We all know Prince Charles Edward Stuart led the Jacobite army in 1745 but he had plenty of help from his band of advisers and generals. One of the most well known members of Prince Charles’ council was Lord George Murray.
Born in Perth, Scotland in 1694, George was the sixth son of the 1st Duke of Atholl, chief of Clan Murray. He joined the army in 1712 and then three years later, along with two of his brothers, he joined the Jacobites in the 1715 Rising with each brother commanding their own regiment of Atholl men. He fled to France for a while before returning to help aid the short lived 1719 Jacobite Rising. Here he was injured and spent months in hiding before finally finding his way back to the continent.
Not much is known of his life on the continent but he finally returned to Scotland in 1724 following his fathers death and settled down with a wife and five children. When the ’45 Rising began George was sceptical of Prince Charles and his scheme despite his earlier support of the Jacobites. Indeed a month after Charles landed in Scotland George went to pay his respects to Sir John Cope, commander of the government forces, and was appointed deputy-sheriff of Perthshire.
George then met Prince Charles for himself when he stayed at Blair Castle and eventually announced his support for the Jacobite cause. Something had changed his mind, though there were those that suspected he had never truly supported the government and still others that now thought he could be a government spy. Either way George quickly won the Jacobites armies confidence with his decisive leadership and by September he was practically running the army having ordered the successful attack at the Battle of Prestonpans on his own initiative.
Whilst he was certainly close to Prince Charles he did not always agree with the man. When the army moved into England George was against the plan but followed the Princes orders. In Carlisle George conducted the siege but after the town surrendered he resigned his command apparently claiming he felt his authority had been undermined by the Prince. His replacement, the Duke of Preth, was not well liked by the army and it was not long before George was reinstated and leading the army towards Derby.
Here George urged the Prince to retreat. He was concerned by the lack of both French and English support and felt it unwise to continue on towards London as the Prince wished. At a council of war the majority sided with Murray and a retreat was planned. Prince Charles had been out voted and was furious. He would never forgive George for turning against him.
During the retreat Murray commanded the rear guard as the Jacobites headed back north until they reached the fateful day of Culloden. Here Murray advised placing the army on the right bank of the river Nairn but Prince Charles ignored his advise at set the army on Culloden Moor to the left of the Nairn. The Jacobites were defeated, though George managed to escape the battle. He headed to Ruthven Barracks to try and piece together what was left of the Jacobite army and set about forming a resistance. It is said he managed to amass some 3,000 men however, whilst waiting he received word from Prince Charles that the cause was to be abandoned and the men were to disband.
George managed to make his way to the continent where he was received well by Prince Charles’ father, James who granted him a pension. In 1747 he travelled to Paris to see Prince Charles but despite his fathers hospitality the Prince refused to meet with him. During the next decade George travelled through the continent living in numerous places before he eventually died in Holland in 1760 at the age of 66.
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All the best, K & D