King Charles II

We tend to start our story here at Culloden with James VII & II but before he became king, it was his brother Charles II who ruled in Scotland and England.

Charles II was king of Scotland from 1649 when he was proclaimed by the Parliament of Scotland on 5th February. He was eventually crowned at Scone in 1651. However, he only became King of Scotland, England & Ireland in 1660 when the English restored the monarchy following a period of republican rule led by Cromwell.

Prior to the restoration of the monarchy Charles II operated in exile. He attempted to lead a force against Cromwell and the republic. It was during this time that the famous story of Charles hiding in an oak tree to escape capture originates. Charles II was unsuccessful in his attempts to overthrow Cromwell and following his defeat he spent ten years moving from country to country to stay out of Cromwell’s reach.

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Charles II

 

When Cromwell died in 1659 Charles issued a declaration in which he promised to uphold the Anglican church and offered his enemies a pardon if he was restored to the throne. Finally, he was eventually invited back and became King of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1661 for which a new set of crown jewels had to be made after Cromwell melted down the previous set.

Charles II’s reign was filled with some major events, including an awful plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. He unsuccessfully led the English against the Dutch in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667) and then joined forces with the French to fight again in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674) which ended with the Treaty of Westminster.

Part of his agreement with the French when he joined to fight with them was a treaty he signed in which he agreed to convert to Catholicism. Although he did not do this straight away it was still a worry for the parliament who did not want a Catholic ruler. Charles and his wife, Queen Catherine, had not managed to produce an heir to the throne and many were already concerned that the crown would pass to his brother James who had become a Catholic. To try and dispel some of the worry amongst his subjects Charles II arranged for his niece Mary to marry William of Orange, a protestant, in 1677.

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Charles II coronation in 1661 at Westminster Abbey

 

However, this did not solve the issue. A year later there was a plot to assassinate Charles II’s brother and the tension between Charles II and his subjects appeared to take a toll on him. Eventually, apparently fed up with all the conflict, he dissolved the Parliament in 1679 and decided to rule alone.

He continued as King for another 6 years when he suffered a suspected stroke. On his deathbed he finally made good on his treaty with France and did indeed convert to Catholicism. The suddenness of Charles II’s death led some to believe he had been poisoned but this has been shown, through modern analysis, to be false. Charles II was buried in Westminster Abbey in Henry VII’s chapel but there was no monument raised for him. Instead, a life size wax effigy was placed over his grave and this figure can still be seen in the museum at Westminster Abbey.

We hoped you enjoyed this little insight to Charles II. As always please like, tweet, comment and share and feel free to delve deeper into the history of what many would call the most popular member of the Stuarts.

All the best, K & D

 

 

 

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Scottish Enlightenment

Whilst we mainly focus on the Jacobite history here at Culloden it is always nice to branch out and look at life in the 18th Century from a broader view. This week we get to look at something a bit cheerier than usual and discover some of the achievements that occurred in Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment.

The Scottish Enlightenment saw a period of time where thinkers excelled and Scotland saw a rush of scientific and intellectual accomplishments. Important fields such as chemistry, medicine, archaeology, philosophy and engineering all advanced at a much faster rate than previously seen. But what caused this period of success?

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Portrait of bustling Edinburgh in the 18th Century

 

To understand how such a time of enlightenment could come about we have to look back a little. Firstly, for centuries Scotland was lucky enough to have strong links with Europe and from the 13th Century they had studied at Europe’s great institutions learning from all avenues and bringing back their knowledge to Scotland. Secondly, if we look to after the Reformation there was a desire that every parish should have a school. It took a long time for this to be a reality but by the late 17th Century most places, especially in the lowlands of Scotland had a school. Therefore, most children were attending school, if only for a few years, and were encouraged in the act of learning.

Then we look at the Jacobite Risings. The events that took place, the Act of Union and the eventual defeat of Prince Charles’ army led to a time when politics did not take such a front seat. This meant there was a social gap which educated men were ready to fill. Edinburgh became a great place to be and the hub of many great men. The city went through big changes with the creation of the New Town and its university, where students were able to attend lectures in a range of subjects, became one of the best in the world.

Men from the enlightenment are still know today and include David Hume, a philosopher who had great impacts of the theory of knowledge, Adam Smith who did amazing work in the field of economics, Robert Adam the architect whose work is seen in Culzean Castle and James Hutton who is credited by many as being the founder of modern geology.

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Robert Adam whose architectural can be seen at Culzean Castle

 

Scotland thrived as the political and religious authorities relaxed their views on new ideas and the country became a leader in new research across Europe. We see amazing inventions stemming from the Enlightenment. James Watt invented a new type of steam engine in 1765 transforming the way many factories worked and Charles Macintosh developed the waterproof material from which his famous Macs were made.

After the hardship and turmoil of the Jacobite Risings, Scotland emerged as a nucleus of innovative thinking and the Scottish Enlightenment was a period of great progress and innovation.

We hope you enjoyed this very brief insight into the Enlightenment, as always please like, share, tweet, comment and be sure to discover more about the many men who contributed to this amazing period in history.

All the best, K & D

The Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle is the highest order that can be given in Scotland and is said to have been established by King James VII & II in 1687.

It is believed that James established the Order to help engage with, and maintain his close relationship with, the Scots. He asked two of his ministers of state to come up with something that would portray both the importance of the people receiving the Order whilst also carrying the air of exclusivity and royal support. Thus, the Order of the Thistle as it is known today was formed.

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Order of the Thistle Badge and Sash

 

However, there are some who argue that James VII & II simply resurrected a much older idea. Legend has it that in 809 the Scottish King Achaius gave the Order to Charlemagne. This may have some truth to it as Charlemagne was known to employ Scottish bodyguards but most consider the exchange to be a gift. Reference to an Order of the Thistle crops up again with James III who bestowed the “Order of the Burr or Thissil” on King Francis I of France in the fifteenth century but again there is little evidence to support this. If there was indeed an Order at this time it would appear to be sporadic and was not an enduring cause.

Ultimately it is James VII & II who is largely credited with being the Order of the Thistle creator. The problems don’t end with him though as issues arise when he was deposed  in 1688 and his successors to the throne, William and May, did not continue the tradition of the Order of the Thistle. It was however brought back by Marys sister Anne in 1703 after she took the throne and since then it has continued to exist to this day.

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Book Cover from the Thistle Chapel at St Giles Cathedral

 

As we said earlier the Order of the Thistle is the highest honour in Scotland and is second only to the Order of the Garter in England. It is a special honour to have bestowed upon you as it is a personal gift from the monarch, there is no government involvement. It is also a very exclusive club. Today there are only 16 knights of the Order of the Thistle at one time as well a handful of officials and a few ‘extra’ knights, who are mainly members of the Royal Family.

Knights gather once a year at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where they wear their ceremonial robes of deep green and display the Order of the Thistle star on their left breast with the motto ‘Nemo me Impune Lacessit’  which means ‘no-one provokes me with impunity’, or who dares meddle with me. This is considered to be the motto of Scotland and appears on the royal coat of arms and on some pound coins.

We hope you enjoyed discovering a bit about the history of the Order of the Thistle. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, K & D

 

 

 

The Stunning Standing Stones of Scotland

We are lucky enough to be situated just five minutes from the standing stones at Clava Cairns which are proving to be very popular with visitors. But why does Scotland have so many of these intriguing standing stones?

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Aerial View of Clava Cairns from Visit Scotland

 

The honest answer is no one really knows! Throughout Scotland there are stones arranged often in circular patterns that have no clear explanation as to where they came from or why they are placed in such ways. The stone circle at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis is thought to date from 5,000 years ago making it one of the oldest structures in the UK. How they were formed is also a mystery. Some of the stones in these formations can weigh up to 10 tonnes, so how were they transported and placed into position?

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Calanais Standing Stones

Many of the stones are believed to be part of ritualistic sites with many forming elaborate burial grounds used to commemorate the dead. At Clava Cairns there are three such burial chambers which are surrounded by standing stones. These can be clearly seen as the walls of the burial tombs are made from stones which are still standing. Over on Orkney there are the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar which are believed to be all that remains of large ceremonial sites. It is believed the stones were once surrounded by a large ditch with a central meeting point.

 

One of the most interesting things that seems to connect most sites is the relationship they seem to share with astronomical events. Many of the sites, including Clava Cairns, are aligned to the movements of the sun and moon and in particular the event of the  solstices. At Clava one of the burial cairns is aligned so that the sunset perfectly aligns with the entrance to the cairn on the Winter solstice.

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Ring of Brodgar from Visit Orkney

 

Whatever the purpose of these Neolithic sites, whether they be ceremonial, religious or elaborate burial grounds, today they are sites of incredible beauty and fascinating engineering. The stones capture peoples imagination and their sites are typically in peaceful settings with beautiful scenery that allow visitors to escape the modern world for a while and soak in the atmosphere of these incredible places.

We hope you enjoyed this little foray into the standing stones of Scotland. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and find your own favourite set of stones, although with hundreds to choose from it may be tricky.

All the best, K & D

The Alien Act of 1705

The start of the 1700’s saw many acts of parliament coming into place, one of the last ones before the Act of Union was the Alien Act of 1705. This act sadly has nothing to do with strange green men from another planet but it is an important act in the history of Scotland and the UK.

The Alien Act was passed by the parliament of England and basically blocked Scottish imports into England and treated any Scottish nationals in England as foreign nationals, or aliens. The Act came about in response to the Scottish parliament passing the Act of Security in 1704.

When the English parliament named the House of Hanover as the successor to Queen Anne they did so without consulting with the Scottish parliament. Since the time of James VII & II the ruler of Scotland and England had been the same but they ruled two separate thrones and two separate countries. So, now the English parliament had decided the successor without asking Scotland. In response Scotland passed the Act of Secuirty which allowed the Scottish parliament to choose their own successor.

The Act of Security caused the English parliament to become concerned that the Scottish might choose a different ruler, and possibly even a Stuart Catholic ruler. Therefore, they released the Alien Act. Under this act all Scottish imports to England or English colonies would be prohibited. At a time when almost half of all the exports were destined for the English market this would put Scotland under considerable economic distress. The act would also class all Scottish people living in England as ‘aliens’ and any property they owned would be ‘alien property’. This would mean that a line of inheritance would not be guaranteed which could lead to Scottish landowners losing their estates in England.

In order to avoid the Alien Act being put into place, there was a provision that it would be suspended if Scotland began negotiations into a proposed union of Scotland and England. To sweeten the deal England also offered to help financially by refunding some of Scotland’s losses in the ill-fated Darien scheme . Ultimately, it can be viewed that the Alien Act achieved its aim as just two years later the Act of Union was in place and England and Scotland united as Great Britain.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into one of the many acts that were put in place during the time of the Jacobite Risings. As always please comment, share, like, tweet and let us know if there are any other acts you would like us to talk about.

All the best, K & D

The Might and Majesty of Glencoe

Glencoe is a beautiful part of Scotland that is rich, not just in landscape, but also history so today we thought we share a little bit about why we love the spot so much.

Firstly, the landscape. You cant help but love the drama and scale of Glencoe, even if you’ve lived in Scotland your whole life it is still a fantastic place to visit and drive through. A drive through the valley is always enjoyable not matter what the weather is. In the sunshine the hills look stunning and if you’re really lucky you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a golden eagle. Summer is also the perfect time to try some of its many walking routes as the site houses eight Munros. Don’t worry if it’s been raining though. When you get the clouds and the rain Glencoe transforms into an area of classic Scottish atmosphere and the waterfalls through the glens descend from the clouds in a fury.

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Glencoe on a beautiful day

 

The site is very popular with walkers as there are a number of routes and ascents to explore. One of the most popular routes is up the ridge of Aonach Eagach but it is not for the faint hearted. The route travels along a narrowing ridge so anyone with vertigo should certainly avoid it. You can also explore the peaks of the Three Sisters which encompasses the ridges of Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh and makes a lovely day of hilltop walking.

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Glencoe looking very atmospheric

 

For anyone who knows their Jacobite history, as we are sure many of you do, Glencoe is also the site for the infamous Glencoe Massacre. It was here in 1692 that members of the MacDonald clan were killed by soldiers of the Campbell clan for not pledging allegiance to William III. The attack was launched at dawn and at least 37 men were murdered in their homes with as many as 40 women and children dying from exposure after they were forced out of their homes. No one was ever brought to trial for the massacre and the site is remembered to this day as a brutal part of Scottish history.

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Memorial for the Glencoe massacre

 

Associated with the massacre is the point of Signal Rock. This spot is, according to legend, said to be the point at which a fire was started to signal the start of the massacre in 1692, however there is no proof of this being the case. The site is also said to have been an emergency meeting point for the MacDonald clan where they would gather in times of danger. Whether either of these are true is unsure but the rock is a beautiful spot to walk out to and would have been a good beacon point for the glen due to its visibility.

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Signal Rock at Glencoe

 

We hope you get the chance to visit Glencoe, if you haven’t already. It is such an amazing place and pictures just do not do it justice. As always we hope you enjoyed reading our post and please like, tweet, share, comment and tell us your favourite parts of Glencoe.

All the best, K & D

The Story of the Quaich

What is a Quaich? It’s a question we hear quite a bit here at Culloden with Quaich’s on show in both our exhibition and gift shop and luckily the story behind this unique item is a good one to tell.

Before we go any further though we need to tackle the tricky subject of pronunciation. Most people tend to pronounce Quaich as ‘quake’ with a hard ‘k’ sound and, to be fair, this is pretty close but us Scots are fussy. So, it you want to be perfect, you have to be able to master the Scottish ‘ch’ sound which is made from the back of the throat and does not have the more clipped sound of the ‘k’. It’s the same sound that is found in the likes of loch and dreich.

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A selection of Quaichs in our shop

 

So, with pronunciation sorted now we need to discover what exactly a Quaich is? In its simplest terms a Quaich is a traditional Scottish drinking cup. It’s formed from a central bowl like depression with two lugs (or handles) on either side. Traditionally they were made from wood but have transformed over the years and now are often seen made of pewter or silver. Initially Quaichs were used to offer a drink of welcome or farewell to guests as they entered or left the home. The most common fillings were whisky and brandy but there were sometimes larger Quaichs which were used for ale. Indeed there is some research to suggest the largest Quaichs could up to one and a half pints of ale.

Part of the Quaichs beauty is in the ceremony behind its use as it passed from one person to another. This is also why it is sometimes called the ‘cup of friendship’ or the ‘loving cup’. Of course there are some slightly less romantic outlooks as well. The two handles means that as the cup is passed from one person to another both hands are required to hold the Quaich. This can be both a sign of friendship and bonding as well as a tool for ensuring that no one is holding any weapons in their hands when you meet them.

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A lovely Quaich by Heathergems

 

There have also been a couple of different designs in Quaichs for different reasons. For the untrustworthy Quaichs could be made with a glass bottom so that the drinker could still see everyone whilst they drank. For the romantics Quaichs could be made with a double glass bottom which could hold a lock of a loved ones hair so that the owner could drink to their love.

Quaichs have been around for centuries, in 1589 King James VI of Scotland gave a Quaich to Anne of Denmark as a wedding gift and this tradition is still followed today. Quaichs even enter the Jacobite story. In 1745 a Quaich travelled south from Edinburgh to Derby with Prince Charles Edwards Stuarts Jacobite army and it is thought this was one of the first times the Quaich made its way so far below the Scottish border.

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Ceramic Quaichs by Robert Blamire

 

Today Quaichs are used mainly for special occasions such as weddings and christenings and often have engravings to make them special personal gifts. They are also quite commonly used at Burns night during a Burns supper and other traditional Scottish events.

We hope you enjoyed our short insight into Quaichs. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and let us know if you have a Quaich of your own.

All the best, k & D