We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Reference group
Jacobite activists of the 1745 rising (act. 1745–1746) were principally, but not exclusively, Scottish supporters of James Francis Edward, eldest son and heir of James II and VII, who saw the political circumstances of the 1740s, which included renewed warfare between Great Britain and France, weakness in the Scottish economy, and political instability at Westminster, as offering an opportunity for a further attempt to overthrow the Hanoverian dynasty reigning in London and restore the house of Stuart.

The origins of the rising of 1745 (the 'Forty-Five or '45), in so far as they can be clearly discerned, lay in Scotland, where in the late 1730s a number of Jacobites, including John Murray of Broughton, Norman MacLeod of Dunvegan, and Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat (1711–1746) began to contemplate a new Jacobite rising. They were encouraged in this by the popular outrage in Scotland over the punishment of the city of Edinburgh for the city magistrates' failure to prevent the lynching of Captain John Porteous in 1736, Scotland's continued economic malaise, which was generally blamed on the union with England in 1707, and the outbreak of war between Britain and Spain in 1739. There was, too, at this time a passing of generations within the Scottish Jacobite community. The last major Jacobite uprising had taken place in 1715 and had ended in disaster. Memories of the rising itself and their subsequent experiences as prisoners, fugitives, and exiles consequently acted as a brake on the Scottish Jacobites for a considerable time thereafter. By the early 1740s, however, many of the veterans of the 'Fifteen were dead or had lost their enthusiasm for the Stuart cause. The direction of the movement correspondingly passed to the next generation, and their energy recharged it. This was particularly significant in Scotland because it was there that Jacobitism was strongest in mainland Britain. Other leaders included Donald Cameron of Lochiel, James Drummond, third duke of Perth in the Jacobite peerage, and the septuagenarian peer Simon Fraser, eleventh Lord Lovat, who had supported the government in 1715 but had become disenchanted with the whigs by the 1730s.

The early 1740s also seem to have seen something of a resurgence of Jacobitism in England and Wales, most importantly among some of the leaders of the long-proscribed tory party. The Jacobite tendencies of the tory party, or lack of them, are a matter of great debate among historians, but it is unquestionably the case that in the aftermath of the fall of the Walpole administration in 1742, and the party's betrayal by their erstwhile whig allies in the opposition coalition that had brought him down in order to get themselves into office, some of the leaders of the tory party began discussions with the French government about a possible French invasion backed by a Jacobite rising. Notable among these were Charles Noel Somerset, fourth duke of Beaufort, James Barry, fourth earl of Barrymore, John Boyle, fifth earl of Orrery, Sir John Hynde Cotton, and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. The thinking behind this approach is not completely clear, though it seems reasonable to surmise that after thirty years of political proscription they simply could not see any other way than a Stuart restoration of realizing their political agenda. These discussions duly matured into a French invasion attempt planned for January (later postponed to February) 1744 which was, in the end, thwarted by a combination of terrible weather and the blockading of the port of Dunkirk by the Royal Navy. British agents had already alerted the government to the danger and a number of arrests of conspirators followed, though none was ultimately prosecuted.

Though the English conspiracy of 1743–4 ultimately came to nothing it had important repercussions. In the first instance it persuaded the French and Charles Edward (Bonnie Prince Charlie, grandson of James II and VII) that they had powerful potential allies in England, who might, in the right circumstances, be willing to rise up in support of a pro-Jacobite invasion force. In the second (along with the defeat of the British army in Flanders at the battle of Fontenoy), it undermined the Scots Jacobites' determination to do nothing until a French invasion force was at hand. Hence once the official French invasion attempt was formally abandoned Charles Edward was soon floating the idea of a specifically Scottish attempt. Murray of Broughton was the main negotiator with Charles Edward and repeatedly stressed that the Scots Jacobites would not rise in any numbers without a French invasion, yet he failed to convince the Stuart prince to abandon his coalescing independent operation. This was backed by powerful merchant interests in the Irish diaspora in France, principally Antoine Vincent Walsh and his associates. By subterfuge and corruption they managed secretly to provide Charles Edward with two ships (the Du Teillay, a small frigate, and the Elizabeth, a substantial man-of-war) packed with munitions and carrying some 700 volunteers from the Irish brigade of the French army. These finally sailed for Scotland with the prince aboard on 16 July 1745.

En route the Elizabeth and the Du Teillay were intercepted by HMS Lion and in the ensuing action the Elizabeth was so badly damaged it was forced to return to France. Nothing daunted, Charles Edward and seven companions still willing to risk a rising in Scotland—William Murray, marquess of Tullibardine, Aeneas Macdonald, Sir John Macdonald, Francis Strickland, George Kelly, Sir Thomas Sheridan, and John William Sullivan—continued their voyage to land on the island of Eriskay on 23 July, proceeding to the mainland and the natural harbour of Loch Moidart on 24/5 July, hence the collective name of the ‘seven men of Moidart’ for Charles's companions. Their initial reception in Scotland was distinctly cool. MacLeod and Macdonald of Sleat both refused to rise on the grounds that the Stuart prince had not arrived with the French invasion force they had demanded. Cameron of Lochiel and Ranald Macdonald of Clanranald (d. 1777) urged Charles Edward to go home. The prince suavely refused, and over the course of the next three weeks persuaded Lochiel and Clanranald to bring out their clans. He did so primarily by convincing them that a Scottish rising would bring on a French invasion and that the English Jacobites would then in turn rise against the government. The 'Forty-Five proper is generally taken as having commenced when Charles Edward mustered his army of about 1500 men at Glenfinnan on 19 August.

From there the Jacobites quickly marched east and then south. The government garrison in Scotland, commanded by Sir John Cope, was weak and in large part composed of raw recruits. Cope none the less threw together a field army and marched north from Edinburgh to oppose the Jacobites. His army, however, moved slowly and its failure to pick up support from the whig clans shook Cope's confidence. In consequence he backed away from a potential battle at the Corrieyairack pass and retreated away from the Jacobites to Inverness. The Jacobite army promptly debouched from the highlands into Perthshire, picking up recruits all the time, most notably David Ogilvy, Lord Ogilvy, and his wife, Margaret Ogilvy, Lady Ogilvy [see under Ogilvy, David]; David Wemyss, Lord Elcho; Lord George Murray; and Ewen Macpherson of Cluny; but also including such clan chiefs as Lauchlan Maclachlan and representatives of Jacobite families like John Nairne, styled third Lord Nairne; Sir John Wedderburn and his sons; and veterans of the 'Fifteen including Laurence Oliphant of Gask. By the time the army arrived before Edinburgh on 17 September it numbered about 1800. The city fell to a coup de main the same day and so when Cope disembarked from the ships that had brought him back south from Aberdeen he felt obliged to offer battle in the hope of stemming the Jacobite tide. The resulting Jacobite victory at Prestonpans on 21 September effectively delivered most of Scotland into Jacobite hands, at least temporarily, and encouraged one cautious leading Jacobite, George Mackenzie, third earl of Cromarty, to join the campaign, along with his son John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod.

The key question for the Jacobites was what to do next. Charles Edward favoured advancing into England to link up with the French army he was confident would soon invade it and bring out the English Jacobites. He finally carried the Jacobite grand council by one vote and the invasion of north-west England was launched on 31 October. The Jacobites quickly captured Carlisle and marched rapidly south through Lancashire to Manchester, arriving there on 28 November. Though Charles Edward and his forces had outmarched, outmanoeuvred, and disconcerted the whig loyalists and the British army in northern and central England at this point, they had picked up few English recruits (enough only to form the Manchester regiment, commanded by Francis Towneley and including James Bradshaw, David Thomas Morgan, William Vaughan, and as its chaplain, Thomas Coppock), and the prince only barely persuaded his council to agree to advance beyond the town. Lord George Murray accordingly feinted south towards the west midlands, which deceived Prince William Augustus, duke of Cumberland and commander of the government forces in England, into thinking the Jacobites intended to move in that direction, when in fact they turned south-east, reaching Derby on 4 December. At that time the Jacobite army was poised between three government armies. The Jacobites could have reached London before Cumberland to their west or Wade to their north, and quite possibly beaten a third government army hurriedly gathering at Finchley, but there was no guarantee that they would receive any warmer a reception in London than they had hitherto encountered elsewhere in England. In addition the Jacobite army had no inkling that the French were hurriedly putting together an invasion force, which included George Keith, Earl Marischal, and Charles's brother Henry Benedict, with a view to a rapid descent in support of them. Hardly surprisingly, despite the prince's pleas and tantrums, Lord George Murray led the great majority of the council in voting to retreat.

Lord George carried this off with skill, and the Jacobite army quickly extracted itself from England, re-entering Scotland on 20 December. Cumberland was in hot pursuit, but only came close to catching the Jacobites once, at Clifton on 18/19 December, where his vanguard was worsted in a brief moonlit skirmish with Lord George and Macpherson of Cluny's regiment. In Scotland, meanwhile, Edinburgh had been retaken by government forces, and an army of pro-government clansmen had been gathered in northern Scotland by John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun. These finally ventured into Aberdeenshire in December 1745 where they were surprised and routed at Inverurie on 23 December by Lord Lewis Gordon with the help of two companies of the royal Écossais regiment, recently arrived from France. This reverse daunted Loudoun for some time, which allowed the Jacobites to retain their hold on north-east Scotland without interference while the main Jacobite army rested and regrouped in Glasgow and other lowland towns.

Cumberland having been recalled to command in southern England in the event of a French invasion (which Louis XV only finally called off in January 1746), Lieutenant-General Henry Hawley was ordered to find and destroy Charles Edward's army. He attempted to do so at Falkirk on 17 January 1746 and was roundly defeated by a reinforced and reinvigorated Jacobite army. In the aftermath of the battle, however, many Jacobite highlanders exercised their traditional custom after a successful encounter by returning home laden with plunder, which dramatically diminished the strength of the Jacobite army. Lord George Murray and the majority of the Jacobite senior officers accordingly insisted the army retreat north, the better to defend its heartland in the highlands and receive fresh levies from pro-Jacobite areas when their chieftains and landlords could again get their men out. Cumberland meantime took command of the government forces in southern Scotland, and followed the Jacobites as they fell back north. By 27 February the Jacobites were at Inverness and the government army at Aberdeen, each resting and training with a view to renewing the struggle in the spring.

The Jacobites, despite deepening personal divisions, most notably between Charles Edward and Lord George Murray, still retained their vigour and élan, and came off the victors in a number of encounters over the next month or so, including, most significantly, another rout of Loudoun's forces at Dornoch on 19 March. Cumberland, however, was steadily building up his forces and at the beginning of April launched his final offensive. This was a straightforward thrust towards Inverness, which he reasoned the Jacobites must defend as it was the last major port still in their hands. The Jacobites were surprised by his early start and had to scramble to recall their forces to oppose him. They were not entirely successful in this and as a consequence when the two armies came into proximity the Jacobites were substantially outnumbered, with fewer than 4500 men as against Cumberland's approximately 7000. After an abortive attempt to mount an attack on Cumberland's camp on the night of 15–16 April the two armies finally clashed on Drummossie moor near Culloden House on 16 April. The Jacobite army was neither well deployed nor well commanded, the prince himself having taken personal charge, and the bulk of the Jacobites never even came to grips with their foes. Cumberland, by contrast, ensured that his men were well fed and well prepared, and by deploying them in depth prevented the Jacobites carrying all before them with one of their powerful highland charges. Within a couple of hours the Jacobites were comprehensively defeated and fleeing from the field while Cumberland's men pursued them with great slaughter.

The rebellion was not, however, over quite yet. A substantial proportion of the Jacobite army was not even on the battlefield, and some of the routing units were rallied by their officers and retreated into the nearby hills. These Jacobite forces regrouped at Ruthven on 17–18 April and were prepared to continue the fight. Charles Edward was not. The prince no longer trusted his senior Scottish officers, who he feared intended to betray him to Cumberland to make their peace, and so he ordered the army to disperse. Even then Cameron of Lochiel, Lovat, and Macpherson of Cluny among others planned to remuster the army in mid-May and commence a sustained campaign of resistance with a view to holding off government forces engaged in harrying the highlands and staying in arms until either French assistance arrived or a general peace that included them was negotiated. In the event, though, the bulk of the Jacobite army was demoralized and incapable of further resistance and Charles Edward was simply focused on escaping, which he finally succeeded in doing in September.

The retribution phase of the 'Forty-Five was by far the worst of any Jacobite uprising. Cumberland intended to punish the Scottish Jacobite community harshly, and duly carried this through by the burning of homes, the driving off of cattle, and the arrest and imprisonment (and occasional murder) of plebeian Jacobites. The number of trials and the number of executions also greatly exceeded those in any previous Jacobite rebellion. Arthur Elphinstone, sixth Lord Balmerino, William Boyd, fourth earl of Kilmarnock, and Lovat headed the list of over 140 rebels who were executed. Many more were transported to the American colonies. Other senior Jacobites were fortunate enough to escape overseas, though few established successful careers there. Most, like Lord George Murray, James Johnstone, Elcho, and Macpherson of Cluny, ended up embittered and estranged both from their host country (France) and Charles Edward, who regarded most of his former comrades in arms with suspicion if not downright hostility. Some, like Colquhoun Grant, James Maxwell of Kirkconnel, and Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, successfully evaded prosecution and were able to establish peaceful careers at home. In its last phase (1747–59) the Jacobite movement was, moreover, effectively directed by Charles Edward as far as its activist component was concerned, and few of the activists of the 'Forty-Five were either in the prince's confidence or played any further significant role in its history, though the last man executed for Jacobitism, in 1753, was Dr Archibald Cameron, a veteran of the 'Forty-Five.

Daniel Szechi


J. Black, Culloden and the '45 (1990); repr. (2000) · K. Tomasson and F. Buist, Battles of the '45 (1962); repr. (1978) · C. Duffy, The '45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the untold story of the Jacobite rising (2003) · J. S. Gibson, Lochiel of the '45: the Jacobite chief and the prince (1994); repr. (1995) · L. Gooch, The desperate faction? The Jacobites of north-east England, 1688–1745 (1995) · B. Lenman, The Jacobite risings in Britain, 1689–1746 (1980) · B. Lenman, The Jacobite clans of the Great Glen (1984) · F. J. McLynn, The Jacobite army in England, 1745: the final campaign (1983) · F. J. McLynn, Charles Edward Stuart: a tragedy in many acts (1988) · D. Szechi, The Jacobites: Britain and Europe, 1688–1788 (1994)