This year around 1,000 people attended the moving memorial service to commemorate the Battle of Culloden which took place on 16 April 1746 on Drummossie Moor by Culloden near Inverness.
It was the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil and the tragic, violent climax to the final Jacobite uprising.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, with his Jacobite supporters which included Edinburgh citizens in the Edinburgh Regiment, fought to reinstate the exiled Stuarts to the British throne.
Facing them across the boggy moor was the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, commanding the British Army and pro-government forces.
The battle was over within an hour, a devastating defeat for the Jacobites. The brutal aftermath both on and off the battlefield earned the Duke the name ‘Butcher’ Cumberland.
Culloden marked not only the end of the Jacobite uprising, but signalled the end of the Clan System and a way of life for Highlanders. Clan chiefs no longer had judicial rights over their people, many Jacobite estates were forfeited to the government, it was forbidden to carry firearms or play the bagpipes and the wearing of Highland dress, such as the tartan kilt, was banned. First time offenders were jailed for 6 months and second time offenders were transported to work on plantations for 7 years.
All captured Jacobite clan flags from Culloden were brought to Edinburgh Castle. They were viewed by the government as symbols of rebellion and treason. For this reason they were ceremoniously paraded to the Mercat Cross. The procession was led by the public hangman carrying the Prince’s Standard and behind him the rest of the flags were waved or dragged by the city’s chimney sweeps. The spectacle was viewed by a large crowd and accompanied by soldiers and Edinburgh officials. At the Mercat Cross a proclamation was read out and then starting with the Prince’s Standard, the hangman threw each Jacobite clan flag into the fire as their clan name was called.
However, the flag of the Appin Stewarts was rescued from the battlefield and so escaped. You can now see this rare and precious Jacobite survivor at the National Museum of Scotland. Nearby you’ll also see the King’s military colours of Barrell’s Regiment. This flag was also present at Culloden and the Jacobites would have seen it flying over the government forces as they began their ill-fated Highland charge across the moor. Barrell’s flag was gifted to the custodian of the Appin Stewart’s flag in the early 19th century so that ‘the flags which were opposed to each other at Culloden might thereafter rest in peace side by side’.
Today these two flags are silent witnesses to a memorable and turbulent time in our history.