It is a treasure trove from one of the bloodiest chapters in Scottish history, which reveals how Jacobite generals compelled their exhausted troops to slay any deserters on the fields of Culloden, and documents the soul-searching which followed the failed uprising of 1745.
Now, nearly a quarter of a million documents which offer a unique insight in the personal lives and political ambitions of the Stuarts and their Jacobite followers is to be published online for the first time.
The newly digitised Stuart and Cumberland papers from the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle will be available to academic institutions and libraries via the educational technology provider, Gale.
The 245,000 papers are said to offer an “unparalleled” documentation of the Jacobite movement and the opposing forces of the ruling Hanoverian monarchy.
The Stuart papers bring together the private and diplomatic correspondence of James II – James VII of Scotland – who was forced from the throne during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and that of his son, James Francis Edward Stuart, and his grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
They include Lord George Murray, a Jacobite general, detailing the combat orders issued to his troop at Cullodon, which state: “It is required & expected that each indeviduall in the Armie as well officer as Souldier keeps their posts that shall be alotted to them, & if any man turn his back to Runaway the nixt behind such man is to shoot him.”
In one of the most personal letters in the collection, James Francis Edward writes in a letter to his son after the failed 1745 rebellion: “Do not for Gods sake drive things too far, but think of your own safety, on which so much depends; Tho’ your Enterprize should miscarry, the honor you have gaind by it will always stick by you, it will make you be respected & considerd abroad.”
Seth Cayley, vice-president of Gale Primary Sources, said: “The history of the exiled Stuart court, with all of its intrigues, larger-than-life personalities and thwarted ambition, is revealed in intricate detail through these documents and papers of court life and politics.
Oliver Urquhart Irvine, librarian and deputy keeper of The Queen’s Archives, said: “The Stuart and Cumberland Papers project forms part of our ongoing commitment to make the historic treasures of the Royal Archives as widely accessible as possible through digital technology.
“We are grateful to our partners at Gale for enabling us to make this invaluable resource available online, giving students and scholars from around the world the opportunity to explore these compelling original documents first- hand.”