277th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden

Posted on: 14th April 2023

Blàr Chùil Lodair 1746

Sunday the 16th of April 2023 is the 277th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. This battle marks the culmination and only clear defeat of the Jacobite campaign. Leading up to the events on Culloden Moor, the Jacobites had led their armies through Scotland and as far into England as Derby, only 127 miles from London. They retreated to familiar Scottish soil and by the spring the Jacobite Army had reached Inverness, with the Government Army close behind.

The Jacobites, from the Latin Jacobus, fought to restore the descendants of the exiled James VII and II to the throne.  The Jacobite Army was led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender. He was the grandson of James VII and II, and his father James, the Old Pretender had spearheaded earlier attempts at rebellion in 1708 and 1715.

The Prince took direct command of the Jacobite Army for the first time on the 16th April at Culloden. They faced the George II’s larger Army, led by George’s son the Duke of Cumberland. Exhausted and hungry, they faced a barrage of government artillery, muskets and bayonets. In less than an hour their defeat was complete.

Clan Donald raised three regiments at the Battle of Culloden, under the Duke of Perth’s Division. They stood at the left wing of the Jacobite front line. Stories on Clan Donald’s role differs, with some stating they preferred the right wing and so halted their advance in defiance. However, their charge forward at a reduced paced is likely to be the result of the long front line and confusion during the charge, and the wet boggy ground of Culloden Moor. Representing Clan Donald were:

  • Keppoch’s Regiment led by their chief, Alexander MacDonell of Keppoch, raised 200 men.
  • Clanranald’s Regiment led by Ranald, younger of Clanranald, raised 200 men.
  • Glengarry’s Regiment, led by Donald MacDonell of Lochgarry, raised 500 men.

Alexander of Keppoch was killed on Culloden Moor, Ranald of Clanranald survived and their regiment disbanded shortly after their defeat. MacDonell of Lochgarry had replaced his kinsman Aeneas, second son of the Chief of Glengarry, who had been accidently killed after the Battle of Falkirk.

Visit us at Armadale to see the Museum of the Isles, and discover more of the story of the Jacobite cause through our collections:

The Gunna Breac, or Speckled Gun, was reputedly used at Jacobite battles including Culloden, by MacDonald of Dalchosnie, cadets of Keppoch. At Culloden, the gun was too long to be much use in close fighting, so Alexander MacDonald, who fought with the Atholl Brigade, left it with his gille to take back to Dalchosnie, before taking part in the battle where he was killed. In 1837 its owner, Sir John MacDonald of Dalchosnie (great grandson of Alexander killed 1746), commissioned William Morris, a Perth gunsmith, to restore the gun. This is when the silver plaque was put on the gun, as pictured above.

Other artefacts from the Jacobite era include the portrait glass collection, pictured in slideshow above. These drinking glasses were used to toast the Young Pretender, and their mottos and symbols indicated their loyalty to the cause. They could be used in secret, as support of the Stuarts was seen as treason. Collections of these glasses are rare, as they were often smashed to prevent discovery and the Jacobitism of the owners.

After Culloden, the Jacobites largely disbanded as Government forces pushed through the Highlands to firmly end the campaign. It was at this point that Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to the Hebrides, where Clan Donald supported his hiding in secrecy and his escape and return passage to France.

Each year, a procession and Annual Service is held at the Memorial Cairn on Culloden Battlefield to commemorate those who died on both sides of this significant battle. Prayers are made and wreaths laid, with representatives from various clans laying wreaths at the individual memorial stone for their clan. This year, the service will take place on Saturday 15th April.

We remember those who lost their lives at Culloden on this anniversary, and hope the history of Culloden and the Jacobite cause will be preserved and shared for years to come.