Culloden 16th April 1746

On 16th April 1746, the Jacobite Rebellion ended in the Battle of Culloden and the subsequent massacre of Highland men women and children by Hanoverian forces under the command of Duke of Cumberland. No British regiment has Culloden on its battle honours.

It was the last battle fought on British soil. I have been at Culloden a few times. The first occasion was at the end of April in 1978. God it was cold, windy and wet. Just like it was in 1746 when about 6,000 half starved and exhausted Jacobites lined up against about 8,000 Hanoverians.

It would be too easy to describe the Battle as Scotland against England. There were still some English in the Jacobite lines. And a considerable number of Scots in the Hanoverian lines. Nor was it Highland Scot versus Lowland Scot. Highland regiments fought on the Hanoverian side. Lowlanders fought on the Jacobite side. Nor was it Catholic against Protestant. There were Episcopaleans and various dissenters fighting for “Prince” Charles Edward Stuart (a Catholic). And of course there were “French” regiments in the Jacobite Army.

“French” regiments but actually Scottish (350 Garde Ecosse) and Irish (300 “Wild Geese” Infantry and three troops (90 men) of Fitzjames Horse).

It was of course a disaster and all over within an hour. While the Jacobite Right retired in good order to the south, the Left was completely routed and butchered on the road west to Inverness. The Bonnie Prince himself was led off the field by his escort (15 men from Fitzjames Horse commanded by Capt Robert Shea/Shee).

The “French” saved several lives by their rearguard action. As regular soldiers in a real army, they must have known the situation was impossible long before the first shot was fired. But as the Scots were “rebels” and outside any rules of war and could be massacred at will…….hence their anxiety to escape the battle, the “French” knew that their likely fate was surrender, imprisonment and eventual exchange for British prisoners on the European Continent. So they were able to delay the persuit of vengeful Hanoverians. Of course several “French” were killed. In all 2,000 Jacobites died. many more transported to the West Indiesor Virginia colonies. Government losses seem to be around (eventually) 200.

The character of “Bonnie Prince” is interesting. Captain Shea would later write to him about unpaid gambling debts. He ended his days a drunken boorish ingrate who blamed the Scots on his defeat. Adolf Hitler would do the same nearly two centuries later. Worse the Bonnie Prince was a rapist and serial abuser of women.

And rather like Hitler in his bunker, Charles left the Scots, women and children to their inevitable fate. On 17th April 1746, Charles was already making his summer-long journey, hidden by loyal Scots thru the Highlands to a boat for France. And a wasted life which ended in Rome in 1788. His apologists blame the trauma of Culloden for his behaviour. Nonsense. He was a pampered boor long before Culloden.

The long suffering Scots never wanted him in Scotland in the first place. When he landed in Scotland in the summer of 1745, he was told to “go home” And typically he said “I am home”. A nonsensical boast. He had never been in Scotland before and would never return.

About 2,000 Jacobites rendezvoused at Ruthven Barracks on 17th April, expecting to find their Prince there. But he was long gone. Just a message to them that they should look to their own safety…the “shift for themselves” order. This of course is the release of any fealty to the Stuarts.

There were many factors in the Jacobite Rising………dynastic certainly……nationalism (Scottish and Irish) certainly….religion certainly. But the diverse supporters of Jacobitism were left leaderless. “Shifting for themselves” makes people decide. For many coming to terms with the new regime was the option. For many finding a new way to oppose the new regime becomes an option.

So Irish nationalism moves……eventually…… from a Kingdom of Ireland to a “Republic” of Ireland. Jacobitism to Jacobinism.

The downside of my interest in Jacobite (military) history is that I have often corresponded with people purporting to be “modern” (sic) Jacobites. They are of course nothing of the sort. They are tweed wearing, pompous buffoons who read the Daily Telegraph. They cling to a belief that there is a Divine Right of Kings. They denounce the “Whig Settlement” of 1688 and its “neo-Whig” modern Parliament. Republicanism is akin to Satanism (Satan thought he was as good as GOD after all)…….and they manage to vote Conservative while drinking silly toasts to the King over the Watter (sic).

Of course the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 failed because English Jacobites did nothing.  They continue to do nothing. Except of course denounce Irish and Scottish nationalism. They are of course neo-Jacobites. They owe little or nothing to 18th century Jacobitism but rather they owe a lot to 19th century European “legitimism”… entirely different concept.

Neo-Jacobites cling to absurd notion that “the Duke in Bavaria” is the rightful king of England….and Scotland…….and Wales………….and of course the “British Dominion of North America”……..Canada and the United States being, in their absurd terms ……”illegitimate” states.

Neo-Jacobites have made Jacobitism a laughing stock. Which is a pity. Because “King” Francis II is an entirely blameless individual who does not encourage anyone to believe he is King of England, Scotland and Ireland. His “saintly discretion” is not to advance his claims but rather he would prefer not to say that his “supporters” are absolute lunatics. Actually the man is quite saintly unlike most of his Stuart ancestors. His charitable work in the Balkans is well known.

But English recusancy and English Catholicisms view of itself as “aristocratic” perhaps unwittingly encourages neo-Jacobite eccentricity.


These photographs which I too at the Church of the Assumption, Warwick Street (near Piccadilly Circus in London) is perhaps a good example. The Church dates from Penal Times when catholic Mass was illegal except in “embassy” buildings. At the time of the Jacobite Rising in 1745, it was the Portuguese Embassy Church….although it soon became the Bavarian Embassy Church. As such it is the “home” church of English neo-Jacobites. The Catholic Church authorities seem anxious to distance themselves from Jacobite nonsense and from the mid 20th century, the Church of the Assumption served Catholic hotel workers many of them Irish migrants. More recently, the Parish has been designated as the church serving Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Catholics in London. The plaque, situated at the back of the Church is dedicated to the memory of “Crown Prince Rupert” of Bavaria who died in 1955. It describes him as the Head of Royal Houses including the Stuarts. In neo-Jacobite circles he was “King” Robert I…..grandfather of the present “King”. The third photograph was taken at Essex Street, near the Strand in London. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there incognito in 1750 and converted to Anglicanism (short lived)in a nearby Church in an attempt to curry favour with English subjects.

I have been interested in Jacobite military history for as long as I remember. A combination of “shortbread tin romanticism”, Robert Louis Stevenson and DK Broster novels, Thomas Davis songs  which used  18th century “Wild Geese” history as a means of promoting Irish nationalism in the 19th century. But I think I owe a lot to the 1964 TV film “Culloden”, revolutionary in its day and available on You Tube, which was actually a drama-documentary acted out by amateurs from the Inverness area.

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5 Responses to Culloden 16th April 1746

  1. Bangordub says:

    Great Post FJH, as I would expect on your specialist subject!
    Very Informative and interesting.
    Ever think of doing a turn on Mastermind……

  2. Bangordub says:

    Not at all……… I think the saxe-coburgs have a track record on eccentricity, not to mention disfunctionality, perhaps Jeremy Kyle should do a special?

  3. MacMurchaidh says:

    Sir,I would not call present day Jacobites buffoon or eccentric,the Royal house of Wittelsbach and also Liechtenstein do seem to set a better example of religious and family life and Princess Sophie is a wonderful lady.Perhaps Jacobites are a minority now but they do have a good point.

    • Ah I have met “modern” Jacobites. They hold the peculiar belief that monarchy is ordained by GOD and that Ireland is a gift of the Pope (an English one) to …er England.
      They recognise the right of “empires” including the Portuguese “royal” family to rule Brazil.
      You may be a very different and modern monarchist (if such a person exists) and will take the opportunity to rupudiate Imperialism and its companion, Racism.
      You might also wish to repudiate the notion that Republicanism is some form of satanic cult…lucifer being the first republican.
      It is of course one of the sillier notions held by modern (sic) Jacobites.
      The Stuarts were a dynasty marked by cowardice and entitlement ….Bonnie Prince Charlie was little more than a coward and a serial abuser of women.
      Having fled Culloden, he merely sent a message to his loyal followers at Ruthven Barracks that they must look to their own future.
      In doing so he deserted his kingdom/s and his Irish and Scottish followers look to their own national identity.
      Charles went on to further debauchery…his apologists in modern Jacobitism would say he suffered from trauma.
      You will join me an Irish Republican in saluting the bravery and support of our gallant Bavarian allies who fought against the British Empire in 1914-1918.
      And you will join me a socialist in paying tribute to the brave role the Bavarian royal family played in opposing Adolf Hitler.
      As a humanitarian, you will join me in paying tribute to the charitable nature of the Duke in Bavaria…many lives in Romania are better for his charity.
      But the Duke in Bavaria is essentially a decent man who is embarrassed by his over-enthusiastic tweedy “subjects”. Maybe its his “royal dignity” …maybe he just thinks his subjects are crazy.
      Liechtenstein… little more than a haven for tax dodgers, people traffickers and drug dealers.

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