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Although by this week in August 275 years ago the Prince had been in Scotland for almost a month, news of his landing didn’t reach Edinburgh until August 8, and Fort William a day later.
When news reached London that the Prince had landed, the British government announced a reward of £30,000 (equivalent to £15 million today) to anyone who seized him.
August 10 – In Edinburgh, General Sir John Cope’s response to reports of the Prince’s presence on the west coast was to order two companies of troops from Perth to march north to strengthen the garrison in Fort William.
August 15 – the government troops, some 90-100 men under the command of Captain Scott, reached Fort Augustus.
August 16 – The reinforcements set out early to march down the Great Glen to Fort William. After the best part of 20 miles they were approaching the High Bridge on General Wade’s military road just a mile or two from Spean Bridge, when they were ambushed by a small group of Highlanders under Donald MacDonnell of Tiendrish comprising 11 clansmen and one piper.
Two government troops were killed and Captain Scott’s mount, a fine grey horse, was taken, and would be later presented to the Prince. As the troops fled back towards Fort Augustus, they were intercepted further along the military road at Laggan by another 20 or 30 Highlanders under the command of Keppoch.
Four redcoats were killed and a dozen wounded, at which point the rest surrendered. What would become the first skirmish of the Rising of 1745 had ended in victory for the Jacobites. Meanwhile, the journey to raise the Royal Standard at Glenfinnan began.
August 18 – The Prince, the Seven Men of Moidart and other supporters numbering around 50 men, took boats at Dalilea to go up Loch Shiel to stop at Glenaladale, close to Glenfinnan, for the night.
August 19 – Midday-1 o’clock – After breakfasting at Glenaladale, the company left in a flotilla of small boats. According to a local story, the Prince’s boat paused at a bay in order for his oarsmen to rest, now known as ‘Prince’s Bay’, and arrived at Glenfinnan in the afternoon. The Prince was concerned to find there was no clan army waiting for him.
3 o’clock – Lochiel arrived with about 900 men. With Lochiel’s men and about 150 of the Prince’s Clanranald supporters under MacDonald of Morar, the Royal Standard was raised.
6 o’ clock – Keppoch came over the hill with about 350 clansmen and the captured government troops, the redcoats, who had been taken during the skirmish at High Bridge. Whilst Captain Scott was hosted by the Prince, his remaining men were released and told to walk towards the Lowlands.
For two days the Jacobite army stayed at Glenfinnan, with the Prince making his quarters ‘in a little barn att [sic] the head of the loch’. Councils of war were held, provisions collected, arms and ammunition distributed, despatches written and an attempt made to organise the clansmen into more regular army units.
21 August – At last, with high hopes, the Jacobite army marched eastwards towards Fassfern – the ’45 had begun.
The raising of the Royal Standard
Described as ‘about twice the size of an ordinary pair of colours’, the Royal Standard was a large banner of red silk with a white area in the middle. It is said that the Standard itself was sewn by the women of Dalilea and that the pole was made by a man called Corbett from Moidart.
It was a dramatic moment as the Standard was unfurled and held aloft by the Marquis of Tullibardine, and it was blessed by Bishop Hugh MacDonald, Morar’s brother. Tullibardine then read the declaration, dated at Rome, December 23, 1743, proclaiming the Prince’s father, James VIII, as King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Next, a commission was read in the name of his father appointing Charles, Prince of Wales, to be prince regent.
Finally, a manifesto penned by the Prince, dated at Paris, May 16, 1745 declaring that he had come to execute the will of his father by setting up the Royal Standard, asserting his father’s undoubted right to the throne of his ancestors, and offering pardon to those who would take up arms on his behalf. Toasts were drunk to the Prince in brandy which he had brought from France.
The Highlanders threw their bonnets in the air and cheered, shouting: ‘Long live King James the Eighth and Charles Prince of Wales, Prosperity to Scotland, and no union.’
The mystery of the ‘Glenfinnan Stone’
There are three or four spots at Glenfinnan which vie for the title of the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Standard. One of them is particularly intriguing.
A heather fire which broke out on a hillside at Glenfinnan in 1988 revealed a large, flat boulder with an inscription in Latin which reads: ‘MDCCXLV, in the name of the Lord, the Standard of Charles Edward Stuart was set up in 1745, triumphant at last.’
There were three sets of footsteps carved out on the stone, a crown, a cross and the names ‘Cameron 827’, ‘Hugh’ and ‘Trdine’. Were these denoting Lochiel and the number of men he brought? Was ‘Hugh’ Bishop Hugh MacDonald? And ‘Trdine’ the Marquis of Tullibardine? Other carvings were an arrow and the number ‘4’. Was this the direction of, and the number of steps to, the spot that the Standard was actually raised?
There are local stories that this is the spot where the Standard was raised, carved perhaps within living memory of the event, but there are also stories that the carvings may have been executed much, much later. Near the boulder was a stone, about 12 inches in diameter, with a hole at its centre, which it was presumed was the place where the pole of the Standard would have rested.
In 1989 this smaller stone disappeared, and it wasn’t until 2009 that a woman contacted Lochaber historian Iain Thornber after watching the TV programme Countryfile, realising that the historic stone was sitting in her son’s rockery in Hartlepool, England, a gift to her many years before when she was living in Scotland. The ‘Glenfinnan Stone’ is now on display in the West Highland Museum.
The royal standard is raised at Glenfinnan on August 19, 1745. Image courtesy of West Highland Museum. NO F34 Raising the Standard
The large round stone with a hole which is believed to have supported the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745. It is currently on loan to the West Highland Museum. Photograph: West Highland Museum.NO F34 Glenfinnan Stone (low res)
The 1745 portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the artist Allan Ramsay. Photograph courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.NO F35 CE Stuart without frame
Lochaber Pipe Band opening the 2017 Glenfinnan Gathering with the 1745 monument in the background. Photograph: Abrightside Photography.
F33 Glenfinnan Games 07JP.