Glenfinnan Monument marks the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising and makes a beautiful partner to the battlefield of Culloden, where the Rising met its end. Today we look into the history of the monument and the site where it stands.
In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed in Scotland and made his way up Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan where he hoped the clans would join with him to support the Jacobite cause. He arrived at Glenfinnan with roughly 50 men but within a couple of days his numbers reached 1,500 with support from Cameron of Lochiel, MacDonald of Keppoch to name just two. Satisfied he could make a Rising work the Jacobite standard was raised for the first time and the ’45 Rising began.
Sat at the head of Loch Shiel the monument we see today was put up in 1815, for the local laird Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, to commemorate the Jacobites who fought and fell during the 1745 uprising. Sadly the monument also became a memorial to Alexander, who died on 4th January 1815, aged just 28 and thus he did not live to see the monument completed. By all accounts Alexander was a flamboyant man who lived in excess. He seemed to have a liking for nice clothes and was not afraid to spend money and this is confirmed by his debts of some £32,000 when he died.
The monument was designed by James Gillespie Graham, a Dunblane-born architect famed for designing part of Edinburgh’s New Town and considered on of Scotland’s foremost architects of the beginning of the nineteenth century. There has been much debate as to whether the monument marks the exact spot where Prince Charles first raised the standard, but it is safe to say that the site is certainly dramatic and fitting for a commemoration. The tower itself is relative simple, standing 18.3m high and encloses a spiral stair lit by narrow slit windows which leads to a crenulated parapet.
Initial impressions of the tower were not always great with one review calling it ‘a cake house, without even the merit of containing cakes’. Originally there was a small bothy at the base of the tower but this was removed in the 1830’s and the now famous highlander was added to the top of the monument. The statue was made by sculptor John Greenshields and many believe it to be of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. However, there is a story that tells of Greenshield travelling to Lee Castle where there was a portrait of Prince Charles that he aimed to copy for the statue. When he arrived there were two portraits side-by-side; one of Prince Charles and one of George Lockhart, whose family owned the castle. Only one was dressed in Highland clothes so Greenshields copied this portrait, but, he got the wrong man, and supposedly the statue is actually modelled off Lockhart instead of Prince Charles.
Today, the National Trust for Scotland looks after the monument and houses a small visitor centre, complete with an exhibition about the monument and the ’45. This year the monument is 201 years old and has undergone conservation work to ensure it remains part of the Glenfinnan landscape and also to renovate some of the gorgeous plaques that surround the monument.
If you get the chance definitely stop by Glenfinnan to see the monument in all its glory. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and keep following the history of the Jacobites from Glenfinnan to Culloden.
All the best, K & D