance was languid and melancholy; that he looked like a gentleman and man of fashion, but not like a hero or conqueror.” He adds, however, that he was greeted with acclaim by the peasantry, who, whenever he went abroad, sought to kiss his hands, and even to touch his clothes.

At one o’clock on the same day a body of the Cameron clansmen was drawn up around the venerable Market Cross, with the heralds, pursuivants, and the magistrates (many most unwillingly) in their robes, while Mr. David Beath proclaimed “James VIII., King of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland,” in the usual old form, and read the Commission of Regency, dated 1743, with the manifesto of the Prince, dated at Paris, May 16th, 1745. A number of ladies on horseback, with swords drawn, acted as a guard of honour. “A great multitude of sympathising spectators was present at the ceremony, and testified their satisfaction by cordial cheers. In the evening the long-deserted apartments of Holyrood were enlivened by a ball, at which the Jacobite ladies were charmed with the elegant manners and vivacity of the youthful aspirant to the throne.”

But few took up arms in his cause. On the following day Lord Nairne came in with the Athol Highlanders; old Lord Kellie came in with only an aged serving man; the Grants of Glenmorriston, 250 strong, marched in on the morning of the 20th, but the main body of the clan stood aloof, though Lord Balmerino and many other noble and disinherited gentlemen (who came almost unattended) joined the standard. 

The Highlanders remained within their camp, or when in the city behaved themselves with the utmost order and decorum; no outrages occurred, and no brawls of any kind ensued; meanwhile, the garrison remained close within the Castle, and till after the battle of Preston Pans, no collision took place between them and the troops.

Their quiet, orderly, and admirable conduct formed a marked difference between them and most of the merciless ruffians, who, under Hawley, Huske, and Cumberland, disgraced the British uniform; for the little army of Charles Edward was as orderly as it was brave, and organised in a fashion of its own – the discipline of the modern system being added easily to the principle of clanship, and the whole – then only 3,000 – were now completely equipped with the arms found in the city. The pay of a captain was 2s. 6d. daily; of a lieutenant, 2s.; ensign, 1s. 6d.; of a private, 6d. In the clan regiments every company had a double set of officers. The Leine chrios (shirt of mail) or chosen men, were in the centre of each battalion, to defend the chief and colours. The front rank, when in line, consisted of the best blood of the clan and the best armed – particularly those who had targets. All these received 1s. daily while the Prince’s money lasted.

The battle of Preston Pans is apart from the history of Edinburgh; but there, on the 20th September, the Highlanders, suffering under innumerable disadvantages, gained a signal victory, in a few minutes, over a well-disciplined and veteran army, sweeping it from the field in irretrievable confusion. The cavalry escaped by the speed of their horses, but all the infantry were killed or taken, with their colours, cannon, baggage, drums, and military chest containing £6,000. Charles, who, the night before the victory, slept in a little house still shown at Duddingston, bore his conquest with great moderation and modesty, even proposing to put the wounded – among whom was the Master of Torphichen, suffering from twenty sword wounds, of which he died – in Holyrood, but the Royal Infirmary was preferred, as the palace was required for the purposes of royalty.

On the 21st, preceded by 100 pipers playing “The king shall enjoy his own again,” the prisoners, to the number of 1,500, of whom 80 were officers, were marched through Edinburgh (prior to their committal to Logierait and the Castle of Doune), together with the baggage train, which had been taken by the Camerons, and the colours of the 13th and 14th Light Dragoons, the 6th, 44th, 46th, 47th, and Loudon’s Corps. The Prince had the good taste not to accompany this triumphal procession. The officers were for a time placed in Queensberry House in the Canongate.

Curiously enough, Sir John Cope’s cannon were all captures on a tramway, or line of wooden rails, the first of the kind known in Europe, and belonging to some coal-pits in the vicinity of the field. 

The pusillanimity of the regulars was very singular, but none more so than that of a party of light dragoons commanded by Major Caulfield, who fled from the field to the Castle of Edinburgh, a distance of ten miles, permitting themselves to be pursued by a single horseman, Colquhoun Grant of Burnside – a little property near Castle Grant – who, in the battle, at the head of twenty-eight Highlanders, captured two pieces of cannon. He pursued the fugitives to the very gates of the Castle, which received them, and were closed at his approach. After this he leisurely rode down the street, and, after being measured for a tartan suit in the Luckenbooths, left the city by the Nether Bow – his resolute aspect, “bloody sword, and blood-stained habiliments” striking terror into all who thought of opposing him. Grant was selected as one of the Prince’s Life Guards, under Lord Elcho. The dress of these Guards was blue faced with red, and scarlet waistcoats laced with gold; the horse-furniture the same. He lived long after these events as a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh where he died in 1792. He resided in Gavinloch’s Land, according to P. Williamson’s Directory for 1784.

Amid the tumultuous excitement of the Highlanders entering the city with their trophies, they repeatedly fired their muskets in the air. One being loaded with ball, the latter grazed the forehead of Miss Nairne, a young Jacobite lady, who was waving her handkerchief from a balcony in the High Street. “Thank God!” Exclaimed the fair enthusiast, as soon as she was able to speak, “that this accident has happened to me, whose true principles are known. Had it befallen a Whig, they would have said it was done on purpose.”2

This victory annihilated the only regular army in the kingdom, and made Charles master of it all, with the exception of the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, and a few petty Highland forts. It caused the greatest panic in London, and a serious run upon the Bank of England.

The fugitives who reached the Castle numbered 105. To close it up, guards were now placed at all the avenues. The strongest of these was near the Weigh-house, where the Highland picket – at whom was fired the 32lb. cannon ball still shown, and referred to in an early chapter – occupied the residence of a fugitive, the Rev. George Logan, a popular preacher, famous controversialist, and author of several learned treatises. 

The noise made by the Highlanders in the city, the din of so many pipes in the lofty streets, and the acclamations of the Jacobites, had such an effect upon the wavering mind of General Guest, that he called a council of war, at which he urged upon the officers, “that as the fortress was indefensible, with a garrison so weak, terms for capitulating to the Scottish prince should at once be entered into.”

To this proposal every officer present assented, and it would have been adopted, had not General Preston, the man whom the authorities had just superseded, demanded to be heard. Stern, grim, and tottering under wounds won in King William’s wars, and inspired by genuine hatred of the House of Stuart, he declared that if such a measure was adopted he would resign his commission as a disgrace to him. On this, Guest handed over to him the command of the fortress, to defend which he instantly adopted the most vigorous measures. He wrote to the Secretary of State, acquainting him that if not soon relieved he would be compelled to surrender, as his stock of provisions was so small. This letter fell into the hands of the Prince, by whom the Castle was never formally summoned. Preston had now been seventy years in the service. He was in his eighty-seventh year, and was so enfeebled by time and wounds as to be unable to walk; yet so constant was his vigilance, that every two hours he was wheeled around the posts to see that his sentinels were on the alert, and whenever a Highlander could be seen, a gun loaded with grape was fired at him.


1  A true account of the strength of the Highland army, 27th August, 1745 
(“Culloden Papers.”)
“The Highlanders were not more than 1,800, and the half of them only were armed.” (“Autobiography of Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk.”)
2  Note to chap LI., “Waverley.”
Exit mobile version