Sunday, 20 January 2013
The 1745 Jacobite Revolt: The aftermath
(This is the third and final part of my essay on the 1745 Jacobite revolt. The first part looked at the Jacobite background, and the second outline the events of 1745-6, leading up to the battle of Culloden. Here I am dealing with the aftermath of Culloden and the end of Jacobitism)
For five months after the disaster at Culloden, Charles Edward Stuart was a fugitive in the highlands and islands of Scotland. There was a price of £30,000 on his head, but no-one betrayed him. His famous encounter with Flora MacDonald came in June 1746 when she helped take him by boat from Uist to Skye, with Charles improbably disguised as her servant. He only knew her for a brief period, and there was no suspicion of any romance between them. (Flora was arrested, and went to live in America; but when the War of Independence broke out she was forced to return to Scotland. Like many exiled Jacobites, she supported the British government in this conflict)
On September 1st Charles, together with Lochiel, joined Cluny in MacPherson territory south-east of Fort William. Cluny attempted to kneel and kiss his prince’s hand, but Charles raised him up and treated him as an equal. He said, “I am sorry, Cluny, that you and your regiment were not at Culloden. I did not hear till very late that you were so near to have come up with us that day”. In reality, of course, Charles had no-one to blame but himself for the catastrophe. The party took refuge high up Ben Alder. The hideaway, which also harboured Lochgarry and Dr. Cameron, came to be nicknamed “Cluny’s cage”; though it was actually a kind of hut, described as “a romantic comical habitation”, built into the hillside in a wooded area, and constructed in such a way that any smoke would not be visible to searching parties. They remained there until news came through that French ships had run the British blockade and anchored in Loch nan Uahm. Charles’s party (described as “25 gentlemen and 107 men of common rank”) made their way to the coast and embarked for France on “L‘Hereux”.
Lord George Murray also escaped to France, but Charles never spoke to him again, irrationally blaming him for the failure of the rising. Cluny, however, remained in hiding in his “cage”, with a price of a thousand pounds on his head, for eight more years. At one point during this time his wife had to hide in a corn kiln, where she gave birth to his son, Duncan; who was to be known ever after as “Duncan of the kiln”. (“Prince Charlie’s Cave” can be located on some modern maps, up above the south-eastern end of Loch Ericht; still remote from any road)
The lifting of an immediate threat of invasion had led to extraordinary political events in London. The Prime Minister, Henry Pelham, had long been frustrated by King George II’s obvious lack of confidence in his government, and on February 10th 1746 the entire government resigned in protest. The King attempted to create a new ministry, headed by his favourites, Lords Granville and Bath, but few politicians of any credibility and stature were willing to join them, and after just two days the attempt was abandoned. (Horace Walpole quipped that “Men dared not walk the streets of London at night, for fear of being press-ganged as a cabinet minister!”) The King was obliged to once again appoint Pelham, who negotiated a peace treaty with France at Aachen in 1748 and continued to run the country unchallenged until his sudden death in 1754. A great many people have heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie, but how many know who was Prime Minister at the time of his rebellion?
Back in Scotland, the Duke of Cumberland ordered the rebel clans to surrender their weapons, but hardly any did. Rebel areas were subjected to the notorious “harrying of the glens”: companies of soldiers combed through the lands of the rebel chieftains; looting, burning homes and arresting or killing those found with arms. Cluny’s house was burnt by government forces that June. At a more official level of justice, 120 Jacobites were executed, including four Scottish noblemen, and about 600 died in captivity, with 1000 transported to the American colonies. Rebel chiefs who eluded capture were condemned by Acts of Attainder and their estates confiscated. In the aftermath of the revolt, a determined effort was made to abolish the traditional clan society. The Disarming Act was fully enforced. Heritable jurisdictions were abolished, for which loyalist clan chiefs received monetary compensation, but rebel chiefs got nothing. The wearing of highland dress was made illegal even in private, punishable by imprisonment or transportation. The ancient society of the highlands was thus abolished.
Charles was well-received in Paris, but found there was no support for committing troops to a new expedition, and under the terms of the Treaty of Aachen he was expelled from France. For several years he continued to live in hope. In 1750 he came secretly to London, met the Duke of Beaufort and other Jacobites, and even converted to the Church of England in an attempt to win support. The last real Jacobite attempt was the Elibank Plot of 1749-53. Rising international tension had led the Jacobites to hope for military aid from Europe: from France, Spain, or even Frederick the Great’s Prussia, where the Keith brothers, Jacobite exiles from Scotland, held high military office. Doctor Cameron, Lochiel’s brother, was sent to contact Cluny, who was still in hiding, and large supplies of arms were promised. But nothing happened. The conspirators had been penetrated by a certain “Pickle the spy”, and Dr. Cameron was arrested in March 1753. He gave nothing away, and was executed under the attainder passed against him after the ’45, without the need for any fresh trial. Frederick of Prussia now decided to throw in his lot with Britain, and Jacobite hopes came to nothing.
In July 1754 Charles moved to Basle. He now summoned Cluny to meet him, who accordingly left Scotland after eight years in hiding, never to return. But the meeting was not a happy one, for Charles suspected Cluny of theft. What had happened was that 35,000 gold louis d’ors had been successfully run into the west of Scotland, intended to pay for troops? Some had been embezzled, but most was distributed under the supervision of Cluny to relieve the sufferings of Jacobite families who had lost everything. It was nicknamed the “Locharkaig Treasure”. Charles in exile became obsessed with the suspicion that Cluny had stolen it, and he also wanted to know what had become of various items of Stuart family jewels and plate which had been lost after Culloden. Cluny denied any knowledge of this, and in his turn he was shocked at Charles’s physical and moral deterioration. He urged him to stop drinking, and to part from his mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw, whom none of the Jacobite leaders liked, and to get himself respectably married. Charles was furious, and never forgave Cluny. The Jacobite cause was now so obviously dead that in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) French plans to invade England took no account whatsoever of a possible Jacobite rising. Cluny died in 1756, denying till the end any knowledge of the missing treasure and royal jewels.
As the threat receded, there was a gradual relaxation in Scotland. In 1752 an Act of Grace pardoned most rebels (though it specifically excluded “each and every person by the name of MacGregor”: the outlaw clan was not pardoned till 1775). In 1757 Highland regiments were recruited for the Seven Years’ War, and it was a regiment of Frasers, a notoriously Jacobite clan, who led the storming of Quebec. The wearing of highland dress ceased to be illegal. The 1746 Disarming Act was repealed in 1782, and in 1784 the owners of many confiscated Jacobite estates were permitted to buy them back, including Cluny’s.
Soon after this, history became entwined with literature. Sir Walter Scott was already well-known as a poet and a collector of traditional Scottish folk songs when he published in 1814 his first historical novel, “Waverley”, giving a dramatic account of the 1745 rising. The Prince Regent, later George IV, was a great fan, and in 1822 he became the first British monarch to visit Scotland for well over a century. Walter Scott was put in charge of organising the festivities, and George announced that to mark the occasion he would wear the kilt! Sir David Wilkie produced a suitably grandiose painting of the King in a magnificent (but largely bogus) romanticised version of a highland chieftain’s garb, which has set the tone for Scottish identity ever since.
But by this time, the clan society of the highlands was already dead, or terminally ill. Once the highlands were at peace, a chieftain’s importance was no longer dependent on how many armed men he could raise from his estates, but by how much money his land could earn. By 1800 the “highland clearances” were getting into full swing, as the poorer clansmen were evicted from the glens to make room for sheep-farming. It is ironic that, at the same time as the kilt and the tartan were becoming fashionable attire, the last genuine highlanders were being evicted from their crofts; not by foreign absentee landlords as in Ireland, but by their own clan chiefs.
Charles’s unhappy later years were passed in Rome. He reconverted to Catholicism. Only a small number of people hailed him as King when his father James died in 1766. English tourists in the city sometimes had the curiosity to seek him out. They found a sad old man, prematurely aged by alcoholism, convinced that his failure was due to betrayal, and distinguished only by his tendency to burst into tears if anyone mentioned Scotland. He died in 1788, leaving a failed marriage and no legitimate children, and the Jacobite claim was inherited by his brother Henry. But Henry had never taken much interest in politics; he had entered the Catholic priesthood (much to Charles’s annoyance) and was now a rich and respected Cardinal. His extremely comfortable life in Rome came to an abrupt end in 1798, when French revolutionary troops entered the city, and he was forced to flee to Sicily. How far Jacobitism had become no more than a romantic legend is shown by what followed: the British monarch, George III, distressed by the thought that a relative of the royal family had been reduced to penury in old age, granted him a government pension of £5,000 a year. Henry died in 1807. Inside the great west door of St. Peter’s in Rome there is a noble monument by Canova to “three uncrowned kings of Great Britain”: James III, Charles III and Henry IX. Fittingly, it was paid for by King George IV. There could be no clearer sign that Jacobitism was dead.