The Basket Hilted Broadsword

Unsurprisingly one of the highlights of visitors time here at Culloden is attending the workshops that volunteers come and run in the exhibition looking at weapons of the ’45 Rising. The chance to see and touch replicas of the real items on display in the cases helps bring the story to life.

In particular people are interested about the swords that we have on display. It is not unusual for guests to enquire about the famous large Scottish two handed sword of ‘Braveheart’ fame but during Culloden and the ’45 weaponry had moved on to the sleeker and more refined basket hilted broadsword.

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Example of the broadswords with targes

 

For those who get to feel the weight of the sword it is often lighter than they expect and is easily wielded by one hand leaving the other free for the targe and dirk. The Scottish version of the sword was typically broader than other swords around at the time. It’s Gaelic name would have been claidheamh-mór which translates as ‘great sword’ in reference to this larger size.

Despite us referring to its special Scottish nature most swords were originally made in Europe with German steel often creating the main blade of the sword. There were also basket hilted swords in England as early as the 1500’s so Scotland was not exactly the pioneers of this new style of weapon.

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Basket hilted sword possibly belonging to Prince Charles Edward Stuart

 

Eventually though there were Scottish sword makers and the hilts made in Scotland began to form their own style with wider coverings around the hand than the thin bars of English hilts. Some hilt makers, or ‘hammermen’, became quite renowned in Scotland producing intricate works. We are lucky enough to have on display the ‘Brodie Sword’ which is believed to have belonged to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. It is a decorative piece rather than a fighting weapon and its hilt is elaborately decorated with the head of medusa with her snakes curling around the hilt and is a great example of 18th Century workmanship.

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Basket Hilted Broadsword

 

The style of the sword was not just for decoration. The hilt itself helped form a protective guard around the soldiers hand and a weight at the base of the hilt would be used to pommel enemies in close quarter combat. Those that were well made would form a perfect balance with the sword blade which would help make the soldiers slicing actions smooth but powerful. Combined with the targe and dirk in the other hand, basket hilted broadswords made the Jacobites a formidable opponent even against the Governments muskets and bayonets during the ’45 Rising.

We hope you enjoyed this short insight into the broadsword. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and if you want to know feel free to come along and see the broadswords on display for yourself.

All the best, K & D

 

 

 

Duncan Forbes, Lord Culloden

Today we’re taking a look at the life of Duncan Forbes.

Born in 1685 near Inverness his early life does not hold much tales. When he was old enough he began his university education in Edinburgh studying law before moving across to the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He returned to Scotland in 1707 and not long after his return married the daughter of Hugh Rose, the 12th Baron of Kilravock.

Forbes’ work in law eventually became quite well known and after the Act of Union in 1707 he is credited with working hard to stabilise the Scottish legal system. Though Forbes was born near Culloden it would be wrong to assume he was a Jacobite. In fact, during the 1715 Rising, he was loyal to the Government and he and his brother, John raised forces for the government side.

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Portrait of Duncan Forbes

Together Forbes and his brother joined with Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat and were part of the Government men who forced the Jacobites to surrender Inverness back into Government hands on 12th November 1715. Following this, and his work in supporting the Government, Forbes was offered the position of depute-advocate. However, he was not keen to take this office as he was not happy with the methods that were being used to prosecute the Jacobite ‘rebels’ from the 1715 Rising.

The Government suspended the law that stated trials should take place in the countries in which the treasonable actions had taken place. This meant that many Jacobites were facing trial in Carlisle rather than in Scotland and Duncan saw this as unfair. Apparently, he was so shocked by this treatment that he wrote to Sir Robert Walpole, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to protest the actions and even collected money to help support the Jacobite prisoners at Carlisle.

Between 1715 and the next major Jacobite Rebellion in 1745, Forbes became Lord Advocate and was appointed to the post of President of the Court of Session in 1737, the most senior judge in Scotland. Unfortunately, his family life was not as successful as his career. His wife died early in life, the exact date is not known but it is believed to have been before 1717. Then, in 1735 his older brother John died and Forbes became heir to the family estates at Culloden, including Culloden House.

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Engraving of Duncan Forbes

When 1745 arrived and another Jacobite Rising was beginning to form Forbes sent out letters to many of the highland leaders. In particular he wrote to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat who he had joined forces with in 1715, to try and convince him to stay away from Prince Charles and his Jacobite cause. By August Forbes had based himself at Culloden House where he spent six months in a crucial role organising Government support in the North East and setting up independent companies and disrupting Jacobite recruitment.

Forbes’ actions helped warn Sir John Cope, the Commander-in-Chief in Scotland of an ambush awaiting him and his men at Fort Augustus. This helped Cope reach Inverness safely but also allowed the Jacobites to move south without encountering the Government men. Duncan Forbes became such an apparent threat to the Jacobites that it is said Prince Charles himself issued a warrant for his arrest.

In October 1745 Forbes managed to hold off an attempted raid on Culloden House. Around 150-200 rebels surrounded the property and crept towards the building walls. As they approached though they were spotted by an alert sentry and greeted with a rally of gunfire. A small paterero, or swivel gun, was also fired from a balcony and at that point the rebels fled leaving behind a dead man but consoling themselves by running off all the sheep and cattle they could find. The next morning a search of the nearby woodland turned up another casualty who confessed the men had been commanded by James Fraser of Foyers and they had been sent by the supposedly neutral Lord Lovat.

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Gravestone of Duncan Forbes at Greyfriars Kirkyard

Forbes later joined forces with nearby Lord Loudon and managed to raise a force of some two thousand men. When the Jacobites retreated north in 1746 Forbes and Loudon ultimately ended up retreating and heading out towards Skye which is where they most likely heard news of the Battle of Culloden.

Culloden House was used by Prince Charles to house the most senior officers during Culloden but following his defeat he fled and his Jacobite supporters were then rounded up. Despite his support to the Government and the actions against him by some Jacobites Forbes still spoke out against the brutal methods of the Duke of Cumberland. Many believed he had gone soft and his rebuke of the Govenrment actions apparently lost him a certain amount of influence.

Eighteen months after Culloden Forbes died. Some said he fell ill from a broken heart, with the suffering that he saw across Scotland causing him great distress. He died on 10th December 1747 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. His grave is marked by a stone slab added in the 1930s by the Saltire Society.

We hope you enjoyed the insight into Duncan Forbes. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and you can still see Culloden House and even stay in it as it is now a lovely hotel.

All the best, K & D

271 Years

Today, marks the 271st anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on 16th April 1746.

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Wreaths laid at the Memorial Cairn

 

This weekend we have been thrilled to see so many people coming to the battlefield to join us in our commemorations of this event and remember the events of 1746.

The Battle of Culloden is an important part of Scottish, British and indeed world history. In the space of less than an hour the final battle of the Jacobite Rising of ’45 was concluded with 1,500 Jacobite men and 50 Government men killed. Soon after the battle the Rising was over and Prince Charles Edward Stuart had fled, never to return to Scotland again. The impact of the day has had far reaching and long lasting effects that are still recognised to this day.

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The Procession out to the Memorial Cairn

 

The story of the Battle of Culloden resonates with so many different people from across the world and it is wonderful to see all these people coming together at this time of year to remember the past and the history that shaped so many lives. We are grateful that visitors from all corners of the world come to Culloden to trace their ancestry and visit Culloden to try and help gain a sense of life in Scotland in the 18th Century.

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Flags Flying for the Procession

 

This site is so special for all of us who work here and despite the weather being less than ideal this year (we like to say atmospheric) it was lovely to see so many coming along to attend the annual Commemoration Service with the Gaelic Society of Inverness. The sight of so many people forming a procession out to the memorial cairn is one of the highlights of the year, with flags waving, colourful tartan displayed and pipes playing, it is a wonderful way to remember the battle.

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Wreaths Laid to Remember the Battle

 

We wanted to thank everyone who attended, and also those who held their own ceremonies across the world, for being part of Culloden’s journey and helping us keep this incredible story alive.

The 16th April 1746 is a date that hopefully will not ever be forgotten and it is our privilege to share its story with visitors from around the globe. We hope you enjoy listening to the story and take this time to remember Culloden in your own special way.

All the best, K & D

The Veteran

After the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden and the end of the ’45 Rising there was a small problem in how best to cope with the number of people taken prisoner for their roles in the Rising. Unsurprisingly the solution was transportation with many Jacobite prisoners sent overseas to colonies in North America and the West Indies.

One such ship that had the job of taking prisoners across the Atlantic was the Veteran which had an interesting experience on one of its voyages.

On 8th May 1747 the Veteran set sail from the port of Liverpool with some 150 prisoners on board. The prisoners recorded apparently included men, some young boys still in their teens and 15 women. The women included a group of seven who had been captured some 18 months previously and were still together in a group.

The Veteran was to head for the Leeward Islands where the prisoners would most likely be sold as indentured slaves to plantation owners in Antigua, Barbados and St Kitts & Nevis. The journey seemingly went well enough with no apparent problems until the day before their scheduled arrival in Antigua. Unprepared the ship was attacked by a French ship, the Diamond. After a short engagement the French ship, under the command of Captain Paul Marsale claimed victory and took control of the Veteran.

The Diamond took the prisoners back to the French island of Martinique where they were released. Here the Governor of the island freed the prisoners and gave them their liberty.

When news of this reached the British Government they wrote to the Governor demanding that he return the prisoners to the British. It is said the letter was rather direct and though polite in its terms was none the less insistent. It stated that all the prisoners belonged to the British Government and therefore should be returned to a Government representative. The Governor of Martinique, having received the letter some six months after the prisoners had been freed, refused the request.

It is a bit of a mystery as to what happened to all of the prisoners who were freed on Martinique. Some accounts have men travelling back across the Atlantic to settle in France; some suggest men stayed in Martinique and began a new life there; whilst other accounts have men joining the French service.

Regardless of what the freed men, women and children decided to do the story of the freedom is worth sharing and we hope you enjoyed reading this short version of the events. As always please like, comment, tweet, and share your own Jacobite stories with us.

All the best, K & D