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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Message from Charles at Corstorphine


For the fist time during their march, the Highlanders descried some dragoons as they approached Corstorphine, on the morning of the 16th of September. This was the party which Colonel Gardiner had left at Corstorphine the preceding evening. To reconnoitre the dragoons, a few young well-armed Highlanders were sent forward on horseback, and ordered to go as near as possible to ascertain their number. These young men rode close up to the dragoons, and by way of frolic or defiance, for they could have no intention of attacking the dragoons, fired their pistols at them. To the utter astonishment of the Highlanders, the dragoons, instead of returning the fire, became panic-struck, and instantly wheeling about, galloped off towards the main body. Participating in the fears of his advanced guard, General Fowkes immediately ordered a retreat, and between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, the inhabitants of Edinburgh beheld the singular spectacle of two regiments of dragoons flying along the "Long Dykes", now the site of Princess Street, when no one pursued. The faint-hearted dragoons stopped a short time at Leith, and afterwards proceeded to Musselburgh. The foot returned to the city.

Several hours before the retreat of the dragoons, a gentleman of the city had brought in a message from the prince, requiring a surrender, and threatening, in case of resistance, to subject the city to all the rigours of military usage; but no regard was paid to the message, and although the messenger had the imprudence (for which he was sent to prison by the provost), to communicate the message to the inhabitants, they manifested no great symptoms of alarm, relying, probably, on the resistance of the dragoons. After these had fled, however, the people became exceedingly clamorous, and crowds of the inhabitants ran about the streets crying, that since the dragoons had fled, it was madness to think of resistance. The provost, on returning from the West Port, where he had been giving orders after the retreat of the dragoons, was met by some of the inhabitants, who implored him not to persist in defending the town, for if he did, they would all be murdered. He reproved them for their impatience, and proceeded to the Goldsmith's Hall, where he met the magistrates and town council and a considerable number of the inhabitants, who had there assembled. After some consultation, a deputation was sent to the law-officers of the crown, requiring their attendance and advice; but it was ascertained that these functionaries had left the town. The captains of the trained bands and volunteers were next sent for, and called upon for their opinion as to defending the city, but they were at a loss to advise. The meeting was divided upon the question whether the town should be defended or not, and in the course of the debate much acrimony was displayed by the speakers on both sides. The hall being too small to contain the crowd which collected, the meeting adjourned to the New church aisle, which was immediately filled with people, the great majority of whom called out for a surrender, as they considered it impossible to defend the town. Some persons attempted to support the contrary view, but they were found to desist by the noise and clamour of the majority.

While matters were in this train, a letter was handed in from the door addressed to the lord provost, magistrates, and town council of Edinburgh. The letter was put into the hands of Orrock, the deacon of shoemakers, who, on opening it, informed the meeting that it was subscribed "Charles, P.R.". On hearing this announcement, the provost stopped Deacon Orrick, who was about to read the letter, said he would not be a witness to the reading of such a communication, and rising from his seat, left the place, accompanied by the greater part of the council and a considerable number of the inhabitants. The provost, however, returned to the council-chamber with his friends, and sent for the city assessors to give their opinion as to whether the letter should be read or not. One of these lawyers appeared, but afraid to commit himself, stated that the matter was too grave for him to give an opinion upon. The provost still demurred, but the assembly getting impatient to know the contents of the letter, his lordship tacitly consented to its being read. It was as follows:

"From our Camp, 16th September, 1745.

"Being now in a condition to make our way into the capital of his majesty's ancient kingdom of Scotland, we hereby summon you to receive us, as you are in duty bound to do; and in order to it, we hereby require you, upon receipt of this, to summon the town-council and take proper measures for securing the peace and quiet of the city, which we are very desirous to protect. But if you suffer any of the usurper's troops to enter the town, or any of the cannon, arms, or ammunition in it, (whether belonging to the public or private persons), to be carried off, we shall take it as a breach of your duty, and a heinous offence against the king and us, and shall resent it accordingly. We promise to preserve all the rights and liberties of the city, and the particular property of every one of his majesty's subjects. But if any opposition be made to us, we cannot answer for the consequences, being firmly resolved at any rate to enter the city; and in that case, if any of the inhabitants are found in arms against us, they must not expect to be treated as prisoners of war".

After this letter was read, the clamour for surrender became more loud and general than ever, and, agreeably to the wish of the meeting, a deputation, consisting of four members of the council, was appointed to wait upon the prince immediately, and to request that he would grant the citizens time to deliberate on the contents of his letter.

While the meeting was debating the question as to the reading of Charles's letter, an incident occurred, which, it is believed, gave the finishing stroke to the mock heroism of the volunteers. After the retreat of the dragoons, the volunteers had assembled, on the ringing of the fire-bell, at their respective posts, to be in readiness to obey any instructions which might be sent to them. Four companies, out of the six, were drawn up in the Lawnmarket between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, but before they had sufficient time to recover from the agitation into which they had been thrown by the call to arms, a well-dressed person, unknown to those assembled, entered the Lawnmarket from the West-Bow, in great haste, mounted upon a grey horse, and galloping along the lines of the volunteers, intimated, in a voice sufficiently high to be heard by the astonished volunteers, that he had seen the Highland army, and that it amounted to 16,000 men! This "lying messenger did not stop to be questioned, and disappeared in a moment". Captain Drummond, soon after this occurrence, arrived upon the spot, and, after consulting with his brother officers, marched up the four companies to the castle, where they delivered up their arms. In a short time the other companies also went up and surrendered their arms, and were followed by the other bodies of militia that had received arms from the castle magazine.

About eight o'clock at night, the four deputies left the city to wait upon the prince at Gray's Mill; but they had scarcely cleared the walls, when intelligence was received by the lord provost and magistrates, (who still remained assembled in the council-chamber), that the transports with General Cope's army on board had arrived off Dunbar, about 27 miles east from Edinburgh, and that as the wind was unfavourable for bringing them up the Frith, Cope intended to land his troops at Dunbar and march to the relief of the city. As this intelligence altered the aspect of affairs, messengers were immediately despatched to bring back the deputies before they should reach their destination, but they did not overtake them. The deputies returned to the city about ten o'clock, and brought along with them a letter of the following tenor, signed by Secretary Murray:-

"His royal highness the prince regent thinks his manifesto, and the king his father's declaration, already published, a sufficient capitulation for all his majesty's subjects to accept with joy. His present demands are, to be received into the city as the son and representative of the king his father, and obeyed as such when there. His royal highness supposes, that since the receipt of his letter to the provost no arms or ammunitions have been suffered to be carried off or concealed, and will expect a particular account of all things of that nature. Lastly, he expects a positive answer before two o'clock in the morning, otherwise he will think himself obliged to take measures conform".

This letter gave rise to a lengthened discussion in the town-council, which ended in a resolution to send out a second deputation to the price, and , under the pretence of consulting the citizens, to solicit a few hours' delay. The deputies accordingly set out in a coach to the prince's head-quarters at two o'clock in the morning, and had an interview with Lord George Murray, whom they prevailed upon to second their application for delay. His lordship went into the prince's apartment, and one of the deputies overheard him endeavouring to persuade Charles to agree to the request made by them, but the prince refused. Lord George having reported the failure of his attempt to the deputies, was induced by them to return and make another trial, but he was again unsuccessful. Charles then requested that the deputies should be ordered away, and being offended at Lord George Murray's entreaties, desired Lord Elcho, the son of the Earl of Wemyss, who had just joined him, to intimate the order to them, which he accordingly did.


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