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The Lyon in Mouring

Or a Collection of Speeches, Letters, Journals, etc., relative to the affairs of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the Rev. Robert Forbes, A.M., Bishop of Ross and Caithness 1746 - 1775. Edited from his Manuscript with a Preface by Henry Paton, M.A., in three volumes.


The Lyon in Mourning is a collection of Journals, Narratives, and Memoranda relating to the life of Prince Charles Edward Stuart at and subsequent to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The formation of this collection was to a great extent the life-work of the Rev. Robert Forbes, M.A., Bishop of Ross and Caithness.

He was the son of Charles Forbes, a schoolmaster in the parish of Rayne, Aberdeenshire, and of Marjory Wright, and was born there in 1708, his baptism being recorded in the parochial register as having taken place on 4th May of that year. He must have been a studious youth, as he was sent to Marischal College, Aberdeen, in or about 1722, at the early age of fourteen, and graduated there as Master of Arts in 1726. He then proceeded to qualify himself for orders in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and coming to Edinburgh in June 1735, he was there ordained priest by Bishop Freebairn. In December of that year he became assistant to the Rev. William Law at Leith, and soon afterwards, at the request of the congregation, was appointed his colleague. At Leith, it may be said, lie lived and laboured for the remainder of his life.

Like most of the Episcopalians of that day, he was an ardent Jacobite, indeed one of the most ardent, and but for a timely interposition of the ‘hated Hanoverian’ government would not improbably have shared the fate of some of his brethren whose end he chronicles. In that case there would have been no Lyon in Mourning, and it is but fair to say that (though the Lyon can never be considered, and does not pretend to be, an impartial relation of the events with which it deals, our literature of the Rebellion of 1745 would have been greatly the poorer by its absence. Nay, it may even be said that, but for the continuous energy and single-eyed purpose of Bishop Forbes in this work, much of what is now known on this subject would never have come to light.

On hearing of the advent of Prince Charles Edward in the West Highlands, Mr. Forbes, with two Episcopalian clergymen and some other gentlemen, started off with the intention of sharing his fortunes, but all were arrested on suspicion at St. Ninians, near Stirling, and imprisoned. He notes the fact in the Baptismal Register of his congregation, as follows: "A great interruption has happened by my misfortune of being taken prisoner at St. Ninian’s, in company with the Rev. Messrs. Thomas Drummond and John Willox, Mr. Stewart Carmichael and Mr. Robert Clark, and James Mackay and James Carmichael, servants, upon Saturday, the seventh day of September 1745, and confined in Stirling Castle till February 4th, 1746, and in Edinburgh Castle till May 29th of said year. We were seven in number, taken upon the seventh day of the week, the seventh day of the month, and the seventh month of the year, reckoning from March." An incident of the roping of these prisoners at their removal from Stirling to Edinburgh is narrated by the author.

After his release from imprisonment Mr. Forbes appears to have been invited to reside in the house of one of the most wealthy members of his congregation, Dame Magdalene Scott, Laclv Bruce of Kinross, the widow of Sir William Bruce of Kinross. She resided in the Citadel of Leith, and was a strong Jacobite; Mr. Forbes tells how her house was on more than one occasion the special object of the Government’s concern, as the Prince himself was supposed to be concealed there. For this lady Mr. Forbes cherished the highest esteem, speaking of her as ‘ the worthy person, the protection of whose roof I enjoy.’ She died in June 1752, aged 82; but before that event took place he had left her house, on the occasion of his marriage to his first wife, Agnes Gairey. This was in 1749, and the lady died on 4th April of the following year. He afterwards married, as his second wife, Rachel, second daughter of Ludovick Houston of Johnstone, in Renfrewshire, of whom he makes frequent mention in The Lyon. She was in fullest sympathy with her husband’s Jacobite proclivities, and occasionally sent presents to the Prince abroad.

In 1762 Mr. Forbes was chosen and appointed Bishop of Ross and Caithness, and in 1767 he was elected Bishop of Aberdeen by a majority of the local clergy, but the College of Bishops disallowed the election in his case, and another was appointed. How keenly Mr. Forbes felt this action will be seen from his conversation and correspondence with Bishop Gordon of London. He twice visited his diocese in the north, and kept full journals of his progresses6 They are similar to a diary of his visit to Moffat, which is inserted in The Lyon, and which was doubtless so inserted because of its concern with certain Jacobite matters; but it is also of interest on other accounts.

In later life, when, from having less to chronicle, he was not so taken up with this work, Bishop Forbes was an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh Magazine, in which he published a number of topographical and antiquarian articles. Several of these, relating to Roslin Chapel, were collected and printed in 1774, under the num. de plume of Philo - Roskelyis is. He died at Leith on 18th November 1775 and was buried in the Maltman’s Aisle in South Leith parish church. He does not appear to have had any children.

The origin of this collection, The Lyon in Mourning, probably dates from the author’s imprisonment in Stirling Castle or Edinburgh Castle. In the latter place he was brought into contact with some of those who had taken an active share in the cause of Prince Charles, and it was, doubtless, while listening to their narratives that he was inspired with the idea of committing them to writing. Why he called his collection by the name it bears, he nowhere explains. It has been suggested that it was e in allusion to the woe of Scotland for her exiled race of princes; the Lyon being the heraldic representative of the nation. Bishop Forbes, in his own mind, no doubt, identified the Scottish nation with the comparatively few Jacobites within the country.

But whatever may be said about the title, the Bishop’s purpose was, as he declared, to make up 4 a Collection of Journals and other papers relative to the important and extraordinary occurrences of life that happened within a certain period of time, and which, he adds, ‘will serve to fix a distinguishing mark upon that period as a most memorable rera to all posterity. . . . I have, he proceeds to say, e a great anxiety to make the Collection as compleat and exact as possible for the instruction of future ages in a piece of history the most remarkable and interesting that ever happened in any age or country.’ Nor was it only what particularly concerned that ‘certain Young Gentleman (as they were wont to style the Prince) that Bishop Forbes set himself to gather information, but also whatever could be gleaned about those who followed his fortunes. He was even desirous that every act of kindness performed by the victorious Hanoverians towards their vanquished enemies, should be cherished with the names of the doers, that they witli the others 4 may be carefully recorded and transmitted to posterity, according to truth and justice.’

And thus, though it be a purely Jacobite Collection, it is e\ident throughout that the author was most scrupulous with regard to the truth of the facts he relates. Hence, in seeking for narratives of the different episodes in the rebellion, his endeavour was to get them at first-hand from participators therein. 'never chuse,’ he says, e to take matters of fact at second-hand if I can by any means have them from those who were immediately interested in them.'’ 'Where this could not be obtained, he instructed his correspondents to e have a particular attention to dates, and to names of persons and places; ’ for, he adds, e I love a precise nicety in all narratives of facts, as indeed one cannot observe too much exactness in these things. ... I love truth, let who will be either justified or condemned by it. ... I would not wish to advance a falsehood upon any subject,’ not even on Cumberland himself, for any consideration whatsoever.

His assiduity in the work is likewise noteworthy. Assuming that he began collecting in the end of 1746, by September 1747 he records that he has covered between twenty-four and thirty sheets, which by 19th April following had increased to about forty, by 4th July 1748, to sixty sheets, and by the following month about seventy, which he had bound up in several octavo volumes. These (from the point at which he mentions this) would be at this time four in number, for by ‘sheets,’ Bishop Forbes means a sheet of paper which, when folded, yields sixteen pages, and the number of pages in these first four volumes amount in the aggregate to 868 pages. He was now well advanced with another, the fifth, which ends with page 1112. The sixth volume is also dated on its title-page ‘1748,’ volume seventh, 1749, and volume eighth, 1750.

This eighth volume, however, could only have been begun in that year, as there is reference in it, near the end, to an event which happened in 1761. But as the seven volumes contain 1598 pages, or, as the author would have put it, ninety sheets, we have a pretty fair estimate of his diligence in the collecting, sometimes drafting, and in all cases transcribing his materials. Naturally, as the main facts of the Rebellion receded from public view by the progress of time and other events, interest would abate, and materials fall off, and this is evident enough from the compilation of volume eighth taking ten or eleven years, while the previous seven were accomplished in three or four. Volume ninth, again, gave the collector employment for at least fourteen years, for though it is dated in 1761, it contains correspondence down to April 1775. This volume, while it yields a few papers respecting the Rebellion of 1745, is chiefly occupied with a correspondence maintained by Bishop Forbes with other Jacobites, in which a most lively interest is taken in the daily life and affairs of Prince Charles on the Continent of Europe, and schemes suggested and devised for the realisation, some time or other, of Jacobite hopes. This correspondence is continued in the tenth and last volume, which, however, is only partly filled up, the rest of the volume consisting of blank pages. It was commenced in 1775, and goes on to October of that year, the death of Bishop Forbes occurring in the following month. Here, however, there is no lack of interest in the persons to whom we are introduced as engaged in the Cause along with Bishop Forbes. They are almost all Episcopalians. Indeed, the members of the Scottish Episcopal body were practically identified with the Stuart Cause from the Revolution onwards, until in despair, they, by a formal declaration, professedly severed themselves from it in or about 1780. Bishop Forbes did not live to see this, but even some time before his death evil tidings had frequently arrived and given rise to sad forebodings of shattered hopes, and the wrecking of long-cherished expectations.

To publish his Collection, Bishop Forbes could never be induced. He rightly judged it imprudent to print what could only be construed as a censure of the Government of the day, and which, accordingly, was likely to draw resentment not only upon himself, but upon any of the surviving actors whose names it was his desire to immortalise in story. Urged to it by one of his correspondents (Dr. John Burton of York, who, being himself a sufferer on the Prince’s account, published a pamphlet narrative of the Prince’s adventures and escape, and also of his own sufferings), Bishop Forbes always replied that he c waited a seasonable opportunity.1 His mind, as to this, further appears from the way in which he expresses himself to a brother in office in reference to Dr. Burton’s publication. It has made its appearance, he says, c contrary to my earnest and repeated remonstrances. I have resisted many solicitations, and I am well aware that this is far from being a proper time for the publication of truths of so much delicacy and danger, and therefore, for my part, I am resolved to wait for a more seasonable opportunity ;1 and when that would occur he could not imagine. This was in 1749, and, as the result shows, the opportunity never came for him. He did print a short account of the Prince's adventures at a later date, copies of which he sent to the Prince and others abroad; but this was only a trifle in comparison with what he had collected.

Naturally, The Lyon in Mourning was one of his most valued possessions, and he guarded it with the most jealous care. Only on one occasion would he allow it out of his own hands. He would show his friends the external bulk of it, but they were not permitted to pry within. One young relative, who did not apparently stand very high in the author’s favour, had the temerity to ask that the ‘black-edged volumes' might be sent to him in London for completing a narrative which he and another were preparing for publication, and in reply got the rebuff, that there was much room for doubting his competency for the task he had undertaken, while as for the loan of the Manuscript, he had .asked what the author would not have granted to his own father. However, Bishop Forbes judged it expedient to part with them for a time when his residence was threatened with a search. He had this to plead as an excuse to Dr. Burton, who begged the Bishop to furnish from his collection some materials to make his own proposed publication more perfect. 'I was obliged', he replies, ‘to secret my collection, having been threatened with a search for papers. I have therefore put my collection out of my own custody into the keeping of a friend, where I cannot have access to it without some difficulty, and I resolve to keep it so, that so I may defy the Devil and the Dutch.1 Indeed, this was his usual way with it, for he writes to another, "keep my collection in a concealment always, so that I am not afraid of its being seized by enemies; and it is not every friend I allow to see only the bulk and outside of my favourite papers."

The volumes are bound in sombre black leather, and have their edges blackened, while around each title-page is a deep black border. Some relics, which are, or have been, attached to the volumes for preservation, call for some notice. They are most numerous on the insides of the boards of the third volume. First, there is a piece of the Prince1s garters, which, says Bishop Forbes, ‘were French, of blue velvet, covered upon one side with white silk, and fastened with buckles. Next there is a piece of the gown worn by the Prince as Betty Burke, which was sent to Bishop Forbes by Mrs. MacDonald of Kingsburgh. It was a print dress, and from this or other pieces sent the pattern was obtained, and a considerable quantity of print similar to it made by Mr. Stewart Carmichael, already mentioned. Dresses made from this print were largely worn by Jacobite ladies, both in Scotland and England, for a time. Thirdly, there is a piece of tape, once part of the string of the apron which the Prince wore as part of his female attire. Bishop Forbes secured this relic from the hands of Flora MacDonald herself, who brought the veritable apron to Edinburgh, and gave the Bishop the pleasure of girding it on him. To keep company with these, another relic has been added to this board by the late Dr. Robert Chambers, and which, consequently, Bishop Forbes never saw. It is a piece of red velvet, which once formed part of the ornaments of the Prince’s sword-hilt, and was obtained, as that gentleman narrates, in the following way. On his march to England, the Prince rested on a bank at Faladam, near Blackshiels, where the sisters of one of his adherents, Robert Anderson of Whitburgh, served him and his followers with refreshments. Before he departed, one of the young ladies begged the Prince to give them some keepsake, whereupon he took out his knife, and cut off a piece of velvet and buff leather from the hilt of his sword. Up till 1836 at least, this was preciously treasured at Whitburgh; and it was from Miss Anderson of Whitburgh, of a later generation of course, that Mr. Chambers at that time obtained the scrap which he placed with the Bishop’s relics. On the inside of the back board of this volume are pieces of tartan, parts, respectively, of the cloth and lining of the waistcoat which the Prince received from MacDonald of Kingsburgh, when he relinquished his female garb. This he afterwards exchanged with Malcolm MacLeod for a coarser one, as it was too fine for the role of a servant, which he was then acting. Malcolm MacLeod hid the waistcoat in the cleft of a rock until the troubles should be over; but when he went to recover it, as it had lain there for a year, he found it all rotted, save a small piece, which, with two buttons, he forwarded to Bishop Forbes.

On the inside of the back board of the fourth volume the Bishop has had two small pieces of wood, one of which has now disappeared. The remaining piece is about one inch long, less than half an inch broad, and about one-eighth of an inch in thickness. These, says the author, are pieces of that identical eight-oared boat, on board of which Donald MacLeod, etc., set out with the Prince from Boradale, after the battle of Culloden, for Benbecula, in the Long Isle. The bits of wood were obtained and sent by MacDonald of Glenaladale. Then, finally, there are pieces of one of the lugs of the brogues or shoes which the Prince wore as Betty Burke, stuck on the inside of the back board of volume fifth. But the Bishop seems to have had the brogues themselves, and he and his Jacobite friends were wont to use them as drinking vessels on special occasions. This was reported to the Prince, who heartily enjoyed the idea, and remarked concerning Bishop Forbes, ‘Oh, he is an honest man indeed, and I hope soon to give him proofs how much I love and esteem him.'

After the death of Bishop Forbes The Lyon in Mourning remained a possession treasured by his widow for fully thirty years, she alone knowing of what value it had been in the eyes of her husband. With advancing years, however, she fell into poverty, and was obliged in 1806 to part with the Collection, a suitable purchaser having been found in Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton, who had set himself the task of preparing 4 An Historical Review of the different attempts made to restore the Stewart family to the throne from the Revolution in 1688 to the suppression of the Rebellion in 1745. Ill-health frustrated his design, and The Lyon in Mourning lay past unknown and unheeded at Allanton until it was unearthed by Dr. Robert Chambers. He purchased it from Sir Henry Steuart, and in 1834 published a number of the papers and narratives contained in it in his work entitled Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745. On an average computation it may be said that Dr. Chambers printed about a third part of what is contained in The Lyon, sometimes weaving one narrative with another, in order to present in fuller form, so far as possible, the entire history of the Prince in his adventures. But what Dr. Chambers there gave in the personal narratives of the contributors to The Lyon in Mourning, and what he has written in his admirable popular History of the Rebellion, on information derived chiefly from the same source, have but increased the desire of the historical student to have before him the complete text of The Lyon in Mourning as it stands in the original manuscript. This desire the present publication will gratify. The Council of the Scottish History Society originally proposed merely to print what Dr. Chambers had left unprinted. But consideration of the fact just stated, and the undesirability of the reader being required to compare two works in order to ascertain the real contents of the Lyon, led to the resolution to print the full text of the Bishop’s manuscript, especially also as the Jacobite Memoirs is now a somewhat scarce book.

Dr. Chambers bequeathed this Manuscript Collection of Bishop Forbes to the Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh, in whose library it now remains. He had previously attached to the first volume the following writing, to declare the genuineness and history of the work :—

‘Edinburgh, May 5, 1847.

‘I hereby certify that the accompanying manuscript, in ten volumes, entitled The Lyon in Mourning, was purchased by me in 1833 or 1834 from the late Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton, Baronet, by whom I was informed that he had bought it about thirty years before from the widow of Bishop Forbes of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the compiler, who had died in 1775.

‘The volume contains, in a chronological progress, many documents and anecdotes respecting the civil war of 1745, and the individuals concerned in it. On this account I desired to possess it, as I designed to make use of its contents for the improvement of a history of the insurrection which I had written.

(Signed) ‘ Robert Chambers.’

By a 'chronological progress’ the reader is not to understand that the events of the Prince’s life, or of the Rebellion, will be found related in order of time in the following pages. It can only mean that Bishop Forbes proceeded in a chronological progress from 1746 or 1747 till his death, in building up his Collection, telling us from time to time the dates of his receiving his information, which he enrols as he receives it, without any other regard to chronology than its coming to him. But to enable the reader to follow the chronological sequence of events, a brief chronological digest of the narratives contained in the Collection will be given as an Appendix in the third volume. In that volume also will be found an Index to the whole work. Into the plots and scheming prior to the actual outbreak of the insurrection, Bishop Forbes’s materials do not lead us. It is, however, satisfactory to learn that the Scottish History Society has in hand the publication of the Journal of the Prince’s Secretary, John Murray of Broughton, which promises to throw light upon much that was taking place anterior to the actual outbreak, as well as in other respects to supply the deficiencies of The Lyon in Mourning.

It only remains to acknowledge the kindness of the Faculty of Advocates in placing The Lyon in Mourning at the disposal of the Society for publication, and the uniform courtesy of Mr. Clark and his assistants in the Advocates’ Library in facilitating the progress of this work. Our acknowledgments are also due to the indefatigable Secretary of the Society, Mr. T. G. Law, and to his ever-willing assistants in the Signet Library, for their ready furtherance in the labours of reference and research.

You can download these three volumes here...
Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3



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