Culloden Jacobites Not Primitive Savages

Aug 4, 2016 by

Murray Pittock of the University of Glasgow has uncovered evidence he believes shows the Culloden Jacobites were far more professional in their formation and weaponry than has been portrayed in history books.

‘Seldom has the adage that history is written by the victors been more accurate or appropriate than in the case of Culloden.

‘For two centuries after the battle, British historiography framed Jacobitism as primitive because of the threat it posed, and the function the defeat of that threat had in a national narrative of foundational reconciliation and the development of the British Empire.

‘It is no coincidence that this approach has begun to founder since 1970, as the imperial state which grew to maturity in part as a consequence of the defeat of the Jacobite threat has itself taken on more fragmentary, modern and multicultural modes of existence.’

The Battle of Culloden: Culloden Jacobites

The Battle of Culloden: A historian claims Culloden Jacobites were framed in British history as ill-equipped because of the threat they posed – and the function the defeat played in a narrative of the British Empire’s development.

The Jacobite army has long been depicted as poorly-led, ill-disciplined, claymore-wielding Highland savages. No surprise then that they were routed by British redcoats deploying muskets and cannon fire.

But did the victors deliberately miscast the Culloden Jacobites as savages?


In this brief video, Professor Pittock explains his theory:


Source: Bonny Prince Charlie’s vanquished troops were NOT an army of Highland savages | Daily Mail Online


Click HERE to pre-order Dr. Pittock’s new book, Great Battles: Culloden on Amazon.






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The Celtic Music of Silly Wizard

Jun 28, 2014 by

In 1970, a group of young Scottish musicians in Edinburgh got together and formed one the most popular Celtic music bands ever–

Silly Wizard.

The band changed membership throughout the years, but included notable traditional music artists such as Andy M. Stewart, Phil Cunningham and Dougie MacLean.   By the time the band went their separate ways in 1988, they had recorded nine albums and toured throughout the world.

I’ve gathered a few of their best songs for you that will, hopefully,  inspire you to seek out more of Silly Wizard’s beautiful Scottish and Celtic music.

The Queen of Argyll was written by Andy M. Stewart and is one of Silly Wizard’s most popular tunes:

On the evening that I mentioned
I passed with light intention
Through a part of our dear country
Known for beauty and for style
In the place of noble thinkers
Of scholars and great drinkers
But above them all for splendour
Shone the Queen of all Argyll….


This is a recording of Silly Wizard performing live in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988, a concert I attended–it was fantastic!   Donald McGillivray, a song about a fictional Jacobite, is a fast paced traditional song first published in 1820. It’s guaranteed to get your blood up and your feet tapping!


The Fisherman’s Song/Lament For the Fisherman’s Wife was written by Martin Hadden and Phil Cunningham and released on their 1981 album Wild & Beautiful.

By the storm-torn shoreline a woman is standing
The spray strung like jewels in her hair
And the sea tore the rocks near the desolate landing
as though it had known she stood there.
But she has come down to condemn that wild ocean
For the murderous loss of her man.
His boat sailed out on Wednesday morning,
And it’s feared she’s gone down with all hands….



Silly Wizard sings of the call to arms for Bonnie Prince Charlie in this rousing Jacobite tune, “Wha’ll Be King But Cherlie?”, a traditional tune made bittersweet by the knowledge of what is to come for those brave Scots.

The effort to return the House of Stuart to the throne of Scotland cost many, many Scottish lives, especially at Culloden ( read my post on Culloden HERE), the last great battle on British soil.  As with the American Civil war, families were sometimes divided, and Scots fought and died on both sides of the battle.  Highlanders rallied around the young Prince Charles, fighting boldly for this man who would be king, though he had been raised in Italy and spent less than two years on Scottish soil during his lifetime.


The Valley of Strathmore is a song that often brings on tears (myself definitely, and I’ve seen others crying at SW concerts), yet it is probably the most requested Silly Wizard song.  Beautiful and elegiac, the song tells of man’s longing to walk the Scottish valley that he and his love once roamed together.   It’s been covered by other artists, but this is my favorite version, from their 1979 album,  So Many Partings.

By the clear and the winding stream
In the valley of Strathmore
Where my love and I have been
Where we’ll wander never more

But if time was a thing man could buy
All the money that I have in store
I would give for one day by her side
In the valley of Strathmore…..


It always surprises me to meet people interested in Celtic things–music, heritage, culture–who have never heard of Silly Wizard.  Although most of their music is Scottish, they also have numerous songs of Irish origin, and many songs with lyrics that are common to all Celtic cultures.  If you don’t own any of their music, but like what you heard above, I recommend checking Amazon for Silly Wizard CDs or digital music.  Download your favorite, grab a cuppa or a dram of single malt  and enjoy an hour of Celtic zen with Silly Wizard.

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A New Battle On Culloden Moor

Jan 13, 2014 by

It was a short, bloody battle that irrevocably changed the course of Scotland’s future.  Though it lasted only an hour, the Battle of Culloden (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) on April 16, 1746, ended the Jacobite effort to restore Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, to the throne of Scotland.  Approximately 2000 Scottish Highlanders sacrificed their lives that day, and more died during the brutal repression of Highland and Gaelic culture that followed soon thereafter.  The sorrow and pain of that day is still felt by many contemporary Scots, as well as those whose ancestors fled Scotland to escape the harsh retaliatory actions meted out by the English in the years following the battle.  For those people, Culloden will always be sacred ground,  “ground zero” of the centuries-long Scottish battle for freedom from the English invaders.

New invaders have now come to Culloden,  developers who want to build houses less 400 meters from the battlefield—and surprisingly, the Scottish government is set to approve those plans.



People in Scotland and around the world have voiced outrage that such a project would even be considered, much less approved.   Historic Scotland  has given their stamp of approval for the scheme, even though no representative from the government  authority has visited the site to see how it might be impacted.   The National Trust For Scotland (NTS), which owns and maintains the battlefield and visitor center, has expressed great disappointment in the decision, arguing that the approval creates a ” slippery slope”  for future housing schemes, which could result in the the degradation of the historic site at Culloden.

I grew up in Georgia, a Southern state that was the site of many battles during the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War.  My father was a Civil War historian and ardent battlefield preservationist, who taught me from an early age that historic sites are tremendous visual symbols of what was and, more importantly, what should never be again–specifically, being ruled by a monarchy ( the Revolutionary War) or allowing the enslavement of our fellow men and women (the Civil War).  When you lose those places where people fought and died for their beliefs,  places that are the final resting places of so many souls, you betray their memory.  Moreover, you also lose a valuable teaching tool for future generations who will have no tangible connection to their past.  Textbooks, photos and videos can only go so far—to truly know your history, you must walk the same ground your predecessors walked, feel that sense of connection and emotion that comes from standing where they stood.  Once those historic places are sacrificed for commercial development, they are gone forever.



Do the souls of those long-dead Highlanders still walk the moor at Culloden?   Celtic mythology holds that there are “thin places” in the world where different planes of existence touch, and the past can sometimes be felt in the present.  If any such place exists in Scotland, it surely must be at Culloden,  where sadness seems to hover over the fields like Highland mist.  I have walked that moorland where Gaelic war cries of fierce, proud Highlanders once rang through the air, and I believe the spirits of those long-dead men are there still.   For me, any encroachment on the battlefield is a defilement of the war graves of brave  men—Scots, Irish and even English who fought with the Highlanders—who died for their country, their families and their way of life.

We will always have competing interests in the name of progress, when developers confront preservationists in the modern world.   Finding a balance between these two interests is difficult and one side (sometimes both)  often believes its arguments have been completely ignored or misunderstood.    In the case of important historical sites such as battlefields, however,  the bigger picture needs to be carefully considered.   Houses can always be built in other places—there will only ever be ONE Culloden.


Read more about the proposed housing development, and the arguments on both sides, here:

To sign an online petition to stop the proposed development at Culloden, click HERE.

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Apr 16, 2013 by

Deánta – “Culloden’s Harvest”

Cold the wind on the moors blow. Warm the enemy’s fire glows. Like the harvest of Culloden, Pain and fear and death grow. ‘Twas love of our prince drove us on to Drumossie, But in scarcely the time that it takes me to tell The flower of our country lay scorched by an army As ruthless and red as the embers of hell… …Red Campbell the Fox did the work of the English. McDonald in anger did no work at all. With musket and cannon ‘gainst honour and courage. The invader’s men stood while our clansmen did fall…. … Nine mothers and children were left to their weeping, With only the memory of father and son. Turned out of their homes to make shelter for strangers, The blackest of hours on this land has begun. Cold the wind on the moors blow. Warm the enemy’s fire glows. Like the harvest of Culloden, Pain and fear and death grow.

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Apr 2, 2013 by



His ambitions and beliefs inspired many Highlanders, Catholic and Protestant alike, but ultimately brought death and defeat to the clans of Scotland in April of 1746.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of poems, books and songs have been written about him throughout the years, praising him and those who followed him.    BUT—was he worth it, was the noble Jacobite cause worth all the loss of life and the destruction of the Highland Clans?    Scholars continue to hotly debate this issue, and those of us with Scottish ancestry must make our own evaluation of the wisdom of Prince Charlie’s campaign.

As we approach the anniversary of Culloden, I thought I’d give you a brief history to help you decide about this young man who saw himself as the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland….


Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788), commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender,  or  Teàrlach Eideard Stiùbhairt in Scots Gaelic, was the Stuart heir to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland.   His claim was as the eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart ( The Pretender, so called because of his convenient and perhaps illegitmate birth), himself the son of King James VII and II.  Charles is perhaps best known as the instigator of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising of 1745, in which he led an insurrection to restore an absolute monarchy, ruled by his father, James,  to the Kingdom of Great Britain.  Those plans ended in bloody defeat at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746, a devastating loss that effectively ended the Jacobite cause and the Highland Clan system.



Prince Charles was born in Rome, Italy, on 31 December 1720, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI.  He spent almost all his childhood in Rome and Bologna, where he lived a life of privilege and wealth in the Catholic community. As the son of the Old Pretender, Prince James, son of exiled Stuart King, James II & VII and his wife Maria Clementina Sobieska and great-grandson of John III Sobieski, Charles was immersed in the Jacobite cause almost from birth.  The Stuarts were absolutely convinced of their right to rule and no doubt made sure that the young prince understood his royal duty was return to Scotland as the only legitimate claimant to the throne of that country, as well as England and Ireland.  Dubbed the Young Pretender by some, he was described as bold and brave by those who knew him well, and  was considered a good marksman with a crossbow.   He was well educated and spoke English, French, Italian and Latin, but not Scots Gaelic, the native language of the country he wanted to rule.


 'Action on the 9th of July 1745 between the Lion of 60 guns, Captain Percy Brett / and the Elisabeth of 64 guns, the Doutelle in the distance making / her escape with the Pretender on board./ Painted for Admiral Lord Anson'.  Inscription by the painter, Samuel Scott(1702-1772)

‘Action on the 9th of July 1745 between the Lion of 60 guns, Captain Percy Brett / and the Elisabeth of 64 guns, the Doutelle in the distance making / her escape with the Pretender on board./ Painted for Admiral Lord Anson’. Inscription by the painter, Samuel Scott(1702-1772)


In December 1743, Charles’s father named him Prince Regent, giving him authority to act in his name, and Charles began to plan in earnest for his father’s return to Scotland as king.   At that time, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) was fully underway, with Britain allied to Austria and France allied with PrussiaFrance did not openly support the Jacobite cause, but pragmatically understood that assisting the Stuarts could cause trouble for Britain, an outcome that would benefit France and its allies.   The French government thus agreed to an invasion of England as part of the effort to restore the Stuart monarchy, and Charles quickly journeyed to France to led the French expeditionary forces.  Charles immediately started raising funds (partly by pawning some of his mother’s jewelry) to fit out two ships made available to him through Franco-Irish privateers: the Elisabeth, an old man-of-war of 66 guns, and the Doutelle (le Du Teillay) a small frigate of 16 guns, equipped with a force of about 700 men (on the Elizabeth)and numerous weapons.   The expedition left on 4 July, 1745, but was overtaken and attacked just one day later by a British man-of-war, the Lion; the battle caused heavy damage to the Elizabeth, but Charles escaped on the Doutelle, which successfully landed him and seven companions at Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides, on 23 July 1745.   Additionally, the French fleet that was supposed to land at Dunkirk in support of Charles instead was badly damaged by strong storms, forcing it to return to France. France abandoned plans for the invasion and Charles received no further open support from the French government.



Despite the failure and harsh reprisals of previous Jacobite uprisings in support of the Stuart dynasty, some Highland clan chiefs did periodically send requests to Charles and his family, asking them to return “across the stream” to Scotland.  Early in 1744, a small number of Scottish Highland clan chiefs had sent Charles a message that they would rise if he arrived with as few as 3,000 French troops.   The majority of Highland clans were still generally in support of the Jacobite cause, but showed less enthusiasm when Charles arrived without a French army to back up his claims.  Clan Ranald Macdonald was the first to announce their support for Charles, and other clans soon followed suit, enabling Bonnie Prince Charlie (as he was known amongst the clans) to raise enough men to march on Edinburgh, which quickly surrendered.  On 21 September 1745, he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans.


By November, Charles was marching south at the head of approximately 6,000 men.  Having taken Carlisle, Charles’s army progressed as far as Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire where, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was made by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of rumors of a large government force being amassed.  The Jacobites marched north once more, winning several more battles.  The reports of a government army turned out to have been false, but Charles’s retreat gave the English time to muster an actual army.   The Jacobites were pursued by King George II’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with them at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.



The battle that ensued on the moorland of Culloden was the last battle on British soil, the bloodiest of all Jacobite battles and the action that ended the Jacobite cause forever, all in less than 90 minutes.  Despite advice from his adviser,  Lord George Murray, to take to the hills and fight, Bonnie Prince Charlie  instead made the catastrophic choice of  Culloden Moor as the place to stand against the government army.   The swords and muskets of the Highlanders were no match for the cannons and superior numbers of Cumberland’s forces;  more than 1000 Jacobites died, with the Hanoverian forces of King George II losing only 300 men.



Charles’s subsequent flight has become the stuff of legend and is commemorated in the popular folk song The Skye Boat Song (lyrics 1884, tune traditional) and also the old Irish song Mo Ghile Mear by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill.    He was a fugitive for many months, hiding throughout the Highlands, with a large bounty on his head.   Though many Highlanders saw Charles and indeed aided him, none of them betrayed him for the £30,000 reward offered.     Assisted by loyal supporters, Charlie managed to stay one step ahead of the Crown forces, and many legends about Prince and his travels have been handed down through the years. One of the most well known tales is about his meeting with Flora MacDonald, with whom he supposedly had a romance, although little evidence of such a tryst has been found.  Flora did, however,  help Charles escape pursuers on the Isle of Skye by taking him in a small boat disguised as her Irish maid;  he evaded capture and eventually left the country aboard the French frigate L’Heureux, arriving back in France in September of 1746.   The cause of the Stuarts now lost, the remainder of Charles’ life was mostly spent in exile.


Charles Edward Stuart in later life(1775), portrait by Irish artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808)

Charles Edward Stuart in later life(1775), portrait by Irish artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808)




The Bonnie Prince, no longer so bonnie after his bitter defeat, returned to France, where he engaged in several affairs and led a life of heavy drinking, until he was expelled by the French under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which brought the Austrian Succession war between Britain and France to an end.   While the clans of the Scottish Highlands suffered severe reprisals, destruction of their homes and famine in the aftermath of Culloden,  their former leader lived a life of relative ease in Europe.   The British army spent the months after Culloden killing everyone who was suspected of taking part in the Jacobite Rising and deporting those who were suspected of supporting the rebels.  Charles, in contrast, lived luxuriously, finding an outlet for his disappointment by attacking his lovers in violent rages brought on by his constant drinking.   After his father died in 1766, Charles returned to Italy, where he spent the remainder of his life.   Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788 and is buried at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.   His heart is interred in a small urn beneath the floor in the Cathedral of Frascati in Rome, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop.  On Henry’s death in 1807, the direct male Stuart line died out.

Charles fathered one illegitimate child, Charlotte, in 1753, with his Scottish mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw.  Clemintina was frightened by her lover’s increasingly violent behavior, and left him, taking their daughter with her.   Charles refused to acknowledge or provide for Charlotte until 1784, when he legitimized her and created her Duchess of Albany in the Jacobite Peerage.  She left her own three children (also illegitimate) with her mother, and became her father’s caregiver and companion in the last years of his life, before dying less than two years after him.



A Jacobite Gazetteer

Rampant Scotland: Bonnie Prince Charlie

British Battles: Culloden

Electric Scotland: Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Am Baile Highland History


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Nov 17, 2012 by

Another Pre-Culloden Scottish baskethilt sword c.1690-1720 The guard has the “S” design which stood for “Stewart” (noble family in Scotland) These swords were often stored in the thatched roofs to keep the British from finding their weapons. Because of this, Not many survived the wet conditions. Blade is marked with a kings head several times on each side. I believe it is made by Mattias Wundes, German maker during the 16th c. Blade is 32 inches. 37.5 i…

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Apr 16, 2012 by

If there is one event that can be said to have changed Scotland forever, that event must be the battle that was fought on this day in 1746—Culloden.

This is a rather long post, but there isn’t a way to properly summarize this momentous battle in just a few sentences… The one hour bloody skirmish was fought by the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart(Bonnie Prince charlie)against loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, theDuke of Cumberland, on Drumossie Moor, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The term Jacobite comes from the name ‘Jacobe’, which is Latin for James – a popular Christian name among Stuart kings. Charles was the son of the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, and grandson of the deposed James II of England.

Charles Stuart’s Jacobite army consisted largely of Scottish Highlanders, as well as a number of Lowland Scots and a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France and French and Irish units loyal to France were part of the Jacobite army. The government force was mostly English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, a battalion of Ulstermen and a small number of Hessians from Germany and Austrians. The battle on Culloden Moor was both quick and bloody, taking place within an hour. Following an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field. Charles was advised by his commanders to avoid direct conflict with Cumberland’s army, and to pursue the guerrilla tactics which were so effective in Highland warfare, however, Jacobite funds were running short and desertion in the ranks was becoming more frequent.

This was the context in which the two armies met at Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746. Cumberland made the first move by crossing the River Spey on April 12, with the Jacobites on the other bank retreating without offering any fight. On the night of April 15-16, Charles hoped to gain advantage by a surprise attack on the Hanoverian camp near Nairn. The plan, however, was a failure and the Jacobites retreated to Culloden – a place which Charles was strongly advised not to chose as the site for a battle. When the Hanoverians advanced onto the field the next day many of the Jacobites were exhausted after the night-time raid on Cumberland’s camp. The Jacobites were outnumbered around 9000 to 6000, and the ground was too marshy to accommodate the Highlanders’ favourite tactic – the headlong charge into the enemy’s ranks. Culloden did, however, lend itself more to Cumberland’s strength in heavy artillery and cavalry. The artillery decimated the clans as they awaited the command to charge. Many clansmen fell simply because the command to charge came too late, as Charles waited for the government troops to advance first, whereas the government troops just kept firing in the light of their highly successful Bonnie Prince Charlie bombardment. When the command did come, the charge itself was disorganised. The Hanoverians stood firm and blasted the Jacobite army into retreat.

Many of the Highlanders headed for Inverness and were hunted down and killed without mercy by Cumberland’s dragoons. Others, who headed into the mountains, stood a better chance of survival, but the government troops were thorough in their retribution. Charles fled the mainland and made for the Hebrides, outwitting both a massive military cordon and a reward of £30,000 which had been offered to anyone prepared to betray him. The French had sent various rescue missions to try to find Charles and get him out of Scotland. On September 19, they were finally successful. Charles emerged from hiding and boarded the frigate L’Heureux at Arisaig. It was the end of his adventure and of the Stewart threat to the British throne.

Many of the legends surrounding Culloden involve the clans’ attempts to return to home and the severity of government’s reaction. Immediately after the Hanoverian victory at Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland – by now bearing the nickname Butcher for his indiscriminate slaughter of the wounded and innocents after the battle – was determined to capitalize on his success and teach the unruly Highlanders a lesson they would never forget. Cumberland quickly consolidated his position by bringing thousands of British soldiers north. They were allowed to pillage the Highland Glens, raping the women and putting houses to the torch. The clan chiefs who had backed the Jacobite cause had their castles burned to the ground and their estates seized. Cattle were plundered and taken south, many of them bought by traders from Yorkshire.

The plan was clear, to strip as much wealth as possible from the Highlands in the hope that the residents would starve and freeze to death. Even this however was not enough for some supporters of the Hanoverian cause. In London, parliament debated sterilizing all women who had supported the Jacobites. Another suggestion offered was to clear the clans out and replace them with immigrants from the south. These suggestions were not acted on, but the law deliberately changed to suppress the Highland way of life. Highland dress was banned except that worn by regiments of the British army serving abroad, and anyone found wearing tartan illegally could be executed.

With their old bonds to the land and the clan system of rule broken, many opted to leave Scotland altogether. They sailed for the New World, settling in places such as North Carolina and working the land in order to make a living. As more and more Highlanders learned about the opportunities available to them in America, the numbers crossing the Atlantic swelled. It was the start of a mass emigration, which was eventually to lead to Scots becoming a powerful force in the establishment and development of the USA.

image:(Painting of the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746, British Hanoverian vs French & Jacobites) by David Morier, oil on canvas. File is in public domain in the USA and the €U.)

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