277 years ago the Jacobite army had been defeated at the battle of Culloden.
Immediately after being led from the field by William O’Sullivan, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his one attendants made for the military road, south west of the battlefield, which ran from Inverness to the south.
The original plan, ordered by the high command, was for all men to muster at Ruthven Barracks, near Kingussie, 2 days after the battle. This was the fall back plan should the day not go in their favour.
After the Prince crossed the River Nairn at Faillie he turned west instead of joining his army at Ruthven. It is said he passed along Stratherrick and arrived at Gorthleck House, south east of Loch Ness, the evening of the battle. This is where he is said to have his fateful meeting with Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat. A meeting, which along with other deeds, would cost Lovat his life.
The fleeing Jacobites, many wounded, made their way from the field towards the Findhorn River and camped at Balvraid near present day Tomatin. From there they crossed Sluggan Bridge and headed south through Rothiemurchus and onwards to Ruthven. Jacobites who hadn’t made it to the battle in time, such as Ewan MacPherson of Cluny (known as Cluny MacPherson) and his men, joined Lord George Murray and helped reorganising the army to continue the campaign. They waited the arrival of their Prince…..but he didn’t come. He sent a letter. He letter stated that he would go to France and raise more support and money and that each man should look after themselves as best they could.
Prince Charles believed that he had been betrayed by some of his officers including Lord George Murray so instead of joining his men he travelled to the west coast in an attempt to meet up with a French ship and return to the continent. For the next 5 months the Prince hid in the heather evading capture by the hunting British soldiers. Despite a reward of £30,000 (over £1.7 million today) he was never betrayed by those who helped him hide. Finally on 20th September 1746 he boarded a ship for France and left Scotland never to return.
The men at Ruthven began to disband and return to their homes, wanted and hunted fugitives. Many would be forced to go into exile oversea or simply hide in the countryside, moving from place to place to evade capture. Some were arrested including many who hadn’t taken part in the rising, others forced to take sanctuary wherever they could. A great many made their way to France and would serve in French regiments raised by exiled Jacobite Lords.
Lord George Murray, who would never be forgiven by the Prince, would go into exile in Holland becoming a very successful General. His wife would join him a short time later.
Cluny MacPherson would live out the next 9 years a fugitive living in caves before also escaping to France. He too was joined by his wife but in 1764, living in extreme poverty, Cluny would pass away in Dunkirk.
Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, the Old Fox, was captured. He was first sent to Edinburgh Castle before being sent south to London for trial. He would be found guilty and beheaded at Tower Hill in April 1747, the last noble to be beheaded in Great Britain.
The Prince would attempt to gain more support for another rising from some of the powers of Europe but with no success. Over the next 42 years his character would change dramatically. The confident young Prince that marched at the head of his army would become a drunken, sullen, sick old man. Stories of violence and rage within his relationships would tarnish his reputation and many of his former close supporters would turn their back on him. In 1788, nursed by his daughter Charlotte and supported by his younger brother, Henry Benedict, Cardinal Duke of York, he would die as a result of a stroke aged 67.
Life had been changing in the Highlands for over a hundred years before the battle of Culloden. The lifestyle and warlike culture was seen by outsiders as savage and barbarian. The fiery temper of the Highland clans, quick to anger and rebellion, had to be stamped out.
The British government aided this change firstly by laws such as the Act of Proscription which banned traditional Highland dress, weapons were turned in or confiscated. But the government also saw potential in the brave fighting men of the Highland.
Over the next few decades more and more Highland regiments would be raised to see service for King George all over the globe. Highland warriors would again charge into battle but this time wearing a redcoat. The proud traditions and deeds of the Highland Regiments would become renowned and respected wherever they went.