Sunday, 10 August 2014

Culloden Moor

I didn't expect to find a National Trust museum at Culloden (Cull-LAW-den) Moor but since it was there and it was free - to us, as National Trust members - we went in. To be fair, there isn't a huge amount you can say about a field where 200+ years ago a lot of men died in a short, bloody battle. However, they managed to eke out a whole building - plus gift shop and coffee shop - and a GPS-enhanced recording to carry as you walk around the mown paths in the wind and the rain. I discovered my best tightwad defense against the gift shop enticements was to remind myself I'm Irish, not Scottish. My people only lived in the southwest of Scotland for 30-50 years after which most of them immigrated to America or Australia. Also that the whole tartan thing is a complete hoax.

The thing that completely flummoxed me at this National Trust museum, once I got over the missing comma that made me think they were claiming the civil war happened in the 1630s (so perhaps I was being a bit pedantic), was that I never once found the word 'Catholic'. The Scots who gathered to fight for 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' were just hoping to back away from the Presbyterian church to the Scottish Episcopalian church, according to the National Trust. Apparently there were no Catholics. They never mention that Prince Charles was Catholic, the very reason he got so much support from France and from Rome, where he was born and died. 

This really confused me, so I went to ask some of the staff at the nearest desk. I just wanted to verify that we were talking about the Prince Charles I thought we were, to make my point that it was a little odd to talk about Scottish Episcopalians but not Scottish Catholics.  I asked three different women, one of whom went back to speak with the Director, to confirm that Charles was in fact Catholic. The first two didn't have any idea and the last thought this was so, but didn't know for sure.  Obviously, they don't work at the National Trust for Scotland because they love history. If you don't love history, perhaps you should just stop here...

Almost half a century ago, I started loving the stories of Henry VIII (who, desperate for a male heir, split from the Catholic church and created the Anglican / Episcopalian church) and of his younger (Protestant) daughter, Elizabeth I. Blame Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons

Of course Elizabeth I died without an heir and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. His grandmother was Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. The Latin for James is Jacobus and this is where we get the term 'Jacobean', referring first to the reign of James I, but later giving the name Jacobite to the supporters of James II and his descendants. This last was for my benefit as, though I've long understood who the Jacobean's were, I'd not caught on why they were called that.

There was a dwelling in this location (lucky people!) at the time of
the Battle, but the present structure is only about 100 years old, a re-creation.

Charles I was the son of James VI & he did badly - too much of that 'Divine Right of Kings', etc. - and got his head cut off by Oliver Cromwell's lot, the Puritans. His son, Charles II managed to get back on the throne after a bit. I'm not clear about why; I've never been very interested in the Puritans, though they had their points. Charles II had plenty of offspring, but none were legitimate. Almost a relief in some ways as his wife was a devout Catholic and he himself converted on his deathbed.  

I've nothing personal against Catholics, OK? This is just the history of Britain. Their experience with Elizabeth I's older sister, 'Bloody' Mary, fear of The Spanish Inquisition and also the desire to be free from the authority of Rome will all have fed their motivation to remain Protestant. However, as can be seen from all the deathbed conversions there was some ambivalence on the part of the monarchs.

Anyhow, Charles II's brother, James VII - of Scotland - & II - of England - took over. Only his first-Protestant-until-her- deathbed wife, had died and his second wife was Catholic all around, hence his heirs would be Catholic. This - and probably more of that Divine Right stuff - lost him his job (though not his head; it was called the Glorious Revolution) and they lived out their days in France. 

The eldest daughter of James II (by his first wife) was much more acceptable: Protestant, with a Protestant husband. So they got William & Mary over from the Netherlands. which left James II's Catholic descendants hanging around in France. The would-have-been James III was known as 'The Old Pretender' and his son, Charles Edward Stuart, as 'The Young Pretender', or 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.  Meanwhile, after William & Mary, came Mary's sister, Anne.  Then they had to fish about again and find another Protestant ruler, this time a Hanoverian Lutheran, George I whose great-grandfather was James IV & I. Then his son, George II, the last monarch who was born outside of Britain. Which brings us to 1746.

Having been, I can now tell you this about Culloden Moor:

  • The battle there was the last major battle fought on British soil.
  • It only lasted about an hour and somewhere around 1,000-2,000 men died in that hour, almost all Jacobites.
  • 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' was rather cowardly, remaining at the back of the field rather than taking his place at the front. He was also very greedy. Had he 'settled' for taking Edinburgh and reigning as King of Scotland, it is thought he'd have got away with that. Instead, he tried to take England as well, with a vastly outnumbered, exhausted army. He had a perilous few months escaping capture, but eventually was rescued by a French ship and died in Rome at the ripe old age of 67.
  • Following this brutal battle, Jacobites were hunted down, the wearing of tartans or kilts was banned, the power of the clan chiefs was removed; in short it became illegal to be Scottish in much the same was it was illegal to be Irish (in Bill's words). The Highland Clearances followed shortly after. 
I don't know how much of the present day wish of some of the Scots to be independent again comes from this history, but keeping the Gaelic culture alive probably has to include remembering events such as these. There is an English phrase, 'Proud as a Scot' and I suspect proud people have long memories. 

As to the museum at Culloden Moor? I wouldn't bother if I were you. Just read the history on Wikipedia and walk the field (preferably on a cloudy day). Or, if you don't mind having your bodice ripped, read the first few of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. 

I can also highly recommend Bess of Hardwick, First Lady of Chatsworth, by Mary S. Lovell, set in the time of Elizabeth I, which both Bill and I read and enjoyed while we were on this trip to Scotland. 


Anonymous said...

It's been quite some months since I have checked in with my blog reader, and what a pleasant greeting to find your post about Scotland.

Interesting isn't it - that 'history' is different from history. Still, the romance of the mythology is admittedly compelling and I adore my family's coat of arms (and its motto: fide et opera).

I wish I knew as much history as you but alas my interest developed later in life so I am still learning. Thanks for sharing the wonderful and iconic Scottish landscapes, and your knowledge and interpretations!

Shelley said...

Hello Ilegirl! I'm thinking there are probably as many versions of 'history' as their are people to tell it. Viewed from the top, bottom, inside or outside; all will see it differently. My knowledge is superficial I assure you, but I do enjoy this topic. I've read enough fiction (initially) and biography that I feel I 'know' some of the characters. Without that background I suspect it's all rather boring. Still, I provided pictures which must help some!

Gam Kau said...

This is so impressive. I really struggle with history; my brain seems unable to retain dates/names and it is a real hindrance. I've read so many history books trying to wrap my mind around some basic British history, but really it's not working so summations like this are really nice for me. It doesn't stick, but it makes sense at least for a while. :)
I learn so much from reading your blog!

Shelley said...

Gam Kau - I started with historical fiction (it's almost embarrassing to admit, but true) and that gave me a better grasp of some of the characters. Philippa Gregory's books about White Queens are excellent. I read Forever Amber years ago. It is set in the time of Charles II, I believe. I was considered quite racy back in its day, but I expect it is fairly bland by today's standards; I've only read it the once. Once I found characters that interested me I didn't mind wading through their biographies so much (I tend to read women's biographies far more than men's). I always found American history dead boring myself. I do plan to choose a few wives of Presidents to read about.

sanda said...

All very interesting but too far down in the weeds for me to wrap my mind around. I do love history and British history is appealing up to a point. The name Culloden rings a bell with me; think it's mentioned in my family genealogy. Your photos of Scotland are very nice. I read a Forever Amber years ago.