Archibald Cameron of Lochiel was the third surviving son of John Cameron, the 18th Lochiel and played an important part during the ’45 Jacobite Rising as both a doctor and leader.
Born in 1707 Archibald initially attended Glasgow University to study law before he moved over to Edinburgh University and became a doctor of medicine. His father, the 18th Lochiel had raised men for the 1715 Jacobite Rising and as result was an exile, living on the continent. Thus when 1745 arrived it was Archibalds older brother, Donald, who was acting as clan chief.
When Prince Charles arrived in Scotland eager to gather support for his cause Donald sent Archibald out to see him and try to persuade the Prince that his efforts were futile and that he should return to France and give up the idea of a Rebellion.
However, Prince Charles spoke with Archibald and managed to persuade him that a Rising was worthwhile and soon had the Camerons joining with him and his growing Jacobite army.
Throughout the Jacobite campaign Archibald used his skills as a doctor wisely and fairly. He gained a reputation for his kind treatment towards not just the Jacobites but also any Government prisoners that were placed under his care. At Culloden his brother, Donald, was shot through both ankles by grapeshot but with Archibalds help he managed to survive.
After the battle Archibald, as with many Jacobites was forced into hiding to escape Government hands. As a well known and prominent man there was little doubt that if he was caught he could be severely punished for his actions. It is believed that Archibald managed to meet up with Prince Charles and stayed with him for a while in the legendary Cluny’s Cage. Eventually he travelled west with the Prince together with a few other men managed to elude the Government and sail to France.
In exile Archibald remained at Prince Charles’ service and was also made a commander of the second battalion of a new Scottish regiment within the French Army, with his brother to be in overall command. By all accounts he appeared to live reasonably well on the continent and accompanied Prince Charles on a trip to Madrid in 1748. However, all was not to last.
In 1753 Archibald travelled back to Scotland. Here he was destined to take part in an assassination plot against King George II and other members of the royal family. Unfortunately Archibald was betrayed. Some say it was Pickle the spy who informed the Government of his whereabouts whilst others suggest it was members of his own clan who were incensed by his continued loyalty to Prince Charles and the Jacobites. Either way Archibald was captured and imprisoned in Edinburg Castle for high treason.
Eventually he was moved to London and held in the Tower of London. He was denied a fair trial with the Government worried that the identity of their spies would be revealed and was sentenced to death. Whilst in prison, despite not being allowed writing material, he managed to write down some of his last thoughts where he still remained resolutely faithful to the Jacobite cause. Among them was also a letter to his young son in France in which he wrote. ‘I thank God I was always easier ashamed than frightened.’
On 7th June 1753 Archibald was executed. He was drawn on a sledge and hanged for 20 minutes, before being cut down and beheaded. His body was secretly buried in the Savoy Chapel in Westminster. Today a brass plaque marks his grave after two earlier memorials had been destroyed by fire and war.
Archibald Cameron was the last Jacobite to receive the death penalty and it was a move that shocked many after all his work to save lives, not just those on his side but also of the Government.
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All the best, K & D