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LIVING HISTORY
HOLD THE FORT
Castle Tioram, ancient stronghold of the
Macdonalds of Clanranald, was torched in 1715
by Alan, 14th Chief and Captain of Clanranald, to
prevent it falling into Hanoverian hands. An
ancestor of the current Boisdale proprietor,Alan
had recently been created Premier Baron of
Scotland in the Jacobite Peerage, but was killed
later that year at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.
At the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715,
Argyle had only 3,500 men to Mar’s
8,000. The result was indecisive, but
in strategic terms it was a crushing blow
to the Jacobites. Their campaign folded.
Yet matters could have gone differently.
The then-Macdonald Chief of
Clanranald had all the qualities that Mar
lacked. But he fell early in the battle.
If it had been Mar who had perished,
the day might have gone differently.
A L A MY, G ET T Y IM AG E S
A
fter Sheriffmuir, Jacobitism
seemed doomed. Yet the cause
was to be revived by
extraordinary events in 1718 and ’19,
during which the Scottish Highlands
briefly played a major part in European
politics. Under the Treaty of Utrecht in
1713, Spain lost Sardinia and Sicily.
The Spanish First Minister, Cardinal
Alberoni, a brilliant Italian, who could
have been a second Richelieu if he had
been in charge of a first-rate power, was
determined to restore Spain’s position
in the Mediterranean. He knew that his
main obstacle was the Royal Navy. So
his solution was to remove that Navy
from the Mediterranean by forcing it to
cope with threats at home, from another
Jacobite uprising. His ally, Charles XII of
Sweden, hated George because he saw
Hanover as a rival in German affairs.
Then it all went wrong. Charles was
killed while besieging a small fortress in
Norway. He may even have been shot by
one of his own men. Once considered a
military genius, he became ridiculously
overstretched, squandering Swedish
blood, treasure and possessions in the
pursuit of fantasies. Someone on his
own side might well have decided to
call a halt. With Charles out of the game,
Alberoni’s plans were looking fanciful.
The death-blow came at the Navy’s
hands. A Spanish fleet was destroyed
off Sicily and Alberoni himself rapidly
fell from power. Spain was too far gone
in decline to sustain his ambitions.
Nevertheless, there was a landing
in the Highlands by a force of Jacobites
and Spanish marines, and a battle in
Glen Shiel, won by the Government.
The Jacobites had captured nearby
Eilean Donan castle, which the Navy
bombarded and destroyed. (Restored
in the 20th century, it is an enchanting
building.) But Hanoverian reprisals
were surprisingly light. The foreigners
were allowed to return home, and the
clansmen to their glens. The leniency
had a deceptive aspect, however. In
Edinburgh and London – not to mention
Inveraray, the Campbells’ capital – hard
men were brooding. As long as the
Highlands were virtually independent
of central government, enemies of Great
Britain could exploit this to deliver a
stab in the back. When this did happen
in 1745, there was no mercy.
If the Old Pretender in 1715 had
resembled the young Bonny Prince
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BOISDALELIFE .COM
SUMMER 2019
ISSUE 16
Charlie, and if he had been wise enough
to reassure the Protestants whom he
hoped to rule over that they had nothing
to fear, everything might have been
different. By 1745, everything had
moved on. In the Scottish Lowlands,
there had been a century’s development
in a generation and the country had got
used to the Hanoverians. Some of the
wisest Highland chiefs knew that it was
too late for Jacobitism. The reigning
Clanranald may have been one of them.
Although he rallied to Prince Charles,
he was probably aware that without a
massive and successful French invasion,
the ’45 was an exercise in futility.
The French did not arrive. Militarily,
the Highlanders did surprisingly well,
capturing Edinburgh, defeating Johnnie
Cope at Prestonpans and reaching
Derby. But they could never have won.
After Derby, there was a long retreat to
carnage at Culloden, followed by savage
reprisals and the destruction of the old
Highland order. The Floors o’ the Forest
is a threnody that no Scotsman can hear
without emotion. After the ’45, it was
different flowers, different forests, but
once again the blooms were drowned in
blood. As we reach over the centuries to
commemorate the Highlanders’ courage
and salute their doomed loyalty, we
should not only remember the ’15 and
the ’45. The ’19 should also be part of
the story of the long, complex evolution
from which modern Britain emerged.





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