Duke of Cumberland

William Duke of Cumberland 1721-1765; third son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach. A soldier by profession, and on balance, not a very good one. He fought in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), becoming commander of the allied forces in 1745. He was defeated severely by France's Marshal Maurice de Saxe at the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745. Later in the same year his father recalled him to England because of the Jacobite emergency. Forces under Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, grandson of the deposed king James II were marching on London. They reached as far as Derby before retreating.  Cumberland's army defeated the Highlander forces at the Battle of Culloden Moor in Inverness on 16 April 1746. About 1,000 Scots died and many more were murdered by Hanovarian troops in the immediate aftermath. A period of severe suppression of Highland clan culture was to follow. 

The rebellion and its denouement have been depicted as a dispute between nations- the suppression of a groundswell for independence. It was, perhaps, more in the nature of a dispute between two royal dynasties over the future of the crown of Great Britain.  In Scotland, at the time, the rebellion had the nature of a civil war.  Most Scots south of the Tay were Presbyterian ; many were the grandchildren of the Covenanters who had survived the 'killing times' of the 1680s, presided over by Charles Stuart's great uncle, Charles II. If the Stuart dynasty was hated, so were the highlanders: kilted merceneries had been deployed as enforcement in the SW Lowlands right up until the Glorious Revolution. Furthermore, the 1740s were years of developing prosperity. Glasgow had become the second biggest British port and in Edinburgh the Enlightenment was on the way. The majority of Lowland Scots were horrified by the Highlander uprising and many became passionate recruits to Cumberland's army as it progressed through the south. Four batallions out of 16 were purely Scottish, a further Scots regiment was left in support, and many more Scots increased the ranks of the English batallions. Many of the senior staff officers were Scots including L.Col.David Watson who would have been a close adviser to the Duke. 

Curiously, Cumberland was not a very effective military commander. He subsequently returned to the European theatre of war and in July 1747 he lost the Battle of Langfeld. During the Seven Years' War (1756-63) he was defeated by the French at the Battle of Hastenbeck in 1757.  These defeats compounded the military disappointments of his early military career . Culloden was his only success. One has to speculate on how much he relied, there, on his senior staff officers for guidance. He is often portrayed as an embittered reactionary old general: in fact he was only 24 years old at the time of Culloden.

Dec. 2012                                               Last updated May 2015