The failed plot to seize Bonnie Prince Charlie

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With the Hanoverians trying to seize Bonnie Prince Charlie as he re-entered the Highlands, a bold blacksmith was sent to intercept the government men as they edged towards a Jacobite hideout near Inverness.

Charles Edward Stuart arrived at Moy Hall, the home of Lady Anne Mackintosh, a staunch Jacobite supporter, on February 16 1746 to rest for a few days while his widely scattered troops gathered again.

Charles Edward Stuart and Jacobite supporter Lady Anne Mackintosh, who ordered the Rout of Moy. PICS: Creative Commons.

Charles Edward Stuart and Jacobite supporter Lady Anne Mackintosh, who ordered the Rout of Moy. PICS: Creative Commons.

His plan was then to attack John Campbell, 4th Lord Loudon, who was posted at Inverness with 2,000 government soldiers but after the army officer was alerted to the Prince’s arrival at Moy, a plan was quickly mounted to seize him.

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It was the actions of a blacksmith, who went by the name of Fraser, who arguably allowed the Stuart prince to flee to safety. Fraser was dispatched by Lady Anne to throw off the Hanoverians by pretending a swell of Jacobite fighters were ready and waiting for them.

In truth, only around 40 to 50 men accompanied the Prince and what was to follow became known as the Rout of Moy.

Lord Loudon, who had surrounded Inverness with government troops to prevent anyone from leaving, marched towards Moy around 11pm with 1,500 soldiers. While the advance was made, Charles Edward Stuart slept in his bed.

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Despite the work of the Hanoverians to shut down Inverness, word leaked to Lady Anne of the operation to seize the Jacobite leader.

There are several theories as to who leaked the information. One claims that, a young girl, aged 13 or 14, overheard Red Coats discussing the planned capture as she served them beer at a tavern in the Highland capital.

Despite the security around the town, she fled down the road to Moy, without shoes or socks, to alert Lady Anne.

Another theory claims that Lady Anne’s mother, who lived in Inverness, sent a boy of 15 to circumnavigate Loudon’s men to raise the alarm at Moy.

“The prince, who was in bed, was instantly awakened and, jumping out of bed, put on his clothes, left the house with a guard of about 30 men, and disappeared into a neighbouring wood,” according to James Browne’s 1852 History of the Highlands.

The blacksmith was dispatched by Lady Anne, along with five or six men, to deal with the approaching forces.

Browne said: “This man, with a boldness almost incredible, formed the extraordinary design of surprising the advancing party, in the expectation that they would fall prey to a panic.”

Fraser’s men were lined up on each side of the road around three miles from Moy and told not to shoot until ordered to do so with a specific sequence then to be followed.

On hearing the soldiers, Fraser shouted: “Here come the villains, who intend carrying off our Prince; fire my lads, do not spare them; give them no quarter.”

On Fraser’s command, each man shot their pistols and ran in different directions shouting orders and the names of some of the most prominent Jacobite figures, including Lochiel and Keppoch, and their clans.

“Impressed with the belief that the whole Highland army was at hand, the advanced guard instantly turned its back, and communicating its fears to the rear, a scene of indescribable confusion ensured,” Browne wrote.

He said: “In the hurry of their flight many were thrown down and trod upon.”

“In this affair the laird ot Macleod’s pipers, reputed the best in Scotland, was shot dead on the spot. On the dispersion of Lord Loudon’s party, Charles returned to the castle.”

It is though that Lady Mackintosh ordered the rout without the knowledge of the Prince who was later sent a message to return to Moy once the coast was clear.

Within days, Jacobite forces marched to Inverness before taking possession of the old Fort George, now the site of Inverness Castle.