Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter XXI

Attempt of the Young Pretender,—His advance to Derby.— Retreat to Scotland.—Battle of Culloden.—Present appearance of the Field of Battle.

And now "Pretender" No. II.,
The son of No. I.;
Whatever we can do for you
Shall here be quickly done.

In the king's speech at the meeting of parliament, George I. told his people that he believed James Stuart had again landed in Scotland: an assertion, howbeit, wherein was no truth ; yet the discarded scion of royalty was not idle, but was beating up for rescues and reinforcements in the south of Europe, and more especially in Spain.

The Cardinal Alberoni hatched a scheme in his favour, the purport of which was, to invade Britain with a powerful force; so that, encouraged by these offices, the Chevalier de St. George took an opportunity of quitting Urbino, his place of residence by stealth, of embarking at Nettuno, and of sailing to Cagliari, where he landed.

Hence he made his way to Madrid, where he was hailed Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with all fitting reverence, dignity, and honour. Ten ships of war, and six thousand regular troops were devoted to his service, and sailed from Cadiz accordingly; but a storm dispersed them off Cape Fin'isterre, and only two frigates reached their destination. The Spaniards gained a few inconsiderable successes in the highlands ; but being pursued by the English commander they were forced to surrender, and three hundred of the invaders were made prisoners.

But we need not dilate on all the other acts and deeds of the Chevalier or his partizans; how he continued to promote conspiracies without intermission ; how he candidly avowed in a certain declaration, at the bottom of which his own name appeared, and which was laid before the House of Lords by George I., that if the said King George would only relinquish the kingdom of Great Britain to himself, the Chevalier, he would, in consideration thereof, bestow upon him the title of monarch of his own dominions; and further, that he would secure George's future succession to Britain, if, in time to come, his own issue and heirs apparent, and all other issue and heirs apparent,- should absolutely fail;—how Mr. Robert Walpole frightened this nation out of its wits by detailing in the Commons' House the particulars of a horrid and atrocious conspiracy, purposing to seize the Bank of England and the Exchequer, and to proclaim the Pretender on the Royal Exchange.

Those were stirring times, of a truth, and the demon of ambition was prowling about, seeking whom he might devour. Ambition, however, is only a demon when wrongly directed ; for ambition that is directed in the right path, is a fair and honourable passion. He who is ambitious, seeks to better himself; and if he can rise higher in the scale of reputation or of fortune, without doing so to the detriment or prejudice of his fellow-labourers, he only calls into praiseworthy action his faculties, his natural powers, and his talents, (all which were given him to employ properly,) and he is achieving that which is commendable in the sight of God, as well as in the sight of men. We think that the word Ambition is a very much abused word,—in so far, that, according to its usual acceptation, it is held to signify inordinate, unjust, or criminal thirst after advancement. But, ambition in a man, ought to mean, and strictly does mean, nothing more or less or otherwise, than what we term emulation in a schoolboy, — that spirit of activity within him, which urges him to fag and to climb to the top of his class.

The Young Pretender, so called, the son of James, the Chevalier de St. George, now started up into action, and resolved to make a bold dash for the crown of Great Britain. His first essay was a failure. With the aid of Louis of France, he collected a fleet and a powerful land force at Dunkirk and Boulogne, and actually embarked seven thousand troops. Monsieur de Roquefeuille sailed up the Channel, and cast anchor off Dungeness, to wait for Monsieur de Barreil, whom he had despatched to hasten the embarkation with five ships of war. As he lay here, he was surprised to see the British fleet under Sir John Norris, doubling the South Foreland, and beating down upon him as fast as the westerly wind, then blowing, would allow. To the chagrin of the English Admiral, however, the tide ran so hard against him, added to the wind, which was dead a-head, that he could not approach Monsieur de Roquefeuille by two leagues; and here also he was obliged to drop his anchor.

Thus, lying within sight of each other, the French commander called a council of war, and it was deemed advisable in their present condition, not to seek an engagement,—but" quite the contrary. As if to favour their escape, the wind now suddenly chopped round to the north-east, coming on to blow hard, and they ran before it down Channel like the very-anything you please.

This gale of wind, notwithstanding that it favoured the escape of the line-of-battle ships out of the reach of Sir John Norris's guns, destroyed so many of the French transports, that the present scheme of. invasion was obliged to be given up. The famous Count Saxe, who had been preferred to the army, when it should have reached England, together with the other generals under his commandment, returned to Paris; and the young Prince Charles also retiring to his abode in that city, remained for a space in great privity, and almost entirely neglected by the court of St. Germain.

In the year 1744 the Commons of England brought in a bill, denouncing the penalties of high treason against all those who should hold correspondence with the sons of the old Pretender ; and in the Upper House, the Lord Chancellor Hardwicke (to whom Gretna Green is much indebted for its fame, as the reader will fully know in good time) inserted a clause, extending the crime of high treason, even to the posterity of the first offenders, during the lives of the Pretender's sons,—as if the rebellious actions of turbulent men could be controlled by their offspring, as yet, per-adventure unborn ! This was indeed visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children. The motion produced a warm debate, and was most vehemently and pathetically opposed by the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Chesterfield, and the Lords Hervey and Talbot, as being contrary to the dictates-of humanity, the law of nature, the rules of justice in a free country, and the precepts of religion; and yet, O dii immortales,. the clause was carried, and the bill was passed!

Albeit Charles Edward had been residing quietly on the margin of the Seine since his recent check, yet had he been making inquiry as to the number and strength of his friends, whether on one side of the Channel or on the other; and had furthermore employed emissaries, who had been doing the same thing for him up and down that land, whose crown he so much coveted, and which he piously believed to be his own.

He embarked for Scotland on board a small frigate, accompanied by the Marquis of Tullibardine, Sir Thomas Sheridan, and certain others, and, for the conquest of universal Britain, he brought an almost incalculable force in troops and ammunition—the former consisting of seven officers, and the latter of muskets for two thousand men !

His convoy, a ship of sixty guns, fell in with an English-man-of-war during the passage; and in an engagement with her, she received a rebuff so severe, that she was persuaded to return to Brest, in order to plug up the holes in her hull and to stitch up the rents in her canvass.

The young prince, howbeit, held his course ; he steered for the Hebrides, and on the 27th of July 1745, debarked on the coast of Lochaber, where he was joined by fifteen hundred highlanders.

We regret that he did not enter the Firth of Solway, and land upon the sweet shores of Gretna, which was now on the dawn of celebrity — not that we should desire to see hostility carried through so amorous a region, and a region which had for centuries known a great deal too much of the bad spirit of man, as the records of these pages lamentably testify,—but because, in writing the veracious history of this parish, we are naturally desirous of discoursing about any notable events happening therein,—are desirous of declaring how fertile the soil is in interesting occurrences, — and would especially wish to confine ourselves closely to the stage of this drama, and not wander elsewhere to tell of accessaries, however necessarily, though sometimes remotely, bearing on the main subject.

On the nineteenth of August the Marquis of Tullibardine erected his standard at Glensinnan, and though it is true that lie was joined by a considerable number of the lovers of the old race, still, the heads of many of the neighbouring clans held,, back or hesitated to enrol themselves in the hazardry of an enterprise so desperate.

After one or two skirmishes, wherein the new comers triumphed, the government at Westminster became alarmed, and despatched an army northwards to crush them.

King George at this time was in Germany, whither he had gone to pay a visit to his ancient friends, and the Young Pretender's evil genius, the Duke of Cumberland, was hotly at work in the Netherlands, "tickling the French with the long broad-sword," as the popular song of the day expressed it. The Regency that governed the nation during this interim, now issued a proclamation offering the sum of <30,000, to any one who should capture the adventurer: and the beauty of the thing was, that, by way of being in no sort behind the government in courtesy, the Pretender also issued a proclamation, wherein he promised a like sum for the apprehension of the Elector of Hanover!

He prosecuted his march across Scotland,— took several towns on his route, and in Perth, Dundee, and Edinburgh proclaimed the Chevalier de St. George, his father, King of Great Britain. At Preston-pans he routed Sir John Cope in the space of ten minutes; and, by the booty, stores, ammunition, and money, which there fell into his hands, he found himself suddenly rich, and efficiently provided to carry on his pretensions.

After this victory he rested on his oars in Holyrood House much longer than an active general ought to have done, if he would wisely follow up an advantage gained; but being assured of succours from France, he at last resolved on an invasion of England.

Now, then, we must march directly through Gretna Green.

Having deliberated on his line of progress over the border, he determined on crossing the rubicon by the Western Marches—and here, for " Rubicon," we intreat ye to read " Sark." He marched on foot, dressed (or rather un-dressed) in his Highland costume, at the head of about five thousand men, albeit the weather was cold and the snow lay thick upon the ground ; and on the sixth of November he led this host over the tender soil of that amorous parish which lies hard by the blue waters of the Solway ;—he forded the aforesaid rubicon along with his naked-kneed followers — crossed the Debateable Land—and then he invested the city of Carlisle.

After he had set himself down before its walls, and had been encamped here for the duration of three days, the citizens either got tired of their own seclusion, shut up as they were, or else they grew right courteous to all those bare-legged visitors who were lying outside in the cold ; for certain it is, that at the termination of this period, the gates were thrown open, the portcullises raised, and the draw-bridges lowered, even as is the usage at such places whose fortifications wear the nature or configuration, or appliances, of the fortifications of the olden time ; and then there issued forth of one of the gateways the real mayor himself, dressed in his official investments, together with all the aldermen enrobed in theirs, who walked first under the portcullis without scratching their heads against the spikes, and then over the draw-bridge, on towards the Prince Charles Edward Stuart, otherwise ycleped the Young Pretender. When they came before him they fell down upon their knees and delivered up to his acceptance the keys of their ancient city, making many reverend obeisances with much humility, as if to apologise for their tardiness in coming; and this act will give the reader an idea how faithful King George's public servants were to him at the very particular juncture when he most needed their fidelity—to wit, when strangers were invading his kingdom.

With these keys the royal juvenal speedily let himself into the city and into the castle, where he found a plentiful store of acceptable needments; and incontinently he was proclaimed Regent of Great Britain, and his father King, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith, and so forth; and here again, we see how true to their duties the magistrates were, in so heartily seconding the mayor and the aldermen.

Having received goodly assurances from France, that a diversion in his favour would soon be made on the southern coast of England, he left Carlisle, and resolved to march further into the heart of the country; wherefore he proceeded to Penrith, Lancaster, and Manchester. At this last he established his head quarters : he was joined by two hundred Englishmen under Colonel Townley, and the inhabitants greeted his coming with illuminations, bell ringing, and feasting; and even once more we would call the reader's attention to the good service they also were doing to their rightful King George, who sat duly and legally enthroned at St. James's.*

It is a beauteous thing for a father to have dutiful children; and so, likewise, it must be a glorious contemplation for a sovereign to behold the stanch fidelity of his people, when his enemies are plotting dire detriment against him.

This last of the Stuarts tarried not long here, but again went forward with all expedition, crossing the Mersey, passing through divers towns, and on the fourth of December attaining as far as Derby. The house wherein he resided during his brief sojourn here, is pointed out to the peregrinator at this day.

He was now within one hundred miles of the metropolis, and all Middlesex was in the greatest uproar and confusion: a powerful militia was raised and disciplined; volunteers started up on all sides to defend the common cause of their country; the weavers of Spitalfields and other communities entered into precautionary associations ; the practitioners of the law, headed by the judges, enrolled themselves on the defensive ; and the managers of the theatres offered to raise a body of their dependents for the service of the Government. Orders were given for forming a camp on Finchley Common, where his Majesty, accompanied by the Earl of Stair, field marshal and commander-in-chief of the forces in South Britain, resolved to appear in person. Hogarth's "March to Finchley Common," was painted to celebrate this event.

But the Duke of Cumberland, recently returned from the Low Countries, was hurrying northwards to forbid this young adventurer coming any nearer, as matters had now become serious.

Charles Edward Stuart did not meet with the encouragement or augmentation of strength during his transit that he had been given to expect: with the exception of those who joined him at Manchester, no friends flocked to his standard ; the people seemed to be totally averse to his cause; the French had failed to assist him as they had promised; his own generals and companions were disunited among themselves; and he found himself in the heart of an enemy's country in the depth of winter, and hemmed in between several armies that were hourly approaching him to his destruction.

A council of war was held, and nothing was left but to retreat into Scotland by the route they had come. Having had one or two skirmishes on the way, they once more reached Carlisle, and then, reinforcing the garrison of the castle, they paced the great Moss of Solway, the Debateable Land, and the gentle parish of Gretna Green.

Divers minor affairs befel before they met the Duke of Cumberland on the bleak moor of Cul-loden, which we need not trouble the patient reader with, because, as we are not writing a history of anything else but Gretna Green, or of such events as are more or less connected therewith, we will not digress more than is necessary. The Prince Pretender's army, on this last and decisive occasion amounted to about four thousand strong ; and that of the royal Duke to somewhat more. The action was fierce; but in the space of one half-hour the hopes of the Jacobites were for ever blasted, and many of their heads, subsequently struck off by the executioner upon the scaffold, for years decorated Temple Bar and the gates of Carlisle. We paid a visit to this spot not long ago. The moor itself is flat, dreary, barren, and exposed; the unenclosed part of it may comprise about nine square miles of brushwood, heath, fern, moss, and broom; and as it stands high, being the broad summit of a range of country rising from the Murray Firth, it is cruelly swept over by cutting breezes in the winter.

A new road from Inverness to Forres has lately been cut directly across the spot where the hottest of the fight took place; and nothing now remains to indicate this spot, but the mounds of earth which were heaped over the buried slain. These consist of one long ridge where a number were cast into a trench and covered over, and of a number of scattered heaps, which have the appearance of single graves. Howbeit, the poor fellows who lie here are not permitted to repose quietly; for it is a favourite amusement with tourists of the present day, to carry spades and other delving instruments along with them to the ground, and there to grub in the sacred soil for the purpose of finding some trophy. The guide related that he accompanied an Irish gentleman on one of these mining expeditions only a short space before; and that the said Irish gentleman actually turned up a soldier's corroded coat button, and he bore it off with him to the Emerald Island with many triumphs broached in goodly brogue. In several places there were fresh-made pits of from one to two feet deep, as if some sacrilegious enthusiast had been at work only the day before our visit; but the guide did not know whether anything had been found. He said that, at the making of the new road, when the soil was slightly levelled in two or three places, divers swords and other relics were brought to the light of day; and at the Octagon Tower so called, standing some three miles south-west of the battle-ground, there are still preserved two field-pieces used on the occasion.

About a quarter of a mile eastward of this martial cemetery, and close by the road-side, there stands a large solitary block of stone, measuring near five feet six high, and covering a basement of one hundred square feet, more or less : it is reported that the young prince stood upon this stone to overlook the bloody encounter ; and that from this elevation he saw himself ruined.

"We must not marvel that the plain of Waterloo should still at times yield military exuviae to the searches of the curious, when we remember that the fight of Culloden happened nearly a century ago, and yet is not quite exhausted. The digging and scrutiny, however, are often vain, and rare is the chance that is successful. Human bones were at one period not unfrequently discovered, but these have now entirely merged into the soil by which they were covered; and little will henceforth recompense the sentimental grave-digger, except, peradventure, a stray tooth or so, and such a trophy as a button or a flattened bullet.

Return to our Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus