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The Story of Edinburgh Castle
Chapter IX. Bonnie Prince Charlie

The news of the landing of William in 1688 withdrew from James VII the loyalty of the Scottish Presbyterians and magistrates of the capital, who now, with the wildest enthusiasm, welcomed the invader. William and his Queen, Mary, were proclaimed the rulers of Scotland by a few representatives of an illegally constituted Convention of the Estates, who set forth that King James had forfeited all claim to the Throne. This was to open a new chapter in the history of the Castle. The Duke of Gordon, who had been entrusted with the care of the fortress, finding the ancient city in the hands of a drunken mob which had ransacked the wine-cellars of Cavalier families, at once drew up the drawbridge. He soon discovered that the garrison was divided in its political opinions, and fearing that a mutiny was imminent he held a consultation with his officers, with the result that forty-four of his soldiers were deprived of the King’s uniform and dismissed from the service, their places being taken by double the number of Highlanders loyal to the Stuarts. The Duke, being a Roman Catholic, was suspected by the new regime and requested by the Privy Council to surrender his command in favour of a Protestant officer; but this he refused to do, saying, "I am bound only to obey King James VII.” Meantime, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, had pushed north, and now reached Edinburgh with a remnant of Life Guards and Scots Greys who had refused to join the Scottish army in its revolt against James, and their presence gave great encouragement to the Royalists. Many bands of foot-soldiers from the surrounding country joined the revolutionary party, and they were reinforced by some six thousand Cameronians, who marched into the city bearing standards on which was displayed an open Bible surmounted by the words, “For Reformation according to the Word of God.” This great military display demoralized a section of the garrison, and the Duke of Gordon found himself in difficulties in dealing with them. “Bonnie Dundee” and other Royalists fled from the city with his band of troopers on hearing that William of Orange and his party had planned his assassination. The Duke of Gordon, from the ramparts of the Castle, followed their flight through his telescope as they galloped round the old church of the Holy Trinity and amongst the fields on the north side of the Castle rock. Gordon had fixed a red flag on the ancient postern as a sign that he wished to have a conference with the departing Viscount; on seeing this Dundee rode down the Kirk Brae, and, dismounting from his horse, scrambled up the rugged rock to the famous postern, now marked by a memorial tablet, where he entreated the beleaguered


Duke of Gordon to come with him and raise the Highland clans for King James. To this suggestion Gordon would not listen, preferring rather to hold the Castle at all costs. As Dundee was about to retire the Duke asked him, “Whither go you?” “Wherever the shade of Montrose may direct me,” was the pensive and poetic reply, and Dundee clambered down the rocks to rejoin his troopers after bidding farewell to the Duke, whom he was never to meet again.

The Earl of Lothian and Marquis of Tweeddale now appeared at the gate of the Castle and, in the name of the Estates, demanded its surrender within the space of twenty-four hours; they also tried to induce the garrison to join the revolutionaries by the bribe of twelve months’ pay for each soldier. "My Lords,” said Gordon, “without the express orders of my royal master, King James VII, I cannot surrender the Castle,” whereupon the Duke was publicly proclaimed a traitor and outlaw, to which he scornfully replied, throwing the men some guinea pieces to drink the King’s health, "I would advise you not to proclaim men traitors who wear the King’s coat till they have turned it.”

The Earl of Leven was ordered to blockade the Castle with his Cameronians and three hundred Highlanders, under the command of the Marquis of Argyll. It is interesting to note that from these warriors two famous Scottish regiments were raised in the short space of twenty-four hours. One was called the 25th or "Edinburgh Regiment,” known to-day as the 25th King’s Own Scottish Borderers, which bears on its colours the triple castle with the city motto, Nisi Domimis frustra; and the other the 26th Cameronians, or, as they are more familiarly known, “The Cameronians” (Scottish Rifles).

The siege was pressed with all fury, and the defenders of the Castle were further reduced by the discharge of some eighty of the rank and file whose loyalty to James could not be depended upon. There were now only some eighty or ninety men left, including officers and volunteers. Barricades were thrown up behind the gates, and the gallant Gordon prepared for a stubborn defence, although he had written to James in Ireland that he could not hold out longer than six months without relief. The little garrison had to work twenty-two guns, and their ammunition, it appears, only amounted to thirty barrels of gun powder,

The whole rock was now surrounded by the besieging army, to which had been added three battalions of the highly trained Scots Brigade under General Hugh Mackay of Scoury, with a brigade of artillery, who brought with them a great quantity of wool-packs, which they used to form breastworks. Mackay planted batteries in various parts of Edinburgh commanding the Castle. From High Riggs he raked the royal palace and the Half-Moon Battery with his eighteen-pounders, from a site on which now stands the Register House he replied to the guns from the King’s Bastion, and from a point to the west of Heriot’s Hospital his mortars blazed with deadly precision. A breach was made in the western wall, but the precipitous rock at this point made an assault impracticable. Mackay’s bombs exploded with continuous fury within the walls of the fortress, and by April it hardly seemed possible for the Royalists to hold out much longer. The roofs of nearly every building had been torn off, the water-supply was at a low ebb; but, as if sent by Providence, snow fell to a considerable depth, and was immediately stored to quench the thirst of those who stood so loyally to their guns.

The Duke of Gordon now gave up all hope of relief from the King he was so bravely fighting for. In the uniform of an officer of James VII, and wearing the Order of the Thistle, he held a parley with Major Somerville, who represented the Earl of Leven. It was not found possible, however, to arrange satisfactory terms, and so the bombardment recommenced with greater fury. A continuous cannonade was kept up on both sides for twenty-four hours, at a great cost of life to the Jacobite soldiers. The handful of defenders had subsisted for ten days on dry bread and salt herrings, eaten raw, the only food now remaining. 1 heir ammunition was coming to an end, and it had become a physical impossibility to hold out longer. Accordingly, on June 13 Gordon lowered the King’s colour that he had so bravely kept flying on the tower of the Royal Palace for six months, and the gallant little band surrendered their stronghold on condition that the Royalist soldiers should enjoy their full liberty, and that Colonel Winram, a persecutor of the Covenanters, should have security for his life along with his estates.

The Duke assembled the remnant of his followers, called the roll, and handed to each a small sum of money, after which the men marched through the gates, a bedraggled, half-starved, ragged group numbering fifty all told. They suffered shamefully at the hands of the mob, having to fight their way to the city gates before making good their escape. The Duke was arrested, but soon after was given his freedom on promising not to lift arms against William of Orange. This was the last occasion on which Edinburgh Castle was held by the Jacobites.

During the siege the buildings had suffered severely; in fact, scarcely any had escaped the fire of Mackay’s guns and mortars. The work of restoration was, therefore, a serious matter, but it was now taken in hand under the supervision of John Drury, chief of the Scottish Engineers. The work when completed left the Castle ramparts practically as we see them to-day.

A curious story is told in a note to Law’s Memorials of an apparition which is supposed to have been seen at this time. The Earl of Balcarres was lying as a prisoner in the Castle, when from his bed he became aware of the presence of the apparent figure of Claverhouse. After looking sorrowfully at the Earl, the spectre strode slowly from the chamber without a word. Lord Balcarres, in great surprise, not suspecting that what he saw was an apparition, called out repeatedly to his friend to stop, but received no answer, and subsequently learned that at the very moment when the shadow stood before him Dundee had breathed his last near the field of Killiecrankie.

The next and perhaps not the least interesting episode in the story of the Castle took place in 1745, with the advent of the romantic u Young Pretender,” Prince Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie,” in his endeavour to regain the Crown that was so hopelessly lost to the Stuarts when William of Orange came over.

Prince Charlie, after his first arrival in the Highlands, had marched south with his following of clansmen, who now flocked round him in great numbers, and finally reached Edinburgh, where he proceeded to the old Palace of Holyrood.

When about to enter the historic royal dwelling a cannon-ball fired from the Castle struck James the Fifth’s Tower, not a very pleasant reception for the young Prince, who, however, entered the outer gate without betraying alarm. James Hepburn of Keith, a staunch Jacobite who had taken part in the rebellion of 1715, came forward from the crowd, bent his knee in token of homage, then, drawing his sword and raising it aloft, he marshalled the way before Charles upstairs. Meanwhile, the citizens of Edinburgh were in a state of great excitement and perturbation. The Castle, situated on its inaccessible rock, and held by a sufficient garrison, was quite secure ; but the cit' was protected on the south and east only bv the old wall, hastily erected after the battle of Flodden, by the Nor’ Loch on the north side, and by some slight fortifications. The wall was from ten to twenty feet in height and was embattled, but the parapet was too narrow for mounting cannon, and was in various places overlooked by lines of lofty houses, only a few feet distant, so that it afforded little protection to the city. The Lord Provost, Archibald Stewart, a well-known Jacobite, was afterward brought to trial for neglect of duty in this emergency. He certainly was not hearty in taking or countenancing measures for the defence of the capital, and his reluctance to assist in the preparations which were made to resist the attacks of the Highlanders is said to have been due to his desire to thwart his burgh rivals, who, under the leadership of ex-Provost Drummond, were zealous in their efforts to defend the town, rather than to the lack of means at the disposal of the authorities, utterly inadequate for that purpose as these were. The only trustworthy force in the city, in addition to two regiments of dragoons, consisted of the veteran soldiers of the Town Guard, about one hundred and twenty in


number. There was, indeed, a numerous body of militia, called Trained Bands, divided into sixteen companies, and numbering upward of a thousand men, but they were entirely undisciplined, and not a few of the men were known to be friendly to the Jacobite cause.

Toward the end of August 1745 the more zealous citizens had proposed to raise a regiment of a thousand men for the defence of the town, the cost to be met by voluntary subscription ; and the professors of the University and the clergy, who were warmly attached to the Government, made liberal offers of money for that purpose. But the royal permission was not obtained till September 9, and up to the time of Prince Charlie’s arrival in the vicinity of the capital only two hundred men had been embodied, and these were for the most part persons of dissolute character who were tempted to enlist merely by the promise of pay. In addition to this force, which was designated the Edinburgh Regiment, about four hundred of the inhabitants formed themselves into a separate band or association, and were supplied with arms from the Castle. They were divided into six companies, officers were appointed to command them, and they were regularly drilled twice a day. Several old pieces of cannon were placed on the walls, chiefly obtained from the shipping at Leith, and the various gates of the city were strongly barricaded. Many of the volunteers were doubtless gallant young men, students from the University and so forth, but by far the greater part were citizens of ages unfit for arms, and without previous habit and experience. They had, therefore, no great stomach, even from the first, for the dangers of an encounter with stalwart Highland warriors, and on the near approach of the insurgent army their show of zeal and valour very speedily disappeared.

When intelligence was received that the van of the rebel army had reached the village of Kirkliston, a few miles to the west of the city, it was proposed that the two regiments of dragoons, supported by the Town Guard, the Edinburgh Regiment, and the volunteers, should march out and give battle to the enemy. This proposal was agreed to by the Provost, who placed ninety of the Town Guard at the disposal of General Guest, and about two hundred and fifty of the volunteers pledged themselves to march out with the dragoons. The appointed signal for their assembling was the ringing of the fire-bell, and its ominous sound was heard on the forenoon of the Sabbath, the 15 th, during divine service; but, “ instead of rousing the hearts of the volunteers like the sound of a trumpet, it rather reminded them of a passing knell.” The churches were immediately emptied, and the inhabitants in a state of great excitement poured out into the High Street, where they found the volunteers drawn up in the Lawn Market, preparatory to marching against the Highlanders. Immediately after, Hamilton’s Dragoons, who had been summoned from Leith, rode up the street on their way to Corstorphine, and were welcomed with loud huzzas. At sight of the volunteers they in turn shouted and clashed their swords against each other. The volunteers now prepared to march, but their mothers, wives, and other female relatives and friends, clinging to them, implored them with tears and cries not to risk their lives in an encounter with savage Highland men. At the word of command, however, they began to march up the Lawn Market, led by their captain, ex-Provost Drummond; but the scene they had just witnessed had not tended to animate their drooping courage : some lagged behind, some stood still in the street, some stepped aside into closes or courts, and some bolted into houses whose doors stood temptingly open. In descending the famous West Bow they disappeared by scores into doorways or down wynds, until their commander, halting at the West Port and looking behind him, found to his surprise and mortification that nearly the whole of his valiant followers had disappeared and that only a few of his personal friends remained.

Throughout the whole of Monday the capital was in a state of great agitation. Early in the day a message from the Prince was delivered to the citizens by a person named Alves, requiring them to submit, and threatening severe measures if they ventured to resist. The next day the dragoons got into touch with Charles’ vanguard at Coltbridge, but fled at once, whereupon crowds of the inhabitants collected in the streets and clamoured loudly for the surrender of the city. At four o’clock in the afternoon the Provost called a meeting of the magistrates to consider what should be done. The officers of the Crown were invited to attend and give their advice, but it was found that they had prudently withdrawn from the city. A large number of unauthorized persons crowded into the chamber where the Provost and magistrates were assembled, so that it was found necessary to adjourn to the New Church aisle, where the question “Defend or not defend the town?” was put. The meeting was exceedingly noisy and tumultuous, and whilst the excitement was at its height, the great majority clamorous for surrender, a letter was handed in from the Prince demanding that the city should be given up, and promising that the property of the citizens should be protected and their rights and liberties preserved. The perusal of this letter finally decided the meeting in favour of a capitulation, and deputies were immediately appointed to wait on the Prince with instructions to solicit time for deliberation. Meanwhile, the volunteers were drawn up in the streets in readiness to obey any orders that might be given them, when a gentleman, whose person was not recognized, rode up the West Bow on a grey horse, and, passing rapidly along the front of their line, cried out that he had just seen the Highlanders and that they were sixteen thousand strong. This announcement completed the dismay of the disheartened volunteers, who immediately marched to the Castle and delivered up their arms to General Guest, the governor. The other bodies of militia that had received arms from the Castle magazine speedily followed their example, so that, although the Trained Bands still continued to man the walls, all hope of resistance was now virtually laid aside. Early the next morning Cameron of Lochiel succeeded in gaining entrance to the city through the Netherbow, and by dawn his men were in possession of all the city gates.

At the battle of Prestonpans, on September 20, Charles was successful in routing Cope’s cavalry, who fled for refuge to the Castle of Edinburgh. The account runs: "When all arrangements had been completed, Charles addressed his men in these words: 'Follow me, gentlemen, and by the blessing of God I will this day make you a free and happy people.’” He had expressed a wish to lead the charge, but in compliance with the urgent request of the chiefs he consented to take a position between the two lines, in the midst of a small guard. The morning had now fully dawned, and the beams of the rising sun were beginning to illuminate the waters and estuary on their right \ but the mist was still rolling in huge masses over the morass on the left and the cornfields in front, so as to hide the armies from each other. Everything being now in readiness, the order to advance was given. A brief and solemn pause ensued, during which the clansmen took off their bonnets, raised their faces to heaven, and uttered a short prayer; then, pulling their bonnets over their brows and throwing aside their plaids, they began their charge. They advanced in silence, at first slowly, but as they proceeded they quickened their pace, and moved with such rapidity that they had to halt once or twice to recover their broken ranks before closing with the enemy. At this moment the mist rose like a curtain and showed the royal troops, and the dark masses of the clans rushing on to the attack. With a tremendous yell the Highlanders threw themselves with irresistible impetuosity upon the glittering ranks of their enemy. The first squadron of dragoons was ordered to attack them; but on receiving an irregular fire from the Highlanders’ fusees they were seized with a disgraceful panic, and, wheeling about, rode over the artillery guard and galloped from the field.

The second squadron, under Colonel Gardiner, was then led forward to the attack by the gallant veteran himself, who encouraged his men to be firm; but they had not advanced many paces when they too wavered, halted, and then followed the first squadron in their flight.

Hamilton’s Dragoons behaved even worse than Gardiner’s, for no sooner did they perceive the flight of their comrades than they turned and galloped off the field in confusion without striking a blow. A desperate effort was made by Cope and other officers to rally the dragoons, and by dint of threats and entreaties and by presenting pistols at the men’s heads they succeeded in turning about four hundred into a field, whence they endeavoured to lead them back to the charge. But the terror of the soldiers was too deep-rooted \ the accidental firing of a pistol renewed their panic, and they went off at full gallop to Edinburgh, and through the High Street, gaining the Castle with great confusion and uproar. General Preston, however, who was again in command of the fortress, having taken it over from General Guest, who, it is said, regarded the place as indefensible and had recommended its surrender, ordered them to be gone or he would open his guns upon them for cowards and deserters. Terrified by this threat, the runaways turned their horses down the Castle Wynd and pursued their flight to Stirling.

The Highlanders entered Edinburgh a few hours after the battle, playing their pipes and displaying in triumph the colours they had taken from the dragoons. Next day the main body marched through the principal streets of the capital, exhibiting their prisoners and spoil, amid the joyous acclamations of the multitude, while the pibrochs played the Jacobite tune, “The King shall enjoy his own again.” The Highlanders in their excitement fired their pieces in the air, and one of them being loaded with ball, a bullet grazed the forehead of Miss Nairne, a young Jacobite lady who was waving her handkerchief from a balcony-overlooking the Castle Hill. "Thank God,” exclaimed the fair enthusiast, as soon as she was able to speak, “the accident has happened to me, whose principles are known. Had it befallen a Whig, they would have said it was done on purpose.”

The great contrast in the methods of Charles and Cromwell in housing prisoners is to be found in a letter which the Prince sent to his father the night after the battle: “I am in great difficulties how I shall dispose of my wounded prisoners. If I make a hospital of the church it will be looked upon as a great profanation. Come what will, I am resolved not to let the poor wounded men lie in the streets, and if I do no better, I will make a hospital of the palace, and leave it to them.” The wounded that were brought to Edinburgh were placed in the Royal Infirmary. One of the Whig officers broke his parole and escaped into the Castle and the rest were sent to Perth. On their recovery the wounded were all released on taking oath not to serve against the Prince for twelve months, an engagement which it is believed many of them violated. The number of prisoners was between sixteen and seventeen hundred. The Highlanders did not realize the value of their booty. One of them who had got a watch which had belonged to an English officer sold it for a trifle, observing that he was


"glad to be rid of the creature, for she had lived no time after he had catched her ”—the watch had really stopped for want of winding up. Another exchanged a horse for a pistol, and several were seen carrying large military saddles upon their backs, which they took back with other spoils to their homes. Charles on his entry into Edinburgh wore a short tartan coat, with a star of the national order of St. Andrew, a blue velvet bonnet with a white satin cockade, a blue sash over his shoulder, small clothes of red velvet, and a pair of military boots. His appearance was greeted with loud acclamations by the country people, who crowded around him whenever he went abroad, and eagerly sought to kiss his hand and touch his clothes. Charles, having succeeded in winning the hearts of the citizens to some extent by his personal charm, now blockaded the Castle, because his Highland Guards stationed at the Weigh House were being annoyed by the fire from its batteries. The governor immediately dispatched a letter to the Lord Provost protesting against the blockade, and intimated that if it were not removed he would fire on the Highland Guards. This threat caused great consternation amongst the citizens, who would have suffered great loss in the event of a bombardment. Prince Charlie returned an answer to the governor in which he expressed his surprise at such a threat, and assured the people that if any injury should be inflicted on the city he would indemnify them for their losses. It is said that the Prince intimated to General Preston that the house of his elder brother at Valleyfield, on the shores of Fife, would be destroyed if he ventured to fire on the city, and that the stout veteran received the threat with scorn, declaring that if Valleyfield were injured the English vessels of war would, in revenge, burn down Wemyss Castle, the property of the Earl of Wemyss, whose eldest son, Lord Elcho, was in the Jacobite camp. Eventually hostilities were suspended until the return of an order from London, with a proviso that the Castle was not in the meantime to be attacked by the forces of the Pretender. .

But owing to some misunderstanding, on the following day the Highlanders fired on some people who were carrying provisions to the Castle, in consequence of which the governor considered himself justified in returning the fire. Prince Charlie now decided to retaliate by blockading the fortress, and all communications were cut off between the citizens and the garrison under the heaviest penalties; the garrison, however, in revenge fired at all the Highlanders they could see.

On October 4 the city was exposed to a heavy fire from the Castle batteries, which was kept up throughout the day until dusk. Under cover of darkness the garrison then made a sally for the purpose of demolishing some houses near the gates that had been deserted during the day. A deep trench was dug across the Castle hill, wherein were placed several pieces of ordnance which commanded the Lawn Market and High Street. Their fire unfortunately killed and wounded a number of peaceful citizens as well as the Jacobites. Next day the bombardment recommenced with great fury, causing panic among the inhabitants, who hurried out of the city in much confusion, carrying their children and valuable effects, besides assisting their aged relatives to places of safety beyond the Flodden Wall. A strong appeal was made to the Prince to remove the blockade, and out of pity for the citizens he yielded. The garrison then ceased its bombardment of the town, and provisions were allowed to pass freely into the fortress.

In commemoration of the event a ball was given at the palace, which had long been deserted, by the royal Stuarts, and was attended by all the Jacobite ladies, who were charmed by the manners of the youthful aspirant to the Throne.

The citizens suffered greatly from bands of robbers, who took advantage of the period when the courts of law were suspended and the authority of the magistrates had not yet been restored. Wearing white cockades and the Highland dress, they demanded money and property from the people. The chief was “Daddie” Ratcliff, a notorious villain, who plays an important part as one of the characters in Sir Walter Scott’s novel 'The Heart of Midlothian".

Charles, although he dealt with these miscreants severely and made every effort to restore the stolen property, was to some extent to blame, for the offences were mostly perpetrated by those who had been liberated from the public jails, which had been thrown open by the Jacobites. The Prince decided to quit Edinburgh and move his army across the border. He had already issued a proclamation on October 3 which ran: "I have, I confess, the greatest reason to adore the goodness of Almighty God, Who has in so remarkable a manner protected me and my small army through the many dangers to which we were at first exposed, and Who has led me in the way to victory, and to the capital of this ancient kingdom, amidst the acclamations of the King my father’s subjects.” Some difficulty was found in raising for him a regiment from the surrounding country, as the people were not keen on adventure with some doubt of success. “For my part,” said a canny Scot, “I’m clear for being on the same side as the hangman. I’ll stay till I see what side he's to take and then I’ll decide.”

But for all this the Prince was receiving almost daily reinforcements from the North, where the strength of the Jacobite cause lay. On the evening of October 31 Prince Charlie had completed the preparations for his departure, and he left Edinburgh never to return. He advanced into England as far as Derby, but found insufficient support and retreated northward, until at Culloden, on April 16, 1746, his troops were defeated and scattered, and he himself became a fugitive in the western Highlands. The faithful Highlanders never once wavered in their loyalty in the five months or more of his wanderings. He was chased like “the red deer driven along its native heights,” ofttime ragged and torn, exposed to hunger and thirst, but in spite of the great price put on his head by the Government the fidelity of the clansmen never for a moment failed. The clever help rendered to him by Flora Macdonald at a time of supreme danger is too well known to need more than mention.

Finally he was guided to his faithful adherents Cluny Macpherson and Cameron of Lochiel, who were in hiding in a romantic retreat called the Cage, which had been constructed by Cluny at the base of a craggy, precipitous rock overlooking Loch Ericht. This habitation was capable of accommodating six people, and was concealed by a thicket, and being supported by a large fir springing from amidst the rocks it somewhat resembled a great bird-cage. In this last hiding-place Prince Charlie waited patiently for an opportunity of escape, and at last two French vessels arrived at the point where fourteen months before he had secured a landing. Two days after the news reached him, Charles, journeying secretly at night, embarked on board Heureux, accompanied by Lochiel, Colonel Roy Stuart, and about a hundred other friends, who were also glad to seek safety on a foreign shore. Concealed by a fog, the two vessels passed safely through the middle of the English fleet, and arrived eventually near Morlaix, on the coast of Brittany.

A romantic story is told concerning the Prince when in hiding. It is said that a Jacobite officer named Mackenzie, having fallen into the hands of the soldiers, was shot by them, and when dying exclaimed: "You have slain your Prince! ” with the view of aiding Charles’ escape.

Some of the most beautiful of Scotland’s plaintive songs commemorate the heroism and trials of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie,’ when roaming a lonely “stranger o’er hills that were by right his ain.” In one the Jacobite mother declares that had she ten sons she “would give them all to Charlie.” In another the maiden protests that if she were a man, like her brothers, she "would follow him too,” and many others breathe a longing for the return of the Stuarts in such lines as, “Come o’er the stream, Charlie,” and "The Stuarts shall enjoy their ain again.”

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