Scottish fact of the week: Battle of Culloden

THE Battle of Culloden, one of Scotland’s most famous historic conflicts, was the climax of a decades-long battle to install the descendants of the House of Stuarts to the British throne.
A cairn commemorating the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Picture: David MoirA cairn commemorating the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Picture: David Moir
A cairn commemorating the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Picture: David Moir

It was the last of a series of rebellions, known as the Jacobite Risings, that began shortly after King James II of England (known as James VII in Scotland), a Roman Catholic Stuart, was deposed in 1688.

Forces led by Charles Edward Stuart - better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie - led the Jacobites, comprised mainly of Highland clansmen, into battle in 1746 against forces spearheaded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland on a moor near Inverness.

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The Duke of Cumberland, fighting for the House of Hanover (a dynasty which ruled the British Isles until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901), gathered troops from England as well as some Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders. Hessians from Germany and Austria formed the remainder of the Hanoverian forces.

Bonnie Prince Charlie. Picture: Neil HannaBonnie Prince Charlie. Picture: Neil Hanna
Bonnie Prince Charlie. Picture: Neil Hanna

The battle ended within the hour: the Jacobite forces, with the wind and rain against them, succumbed to the government’s army. Jacobite casualties are estimated to have been between 1,500 and 2,000, while only 50 deaths and 239 wounded were recorded on the opposing side.

The ramifications of the Battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle ever fought on British soil, were far-reaching. What remained of the Jacobite army dissolved once Charles Edward Stuart let it be known that all was lost. Later, he would spend several months flitting across the Hebrides, evading capture from government forces who had put a £30,000 bounty on him before he managed to flee to France in permanent exile.

Meanwhile, the government drafted a number of laws to incorporate Scotland - especially the distant Highland region - more fully into the United Kingdom. Feudal landowners lost powers to enforce justice on their lands through the Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions Act of 1747. Jacobite-supporting landowners were stripped of their titles and lands, Of more cultural significance was the banning of all Highland dress by an Act of Parliament the preceding year, which reserved the right to wear tartan only to soldiers and officers in the British Army and landed gentry.

A memorial cairn erected in 1881 occupies the site, and is one of several small monuments that acts as a reminder of the bloody conflict on a now tranquil field in the north of Scotland.


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