Cawdor and Culloden

Unfortunately I was ill on the day that we went to Cawdor Castle and Culloden so I found some images that are in the public domain.

The story of Cawdor Castle is intimately connected with the story of the Thanes of Cawdor. The ancient title of Thane, roughly equivalent to "Baron", was once common across Scotland and in about 1180 William I of Scotland appointed the first Thane of Cawdor (or Calder) to be Sheriff and Hereditary Constable of the royal castle at Nairn. Later Thanes moved their residence to a small castle at Old Calder, about a mile and a half north east of modern Cawdor on a site defended by marshy land. In 1310 William, 2nd Thane, had his title confirmed by Robert the Bruce in return for an annual levy of £8. This castle seems to have fallen out of use in about 1400 and no trace of it now remains, even as a name on modern maps.

It was probably William, 3rd Thane of Cawdor, who decided to build a replacement castle on a less marshy site than its predecessor. The story goes that in about 1370 he set out to locate the site for a new castle. Following instructions received in a dream he loaded panniers of gold on the back of a donkey, which he then followed as it roamed across his lands for a day. When evening came the donkey lay to rest under a tree on a higher and more rocky site close to the steep-sided valley of the Allt Dearg. There William built his castle. What emerged was a four storey tower house of the sort being built across the length and breadth of Scotland at the time.

One name often associated with Cawdor Castle has not been mentioned in this story. Macbeth was King of Alba from 15 August 1040 to 15 August 1057. In Shakespeare's play named after him, written in 1606, Macbeth encounters three witches who hail him as "Thane of Glamis" and "Thane of Cawdor", and tell him he will "be King hereafter". The origins of this story date back 200 years before Shakespeare's time, and in its original form referred to the Thanages of Cromarty and Moray. The names were changed to Glamis and Cawdor by a historian writing in 1527, apparently because they sounded better, and it was this version of the story on which Shakespeare based his play. The truth is that Macbeth died 130 years before the title of Thane of Cawdor was first granted, and over 300 years before the first stone was laid at Cawdor Castle. He has, perhaps sadly, no connection whatsoever with any Thane of Cawdor, or with Cawdor Castle.

The Battle of Culloden (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and part of a religious civil war in Britain. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were decisively defeated by loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

Queen Anne died in 1714, with no living children; she was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, she was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, a daughter of James VI and I. The Hanoverian victory at Culloden halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne; Charles Stuart never again tried to challenge Hanoverian power in Great Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil. Charles Stuart's Jacobite army consisted largely of Catholics and Episcopalians, mainly Scots but with a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. 

The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France from Irish and Scots units in the French service. A composite battalion of infantry ("Irish Picquets") comprising detachments from each of the regiments of the Irish Brigade plus one squadron of Irish in the French army served at the battle alongside the regiment of Royal Scots (Royal Ecossais) raised the previous year to support the Stuart claim. The British Government (Hanoverian loyalist) forces were mostly Protestants – English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, a battalion of Ulstermen and some Hessians from Germany and Austrians. The quick and bloody battle on Culloden Moor was over in less than an hour when after an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle. Government losses were lighter with 50 dead and 259 wounded although recent geophysical studies on the government burial pit suggest the figure to be nearer 300. The battle and its aftermath continue to arouse strong feelings: the University of Glasgow awarded Cumberland an honorary doctorate, but many modern commentators allege that the aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism were brutal, and earned Cumberland the sobriquet "Butcher". Efforts were subsequently taken to further integrate the comparatively wild Highlands into the Kingdom of Great Britain; civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture and attack the Scottish clan system.