Scottish History – Jacobite Uprisings

Jacobite Charge

When visiting the Highlands of Scotland, and Inverness in particular, you can’t help but be aware of the various Jacobite uprisings. Although the uprising of 1745 is perhaps the best known, there were earlier uprisings, rebellions, and battles in earlier years. The various conflicts follow on from the deposition of James II (or James VII as he was known in Scotland) in “The Glorious Revolution” of 1688 until the death of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1788.

The 1745 uprising is best remembered for it culminating in the Battle of Culloden, a sodden battlefield on the outskirts of Inverness, on 16 April 1746. This bloody conflict left over 1,200 dead in just one hour. It was the last battle to be fought on British soil.

The Risings of 1689 – 1690

Snow capped mountains beside Loch Cluanie
Loch Cluanie


The first risings broke out in 1689, when Viscount Dundee, an ardent supporter of James II, rallied troops and turned to military action against William and Mary’s government forces.

The most famous battle of this uprising was at Killiecrankie where the Government troops were routed by the Jacobite forces. Both sides suffered heavy losses and Viscount Dundee was killed. Despite the victory at Killiecrankie, the Highlanders were unable to capitalise on their success and were decisively defeated at Dunkeld just three weeks later.

The Risings of  1708, 1715 and 1719

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

In 1707, The Acts of Union were passed by the English and Scottish Parliaments. This allowed the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May 1707. This union dismayed those who supported the Jacobite cause. Following the Acts of Union, James VIII/III made two attempts to claim the throne in 1708 and in 1715. 

The ‘Little Rising’ of 1719, saw a force of 300 Spanish soldiers land at Lochalsh. They joined fewer than a thousand Highlanders and based themselves at Eilean Donan Castle. The Spanish force was originally much larger, but many ships had been destroyed by a storm. Unfortunately, for them, Hanoverian ships shelled the castle and the only battle was at Glen Shiel where the Jacobites were defeated by a Government army led by General Joseph Wightman.

The Rising of 1745

Old Leanach Cottage - Culloden Battlefield
Old Leanach Cottage – Culloden Battlefield

Fans of Outlander (books by Diana Gabaldon, and recently a major TV series) will be familiar with this period of Scottish history. The stories revolve around the period leading up to the rising of 1745, and the recently shown series 2 has our heroes in France where they encounter Bonnie Prince Charlie seeking to raise funds for his uprising.

In reality, after failing to persuade the French government to commit to another invasion, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the ‘Young Pretender’, decided to fund his own rising. He sailed from France to Scotland, arriving on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in July 1745 and then travelled across the Highlands, to assemble a Jacobite army.

Initially, the uprising met with considerable success. Most of its support was from the north-east and the Highland clans. The Jacobite army captured Edinburgh and managed to advance as far south as Derby in England. Prince Charles was hopeful that their success would encourage French support, but it never materialised, and the army retreated back to their stronghold in the Highlands and was finally defeated at Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746.


Jacobite Uprisings