Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Inverness
Flora MacDonald Statue
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
St Andrew's Cathedral
On April 16, 1746 the troops of Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") lined up to face the Duke of Cumberland in what turned out to be a bloody but decisive battle. The Jacobites, supporters of the Scottish king James II, had laid claim to the British throne and faced the army of George II, the Hanoverians. In the previous year the 25-year-old "Bonnie Prince Charlie" had returned from exile in France to the Hebrides. He had gathered the clansmen around him and marched south in order to assert the claims of his father against the Hanoverians. By the time he had reached Derby, fear of the impending attack was already widespread throughout London, but stricken with melancholy and indecision, fearing there was little support for him in England, he turned back. Furthermore, many of the clansmen had deserted him; homesickness and the wish to be back home in Scotland for the harvest proved to be a stronger emotion than the prospect of military success. Near Inverness the prince and his troops set up their winter camp and waited for the soldiers of the Duke of Cumberland as they headed northwards. On April 15 the duke celebrated his 25th birthday with a feast. When the Jacobite troops heard about this they set off through the night to surprise the enemy camp established by the River Nairn. But as they approached the camp, the sun rose, so they turned round and many fell asleep by the roadside exhausted - until the duke's Redcoats found them and slit their throats. By choosing the level surface at Culloden for the battle, the result was already clear. The Highlanders, experienced in mountain warfare, knew only one tactic: advancing by surprise attack - the rest was close man-to-man combat. Culloden, however, was tailor-made for the rested, disciplined and organized army of Lord Cumberland (including three Scottish regiments) and their artillery. About 5,000 clansmen opposed 9,000 Redcoats. Battle commenced at around noon when Cumberland's musketeers let loose a hail of shots from three-pounders and hand mortars. Charles hesitated about sending in his feared Highlanders armed with claymores. The element of surprise, noise and fear were supposed to put the enemy on the defensive, but the attack was slow and badly co-ordinated and many men were quickly lost. In less than an hour the Scottish army, weary from their night-time march, were soundly beaten.
Some 1,200 Scots died to only 350 of Cumberland's army. No prisoners were taken. Fleeing soldiers and the wounded were massacred. Even bystanders, farmers in their fields, women and children were not spared. The victorious Cumberland was nicknamed "The Butcher". The killing went on for days, all the easier for the English soldiers as they perceived their victims as "different" in both what they wore and how they spoke.
Anti-Scottish sentiments manifested themselves with a ban on kilts, tartan, Gaelic and the bagpipe. A piper in York was sentenced to death for playing a "forbidden weapon of war". In 1747 the Union Treaty was broken: a change in the law destroyed the power of the clan chiefs.
Prince Charles was able to escape the persecution that followed. With the assistance of Flora MacDonald he fled to the Hebrides and then to France and Rome where he later died a sad alcoholic, "the last prince of a lost cause". His fourteen months in Scotland from the landing on the Hebrides, the abortive march on London, the bloody dénouement on the marshy fields of Culloden and the romantic escape all contributed towards the creation of a mystique surrounding "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Countless songs, ballads and tales immortalized in print, even in film at Hollywood, have created a nostalgic legend that pervaded Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries.