Viscount Dundee

The first Viscount Dundee was one of the strongest supporters of the Jacobite cause in its beginning. His raising of the Standard was a mark of the start of the First Jacobite Rising in 1689, and his death at the otherwise victorious Battle of Killiecrankie a few months later was a huge blow for the Jacobites. He became known as a Jacobite hero, and can still be identified by the epithet ‘Bonnie Dundee’.

He was born John Graham of Claverhouse and was the elder son born into an old family situated near Dundee. After being educated at the University of St Andrews, he served with the French and Dutch armies, where he achieved some distinction. However, after striking a fellow soldier and subsequently being refused a promotion, he returned to Scotland in 1678.

John Graham of Claverhouse aka Viscount Dundee

Back home, it was suggested to King Charles II, by his brother James, that Claverhouse be given charge of one of three sets of troops tasked with supressing the Covenanters in south-west Scotland. Claverhouse was frustrated at his lack of resources in this position, and was defeated at the Battle of Drumclog. He and his troops were then absorbed into the Duke of Monmouth’s army, and the Covenanters were defeated at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge a few weeks later. In the next decade, Claverhouse was given his other enduring nickname: ‘Bluidy Clavers’. The Covenanters dubbed him this for his perceived harshness in combating their movement.

James gave Claverhouse several proofs of his favour, which continued when he became King James VII and II in 1685; in 1688 Claverhouse was made Viscount Dundee. James’s rule, however, would prove rather short, and he was deposed soon after this appointment. Dundee was greatly disappointed when the Scottish Parliament ultimately ruled in favour of William and Mary as joint Sovereigns.

In March 1689, Dundee sneaked into Edinburgh Castle and encouraged the Duke of Gordon to continue to hold the Castle against the Government army. Dundee then travelled around in search of support. Before going home to his wife, he met with some Highlander allies. Although a Lowlander, Dundee was said to have had an interest in the culture of the Highlands, reading about their ancient songs, poems and customs. This knowledge, along with their united goal, probably helped to forge a bond between him and the Highlanders, who typically did not like being led by someone who was not one of them.

Dundee waited for news from the deposed King, before marching to Dundee Law to raise the Standard on 13th April 1689. He then departed and travelled around Scotland rallying support. Dundee had been branded a ‘fugitive and rebel’ and soon a reward was being offered for his immediate capture.

On the 27th of July, a Jacobite army (around 2,500), led by Dundee, met a Government army (around 4000), led by General Hugh Mackay at Killiecrankie. The Jacobites had a better position, starting on a hilltop above the Government soldiers, and the effectiveness of the Highland Charge meant that it was soon a decisive victory for them.

Dundee, however, had been hit by a musket ball and fallen off his horse. While dying, he was said to have asked a fellow Jacobite soldier, ‘How goes the day?’, to which the man replied, ‘Well for King James, but I am sorry for Your Lordship’. Dundee’s reported last words were in response to this statement: If it goes well for him, it matters the less for me’. There is a stone in Killiecrankie dubbed ‘Claverhouses’s Stone’ as he is believed to have died leaning against it.

Claverhouse’s Stone

We hope you enjoyed this short insight into Viscount Dundee. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, The Culloden Team















Despite winning the battle, the death of their leader at Killiecrankie was a crushing setback for the Jacobites. It is thought that they lost around 700, including some of their best men. A few weeks later, under an inferior leader, the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld, and before long the First Rising fizzled out.






The Battle of Killiecrankie

In 1689 the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought between Jacobites, led by Viscount Dundee, and Government troops, led by General Hugh MacKay. The battle was part of the first Jacobite Uprising that took place after King James VII & II was deposed and King William of Orange took the throne.

After the Scottish parliament decided, at a convention in Edinburgh, to support King William many people were upset and opposed the decision. John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee was one such man. He was a lowland Scot and Episcopalian and had been made commander of all of Scotland’s forces under King James. Leaving the convention he set out to summon another convention in Stirling, this one in King James’ name. On 13th April 1689 Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard on Dundee Law marking the start of the first Jacobite Rising.

1st Viscount Dundee


Following this Dundee headed north to raise an army against King William and for the next couple of months the Jacobite army began to take shape. Initially recruits were slow to emerge but gradually support grew with various clan chiefs pledging their allegiance and men from Ireland coming over to add to Dundee’s men. By July the army had eight battalions of men and were performing the deadly Highland Charge manoeuvre against their enemies.

On 27th July 1689 the Jacobite men faced the Government troops at Killiecrankie. This battle would decide who would gain control over Blair Castle, a main point in the route through the Highlands. It is estimated the Jacobites had roughly 2,500 men whilst the Government stood at 4,000 men. To help them though the Jacobites held a strong position on a hilltop above the Government men and waited until the sun was setting before making their charge. The battle lasted only a few minutes with the Highland Charge so fast that, it is said, the Government men didn’t even have time to fix their bayonets, leaving them unarmed at close quarters. The Government men were quickly forced to retreat and about half of the Government army was killed as they fled the field.

Meanwhile the victory had also cost the Jacobites. It is suggested that almost a third of the Jacobite force was killed and Dundee himself was fatally wounded. Victory had come at a high price. Dundee was believed to have been hit by a musket ball which knocked him off his horse. His men carried him to the nearby St Brides Kirk where he was buried in a vault in the kirk. His helmet and breastplate, removed from the vault below the church in the 19th century, are still preserved in Blair Castle.

Dundee burial marker at St Brides Kirk


For a while there was a legend that Dundee had not died from the bullet that hit him. People claimed that he had made a pact with devil who gave him a charm to make him invulnerable to lead bullets. Instead legend arose that one of the silver buttons from his own coat had been pushed into the wound and it was this that had killed him. Legends also say that Dundee rode a great black horse which was given to him by the Devil after it had been ripped from its mothers womb.

Regardless of the legends, the loss of Dundee at the head of the Jacobite army was a devastating loss and though the Jacobites continued to advance, without the strong leadership of Dundee they were defeated less than a month later at the Battle of Dunkeld.

This first step into Jacobitism did not end with Dundee though. IT would continue for years to come emerging in the 1715 and 1719 Rebellions before finally ending at Culloden at the end of the 1745 Uprising.

We hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the Battle of Killiecrankie. As always please share, comment, like, tweet and head to Killiecrankie itself where you can learn more about its history.

All the best, K & D