I received a message last week from some people in Scotland: a developer wants to build housing adjacent to Culloden Battlefield (Drunmossie Moor). Sixteen houses are planned for an area less than a half a mile from what is now the protected area of the main battlefield and are inside the boundary map for the Battle of Culloden. Not all of the fighting took place in the one area that is protected and under the guidance of the National Trust for Scotland. There are probably more human remains spread out over the larger area than the assumed 1300 bodies that lie beneath the protected area of the moor and the visitors’ center. This is a sacred place, not only for Scotland but for the millions of us who are descended from the Scots who, even if they didn’t take part in the actual fighting, had their lives disrupted and most probably ruined by the aftermath of the battle. The proposed project has been opposed by both the Highland Council and the National Trust.
The Stewart monarchs ruled in Scotland from 1371 until 1603. The spelling was changed to the French Stuart by Mary, Queen of Scots (daughter of King James V) while she was living in France as the child Queen of Scotland and later the Queen Consort of France. She changed it to have the correct French pronunciation of the Scots version of the name Stewart. After the death of her husband, King Francis II of France in 1560, she returned to Scotland. The spelling Stuart for the British royal family officially began when she married her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnly in 1565. Henry Stuart was the father of her son who would become James VI of Scotland (crowned, 1567) who was also the senior claimant to the English Crown after Queen Elizabeth I died childless, and the House of Tudor became extinct. He also then became James I of England and Ireland (crowned, 1603) under the Union of the Crowns (1603).
James VII & II came to the throne in 1685, and tried to unite the countries and introduce religious tolerance of Roman Catholics, Protestant Dissenters, and Quakers, and in the process of trying to do so, he antagonized members of the Anglican (Episcopalian) establishment. He was removed in 1689 during the Glorious Revolution when Mary (daughter of James VII/II) and her husband, the Protestant William of Orange deposed James and ruled together in his place. The Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Security 1704, prevented the Catholic Stuarts from sitting on the throne. The Stuarts exiled to France and the kingdom of Great Britain passed to the House of Hanover.
The Jacobites (from the Latin for James (Jacob); Gaidhlig: Seumasachas) formed a political movement in Great Britain and Ireland starting in 1688 in order to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart, King James II of England and his heirs to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. The major Jacobite rebellions were in 1715 and 1746, neither of them successful. The strongholds of the Jacobites were in the Scottish Highlands, Ireland and Northern England with significant support in Wales and South-West England.
Charles Edward Stuart, known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” or the “Young Pretender”, arrived in Scotland from France in 1745 with the intent to start a rebellion of the Jacobite/Stuart sympathizers against the House of Hanover. Most of the Scottish population was not in favor of the rebellion; others were sympathetic, but were reluctant to lend support. At first, the Clan Chieftains gave little notice to the arrival of the Prince. He initially had no military backing, but he soon found support and raised forces consisting mainly of Scottish Highland clansmen. The strong connection between the Rising and the Highland-Gàidhlig mindset, is shown in that 1745 is known as Bliadhna Theàrlaich (“Charles’ Year”).
The Jacobite forces defeated the Hanoverian Army that was stationed in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans. The city of Edinburgh was occupied, but not the castle. Building on their successes, they went south to England, and then north again, but things were falling apart and by the time they reached the village of Culloden, there had been a few thousand desertions along with in-fighting amongst Charles and his command.
The Battle of Culloden (Gàidhlig: Blàr Chùil Lodair) was the final battle of what was the 1745 Jacobite Rising. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Stuart fought against troops commanded by the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden (Drunmossie) Moor near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The Hanoverian victory at Culloden was a decisive victory and although Charles Stuart made his escape back to France, he never made any other attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Great Britain. The Battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.
Battle of Culloden
Jacobites: 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded; 154 prisoners taken
Government forces: officially, 50 dead and 259 wounded, but recent geophysical studies on the government burial pit changes the number to be closer to 300 dead
Prisoners were taken to England and tried for high treason; 120 common men were executed, one-third of them deserters from the Government forces
The common prisoners drew lots amongst themselves and only one of out of twenty came to trial. Most those who did stand trial were sentenced to death, however almost all had their sentences commuted to transportation to the British colonies for life
936 men were transported; 222 were banished
905 prisoners were released under the Act of Indemnity (1747)
382 exchanged for prisoners of war who were held by France
3,471 total prisoners (recorded); 648 of them missing with no record
High ranking “rebel lords” were executed on Tower Hill in London
Charles Stuart crisscrossed the Hebrides for five months evading the Government supporters and local lairds who were tempted to betray him for the £30,000 bounty. He was assisted by Flora Macdonald, who famously aided him in a narrow escape to Skye. (A bit more about Flora Macdonald here.) On September 19th, Stuart reached Borrodale on Loch nan Uamh (“the loch of the caves”) in Arisaig, (Àrasaig :”the safe place”) from which he departed for France and never returned to Scotland.
It was the aftermath of the battle that was especially severe for the people of the Highlands. Cumberland became known as the “Butcher” for sending his men into the battle field for two days and having them kill all the wounded, some of whom were buried alive. His crackdown on the Jacobite sympathizers all across the country was well-known for its brutality.
The British Government enacted laws to incorporate Scotland, specifically the Highlands, into the rest of Britain. Civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaidhlig culture and destroy the Scottish clan system. The Scottish people were required to take an oath of allegiance to the reigning Hanoverian dynasty that was administered by the Episcopalian clergy. The Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions Act of 1747 brought to an end the hereditary right of landowners (Clan Chieftains) to govern justice upon their estates through barony courts. Historically, clan chiefs had considerable judicial and military power over their followers. (Read a bit more on clan justice here.) The lords and clan chiefs who had supported the Jacobite rebellion were stripped of their estates. Lords who had remained loyal to the Government were compensated for the loss of these traditional powers. For example, the Duke of Argyll was given £21,000.
The Act of Proscription of 1746 incorporated the Dress Act which required all swords to be surrendered to the government and prohibited the wearing of tartans or kilts. The Act remained in force for 36 years, and effectively destroyed Highlanders’ customs and traditions for a generation. The plaid and kilt were never again a part of everyday wear in the Scottish Highlands. This did not prevent the Highlanders from finding a way to honor their traditions; on Sundays they would wear a piece of tartan under their drab “English” clothing, retaining their clan identity and beginning the custom of “the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan”.
With the goal of subjugating the Highlanders, roads were built where there had been none in order to gain access to the remote areas, and then they were heavily patrolled and the Highlanders were constantly harassed and their music, bagpipes, and language were made illegal. As with the Native American children on the North American continent, Highland children were beaten if they spoke their native language in school and in all too short a time, The Gàidhlig became a nearly forgotten language except in the most remote areas of the Highlands.
It is this history that is honored at Culloden.
All three times that I have walked the paths through the moor, I have fallen silent in respect for those who were there. Once away from the Visitors’ Center building, I felt the winds of history blow across the moor. The energy of the massacre that took place that day still emanates from the ground. On one visit, I was there during a snowstorm that was quite similar to the weather on the day of the Battle. I was well aware of the frigid winds that blew around me. It could only have been exhausting and painful to be under clothed, under fed and ill prepared against the cold the night before the battle.
I do not know if any of my direct ancestors were at Culloden on April 16, 1745, but I do know that the collective spirit of it runs through all Scotspeople regardless of where they live. We have a significant connection to that place and that day. I am one of the more than 10,000 who have signed the petition against any development near Culloden Battlefield. It’s another type of battle in another era, but the need to protect the land, a way of life and the history connected to it carries on from the bygone era.