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The Jacobite Cause 1644-1746


James VI began his personal rule of Scotland in 1584. From 1603 until his death in 1625 James also ruled England and Ireland from London. The clan of Gregor became the object of his most vehement hatred and the most unpardonable people in all the Highlands. After Glen Fruin in 1603, he proscribed the entire Clan and decreed under pain of death, the abolition of the very name of MacGregor. In further legislation of 1611 and 1612, James urged the hunting down of surviving recalcitrant MacGregors with rewards specified for their heads.

James VI died in 1625 and was succeeded by his son as Charles I. Among the Acts of Parliament during Charles’s only visit to Scotland as ruler in 1633 was a further proscription of the clan, which licensed anyone to hunt down MacGregors and be rewarded with their property. One would have thought that this treatment of our ancestors by James and Charles might have motivated the undying hatred of the survivors for the House of Stuart.

But this would not be the case. Instead, when Charles I became enmeshed in the religious conflicts which eventually led to his execution by Cromwell in London in 1649, MacGregors fought in the army of the Marquis of Montrose on behalf of the King. Later, in 1653, MacGregors joined General Middleton in a rising against Commonwealth rule. As a reward of sorts, the proscription was lifted by Charles II in 1661. In 1689, following the flight into exile of James VII, Clan Gregor came out with Bonnie Dundee for James at the battle of Killiecrankie, for which the proscription was re-imposed in 1691. MacGregors fought in the Jacobite Risings of 1715, 1719 and 1745 in favour of the Stuarts. It was only in 1774 that a ruler of the upstart house of Hanover repealed the proscription on the name of MacGregor.

A synopsis

At the Battle of Glen Fruin in February 1603 two hundred MacGregors had faced an enemy force which some reports put as large as eight hundred, including at least two hundred on horseback, led by Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss. As many as one hundred and forty of Colquhoun’s men were killed but just two MacGregors. King James VI then proscribed all MacGregors, men women and children, whether or not they had been involved.
See - The Battle of Glen Fruin 7th February 1603

In an unprecedented response King James enacted through his Privy Council that the -
“… unhappie and detestable race be extirpat and ruttit out, and nevir sufferit to have rest or remaning within this cuntrey heirefter; …. they salbe prosequte, huntit, followit, and persewit with fyre and sword, ay and they be exterminat and ruttit out”.
See - The edict of 24th February 1603 by King James VI against Clan Gregor

A period of persecution during the following years was led with enthusiasm by the Campbells of Glen Orchy. Judicial executions of around eighty of the clan, including Alasdair Roy, the chief, in 1604 were recorded. An unknown number of others died in the hills. The disposal of orphan children described as “four score of young arising” was later discussed in letters to the Privy Council.

Glen Fruin monument

In 1633, King Charles I on his only visit to Scotland since he became King in 1625, re-enacted the punitive legislation against the MacGregors, emphasising that the survivors should take service with other lords and adopt their name.
James Graham 1st Marquis of Montrose In the War of the Three Kingdoms, from 1638, Charles I, through his intransigence on religious matters, came into conflict with the supporters of the National Covenant in Scotland and, in England, with the Puritans in arms as Cromwell’s Roundheads.

In Scotland, the Earl of Montrose rose on behalf of King Charles against the Covenanter Government in Edinburgh. Between August 1644 and May 1645 Montrose and his lieutenant Alasdair MacColla won a series of brilliant victories against Covenanting armies. It is known that our chief, Patrick (alias Murray), the nephew of Alasdair Roy, led a party of MacGregors who participated in at least some of Montrose’s victories. At the Battle of Inverlochy in January 1645, the Earl of Argyll’s army was defeated by Montrose with the death of an estimated 1700 men of Clan Campbell, although Argyll himself escaped. The death of at least one MacGregor in Montrose’s army at Inverlochy was recorded.
See - Clan Gregor with Montrose 1644-46

When Montrose attempted to invade England, without most of his Highlanders, to join King Charles he suffered utter defeat at the Battle of Philiphaugh, although Montrose himself escaped. In July of 1646, while attempting to raise a new army, Montrose promised on behalf of King Charles the restitution of the MacGregor name and status in return for their service.

In 1649 Cromwell had Charles I executed and proclaimed himself the Lord Protector. The Covenanter Government in Scotland were opposed to the execution of the King and raised another army in support of his son, whom they proclaimed Charles II at Scone. (This was the last monarch to be crowned in Scotland) Although there is a record of the MacGregor chief with his followers being summoned to join this army, there is no evidence that he did so. Charles II and his Scots army suffered defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Charles himself escaped into exile but most of the survivors were transported to the Americas as indentured servants.

In 1653 the Earl of Glencairn raised a small army in the Highlands which, according to surviving records, included some MacGregors. Glencairn and his successor General Middleton, conducted a guerrilla war against the Commonwealth army of occupation but they were ultimately defeated and dispersed at Dalnaspidal in 1654.
See - Clan Gregor with Glencairn 1651-60

An act of April 1661, following the Restoration of King Charles II, repealed the punitive legislation against the Clan Gregor – permitting MacGregors to use their names again – but, despite promises, there was no restitution of the lands lost to Clan Campbell.

Charles II died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother as James VII of Scotland and II of England. James himself was overtly Catholic but he did not have a Catholic heir, so his reign was reluctantly tolerated in his Protestant realms of Scotland and England. The birth of a son and heir in 1688 led to an uprising in favour of Mary, his daughter, who was married to the Protestant Prince of Orange. John Graham of Claverhouse, known as Bonnie Dundee, raised a Highland army in support of James which, in July 1689, defeated a Government army at the Pass of Killiecrankie. Claverhouse was killed at the moment of victory. Command was assumed by an Irishman, Colonel Cannon, but most of the Highlanders deserted him and the rising ended in a skirmish at Cromdale in 1690.
See - Clan Gregor and Killiecrankie 1689-90

The Clan Gregor is known to have participated in the rising under Bonnie Dundee, and were nominally commanded by Gregor, the 15th chief. It does not appear that Gregor actually took the field and so the MacGregors were led in action by Lt-Col Donald MacGregor of Glengyle, the father of Rob Roy. After the failure of the Rising, a number of leading MacGregors submitted and suffered punishment including Lt-Col Donald who was confined to prison in Edinburgh until he took the oath of allegiance to William and Mary. Donald died shortly after his release. Gregor also died in 1693. An act of June 1693 reimposed the proscriptions of 1603 and 1633 on Clan Gregor.

William & Mary were succeeded as monarchs of the three kingdoms by Queen Anne. In 1707 the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England was pushed through by bribery with huge opposition from the common people of Scotland. Anne died in 1714 without a living child to succeed her. She was followed by George, elector of Hanover, as George I. It has been reckoned that George stood 50th in line of succession but was the first suitable Protestant descendant of James VI.

James, the Old Pretender, (born 1688, the son of the deposed James VII and II) lived in exile in France. There was an abortive attempt at a rising on his behalf in 1708, then a major insurrection in 1715, another supported by Spanish arms in 1719 and the final rising of 1745/46.

What of Clan Gregor, proscribed once more and owing no favours to the Stuart dynasty? It appears that loyalty to the ancient line of the Kings of Scotland continued to be the motivation of the leading men of the clan. By now, more than a century had passed since Glen Fruin and the original acts of Proscription, descendants of Clan Gregor were scattered throughout Scotland bearing a wide variety of names and allegiances, but some MacGregors would participate in every one of the Jacobite risings of the 18th century.

Archibald of Kilmannan, succeeded Gregor of Stukinroy as chief in 1693, but he took little part in the affairs of his people. He conveyed his estate of Craig Rostan to Rob Roy and went to Ireland where he eventually died in 1726. In 1714 the Government offered pensions to recognized clan chiefs provided they took the oath of allegiance to the new dynasty and abjured the Stuarts. Rob Roy and a number of leading MacGregors got together at Blair, under the auspices of the Duke of Atholl to elect Alexander Drummond of Balhaldies as chief in order to obtain a share of the money on offer.

Balhaldies was a noted Jacobite plotter, but no soldier, so when the Earl of Mar raised the standard of James VIII in 1715, the MacGregor contingent was led by Rob Roy. Rob Roy, himself had been outlawed for debt in 1712 at the instance of the Duke of Montrose. Montrose and the Duke of Argyll were bitter rivals for power, so Argyll had protected Rob Roy, permitted some raiding of Montrose’s estate and allowed Rob to continue his cattle trade from secure farms near Argyll's seat at Inveraray.

In 1715, the Government army in Scotland was commanded by the Duke of Argyll, so Rob Roy was careful to avoid coming into direct conflict with his protector. The Clan Gregor contingent under Rob Roy therefore participated in various minor actions of the Rising on behalf of the Jacobites in the Lennox and, for a time, occupied Falkland in Fife from where they levied food and supplies. However, at the set piece Battle of Sherrifmuir in November 1715, Rob Roy and his MacGregors stood aside, protecting the fords of the river Allan rather than join the battle line. The Battle itself was indecisive, Mar probably won but both sides retreated and the Jacobite army began to break up.
See - Clan Gregor in the 1715 Rising

Eilean Donan Castle (restored) In 1719, a Spanish invasion force was dispersed at sea by the Royal Navy, so that only two ships reached Scotland. Three Scottish lords with a handful of followers and just 307 Spanish soldiers were landed. In total, only around 700 Highlanders joined them, including 40 MacGregors led by Rob Roy.

This small army was defeated by the Hanoverian garrison from Inverness at the battle of Glen Shiel in June 1719. The Spanish surrendered and the Highlanders dispersed.
See - Rob Roy and the 1719 Rising

The Duke of Argyll arranged for Rob Roy to submit to General Wade in 1725 and obtain a pardon. Rob died at home in 1734, aged 63.

In 1745, MacGregors again came out for the Stuart cause. This time they were led by Rob Roy’s nephew, Gregor glun dubh of Glen Gyle and Robert of Glen Carnaig in Balquhidder with around 200-300 men. Despite victories at Gladsmuir and Falkirk in which MacGregors participated, the ’45 rising came to its ultimate defeat at the Battle of Culloden on 16th April 1746. James Mor, the son of Rob Roy led, as Major, a company of the Duke of Perth’s regiment in the 2nd line of the Jacobite army. James escaped and ultimately died in exile at Dunkirk in 1754.
See - Clan Gregor in the 1745 Rising

The main MacGregor regiment was not at Culloden. They had been detached in February as part of a force intended to suppress a pro-Hanoverian regiment of Highlanders, commanded by the Earl of Loudon, in Ross and Sutherland, and to raise money and food for the Jacobites. Having been summoned to return, they had only reached the ferry at North Kessock across the firth from Culloden when the battle was fought. However, twenty four MacGregors from Glen Gairn had been part of the Farquharson regiment in the front line at Culloden, of these only six returned home.

After the defeat of Culloden, the MacGregor Regiment was reported in the Scots Magazine to be the last Jacobite formation in arms. They marched back to Balquhidder Glen, intact and colours flying under the command of Robert of Glencarnaig and Gregor glun dubh of Glengyle. From there they dispersed to their homes. There is no similar record of Maclarens from Balquhidder.

During the summer Robert of Glencarnaig and his brother Evan travelled to Argyll to surrender and were imprisoned for a time. Balquhidder and Glen Gyle were devastated by a battalion of Government forces in June 1746. Robert of Glencarnaig became bankrupt on his release and died in 1754. Evan’s son John eventually became chief of Clan Gregor by election in 1787.

While Glengyle house was burned, Gregor glun dubh appears to have otherwise escaped retribution. Gregor's son John was released from captivity in Edinburgh Castle in 1747. The house was rebuilt and still stands at the head of Loch Katrine although no longer occupied by MacGregors. Gregor died at home in 1777, aged 88.
See - Glen Gyle House

Highland soldier of the 1745 rising
Inverarnan House, today the Drovers Inn. Thanks to Drovers Inn website for this image The name restored
Gregor McCallum McGregor VcDougall VcCallum of Inverarnan in Strathfillan was the third son of Malcolm MacGregor of Marchfield or Ledcriech. He was named personally from his good looks Griogar boidheach, or handsome.

Inverarnan House pictured on the left and originally built in 1705 is today a quirky and popular hotel on the West Highland Way.

Gregor joined the Black Watch when it was first raised and was among the selected detachment presented to George II in 1743. He was afterwards Captain and Adjutant of the West Middlesex Militia, where he was known as Captain Drummond.

Later in life, Gregor drew up a successful petition for the repeal of the Acts of Parliament against the Clan, and for the Restoration of the right to bear the name of MacGregor in 1774.
See - The Restoration of the MacGregor name in 1774

Gregor's grandson, also named Gregor, joined the British Army and served in the 57th Foot. Later, as General Sir Gregor MacGregor he was the right­hand man of Simon Bolivar (1783­1830) the great liberator of Bolivia and Venezuela in the independence struggles against the Spanish and Portuguese.

On the Mosquito Coast of what is now Nicaragua, Gregor imagined the kingdom of Poyais and fraudulently raised money from investors in Scotland and France for colonisation. He spent the rest of his life living on a hero's pension in Venezuela. Gregor sold Inverarnan in 1828.
See - General Sir Gregor MacGregor of Inverarnan and Venezuela, Cacique of Poyais