Sweet William or the Butcher?

Today is the day of the battle of Culloden, the last serious battle fought on British soil, fought in 1746.
On that day the claims of the House of Stuart to the throne of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England died. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army was badly defeated, losing 1250 dead and 550 prisoners to Cumberland’s loss of only 52 men dead in the British government army.
After the victory many more Jacobites were killed and other acts of violence committed against the rebel higlanders, leaving Cumberland, the victorious commander, with the name of “Butcher” in parts of Scotland. Elsewhere he was heralded as Sweet William, the man who had ended the Jacobite/French threat through the back door to England. He received an honorary degree from Glasgow University.
How do you see him today? Do the actions of the commanders at Culloden still make the pulse race or the blood boil?

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26 Comments

  1. Posted April 16, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    With the Scottish parliament and excess funding they receive from the rest of us, I'd say they have their revenge.

  2. londonerr
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    As an Englishman working in Scotland (admittedly ignorant of English-Scots history) I have received grievances directed at me based on the battle of Culloden. I see, as with other massacres, the ancestral undertow runs deep and severe still to this day. Thank you, John for acknowledging the date.

  3. tim holden
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    What force or guile could not subdue
    Through many warlike ages
    Is wrought now by a coward few
    For hireling traitor's wages.

    Brown's little clique, who used to toast him as King Across The Water, got it seriously wrong. Brown is more Macbeth at his deluded worst than bearing any resemblance to the effete prince of 250 years ago.
    The Burns poem was about the Lairds who sold out to the English, and their self-serving scheming does have some resonance with the past decade. And, very temporarily, the English have allowed a Scottish clique to assume control that has brought them close to being subject to Europe, with the English gold being sold off and the Euro dangerously close to becoming our currency.
    The furious early resentment of the Stuarts led to the failed eforts of Guido Fawkes – and we have our own now – so echoes and parallels are easily found. The devastation of the Civil War eventually rid the English of the Stuart yoke. And then they came back for another quarter of a century. Politics is a long game, with devastatation being an unfortunate reputation long-earned by those from north of the border. The Romans built walls to defend against them.
    Cumberland's repression after Culloden was largely carried out by Scottish troops, and I have little doubt that a number of these Lowlanders were called Brown. And the Burns poem may well apply to the current woes of the English.

  4. Freeborn John
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Thomas Paine said (in ‘The Rights of Man’) that there are only two kinds of government in the world; (i) those which derive their legitimate power from a people and (ii) those which can trace their origin back to a usurpation of power, such as occurred in 1066 in England. The events at Culloden on this day in 1746 remind us that the formation of the United Kingdom was also based on the usurpation of power by military means.

    When Paine wrote ‘The Rights of Man’ in 1791 he judged there were only two governments in the world (the USA & France) as belonging in his first category. Since then peoples everywhere have succeeded in clawing back their power from the arbitrary rule of the finely dressed descendants of the usurpers that we know as Kings and Queens such that democratic governance deriving its legitimacy from the consent of the governed is close to being a universal norm.

    If the British state is to survive in the democratic age it requires that all the peoples of this Island regard it as legitimate. And that requires recognition from the English in particular that the Scottish people do have a right to live under the form of governance they desire. Those of us in England who admire the Scots and would wish them to continue to remain part of the United Kingdom have an interest in ensuring that government from Westminster with some powers devolved to Edinburgh remains the form of governance that a majority of Scots best feel expresses their right to self-determination.

  5. Rose
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I sometimes muse on how it would have been if the Pretenders had been settled as RC kings of Ireland. But of course Cromwell’s Lowland Scots would still have been there in Ulster.

  6. Donitz
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    English Imperialism, those were the good old days.

    We certainly knew a thing or two about dealing with Johny Foreigner back then.

    Reply: This may be tongue in cheek but scarcely accurate. The Scottish establishment was split, with many Scots backing the British army and the Hanoverian succession. Remember in 1707 the Scottish establishment had willingly entered the Union of Parliaments. This conflict was about who should be King of the combined kingdoms. It was not a forerunner of the Scottish independence movement in the way some now imagine.

  7. [[NAME EDITED]]
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Freeborn John. Do you really think we should envy France for the legitimacy of their government? A disgusting revolution, historically fairly recent, followed by disgusting dictatorship, followed by succession of regimes of varying degrees of disgustingness: at which point was the consent of the "people" so decisively conferred?

  8. Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Tim,

    if Brown is Macbeth, can we expect to see Ed Balls prowling Westminster late at night muttering "out damn spot?" (along with "so what?") Now the question must surely be, was Cameron born of woman? Are the polls Birnam Wood moving to Dunsinane Hill?

    (An inaccurate comment from Donitz? I am bewilderwed, this is unknown in my experience?)

  9. mikestallard
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Is it really true that Bonnie Prince Charlie wore a plaid made out of French silk? Dear old Stuarts – they always seemed to get it just that bit wrong. The UK (except for Ireland and maybe the very fringes of the UK) was pretty firmly anti Catholic by the 1700s. So no hope there for the auld alliance. Also, of course, the Celtic Charge didn't work on mud or against well armed and trained men.
    However, put the Scots and English together and – bingo! you have an unstoppable army.
    The Celtic charge, for instance, worked wonders in the Indian Mutiny when the Camerons were unleashed on the Sepoys at Lucknow. The "Ladies" from Hell….
    And the Scots built the ships which tied the Empire together. They thoroughly enjoyed and identified with the Imperial Adventure.
    David Livingstone and John Brown were just two of the major players.
    Nowadays, it is who can wring the most out of the EU. The Scottish Region is not doing that badly. The English Regions have not even got to the starting pad.

  10. Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Alas, there are so few people in the UK who have any idea of what you are on about, for the perspectives of history have been all but eliminated from state education, and where they persist, they are of a distinctly PC orientation, exalting the admirable spirit of the Scots, disparaging the English, barely mentioning the achievements of the Empire, and inculcating the next generations with a sense of utter shame in their culture and heritage.

    His Grace is utterly depressed that notions of sovereignty and patriotism are being expunged, such that the Scots, Welsh and Irish are exhorted to nationalism, but God forbid that the English should ever assert theirs.

    And as for the claim of the Stuarts to the throne, one can but wonder at the consequences of the repeal of the Act of Settlement 1701.

  11. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    (2 sentences left out -ed) James II wanted religious liberty for everyone and the Protestant hierachy brought about an illegal coup in 1688 – about as ‘glorious’ as the Thai army booting out their PM. It sowed the seeds for bloodshed in Boyne , in 1715, 1719 and 1745 and produced the two sides who killed each other in Ulster. The 1688 coup set the scene for Catholic oppression and the bloody slaughter during & after Culloden. James II was not about to install a Louis XIV style regime & put the Papacy back in control of the C of E . Let us not forget that history has been constructed by historians in Protestant universities – hence the attitudes towards historical figures that endure to today. There is nothing wonderful about religious oppression – if the Inquisition was bad why do some try to say that how Catholics have been treated in Scotland & Ulster is some how less of a disgrace than the bad deeds of the Inquisitors ? 1688 just gave more power to wealthy landowners & paved the way for the horrors that followed the brave attempt to restore King James III & VIII in 1745-46 and the sectarian abuse that Catholics experience disproportionately North of the Border. I hope that the SNP government can sort this out – I am sure that a massive majority of Scots would support tackling the mindless hate as expressed by a vocal minority. I love Scotland & hope that the negative legacy of the usurper William of Orange and the Butcher Cumberland can be expunged as it serves no good at all.

    Reply: What form does the anti Catholicism take in modern Scotland that you claim? Is there evidence of a serious problem?

  12. Freeborn John
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Little Black Sambo: The French revolution turned ugly before the ink was dry on ‘The Rights of Man’ but the principles Thomas Paine outlined have proved their worth in America and around the world. I blame it on Rousseau and his belief that individual liberty could be suppressed by the general will of a collective (the national assembly). I don’t know enough about modern day France to say if its political system is more legitimate than ours, but my impression is that there is more emphasis on ‘government of the people’ and ‘for the people’ in France and not so much ‘by the people’.

    Parliamentary democracy as practiced in Europe today has flaws that are increasingly exposed leading to a gradual loss of legitimacy. Immediately after a national election an executive (cabinet) is formed which now controls the supposedly representative legislature through party discipline and the whips rather than being held accountable by it. And the EU system gives the cabinet mechanisms to bind their successors in a way that used to be impossible. Which of Thomas Paine’s two forms of government is the EU when there is no European people from which it may draw legitimacy and when political elites acting in their own self-interest (President Blair?) defy their own manifesto commitments to usurp the sovereignty of parliament and transfer it to EU Councils on which they sit (Council of Ministers) from where they can decree law that cannot be opposed by democratic checks (votes in a bicameral parliament) on their executive power at home and which their successors cannot easily reverse? The overturning of the 2005 referendum result in France shows that this is as much a problem on the other side of the Channel as here.

    Reply: Yes, there is a growing lack of legitimacy through the transfer of powers to unelected bodies.

  13. Andrew Cox
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    The Battle of Culloden – pay back time for the French in more ways than one. Firstly their proxies and fellow conspirators lost the battle and secondly England won back Quebec maybe as a result.

    At Culloden James Wolfe refused to carry out an order of the Duke of Cumberland to shoot a wounded Highlander by stating that his honour was worth more than his commission. This act may have been a cause for his later popularity among the Royal Highland Fusiliers, whom he would later command.

    He had distinguished himself and later went on to storm Abraham Heights, crossing to the base of the cliffs in a boat whilst reading Gray’s Elegy.

    What a Brit!

  14. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    On a more positive note it is St Bernadette of Lourdes day today and the number of miracles that have healed people there is a wonderful sign of Marian intercession causing people to be helped by the Grace of God. It started at the Wedding at Cana and continues to this day ( i.e. Our Lady pleading with Our Lord for those in need and this not detracting from her sons Kingship despite her requests being granted – just like the Queen Mother of the Davidic Monarchy ). Surely discussing the positive benefits of Lourdes is a far nicer topic of debate rather than the senseless acts of barbarism pepetuted 262 years ago ? The number of peoples whose lives have been improved by St Bernadette seeing Our Lady of Lourdes is enormous. St Bernadette was no great genius ( unlike the Duke of Cumberland ) & yet who by God’s Grace helped change the world for the better while who helped ensure bloodshed & brutality ? It just shows you that brains are not everything . A pity that no one reminded the Duke of Cumberland of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘ Blessed are the merciful for they shall have mercy shown them . ‘ It makes one wonder just what sort of Christianity that Butcher was trying to impose ? On this day we can be positive & remember God’s love transforming lives at Lourdes or we can be negative and remember with shame what was done to create a national identity that is on the wane . It proves that God’s love is eternal and that man made things are fleeting & temporary. Well done to John Redwood for allowing me to put these views accross – I hope that they are of interest to readers of his excellent blog!

  15. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    On a more positive note it is St Bernadette of Lourdes day today and the number of miracles that have healed people there is a wonderful sign of Marian intercession causing people to be helped by the Grace of God. It started at the Wedding at Cana and continues to this day ( i.e. Our Lady pleading with Our Lord for those in need and this not detracting from her sons Kingship despite her requests being granted – just like the Queen Mother of the Davidic Monarchy ). Surely discussing the positive benefits of Lourdes is a far nicer topic of debate rather than the senseless acts of barbarism pepetuted 262 years ago ? The number of peoples whose lives have been improved by St Bernadette seeing Our Lady of Lourdes is enormous. St Bernadette was no great genius ( unlike the Duke of Cumberland ) & yet who by God's Grace helped change the world for the better while who helped ensure bloodshed & brutality ? It just shows you that brains are not everything . A pity that no one reminded the Duke of Cumberland of the Sermon on the Mount: ' Blessed are the merciful for they shall have mercy shown them . ' It makes one wonder just what sort of Christianity that Butcher was trying to impose ? On this day we can be positive & remember God's love transforming lives at Lourdes or we can be negative and remember with shame what was done to create a national identity that is on the wane . It proves that God's love is eternal and that man made things are fleeting & temporary. Well done to John Redwood for allowing me to put these views accross – I hope that they are of interest to readers of his excellent blog!

  16. Bazman
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    On a square of blue foam padding used to lessen the noise on a stillage part when collapsed. Someone had used a white paint pen to add a white cross to the square and add the words $%£* YOU CULLODEN. A Bonnie Prince Charles supporter no doubt?

  17. Rose
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Cranmer:

    "Of all the members of the royal family, with the exception of Queen Caroline, he [the Duke of Cumberland] was the only one who possessed any remarkable ability." Mr Lecky. How fashions change in the teaching of history.

  18. Rose
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    My grandmother kept her Culloden bell beside her [to summon help if necessary] till the day she died. My father always used to say the only thing which spoilt our relationship with the Scots was their inferiority complex, which was always there underneath, no matter how much they achieved. A west country stall holder said the same to me in the market today. Having a (adjectives deleted) Scotsman as PM seems to bring all this to the surface.

  19. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    King Charles III ( King over the water 1766 -1788 ) adopted the attitude or mercy towards any captured Hanoverian officers. If they pledged on their honour not to fight against the Jacobites then they where released without harm – what a contrast with the butcher Cumberland . What Cumberland did was on a par with the bloodshed as seen in the Balkans during the 1990's – yet the Orthdox Serbs get slated for that and the Protestant regime behind the murders of 1746 in Scotland get rewarded for their crimes against humanity. St Bernadette shows us in Lourdes how precious life is in the sight of God – the Duke of Cumberland shows how cheap life is in the view of too many human beings . As a Cardinal King Henry IX ( King over the water 1788- 1807 ) could hear confessions & forgive sins in the name of Christ – plenty of sins where committed by the Elector of Hanovers forces in 1746. I tend to recognise the Pretenders as rightful Kings because everyone today would rightly recognise the Prince of Wales as King in succession to HM The Queen – why should James Prince of Wales not be King by rights as James III & VIII ( 1701 – 1766 ) in succession to his father James II & VII ? Why is the hereditary principle wrong in 1701 for the monarchy and yet right now ? Surely principle is principle after all….

    The French tried this with Louis Philippe in place of Charles X , Louis XIX & Henri V in 1830 and France is now a republic so tampering with time honoured principles is not always so wise .
    If you are going to have an hereditary monarchy then it should be just that – denying someone their rights on the grounds of faith is just discrimination. What happened after Culledon in 1746 was just a terrible tradegy that could have been avoided if the Prince of Wales had led his forces to London . Like the failure of the French Royalists to restore Henri V in 1849 & 1871-73 – not taking your chances to change things for the better can produce very bad results indeed.

  20. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    King Charles III ( King over the water 1766 -1788 ) adopted the attitude or mercy towards any captured Hanoverian officers. If they pledged on their honour not to fight against the Jacobites then they where released without harm – what a contrast with the butcher Cumberland . What Cumberland did was on a par with the bloodshed as seen in the Balkans during the 1990’s – yet the Orthdox Serbs get slated for that and the Protestant regime behind the murders of 1746 in Scotland get rewarded for their crimes against humanity. St Bernadette shows us in Lourdes how precious life is in the sight of God – the Duke of Cumberland shows how cheap life is in the view of too many human beings . As a Cardinal King Henry IX ( King over the water 1788- 1807 ) could hear confessions & forgive sins in the name of Christ – plenty of sins where committed by the Elector of Hanovers forces in 1746. I tend to recognise the Pretenders as rightful Kings because everyone today would rightly recognise the Prince of Wales as King in succession to HM The Queen – why should James Prince of Wales not be King by rights as James III & VIII ( 1701 – 1766 ) in succession to his father James II & VII ? Why is the hereditary principle wrong in 1701 for the monarchy and yet right now ? Surely principle is principle after all….

    The French tried this with Louis Philippe in place of Charles X , Louis XIX & Henri V in 1830 and France is now a republic so tampering with time honoured principles is not always so wise .
    If you are going to have an hereditary monarchy then it should be just that – denying someone their rights on the grounds of faith is just discrimination. What happened after Culledon in 1746 was just a terrible tradegy that could have been avoided if the Prince of Wales had led his forces to London . Like the failure of the French Royalists to restore Henri V in 1849 & 1871-73 – not taking your chances to change things for the better can produce very bad results indeed.

  21. Robert Lobell
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Not too many of your correspondents directly address their remarks to your question even if some are quite amusing. Culloden was undoubtedly not one of Britain's finest hours and "Hail the conquering hero comes" (referring to Cumberland who was, apparently, a complete military dunce) would not find an echo in my songbook. However Culloden was also born of the stupidity of Charles Edward Stuart's commanders who first aborted an, until then successful, invasion of England and then eventually chose the battlefield on which the Highland army was massacred.

  22. Rose
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I've just noticed your English good manners have struck out an epithet or two. Highland blood quickens the pulse, even in this soggy southern climate, but I shall forbear, other than to mention some superior and enlightened Scots I may have had in mind: Bute, Aberdeen, Rosebery, Gladstone, Campbell Bannerman, Balfour, Ramsay MacDonald, and Douglas-Home. And they were just the Prime Ministers. None of these made Englishmen feel oppressed, or a nation apart.

  23. Adrian Peirson
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    What is the Purpose of this Discussion, to Divide and ConqEUr Britain ?

    http://eutruth.org.uk/subversion.htm

  24. Rose
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Dear Adrian

    Your best hope of keeping us all together against the EU is to support the wee bairn David William Donald, son of Ian Cameron.

  25. Dr Jonathan Oates
    Posted July 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    The Duke of Cumberland was a competent military commander – the first British general to defeat the Jacobite army during the '45. Many at the time saw him as a great hero. There is no evidence that he ordered Wolfe to shoot a wounded Scot. Incidentally, Mr Redwood's figures for dead and prisoners are incorrect. My recent book, Sweet William or the Butcher offers a reappraisal of the campaign.

  26. Posted July 15, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I was interested to read your piece, and the discussion it provoked, about the Duke of Cumberland, who is the subject of my recently published book, Sweet William or the Butcher.

    I was, however, puzzled by your figures.

    The number of regular troops slain at Culloden was 50, plus another 259 wounded, of which many probably died. I was uncertain how the number 52 was reached.

    Jacobite prisoners. 222 French troops and 336 others are the figures quoted in contemporary sources, but of the latter, 164 had been taken on the previous day by loyalist Scots.

    Of Jacobite deaths, sources give between 1,000-4,000, and the latter is certainly far too high. I do not know of anyone who made an exact count.

    Best Wishes
    Dr Oates

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