Stranger than fiction : ‘The Adventures of William Home’

If you have recently visited Culloden Battlefield, you might have gone on one of our museum highlight tours run by the volunteers in the learning team.

We all have our favourite objects and stories that we can talk about for hours, and for this blog John, one of our volunteers, is sharing one of his favourite stories:

Ensign William Home .

During war exceptional people can emerge from the carnage of battle as representing the true character of a hero and they are worth taking notice off. One of these individuals is William Home. At just 14 years old he carried the standard at the Battle of Falkirk and here at Culloden.

William was born at Duns in Berwickshire around 1731, the only son of Patrick Home of Langrig, who was a maltster by trade. He signed up to the Jacobite army in the role of a Cornet (Ensign) in Lord Balmerino’s Life Guards and fought at Prestonpans, Falkirk, and Culloden. On occasion he acted as aide-de-camp to Prince Charles Edward Stuart ,who presented him with a miniature of himself , a medal and Quaich . These items, along with Williams carbine, are on display in the first corridor at the Culloden Visitor Centre .

We know about William Homes activities at Culloden and the immediate aftermath, through a letter he wrote to a John Home.

The first troop of Lifeguards , commanded by Lord Echo and posted on the right of the front line were the first that gave way and in a very short time the infantry of this line broke their ranks and left their ground , no efforts were made by the second line , at best none of any consequence .As for the French auxiliaries, they did not fire a shot and indeed through the whole of the uprising from their landing in Scotland I never thought them of much use .

From the line giving way and the second line not being very forward , the rout became general and the confusion inexpressible in that situation of affairs the Prince quitted the field and not before as has been alleged by some ,and even then he went off with the utmost reluctance , the bridle of his horse having been seized and forcibly turned about after crossing the river , he dismissed the horsemen that were with him, they were ordered to proceed to Ruthven Barracks in Badenoch and there to wait the arrival of Lord George Murray , he accordingly came on the Saturday immediately following the day of the battle /( Wednesday ), he drew us all out and made a short speech, which he concluded by telling us to shift for ourselves as there were no more occasion for our services .”

After the Battle of Culloden William was captured and imprisoned in Stirling Castle before being transferred to Carlisle Castle. He was tried for treason and condemned to death on 19th September 1746. William was to be executed on 17th October at Carlisle. The day was chosen because it was market day for the town and therefore greater numbers than usual would observe the executions.

The Crown Solicitor Mr Philip Webb wrote the following remarks “ William Home who was in the “most guilty class “bore the Pretender’s standard at Falkirk and Culloden , but was at that time 14 years old ..”

Whilst in prison, under sentence of death, considerable efforts were made to secure a reprieve including a petition on behalf of William Home to the King George II .

“When the rebellion broke out and your unhappy petitioner was first seduced to depart from his allegiance he was not yet 14 years of age , one fitter to be employed at school , than in waging rebellion : but the appearance of some with whom your petitioner had been acquainted, and the temptations of a military dress were the only inducements , which first engaged , and since hurries him on to the taking of those steps which must now inevitably bring him to a miserable end , unless it should graciously please your Majesty , out of your Royal mercy otherways to dispense of him and to spare that life which he has forfeited by his crime of rebellion.”

Conditions in the prisons were bad and there was concern for Williams health because of a fever that was raging among the prisoners. Also, there was growing apprehension from Williams family that the petition would not work as news of more and more executions came in.

However, William was eventually offered a pardon upon condition that he enlisted in an independent company in the service of the East India Company. He was sent to Portsmouth  but, along with a number of others, he refused to enlist and was sent back to Carlisle. William never enlisted nor was he transported , instead, due to an error in paperwork, he was exiled and went to live on the continent . He entered service in the Prussian Army of Frederick the Great where he rose to the rank of Colonel .

We hope you enjoyed this post by our lovely volunteer John. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, K & D

 

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