We here at Culloden tend to put most of our focus of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, but there were a few risings before this that are worth taking a look at. We explored the 1715 Rising in our earlier post ‘1715 – The Rebellion that should have Worked’ but today we look at the small rising of 1719.
With Britain at relatively peace with France the Jacobites found a new ally for this rising, Spain’s minister to the King, Cardinal Guilio Alberoni. Tensions were high between Spain and Britain as Philip V of Spain launched successful campaigns taking control of Sardinia and Sicily. In 1718 Britain responded declaring a violation of the Utrecht Treaty which then led to Spain declaring war on Britain. In order to try and stop, or at least delay, an attack Alberoni decided to stir up trouble in Britain.
The original Jacobite plan had two phases. A small fleet would land in Scotland and raise support in the west to distract the British army and then the larger fleet would land in South West England to march to London and dethrone King George I. The main fleet set sail but, three weeks after leaving Spain, they encountered a storm which damaged many of the ships and left the fleet scattered. The ships were forced back to several Spanish ports to repair and wait for better weather.
Unfortunately, by this time the small distraction fleet had already set sail and landed on the west coast of Scotland near Lochalsh. The men disembarked and set about raising the highland clans to join them. But, alas, another set back. Highlanders did not join the army in the numbers expected, they were wary of the plan and wanted to wait for news from the south before they committed to the cause. The men did not have enough support to make their way to Inverness and were forced to establish headquarters in the west at Eilean Donan Castle.
At the beginning of May 1719, the Royal Navy sent five ships along the coast to inspect the Scottish coastline. Two patrolled off Skye whilst three headed to Lochalsh. On 10th May the latter three ships, HMS Worcester, HMS Flamborough and HMS Enterprise anchored off Eilean Donan and as evening fell the ships boat went ashore and captured the castle against very little resistance. It is said they then spent the next two days demolishing the castle with some 27 barrels of gunpowder. The Jacobites were not defeated though. Much of the main force of the army, including Spanish troops, had left Eilean Donan to try and recruit more men to their cause and were on their way to Inverness.
After travelling for more than a month the Jacobite forces learnt that the main Spanish fleet would not be coming to help them. They had a little over 1,000 troops but were determined to fight. 12 miles from Eilean Donan they took defensive positions at Glen Shiel, a narrow valley which they had reinforced with basic fortifications to block the road as the Government army marched out from Inverness to meet them. In the afternoon of 10th June 1719 the Government forces made their move. Though the armies were fairly evenly matched in size the Government had the added benefit of four mortar batteries.
In an attempt to weaken the enemy, the Government first used the mortars to bombard the Jacobite position. The infantry then came forward to attack the Jacobite flanks, whilst they continued to shell the enemy centre. This kept the Spanish troops pinned down in their defences on the northern slopes of the glen. After three hours of stubborn resistance, the Jacobites were eventually driven from their defensive position and forced into retreat. The Spanish men surrendered later that evening with the local highlanders fleeing to escape execution as traitors.
The Jacobite lost roughly 100 men and three of their commanders, the Earl of Seaforth, Robert Roy MacGregor and Lord George Murray who was badly injured. When the expected support from the Lowlanders failed to materialise spirits fell and the rising was abandoned.
The Spanish prisoners were taken to Edinburgh but were eventually released back to Spain later the same year. However, one of the peaks of the mountain in Glen Shiel on which the battle took place was named Sgurr nan Spainteach which translate as ‘The Peak of the Spainiards’ in honour of the Spanish forces who fought admirably in the battle.
We hoped you enjoyed this little foray into the 1719 Rising. As always please comment, like, share, tweet and keep coming back to discover more about the many tales of the Jacobite Uprisings.
All the best, K & D