Friday, 22 April 2011

Things I'm loving ♥ - Scottish History


My tales of our visit to the Culloden battle-field tie in very nicely with 'Things I'm loving' as I love our Scottish History.

As we pulled into the car-park at Culloden last Saturday we thought it looked awfully busy. Then we looked across the battle-field and saw lots of people with flags, which aren't normally there.

'Oh yea,' said Calum, 'today is the 16th, which is the day the battle took place, maybe that's why.'

He was right.

We had arrived to visit on the 265th anniversary of the battle of Culloden, albeit unwittingly!

There were representatives from some of the clans who fought at Culloden laying wreaths at the monuments.

There were also plenty people just taking part in the memorial dressed in Jacobite costume.

The white flower on the man's hat above was a symbol of the Jacobites.

The battle of Culloden was the last stand for the Jacobites. 

The Scottish clans who had joined the Jacobite cause were not all actually necessarily fans of Prince Charlie. Many of them joined the cause because they were unhappy with the joining of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707. They were unhappy at the way Highlanders were treated and they saw this as their chance to change things.

There were, of course, those fighting as they wanted to see a Scottish King on the throne again. They saw the current King, George II, as a German incomer. His father, George I (also German) gained the throne as his great-grandfather had been James VI of Scotland (also known as James I of England). This same King James was the great-great grandfather of Prince Charlie. 

These Royal family trees are fairly complicated things!!

 Prince Charlie had been born and brought up in France, only speaking French. Although he was further down the family tree than George II was, technically he was closer to the Royal line because of his grand-fathers. I shan't complicate this any more! If you want to see how, then check out this link.

The Jacobites had beaten the British army at Prestonpans, and had marched as far south as Derby. However, the clan chiefs were unhappy about trying to take London and agreed that they should retreat to the Highlands. They wanted to guard the Highlands against attack but Charlie wanted them to make the attack.

He knew the British army (the Redcoats) were celebrating their leader, the Duke of Cumberland's birthday in nearby Nairn, and he wanted to launch a surprise attack on them. This might have worked, but he under-estimated how far away Nairn was. Plus the weather was miserable and foggy and the ground rough. 

The Jacobites turned back and so had been marching all night when they reached Culloden. The Clan chiefs wanted to retreat further but Charlie wanted them to stand and fight.

They stood in line, exhausted.

The Scottish Highlanders had traditionally won battles by charging down and terrifying the enemy before they were ready to fight back.

Charlie ordered them to stand in line and wait.

As they did so the onslaught from the Redcoats began.

Calvalry had been ordered round the back to kill any retreating Jacobites.

Even after the battle the slaughter continued, earning the Duke of Cumberland his nickname, 'the butcher.' There was no way to distinguish who had been fighting and who was a civilian so anyone could, and was, killed.

Then after the brutality came the order banning the wearing of tartan, the speaking of Gaelic and the playing of bagpipes - which were seen as an instrument of war.

It's fair to say that life in the Highlands was never the same again.

Some of the clans have memorial stones. Others are just marked by stones saying 'mixed clans'.

Calum commented that he hadn't thought the battlefield would be so big. He thought it would be maybe a quarter of the size it was.

It is big, and barren, and despite the lovely weather we had had all week, there was a bitterly cold wind blowing that day.

This is James with a musket.

And here are the boys with the man it belonged to. He was telling us how inaccurate the gun was. Only 1 in every 10 shots would be successful. To hit a man in the chest, the firer would have to aim way above the head.

Now here are the boys with someone dressed as a French Jacobite. Prince Charlie had been relying heavily on their support. Although there was some help from the French, there wasn't as much as he had been telling the Scots there would be. Part of this was due to the British navy keeping the French ships from reaching Scotland. Part of it though, was that Prince Charlie was a pampered Prince who would say anything to get his own way, and there really wasn't as much support coming as he said.

Imagine trying to run across this to charge the enemy?! In a kilt, with a shield and whatever weapon you had.  Prince Charles' advisers told him this was not a good place to fight but he wouldn't listen. 

Culloden is a very peaceful place, and I think very beautiful despite it's bleakness.

Here is a little warrior making a final charge!


  1. Wow - loving the history... especially since it is my heritage too! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. That was fantastic that you arrived on a day with a celebration. And that was a great run-down of the history, Kirsteen.
    Although many of us are thankful Prince Charlie never became king, yet the aftermath of Culloden on the Highland was devastating beyond words.
    The Duke of Cumberland really was a cruel, cruel man. Bleigeard de dhuine! Many Covenanters died at his hand too

  3. I love how much I learn when reading your blog! How exciting to get to see Culloden on the anniversary of the day - that will definitely be a special memory for your boys!

  4. Thanks so much for that history! It is kinda confusing to keep up (as we've looked into some of the history in homeschool!) - but you did a good job NOT making it confusing!
    What a wonderful thing to have gone on the celebration day! Wow! that would have been awesome!

  5. Thanks ladies, I was hoping I hadn't bored everyone with yet another history lesson, but this sort of history is important to me!

    Yes Anne, I certainly wouldn't have wanted Charlie to be king, but I have a lot of sympathy for those poor Highlanders who were only fighting to try and get a better life for themselves and their own clans. It wasn't just a simple as Catholic Stewarts v Protestants, as we had been taught in school!

  6. Kirsteen,
    I really enjoyed reading and learning all of this rich Scottish history. I also love actually seeing all of it where it took place, so so beautiful.


  7. My Mum will be so jealous that you were there on the Anniversary! She loves to visit there when she goes up to visit her roots (her Dad lived in "Lossie"!) :-)


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