George Mackenzie the 3rd Earl of Cromartie, born in 1702, became the Earl after his father John Mackenzie died in 1731. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 George Mackenzie was doubtful about joining Charles Edward Stuart in his campaign to regain the British throne for a Stuart king.
Eventually George was persuaded by kinsmen and none other than the ‘old fox’, Simon Fraser the 11th Lord Lovat, to take up arms against the government for the ‘Bonnie Prince’. Lord Lovat handed George his great-great-grandfather’s sword, entitled ‘The Triumphing Sword of the Clan Mackenzie’ telling him to support his prince and be loyal to his country.
Even though a lot of Mackenzie clansmen joined the government side during the ‘45 there were some Mackenzies who had a strong sense of being a Highlander, and felt they owed it to themselves and to Scotland to join George and his son John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, in the fight for the British throne.
George and his son led 500 Jacobite Mackenzies, known as Cromartie’s Regiment, at the battle of Falkirk on the 16th of January 1746 after the return from Derby. The Mackenzies helped the Jacobites defeat the government troops, this victory also marked the last noteworthy Jacobite success during the ‘45.
After Falkirk, before Cromartie’s Regiment joined the bonnie prince on the way towards Culloden they laid waste to the lands of the Clan Munro and Clan Sutherland. They burned Foulis Castle which was the seat of Clan Munro and captured Dunrobin Castle which was the seat of Clan Sutherland. Both Clan Munro and Sutherland supported the government during the ’45, and that made them an enemy of the Jacobites.
On the 15th of April 1746, a day before the Battle of Culloden the Earl of Cromartie was making preparations to travel back south to meet Charles Edward Stuart. Before they left they were attacked by the Mackay and Sutherland Highlanders who were supporting the government, in what later became known as the Battle of Littleferry. Cromartie’s Regiment was defeated; George and his son John were captured at Dunrobin castle and were not able to Join Prince Charles and the other Jacobites, and they never saw the horrors of the Battle of Culloden.
Soon after George Mackenzie and his son were captured the Earl of Cromartie’s titles were forfeited, until the title was recreated in 1861. John, the son of George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, kept a diary during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which was taken from him during his capture. This Diary is now in the hands of Register House in Edinburgh. The Diary tells about how tough the Jacobite life could be, often being ill equipped and poorly paid and having a small amount of food.
Ultimately George was tried and sentenced to death but was never executed. He received a conditional pardon, probably because his wife was heavily pregnant. Even though he was pardoned he was condemned to living in extreme poverty because all his lands and his family estates based at Castle Leod were confiscated. Many years later George died in London at the age of 63 in 1766.
His son John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, was never brought to trial after his capture even though he confessed and pleaded guilty to high treason. John received a full pardon in 1748 on the condition “that within six months of his 21st birthday he would convey to the Crown all his rights in the Earldom”. John eventually died many years later on the 2nd April 1789 at the age of 62.
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All the best, The Culloden Team