Culloden Battlefield, site of the last battle
to be held on the soil of mainland Britain, is a place of great significance
to Highlanders. This is the place where the hopes of the Jacobites finally faded
with the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, the direct
descendant of the Stuart royal line.
Charles Edward Stuart landed in 1745 and raised
his standard at Glenfinnan. He led an army comprising of many of the Highland
clans but also including English, French and Italians opposing the official
government forces of the king, George 1. At first his campaign was very successful
and he got as far as Derby before being ill-advised to turn back at that point.
If he had not, then the whole course of history might have been different. The
Battle of Culloden was not, as is popularly supposed, a battle between English
and Scots, as many clans supported the protestant Hanoverian government side
and many English were in favour of the catholic Prince Charles.
The Battle itself took place on 16th April 1746
on a windswept moor a few miles outside of Inverness. It is indisputable that
the battle plans went sadly awry as far as the Highlanders were concerned and
they were virtually wiped out within less than 30 minutes. Their positioning
on the field was poor, their weapons were inferior and they were already tired
from marching before the battle even began. The bloodshed continued after the
battle was over when any survivors were pursued and put to death along with
their suspected supporters over coming months.
Prince Charles fled south, taking refuge at
Moy and then spent the next six months as a fugitive hiding out in the wilds
of the Highlands before escaping by boat to Skye with the help of the legendary
Flora Macdonald. There are many tales about the heroism of those who gave him
shelter along the way. He was finally taken back to Europe by a French ship
and died, an old man, in Italy having reputedly led a dissolute life.
Memorial cairn to the Culloden dead
The Visitor Centre at Culloden Battlefield, managed by the
National Trust for Scotland, is open for visitors from February to December
and includes an exhibition, film, shop and cafe. A new enlarged visitor centre
is planned and work will start in 2006.