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.
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.
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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.