Research Reflection on the Jacobite Uprising; Guest Blog

The Jacobite Rising

Disputed depictions and the stories of landscapes

Kaori Ono

Fierce battles, picturesque highlands, stories of triumph and defeat Was Bonnie Prince Charlie, the charismatic young prince some believed to be, or a naive poor-decision maker leading to his army’s demise?

Upon learning about the project through the Heritage and Archaeological Research Practice field school (HARP), I was intrigued by the opportunity to gain insight into the investigation of 18th-century Scotland and the changing social and cultural landscapes. Knowing relatively little of Scotland’s history, I decided to do some research and after falling down a rabbit hole, I noticed nuances in the depictions of Jacobites. Intrigued by this, I applied to the field school, hoping to gain more clarity.

Research Interests

Before my research, I reflected on previous anthropological studies. I noticed many examples of historical depictions affecting the sociocultural identity of those involved. One example was the discovery of the Polynesian islands, once portrayed as an accident. Historians once believed that ocean currents led ancient Polynesian seafarers to the Polynesian islands by pure mistakea depiction rooted in racist ideologies as it implied Polynesians were not intelligent enough to discover islands. Research later showed this depiction to be false. Ocean currents during the discovery would have made it impossible for Polynesians to find the islands by accident, proving their discovery was deliberate³. Voyages were later reconstructed and completed using traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, thus eliminating previous racist notions³. Rather than being depicted as unintelligent, history now acknowledges Polynesian seafarers for their incredible discovery of the Polynesian Islands. Thus, the revision of Polynesian history illustrates how inaccurate depictions, unless critically challenged, can negatively impact sociocultural identity.

Exploring the Sociocultural Identity of Jacobites

Referring to the mitigating effect that revisionist history had on the sociocultural identity of Polynesians, I was attracted to the historical depictions of Jacobites. I wondered about the implications certain depictions could have on their sociocultural identity. Stories surrounding the Jacobite Rising often proposed two different perceptions of Jacobites, specifically regarding Charles Edward Stuart, the leader of the Jacobite Rising in 1745-46.

The Infamous Decision

Historical portrayals, on one account, depict the loss in the Battle of Culloden as the direct result of Charles Edward Stuart’s poor judgment and the inefficiency of his army8. As the story goes, the Duke of Cumberland was to celebrate his birthday on the eve of the Battle of Culloden9. Considering Cumberland and his men would be distracted during this celebration, Charles proposed a surprise attack that did not go as planned. As poor ground conditions caused delays in their arrival, they reached Cumberland’s camp when it was too close to daybreak9. Then, as a result, Charles’ army returned to the battlefield, hungry and tired, while Cumberland and his men rested well after his birthday celebration. Thus, many argue that Bonnie Prince Charlie was a poor decision-maker who led to the risings’ demise in the battle fought after the failed surprise attack.

Debated Depictions of Charles Edward Stuart

The depiction of Charles Edward Stuart is debated within several sources of information.

Depictions Debated in the Media

While Charles’ failed surprise attack is widely acknowledged, those in favor of Charles argue that his character should not be defined by this single decision, as portrayed in the media. One famous depiction in the tv show, Outlander, is argued to characterize Charles as the sum of this mistake and accordingly depicts his character as unintelligent. As critiqued by The 1745 Association, an organization working to protect the history and heritage of this period, the show’s portrayal of Bonnie Prince Charles is considered a “travesty”¹¹. Chairman Michael Nevin states that media like Outlander and Culloden depict Bonnie Prince Charles as an “effeminate weakling”¹¹. In one interview, he adds, “Whatever you may think of the prince’s abilities or otherwise as a military commander, these portrayals are a travesty of the man he must have been”¹¹. Nevin argues that these depictions are remnants of stories from eighteenth-century Hanoverian propaganda¹¹. He further notes, “There is no way that such a man could have mobilized the support he did, or completed the grueling odyssey from the Highlands to Derby and back”¹¹. Nevin thus encourages the media to challenge current rudimentary depictions of Charles. Other historians, such as Maggie Craig, author of several non-fiction novels regarding the story of the Jacobites, and Steve Lord, researcher of Charles’ journey across Scotland during the 1745 rising, weigh in and agree that the current depictions are an unfair characterization of the prince¹¹. Therefore, some historians disagree with the depiction of Charles Edward Stuart in mainstream media.

Depictions Debated in the Field School

Similarly to the debates in the media, members of the field school had different perceptions of the prince. Some regarded Bonnie Prince Charlie as a fool who lacked planning and intelligence. Others argued that while the prince may have lacked experience, he had charisma and spirit that enabled him to rally others through an arguably tricky mission. Debated depictions of the prince, apparent even within individuals in the same field school, made untangling his sociocultural identity incredibly difficult, leaving me unsure what to believe.

Depictions Debated in Archaeological Evidence

In addition to depictions told by the media and members of the field school, archaeological evidence further complicated understandings of the Battle of Culloden. Evidence shows findings of mortar bomb fragments close to the point of contact¹º. These were fired at charging Jacobites, each bomb able to kill twenty men¹º. Nevertheless, Jacobites still reached government lines, a considerable achievement considering the weapons they faced. While many agree that Charles’ surprise attack plan did not go as planned, it makes one wonder what they could have achieved if it were not for this previous misstep. Charles’ men were undoubtedly hungry and tired after returning from their failed surprise attack. However, evidence showing that the mortars were fired at such close range, risking the lives of the English forces, suggested the Jacobites’ force may have been underestimated¹º. Thus archaeological evidence adds nuance to the portrayal of Jacobites in the Battle of Culloden.

Misconceptions Surrounding the Debate

The aforementioned archaeological evidence painted a picture of Jacobites’ rebellion efforts to be much more impressive than current descriptions. Traditional narratives seemed undemonstrative of Jacobites’ perseverance or tactics used to enable them to reach government lines. More favorable depictions led me to believe I was rooting for the underdogs who, despite religious discrimination, national powers, and government armies fighting against them, had continued to fight. While an intriguing tale, I later learned this was not precisely the case. In my desire to prompt discourse regarding broader issues of historical representations rooted in religious-centrism and ethnocentrism, I had fallen into the trap of myths regarding the Jacobite Rising.

Misconception #1: All Jacobite Supporters were Scottish

Some misconceptions led to distinct characterizations of those on each side of the rebellion. One misconception was that supporters of the Jacobite cause divided the Scottish and the English. However, it is much more complex. Some Jacobite sympathizers were English, whereas a considerable part of Scotland opposed the rising6. Glasgow, for instance, remained loyal in its support of the Hanoverians, proving that the cause was not a simple divide rooted in ethnocentrism6.

Misconception #2: All Jacobite Supporters were Catholic

Another misconception was that all Jacobites were Catholic. James Francis Stuart’s Catholic faith was said to have prevented him from receiving the throne6. While having him on the throne may have increased tolerance to catholicism, the rebellion did not seem entirely rooted in religious differences. Some Jacobite supporters were Protestants, such as Lord George Murray, a Lieutenant-General in the Jacobite army6.

Result of Misconceptions

Both misconceptions led me to believe that the Jacobite rising alluded to distinct political and religious differences between Scotland and England. However, the mixture of individuals in each divide proved this notion false. As one article illustrates, “many, if not most, supporters of the Jacobite cause saw the return of the Stuarts as a vehicle for achieving other goals rather than being a good thing in itself”¹². Therefore, the decision of whom to support had factored in various motives.

Negative Depictions

After unraveling the misconceptions of which I previously thought distinguished each side of the rebellion, I was confused. What was it that distinguished Jacobite supporters from its opposition? I looked for further information, interested in how each side negatively depicted the other.

1. Negative Depictions of Opposition

The unfavorable reports of those opposing the rising regarded the events following the Battle of Culloden. As a precaution to prevent another act of rebellion, the remaining Jacobites were hunted by Cumberland and his men with great determination. The following atrocities gave Cumberland his nickname, the “Butcher” 5. Jacobite supporters were either imprisoned or executed, with settlements in the highlands burned and their livestock seized7. Under the Dress Act of 1746, Highland dress, such as kilts, became illegal in Scotland. Highlanders were no longer allowed to carry weapons5. Overall, it resulted in the dismantling of Highland clans. The aftermath of the Battle of Culloden was undoubtedly devastating for Highland culture and illustrative of the horrible acts of opposition members. The punishment of Highlanders after the rising seemed resemblant of a civil war between Highlanders and Lowlanders. However, not all Highland clans supported the Jacobite Rising, again suggesting an inability to characterize the opposing sides without generalizations and misconceptions6.

2. Negative Depictions of Jacobite Supporters

Undeniably the repression of the Highlanders had led me to sympathize with Jacobite supporters rather than the opposition. However, I was met again with depictions of Jacobites that nuanced my understanding. During my stay at the field school, I had access to books and novels that would expand my knowledge regarding the Jacobite Rising. In General Wade’s Legacy by Linsday Farquharson, she described how the Jacobite supporters forced the inhabitants of Perth to swear an oath to James Francis Stuart or risk banishment from the town. While nowhere near as awful as Cumberland’s actions, reading this had expanded my understanding of Jacobite supporters as not entirely innocentbut as individuals who, at one point, had forcibly imposed their beliefs on others.

Page six in General Wade’s Legacy with the Oath of Allegiance13

Reflection of Jacobite Depictions

Each side consisted of a mixture of identities: Scots and English; Catholic and Protestant; Highlanders and Lowlanders. My attempts to determine one distinguishing characteristic on each side were thus ineffective. Contrary to initial beliefs, the opposing sides of the rising had more in common than I had thought. Due to the vast array of underlying ideologies influencing historical depictions, my research left me with more questions than answers.

The Complexity of Jacobite Depictions

Unraveling the story of the Jacobites was proven to be more difficult than I had thought. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see that every sourcefilm, literature, and even individuals working within the same fieldhad different perceptions of Jacobites. Rather than solidifying one specific identity for Jacobites, it illustrated the complexity of their history, which initially created much frustration. Each time I dug further into their story, my previous understandings were challenged and required readjusting to account for newly gathered information. Furthermore, determining if depictions of Jacobites were objective or in favor of one side proved incredibly difficult. In my search to understand the sociocultural identity of Jacobites, I got lost in an attempt to uncover their one true story.

However, in my journey to find an answer, I learned that between the two depictions of Jacobitesdividing the romantics from the realistsneither depiction entirely represented the Jacobites. More importantly, I learned that using one story to represent all Jacobite supporters is rather rudimentary, considering their diversity of members and motives. Overall, different depictions provide different insights into an incredibly complex history in which I cannot ascertain one as entirely correct. Instead, the Jacobites represent an amalgamation of these stories.

Understanding the Dangers of a Single Story

Of course, there were mistakes in the Jacobite Rising, such as Bonnie Prince Charles’ failed surprise attack and Jacobite supporters forcing inhabitants of Perth to comply with the rising. However, other stories provide additional insight, such as Charles’ ability to rally a considerable amount of support and Jacobites reaching government lines in the Battle of Culloden despite conditions against their favor. Each story provides a different perception of the Jacobites, yet it is equally important to talk about all of them. Failing to pinpoint one story to the Jacobites reminded me of an inspirational talk I heard in my first year of university by Chimamanda Adichie regarding the dangers of a single story. As Adichie illustrates, “the single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story”¹. Adichie’s talk highlighted that in my attempt to fit Jacobites under one depiction, I had assumed accepting one story had meant the complete rejection of another, thus making one story the definitive story of the Jacobites. However, to insist on only one side of a story is to flatten the Jacobites’ sociocultural identity and overlook many other stories that form them. My broadened understanding led me to question whether it was unreasonable to imply that different stories about Jacobites are not mutually exclusive. Could all of these stories partially represent Jacobites? Could Bonnie Prince Charlie be both a naive decision-maker and a charismatic leader? In other words, instead of viewing different perspectives as two separate stories, should we view them as two parts of a whole, similar to a Venn-diagram? While I do not have the answers, exploring these possibilities could clarify the complex depictions of Jacobites.

A Brief Venn-diagram Illustration to Display Potential Combinations of Perspectives

Concluding Remarks

In essence, the complex nature of Jacobite history cannot be attributed to one singular perspective but rather necessitates the willingness to examine how each story can contribute to current understandings. Thus, a holistic approach toward understanding the sociocultural identity of Jacobites is encouraged.

Additional Thoughts

While my research did not entail uncovering secrets about the historical depictions of Jacobites as I imagined, it still proved insightful. In addition to challenging understandings of Jacobites based on single stories, it provided insight into the relationships between historical landscapes and their visitors.

The Relationship Between Historical Landscapes and Visitors

I first examined this relationship after recording a settlement in the Scottish Highlands. While sitting on the grass near the settlement having a short break, I recall one conversation with Dr. Gordon, an established member of the field school. We were reflecting on the work done so far. Then, our conversation segued into our thoughts about working with historical landscapes. I explained having this strange feeling while walking on historical landscapes as I noticed the effects of historical landscapes felt similar to viewing artwork in a museum. Both grab our full attention and often produce this unsaid rule of silence to show appreciation and respect. Adding to the discussion, Dr. Gordon mentioned the feeling of nature spirits in the Highlands. Our voices were hushed while speaking about nature spirits as if we thought they could hear us. At that moment, the air felt still. The sudden realization hit that the weather shifted, turning gloomy in a matter of minutes.

Although spirits were out of my current understanding, I could not deny the eeriness of historical landscapes and the feeling that they had so much to say. The days following reminded me of the unexplainable connection between historical landscapes and their visitors. One occasion was during our excursion to Killiecrankie. After driving for some time, we eventually stopped to look out at this field. Looking out, I felt an indescribable feeling that resembled a pit in my stomach. I recall looking out to that field and seeing a stone. Not long after, I learned it was the Claverhouse’s stone, said to mark where John Graham had died on the battlefield. The pit in my stomach had deepened.

The Claverhouse’s Stone, Perthshire, Scotland. From “Claverhouse 001” by A. Sweet,

Without knowledge of its history, it was as if I had absorbed the emotions of the landscape A feeling that was not uncommon, as suggested by other field school members. Our field days on other sites further illustrate this connection between historical landscapes and their visitors. While recording settlements on Schiehallion, we found a pit dug inside the mountain. Built inside this overgrown pit, seemingly untouched, was a fairy house filled with, what I recall, trinkets and a bottle of liquor. The fairy house was considered modern and unimportant to the Jacobites’ Rising. However, I felt it held significance. The fairy house resembled a possible spiritual connection with landscapes that I had yet to comprehend.

Final Reflection

The connection between historical landscapes and its visitors, I felt, could be insightful in my understanding of the sociocultural identity of Jacobites; that remained arguably inconclusive. The complexity of Jacobite history left me with an amalgamation of depictions, and out of curiosity, I envisioned the impact that certain depictions would have on historical landscapes.

For instance, the emotions produced by stories told within the landscapes suggest that depictions in strong opposition to the Jacobite rising could, as a result, lead to visitors’ disillusionment of Scotland’s historical landscapes. To illustrate is the historical revision that acknowledged the symbolism of racist discrimination in certain historical monuments, thus altering interactions between visitors and historical monuments. An example is the statue of Edward Ward Carmack, a lawmaker who endorsed the lynching of three black men². The monument, symbolic of a racist figure, was given new meaning through its visitor’s vandalization and demolition to indicate their intolerance towards symbols of historical injustice. Later, a banner was hung in its place, referring to Ida B. Wells, an African-American activist that led an anti-lynching movement in the U.S. during the 1890s4. In this scenario, the reconceptualization of racist historical monuments provides an extreme yet justified example of historical revision altering visitor interactions.

Referring back to Scotland’s landscapes, it is uncertain whether fairy-house-building practices have any correlation to the romanticism of the Jacobite Rising. Regardless, the evident connection between historical landscapes and their visitors suggests caution in revising history tied to landscapes. Naive or not, the stories of the rebellion are considered reflective of great passion in fighting for what you believe. To disillusion its believers would alter the story of the landscapes on which they fought.

In essence, the stories of Scotland’s historical landscapes affect the emotion of its visitors and the things visitors leave behind. While correcting inaccurate depictions of the past is vital, revisionist history must proceed with caution. If done hastily, its effects will extend to historical landscapes and their relationship with visitors in the following years. Therefore, comprehensive representations of Jacobite culture require additional research that takes a holistic approach to consider all the depictions of Jacobites. A holistic approach to Jacobite studies will thus prevent biased historical revisionism and its impacts on landscapes associated with Jacobite history.