Background behind the Battle of Culloden

Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, successfully raised forces, mainly of Scottish Highland clansmen and defeated the Hanoverian Army stationed in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans. The city of Edinburgh was occupied, but the castle held out and most of the Scottish population remained hostile to the rebels. The British government recalled forces from the war with France in Flanders to deal with the rebellion.

After a lengthy wait, Charles persuaded his generals that English Jacobites would stage an uprising in support of his cause. He was convinced that France would launch an invasion of England as well. His army of around 5000 invaded England on November 8, 1745. They advanced through Carlisle and Manchester, to Derby, and a position where they appeared to threaten London. It is often alleged that King George II made plans to decamp to Hanover, but there is absolutely no evidence for this and the king is on record as stating that he’d lead the troops against the rebels himself if they approached London. The Jacobites met only token resistance. There was, however, little support from English Jacobites, and the French invasion fleet was still being assembled. The armies of General George Wade and of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, were approaching. In addition to the militia, London was defended by nearly 6,000 Foot, 700 Horse and 33 artillery pieces and the Jacobites had (fictitious) reports of a third army closing on them. The Jacobite general Lord George Murray and the Council of War insisted on returning to join their growing force in Scotland. On 6 December 1745, they withdrew, with the Pretender petulantly leaving the command to Murray.

On the long march back to Scotland the Highland Army wore out its boots and demanded all the boots and shoes of the townspeople of Dumfries as well as money and hospitality. The Jacobites reached Glasgow on 25 December. There they reprovisioned, having threatened to sack the city, and were joined by a few thousand new men. They then defeated the forces of General Henry Hawley at the Battle of Falkirk. The Duke of Cumberland arrived in Edinburgh on 30 January, to take over command of the government army from General Hawley. He then marched north along the coast, with the army being supplied by sea. Six weeks were spent at Aberdeen training.
The King’s forces continued to pressure Charles. He retired north, losing men and failing to take Stirling Castle or Fort William. But he invested Fort Augustus and Fort George in Invernessshire in early April. Charles now took command again, and insisted on fighting a defensive action.

Hugh (Rose of Kilravock), 16th Baron, entertained the Pretender and the Duke of Cumberland respectively on 14th and 15th April 1746, before the battle of Culloden. On the occasion the Pretender’s manners and deportment were described by his host as most engaging. Having walked out with Mr. Rose, before sitting down, he observed several persons engaged in planting trees. He remarked, “How happy, Sir, you must feel, to be thus peaceably employed in adorning your mansion, whilst all the country round is in such commotion.” Kilravock was a firm supporter of the house of Hanover; but his adherence was not solicited, nor were his preferences alluded to. Next day, the Duke of Cumberland called at the castle gate, and when Kilravock went to receive him, he bluffly observed, “So you had my cousin Charles here yesterday.” Kilravock replied, “What am I to do, I am Scottish”, To which Cumberland replied, “you did perfectly right.”


1 Comment

Filed under Abou Ali, No More War, Scottish History

One response to “Background behind the Battle of Culloden

  1. We have a great campaign going to honour the Victory, Hope and Ambition gained from Prestonpans in 1745.

    If you have a moment please visit us at

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