Over the Sea to Skye

But Charles was short of funds, promised support from England never materialised, and the young leader was feuding with his war council. In November, he left a garrison of 400 at Carlisle Castle to hold off the English pursuit led by George EE’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, but, following a long siege, the castle fell on 30 December. The Jacobites then tried and failed to take both Stirling Castle and Fort William – though the latter now hosts the West Highland Museum, featuring Jacobite weapons, medals and miniatures and Charles’s silk waistcoat.

The final reckoning came at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. Short and bloody, more than 1,200 died in just one hour of battle, with the sword-wielding Highlanders running into cannon and musket fire. Visitors today can tour the battlefield and watch a Living History re-enactment of this tragic event.

Speed, bonnie boat

Charles fled and hid in numerous places – you can follow his trail through the Highlands and OuterHebrides, including a hut in Rarnish, Benbecula, Glen Corodale, Wiay, Acarsaid Fhalaich, Loch Eynort, Calvay Island and Rossinish, from where he escaped to Skye with Flora MacDonald disguised as her Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke (immortalised in “The Skye Boat Song”). He then returned to France, and the Prince’s Cairn on the shores of Loch nan Uamh in Lochaber marks the spot of his final departure from Scotland.

Though unsuccessful – and responsible for a crackdown on clan life – the risings captured the imagination, from writers Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry Fielding to the band Genesis and Doctor Who.

Those wishing to explore them further will have ample opportunity at the National Museum of Scotland’s new exhibition, which opens in June.

Featuring little-seen artefacts, from costumes, glassware and jewellery to documents and paintings, the exhibition also includes Charles’s elaborate set of travelling cutlery and wine beakers, and a lost portrait of the Bonnie Prince, discovered in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss at Gosford House in East Lothian. The exhibition promises to reveal the reality behind the myths, but whether history or legend, there’s no doubt that the stories of the risings will live on .

culloden-battlefield

Culloden Battlefield


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