Culloden defeat should be celebrated, says historian
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat at Culloden should be a cause for national celebration instead of collective wailing and gnashing of teeth, one of Britain’s leading historians has advised Scots.
Dan Snow, presenter of the BBC’s Battlefield Britain series, said that the most famous defeat on Scottish soil was good for the country. He condemned Scottish nationalists for using the result to promote anti-English hatred.
For many Scots it will be the ultimate heresy but, in a lecture in the Scottish parliament this week, Snow will insist that the real significance of the Jacobites’ last stand against the Hanoverian government has been lost in romantic froth.
He will argue that had Bonnie Prince Charlie won the day, his victory would have threatened the Scottish enlightenment and damaged the country’s economy.
The battle of Culloden, fought in 1746 on Drumossie Moor, Inverness, with the loss of 1,500 men, is often depicted as the ultimate conflict between Scotland and England.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, who fled the field before the battle was over, entered folklore as an audacious hero in contrast with the Duke of Cumberland, nicknamed “the butcher”, who is alleged to have brutally killed and injured Jacobites and bystanders.
In the aftermath the clan system declined, wearing tartan was banned and the Gaelic language began to die out.
Snow believes that Culloden was not about warring nations but was a Highland uprising against the Hanoverian government in London and its representatives in Edinburgh.
“If people insist on looking at Culloden in a way that heightens their sense of grievance today, that is very unhelpful. It is important that there is a nationalist lobby but to take history that is essentially wrong and use that for your cause is naughty,” he said.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart was deeply unpopular among lowland Scots and the Stuarts would not have stayed on the throne long had the Jacobites won, Snow added.
Professor Tom Devine of the University of Aberdeen, a leading Scottish historian, recently pointed out that there were parties in the streets of Glasgow to celebrate the Jacobite defeat because many lowlanders regarded Bonnie Prince Charlie as “a satanic agent”.
Winnie Ewing, former president of the Scottish National party, said that Snow’s argument was skewed. “Culloden was the end of the clan system and to be greatly mourned. It destroyed the Highland way of life. Surely nobody should celebrate that,” she said.
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