After Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the Scottish and English crown were united and King James VI of Scotland became James I of England.
The first two Stuart kings of England accepted the pattern of episcopal church government as found in Scotland's southern neighbour, and Charles I in particular, urged on by Canterbury's infamous Archbishop William Laud, determined to make Scotland bow willy-nilly to the episcopal yoke. Came the tremendous storm of July, 1637, the ominous stool-throwing by Jenny Geddes, with the cry, 'Will ye read that book [the Prayer Book] in my lug [= ear]', the signing of the highly significant National Covenant in Greyfriars Church and Churchyard, the two Bishops' Wars extending to 1641, and, in general, the revolt of an entire nation against its rulers. The underlying cause was spiritual rather than political. A nation had queried the claim by a monarch to determine the form of government of a national church, and had fired a cannon whose sound reverberated to the farthest Hebrides.
The National Covenant of 1638, the outstanding covenant of Scottish History, declared the firm determination of its Presbyterian authors and subscribers to resist to the death the claims of the King and his minions to override the Crown Rights of the Redeemer in His Kirk.
The Kirk of Scotland had spoken; let the King and the Archbishop tremble. The King, however, chose to follow his own pre-determined policy and such devices as Laud could invent. Meanwhile his troubles in his realm of England reached their desperate climax. Civil War commenced in the summer of 1642 and Scotland and the English Long Parliament came into close co-operation. Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and Royalists (Cavaliers) fought each other and in 1648 the Parliamentarians had won the war and the king was executed.
After the civil war, Oliver Cromwell, 'the great Independent', emerged from the period of conflict; Scotland and England fell apart, not without war, only to be brought together again politically by the union of Parliaments which England enforced after its military triumph.
But England as a nation soon tired of Puritan domination and in 1660 the son of Charles returned to rule England and Scotland as Charles II; he claimed to be in the eleventh year of his reign.
The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 marked the commencement of the Covenanter Period proper. The fair promises contained in the Declaration of Breda in 1659 were virtually annulled by the astute Edward Hyde (Lord Clarendon), now acting as the lord chancellor of England, who contrived the inclusion of a qualification in each royal concession, to the effect that the king would agree to whatsoever Parliament proposed on each point of the Declaration.
In this fashion Charles could make pretence of yielding to Parliament's desires while making sure, in the devious ways open to his ministers, that those desires were to all intents and purposes his own.
The massacre of the MacDonald's of Glencoe is one of the most notorious acts of infamy in Scottish history and is remembered even now with bitter distaste by many of that clan.
In 1691 all Highland Clan Chiefs were required to swear and sign an oath of loyalty to the new, protestant King William III by no later than 1 January 1692. The Clan chiefs, believing discretion to be the better part of valour, practically queued to sign the oath by the appointed time.
One who failed to do so was MacIain of Glencoe, the elderly head of a small branch of MacDonalds.
The plan was devised by no less a person than the Secretary of State for Scotland, John Dalrymple of Stair, who, to cover himself no doubt, secured the King's signature for it.
On the 1st February a division of troops from the Earl of Argyll's regiment arrived in Glencoe under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. The Campbells had been the hereditary enemies of the MacDonalds for centuries, but in spite of this the Highland tradition of refusing no visitor hospitality was upheld and the Campbell troops were invited into MacDonald homes where they were given food, drink and quarters.
For four days the Campbells enjoyed MacDonald hospitality, while Captain Robert waited for his superiors' orders. When those orders arrived, they left no room for doubt. He was instructed to kill everyone, man, women and child, under the age of 70.
On the evening of 5th February Captain Robert dined with MacIain and his wife. In the morning of the 6th February his men fell upon the unsuspecting MacDonalds and slaughtered 38 of them, a less than satisfactory result in view of his explicit orders to spare none.
What makes Glencoe so famous is the cruelty on the one hand and on the other hand the fact that it was no inter-clan affair but a deliberate, government sponsored massacre, carried out by regular troops under proper military command, carrying out a national policy.
The politics behind the Jacobite rebellions
of the 18th century were as simple and as complex as the blood relationships
which governed the lives of royal families all over Europe at that time.
Those who supported James were known as Jacobites, from Jacobus, the Latin word for James. Though Jacobite sympathies in England grew hot and cold in parallel with the general level of political contentment, there was little chance that England would ever seriously contemplate a Stuart restoration with its accompanying Catholic "baggage". In one place, however, the Stuarts could depend on a great deal of support and that was in the Highlands of Scotland.
The most serious of all the Jacobite attempts to overthrow the government was in 1715. It was led by a Scots lord, the Earl of Mar who had the unfortunate nickname of 'Bobbing John'. Mar had originally been an enthusiatic supporter of the Hanoverians, but when he was snubbed by the new king he took himself north and somewhere on the journey became a committed Jacobite. He raised the standard of the Stuarts on the Braes o' Mar and the Mackintoshes and the MacDonalds came to join him. Stirling was held for the government by the Duke of Argyll and in an attempt to take the rebellion into England, Mar sent Mackintosh of Borlum and 2,000 men across the River Forth, down through the Borders and into the northern counties of England. Borlum picked up some support along the way, notably Viscount Kenmure and his borderers, but the ordinary folk gave him no help and in England were downright hostile. Linking up with the Earl of Derwentwater and his English Catholics, the Jacobites attempted to invade Lancashire but were stopped at the town of Preston. For two days of bitter street fighting they battled a superior government army but were finally forced to surrender.
Back in the north Mar was indecisive and unable to provide the passionate leadership that a call to rebellion requires. Early on his men had occupied Perth and Inverness but no French warships bearing either the 'rightful king', gold or weapons had come to his aid. In October after sending Borlum on his melancholy mission to defeat at Preston, Mar came came down from the Highlands and in the shadow of the Ochil Hills, not far from the town of Dunblane, his men met the Duke of Argyll in open battle on the field of Sheriffmuir. Mar's army was twice as large as his opponent's and on the right of the Jacobite line the MacDonalds broke the government infantry and the horse behind them. On the left, however, Argyll's men did much the same and like some great bloody rotating wheel the battle was fought out indecisively. It was not a fight that either could claim a victory (though both did) and at the end of the day Mar retreated to Perth and Argyll still held Stirling and the roads to the south. The battle had been fought on that same Sunday that saw Borlum surrender at Preston.
Just before Christmas James II's son, who had styled himself James III since his father's death in 1701 and whose reputation has laboured under history's title of 'the Old Pretender', finally landed at Stonehaven in the north-east of Scotland. He was a cold man and did little to inspire those few who had stayed loyal to Mar after Sheriffmuir. With winter raging, no French troops or supplies and Argyll marching north against him, on February 4th he and Mar took ship for France.
The government was not as vicious in
their pacification as they would be after the next great rising and only two
of the leaders, Derwentwater and Kenmure, were beheaded. The clans were ordered
to disarm but they handed in only old and rusty weapons, hiding the best for
later use. That would come almost thirty years later and would be led by the
Old Pretender's young son - Bonnie Prince Charlie.
In July 1745,
the son of the Old Pretender came to Scotland. He landed at Arisaig and came
with almost nothing save seven companions, a little French gold and a few
French weapons. Nobody had wanted him to come.
At least the prince had arrived before the rebellion began and not like his father after it had failed. His name was Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, known forever to history as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He raised his standard at Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel. Others came; Macdonalds, Frasers, Stewarts, Farquharsons, men of Clan Chattan, Athollmen bearing the name Murray, MacLachlans and many more. Perhaps the intelligence that the government was again raising the Campbells to fight against the Jacobites was more of a spur to participation than any supposed loyalty to the House of Stuart. The Campbells had many enemies amongst the clans and there were many old scores to be settled.
In September Charles came down through the Stirling Plain and by the saltworks of Prestonpans his wild clansmen under the command of the able Lord George Murray routed Sir John Cope and the only government army in Scotland in a battle that lasted barely 20 minutes. The Jacobites occupied Edinburgh, though the castle held out for the government. Charles danced nightly in the Palace of Holyrood where his forebears had spent their leisure hours as princes of Scotland in fact not just in name. Five long weeks he tarried. By the time he crossed the River Esk into England on November 8th, the government had been able to recall veteran troops from Flanders and prepare itself for the onslaught of the clans.
Advancing by way of Carlisle and Manchester, the Jacobites found almost no support except for a few foolish Lancashire lads who were formed into the Manchester Regiment. The winter began to close in and the clansmen became less enthusiastic the further they strayed from their home mountains. By the time the army reached Derby, its furthest penetration south and barely a hundred miles from London, the situation looked bleak. General Wade commanded a government army at Newcastle in the rear of the rebels, the Duke of Cumberland another just the over the Pennines and a third army was assembling on Finchley Common for the defence of the capital itself. Each of these forces outnumbered the Jacobite army that was now down to less than 5,000 men. Charles argued for pushing on but it was no use, all of his commanders counselled retreat.
And so began the painful march north. The Manchester Regiment were left to hold Carlisle but they were soon taken and either hanged or transported to the colonies by a vengeful government with no wish to repeat the leniency it had shown after the '15.
Back in Scotland the Jacobite army increased in size to about 8,000 men and attempted to take Stirling Castle. An army under Hawley, a foul-mouthed, martinet leader of dragoons, came up to raise the siege and at Falkirk, not far from where Wallace had been defeated by Edward I, another furious charge of Highlandmen scattered another government force to the winds. Despite this victory, the Jacobite army was hungry and clansmen began to desert in large numbers. Cumberland was approaching with a large well provisioned army and once more the Jacobites retreated, this time to Inverness. Cumberland was not far behind. He finally caught up with them on April 15th, his birthday, and as his men drank his health in their camp at Nairn the Duke and his officers prepared for the battle all knew would come the next day.
Culloden Moor, known then as Drummossie Muir, was the site of the last pitched battle on the British mainland on 16 April 1746. The Jacobites were pulling back into the Highlands, ending their siege of Stirling as they headed for Inverness.
Despite their victory at Falkirk, Jacobite morale was declining. Hunger saw the men spreading out wide to find their own food, some of them breaking ranks for home. Most of their artillery had been ditched since reinforcements from France were growing more unlikely.
Things were very different for the Duke of Cumberland, now leading the Hanovarian army. His army was being well supplied by sea as he followed Prince Charles up the east coast.
Lord George Murray advised his Prince that the Jacobites would be best dispersing into the hills to use guerrilla strikes, bringing the army back together in the summer. Charles chose however, to reject the tactics the Highlanders knew best and opted to meet the enemy again in an open area.
On the night of the 15th, a mismanaged strike was launched on Cumberland’s camp which achieved nothing, resulting only in sleepless, hungry Highlanders for the next day. When they met on the Moor near Culloden, the Jacobites numbered four and a half thousand to Cumberland’s nine thousand men.
Restricted by flanking dykes, the Jacobites presented a narrow, dense front. For the first twenty minutes of the hour-long battle the Hanovarian cannons pummelled the crowded area. When the Jacobites advanced the men in the centre found themselves having to squeeze to the right to avoid soft ground.
There were so many men in such a small area that muskets could not be used. Nevertheless they butchered on through the Hanovarian left only to meet another regiment behind. The Jacobite left had not joined the attack, and with two-thirds of the men now in difficulties, Cumberland’s cavalry had little trouble sweeping in to end the battle by two o’clock.
Working at their leisure, they proceeded to slaughter every Jacobite they had until the following day and continued to kill in round-ups for weeks following. The fatalities numbered three hundred Hanovarians and two thousand Jacobites.
This was the end of the second Jacobite Rising.