The Battle of Culloden, or ‘45 Rebellion, was really part 2 of a civil war and was borne of sentiments that hadn’t been dampened any after the Rebellion of 1715. Pretty quickly after the Union with England was concluded the same lords who got cushy seats and not-so-anonymous sums of money realised that the deal they’d struck wasn’t exactly what they had hoped for.
“An attempt was made by some Scotch peers shortly after the Union to have their Union also repealed… the Earl of Findlater… moved the repeal of the Union in 1713, on the ground that Scotland was more taxed than she ought to be. The hon. and learned member moved the repeal because Ireland had made a bad bargain, and the Earl of Findlater moved the repeal of the Union with Scotland because England had violated the bargain. What did the Duke of Argyll say on the occasion? There are his words:-
‘If the Union is not dissolved no property would be left in the country, and Scotland would be the most miserable country on earth.’‘London Evening Standard,’ Thursday 24th April, 1834.
The Scottish people were in the belief that should they win the right to their own king, in the case of 1715 it was James, known as the Old Pretender, while in 1745, and at Culloden, it was, of course, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the still-fresh Union would be easily ended, giving Scotland back to the control of her people and Parliament.
W. J. O’Neill Daunt, ‘Home Rule – The Scotch Union – Letter from Mr. Daunt,’
“At subsequent dates, many Scotchmen took up arms to restore the House of Stuart, much more from a belief that their restoration would be followed or accompanied by the restoration of the Scotch Parliament than from love of the fallen dynasty. The insurrections of 1715 and 1745 were, to a great extent, attempts to Repeal the Union by force of arms. Thus the Union had its share in producing the horrors of civil war.”‘Dublin Weekly Nation,’ Saturday 25th November, 1871.
It apparently wouldn’t have taken much to have achieved this result. As Edinburgh barrister Charles Waddie tells us in his excellent ‘How Scotland Lost Her Parliament’ (1891);
“We know that it is a prevailing opinion in our day that the Jacobites were confined to the Highlands, but this is very far from the truth; the Prince’s adherents were everywhere; the whole country was honeycombed with Secret Societies and Jacobite Clubs. The Scots were not so foolish as to desire a despot out of sympathy with their religion and opposed in principle to their ideas of civil and religious liberty. Had the exiled Prince learned wisdom in adversity and identified himself with the sentiments of the people over whom he aspired to reign, he would have commanded the universal homage of Scotland, and no power that England could have brought against him would have deprived him of that kingdom. But the doomed race of the Stuarts were unable to shake themselves free from the trammels of their early education, and so stuck to the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ and the absolute duty of submission on the part of the people. It was for that reason alone that the Government had any adherents in Scotland; so the country was divided into two parts – those who clung to constitutional government, and the Jacobites whose romantic loyalty made them forget all the defects of their idol.”
The Battle of Culloden was just a Jacobite slaughter. Charles did not make for a very good strategist. He had a goal in sight and it didn’t seem to really matter how he got there or how many died attempting to gain it for him. This is where we meet the Duke of Cumberland. In the 1847 ‘Gazetteer of Scotland,’ for the town of Nairn, we’re given at least a partial reason for their defeat;
“West of the town is the field on which the Duke of Cumberland encamped his army on the day before the battle of Culloden. The insurgents, aware of his position, came down the banks of the Nairn from Culloden with the design of attacking him by surprise; but they were too late in their movements, and, being overtaken by the dawn, were obliged to halt and return. Their fatigue and want of sleep occasioned by the long and useless night-march are sometimes assigned as a chief reason of their having suffered so signal and total a discomfiture in the action of next day.”
I’m going to go back to Waddie again as he’s just so succinct in his summations. He begins by telling us that there had been some positive moments which had, perhaps, made Charles too secure in his position;
“The population in England, overawed by the victorious Highlanders on their march south, now thought they could fall upon their retreating foe with impunity. One or two sharp lessons which the Highlanders gave them soon cured them, however, of their temerity, and even the Duke of Cumberland and his disciplined troops were taught to respect their enemy. Large reinforcements awaited Charles on his return to Scotland, and had the French Government fulfilled even a respectable part of their large promises the war might have been protracted for some considerable time. A transient gleam of returning fortune came to the Prince’s army at Falkirk, where the boastful General Hawley received a severe lesson.
The fear of invasion of the South of England being now removed, the Duke of Cumberland hastened to Scotland and took command of the army. The Highlanders had retreated into their own country where the last tragedy of this deplorable insurrection was about to be played. On the 16th April 1746 was fought the decisive battle of Culloden. The army of Prince Charles consisted of about five thousand men. The Duke of Cumberland had nine thousand troops under his command, with all the most approved appliances of war. For the first time the Highland army had been opposed by a capable General; with such overwhelming numbers victory was assured, and that Charles should have risked his all on such an unequal contest can only be accounted for by madness or despair. By this ill-considered action one thousand brave men lay dead on the field, for the victorious army, especially the cavalry, who had played such a poor part in former encounters, took a mean revenge upon the vanquished foe and slew the wounded without mercy. They made diligent search among the neighbouring huts into which the wounded had crawled, and took the helpless wretches and shot them in cold blood. There are none so cruel as cowards, the extremity of their past terrors gives a particular zest to the ferocity with which they treat their victims when they fall into their power.
It is said the Duke of Cumberland was a brave man; if so, he acted with the malice of a coward. His military executions in the Highlands covered his name with infamy and shocked the moral sense of the whole Christian world. Man, woman, and child fell before his relentless arms…”
Even Robert Chambers, whose writings were penned and tempered for an English audience, tells us in his 1886 ‘Book of Days,’ for April 16th;
“On the 16th of April 1746, was fought the battle of Culloden,.. The Duke of Cumberland, who commanded the army of the government, used his victory with notable harshness and cruelty; not only causing a needless slaughter among the fugitives, but ordering large numbers of the wounded to be fusilladed on the field: a fact often doubted, but which has been fully proved. He probably acted under an impression that Scotland required a severe lesson to be read to her, the reigning idea in England being that the northern kingdom was in rebellion, whereas the insurgents represented but a small party of the Scottish people, to whom in general the decent of a parcel of the Highland clans with Charles Edward Stuart was as much a surprise as it was to the court of St James’s.”
In T. D. Lauder’s 1881 ‘Tales of the Highlands,’ a conversation the author had one night in a bothy, on the subject of Cumberland’s actions after his success at Culloden contains an interesting piece of information;
Clifford. – Is it possible that the Duke of Cumberland could have authorised such atrocities, as the hanging up innocent servants in the way you describe, Mr. Macpherson?
Dominie [Macpherson]. – I am afraid that what I have asserted is but too true, sir.
Author [Lauder]. – I am sorry to say, that I am in possession of a document which but too satisfactorily proves, that he did give most cruel orders. It is an orderly book of the thirty-seventh regiment, which was called Cholmondeley’s Regiment; and in that I find, in the general orders, dated “The Camp at Enverness April, 17th, 1746,” the following entry:- “A captain and fifty foot to march directly, and vizt all the cothidges in the naberhod of the field of battal, and to search for rebbels, the officers and men will take notiss, that the pubilick orders of the rebbels yesterday was to give us no quarters.” This, I think, was a pretty broad hint to the men and the officer commanding them, what it was that the Duke expected of them.*
Grant. – Very distinct, indeed.
Author. – Not to be mistaken, I think.
Clifford. – Is there anything existing to establish that any such order was given by the Prince, previous to the battle, as that to which the Duke here alludes!
Author. – Not a vestige of anything that I am aware of. But if such orders had been given by the Prince, that circumstance would have afforded no apology for him to have issued the order I have now repeated to you, after the battle was over, and the enemy so effectually cut to pieces in the field. Nothing, I think, could more mark a sanguinary temper than his thus letting loose a body of men, to visit all the neighbouring cottages, and to put to death, in cold blood, all whom his ignorant and bloodthirsty myrmidons might choose to consider as rebels. The slaughter in this way, of the innocent as well as of the guilty, was said to have been immense.”
Clifford. – The picture is horrible!
Grant. – It is horrible to think of it, even at this great distance of time…
James Grant details in his 1880 ‘Old & New Edinburgh,’ a consequence of the Jacobite defeat at Culloden with regards Edinburgh Castle;
“Many unfortunate Jacobites have suffered most protracted periods of imprisonment within its walls. Among these the Edinburgh Courant records,.. for twelve months, in 1746, there were confined in a small, horrid, and unhealthy chamber above the portcullis, used for many a year as “the black hole” of the garrison, the Duchess of Perth and Viscountess Strathallan, with her daughters, the Ladies Mary and Amelia, who were brought in by an escort of twenty dragoons, under a ruffianly quartermaster, who treated them with every indignity, even to tearing the wedding-ring from Lady Strathallan’s finger, and stripping her daughters of their clothes. During the long year these noble ladies were in that noisome den above the gate, they were without female attendance, and under the almost hourly surveillance of the sergeants of the guard. The husband of the countess was slain at the head of his men on the field of Culloden, where the Jacobite clans were overcome by neither skill nor valour, but the sheer force of numbers and starvation.”
Donald MacLeod, speaks of Cumberland and some of the immediate effects of Culloden in ‘Gloomy Memories’ (1892);
“No doubt the Duke of Cumberland, the most obnoxious, cowardly monster, that ever disgraced humanity, commissioned his followers to acts of murder, plunder, and violence… In that unfortunate year the Black Act was enacted, which deprived the Caledonians of their national garb, of their arms, and forbade them to wear either under the pains and penalties of heavy fines, long imprisonment, and banishment. This nefarious act was in force, and strictly watched for thirty-two years, which is equal to a generation. Our poets, the reprovers of evil cowardly deeds, and the recorders of the deeds of valiant men, were silenced, and many of them made a narrow escape from the gallows, for their pensive memoirs of the fallen at Culloden, on the day when Scotland was prostrated, at the foot of her avowed enemy, a day pregnant with degradation, slavery, and the desolation and misery I have to record; all the Gaelic manuscript and history that could be discovered, by hook or by crook, was seized, destroyed, or locked up…”
The deprival of “national garb” is elaborated on by John F. Campbell in the Notes to volume 4 of ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands’ (1893);
“Section 17 of the 19th George II. [Act of Parliament] provides for the dress. After the 1st of August 1747 it was unlawful for civilians, ‘on any pretence whatsoever, to wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes, that is to say, the plaid, philibeg or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no Tartan or party-coloured Plaid, or Stuff, shall be used for Greatcoats or for upper Coats.’ The penalty was, for a first offence, six months’ imprisonment; and seven years’ transportation for a second offence.
As no provision was made for clothing those whom the legislature thus stripped, as the climate is severe and unfit for the cultivation of figs, and the people were poor; and as loyal districts were included, this might be called, ‘the Act for the un-civilization of the Highlands, and the profit of cloth workers.’ ”
Retribution got petty as well. It’s mentioned in ‘Old & New Edinburgh,’ that the banners of the Jacobite clans were burned at the Edinburgh Cross;
“With a spite that seems childish now, by order of Cumberland those standards, whose insignia were all significant of high descent and old achievement, were carried in procession to the Cross. The common hangman bore that of Charles, thirteen Tronmen, or sweeps, bore the rest, and all were flung into a fire, guarded by the 44th Regiment, while the heralds proclaimed the name of each chief to whom they belonged – Lochiel, Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry, and so forth; while the crowd looked on in silence. By this proceeding, so petty in its character, Cumberland failed alike to inflict an injury on the character of the chiefs or their faithful followers, among whom, at that dire time, the bayonet, the gibbet, the torch, and the axe, were everywhere at work;..”
Those Scottish Jacobites who had been taken prisoner, against Article 19 of the Treaty of Union, were brought down to England and tried under that country’s treason laws. From a contemporary ‘Derby Mercury‘ article, from Hallowe’en, 1746, we’re given that;
“Tuesday the Court sat at St. Margaret’s Hill, Southwark, for trying the Rebel Prisoners:.. Point of Law mov’d on Tuesday by the Council for the Prisoners, which was, whether those who are Natives of Scotland, Resident in Scotland, had committed Acts of Treason in Scotland, and were taken in Scotland, could, without a Breach of the Union, be tried in England?”
Scots felt that a Secretary of State was an important intermediary to them with the Westminster government. However, 10 years after the 1715 rebellion, insult was added to injury when;
‘Aberdeen Juridical Society: Address by Sheriff Guthrie Smith,’
“In a letter to Lord Islay, Walpole discloses what was the intention of the Government with respect to the management of Scottish affairs. ‘It may not be improper,’ he says, ‘to acquaint you that the scheme is to put an end to the office of Scotch Secretary,’ and accordingly, although it was revived for a time in the person of Lord Selkirk in the year 1731, the office finally disappeared in 1746 with the resignation of Lord Tweeddale along with the rest of the Granville Cabinet. When the Pelham Ministry was formed it appears at one time to have been intended to appoint Duke of Argyle as Secretary; but the Duke of Cumberland, who since his successful suppression of the rebellion on the field of Culloden was allowed an authority in Scottish affairs out of all proportion to his abilities, and for which the disturbed state of the Highlands was the only excuse, gave his voice against it.”‘Aberdeen Free Press,’ Saturday 11th April, 1885.
So, he actually ended up with more of a say over Scottish affairs than even the Scottish lords.
There is a wee mention later on in the ‘Book of Days,’ for January 16th, of an incident 3 years after Culloden, in London that got Cumberland worked up. He was at the Haymarket Theatre and the star attraction had failed to show up…
“A young gentleman threw a lighted candle upon the stage, and a general charge upon that part of the house followed. According to a private letter, to which we have had access – (it was written by a Scotch Jacobite lady) – ‘Cumberland was the first that flew in a rage, and called to pull down the house… He drew his sword, and was in such a rage, that somebody slipped in behind him and pulled the sword out of his hand, which was as much to say, “Fools should not have chopping sticks.” This sword of his has never been heard tell of, nor the person who took it. Thirty guineas of reward are offered for it. Monster of Nature, I am sure I wish he may never get it!”
4 years after Culloden, Grant tells us of a “disturbance” in the Canongate Theatre, Edinburgh;
“After the affair of 1745 the audiences were apt to display a spirit of political dissension. On the anniversary of the battle of Culloden, in 1749, some English officers who were in the theatre commanded the orchestra, in an insolent and unruly manner, to strike up an obnoxious air known as Culloden; but in a spirit of opposition, and to please the people, the musicians played “You’re welcome, Charlie Stuart.” The military at once drew their swords and attacked the defenceless musicians and players, but were assailed by the audience with torn-up benches and every missile that could be procured. The officers now attempted to storm the galleries; but the doors were secured. They were then vigorously attacked in the rear by the Highland chairmen with their poles, disarmed, and most ignominiously drubbed and expelled;…”
One of the quotes that sums up Scotland’s relationship with Westminster comes from Burton’s ‘History of Scotland’:
“Many of the calamities following on the Union had much encouragement, if they did not spring, soon that haughty English nature which would not condescend to sympathise in, or even know, the peculiarities of their new fellow-countrymen… The pervading historical character of the events immediately following the Union, is, that English statesmen, had they desired to alienate Scotland, and create a premature revulsion against the Union, could not have pursued a course better adapted to such an end. The position of the countries demanded a delicate and cautious policy. Scotland had to go through the immediate perceptible evils of a departed nationality, a decaying retail trade, and increased taxation; the countervailing benefits from extended enterprise lay in the future. A paternal Government would, on such an occasion, have carefully avoided everything that irritated national pride or prejudices, and seemed, however slightly, to sacrifice the interests or independence of the one country to the other… But in almost every one of the changes just enumerated, the offensive act was offensively done, and the country was ever reminded that she was in the hands of ungenial and uninterested, if not hostile strangers.”