Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/207

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

England. The battle of Sheriffmuir happened on the same day, and in the report of it which reached France the dubious conflict was represented as a magnificent Jacobite triumph. The chevalier had already arranged to set out for Scotland. On 21 Oct., disguised as a servant, he left Bar-le-Duc, and on 8 Nov. he reached the coast near St. Malo (Letter to Bolingbroke in Thornton's Stuart Dynasty, 1890, p. 411). Here the news of Sheriffmuir finally decided him to start for Scotland, but finding it impossible to obtain a passage from St. Malo, he journeyed through Normandy, disguised as a sailor, to Dunkirk, where in the middle of December he embarked on board a small privateer, accompanied by a few attendants. On 22 Dec. a safe landing was made at Peterhead. Here he passed the night, and the next day came to Newburgh, a seat of the Earl Marischal [see Keith, George, tenth Earl Marischal]. Passing through Aberdeen in disguise, he journeyed south to Fetteresso, another seat of the Earl Marischal's, where he was joined by the Earl of Mar and a small band of gentlemen from the army at Perth. On Mar's arrival the chevalier laid aside his disguise, and allowed his arrival to be openly announced. The gentlemen who had met him were constituted a privy council, and proclamations were issued in the name of James VIII of Scotland and III of England, one of which appointed his coronation to take place at Scone. The magistrates of Aberdeen—nominees of Mar—went to offer him their homage, and the episcopal clergy presented him with an enthusiastic address of welcome. For a few days he was detained at Fetteresso by an attack of ague, but on 2 Jan. 1716 he began his journey southwards, by Brechin and Glamis, to Dundee, into which he made a kind of state entry, the populace receiving him with some enthusiasm, and with no manifestations of hostility. He then journeyed leisurely to Scone Palace, which he reached on the 8th. Here he established his court, with the observances and etiquette appropriate to royalty. Preparations were begun for his coronation, the Jacobite ladies denuding themselves of their jewels and ornaments that a crown might be extemporised for the occasion. Almost from the time of the chevalier's landing, however, it was discerned that his position was well-nigh desperate, and even before his arrival at Scone he observed, by way of consoling his followers: ‘For myself, it is no new thing for me to be unfortunate.’ Whatever may have been the ardour kindled by Mar's enthusiastic eulogy of the prince as ‘the first gentleman I ever knew,’ it was quenched as soon as he presented himself to the ‘little kings with their armies’ at Perth. ‘I must not conceal,’ writes one of his followers, ‘that when we saw the man whom they called our king, we found ourselves not at all animated by his presence, and if he was disappointed with us, we were tenfold more so in him. We saw nothing in him that looked like spirit. He never appeared with cheerfulness and vigour to animate us. Our men began to despise him; some asked if he could speak. His countenance looked extremely heavy. He cared not to come abroad among us soldiers, or to see us handle our arms or do our exercise’ (True Account of the Proceedings at Perth, written by a Rebel, 1716, p. 20). The chevalier was weak of purpose, and was managed by his favourites. Mar saw the need of devising a means by which he could decorously escape the perilous consequences of his rash enterprise. The only persons prepared to risk battle on behalf of the chevalier were the highland chiefs and their followers; but their chivalrous determination was one of Mar's chief difficulties. When, on 28 Jan., news reached Perth of Argyll's approach, nothing but immediate flight was thought of. A retreat into the highlands was the resolution ostensibly reached, and it was only on this understanding that the highland chiefs consented to the retrograde movement. The route selected was, however, by the Carse of Gowrie and Dundee to Montrose, provision having secretly been made for the escape, at Montrose, of the chevalier to France. On 31 Jan. the Jacobites crossed the Tay on the ice, the retreat being conducted with the swiftness and skill characteristic of the highland clans, and when they reached Montrose, Argyll was two days' march in their rear. A French vessel was lying in the harbour, and, according to Mar, the chevalier was now first advised to escape to France. Mar, in his ‘Narrative,’ asserts that the chevalier only consented to the proposal when told that his presence would merely increase the danger of his followers; but in a letter of 10 Feb. (Stuart Dynasty, p. 422) Mar asserts that he himself only joined the chevalier in his flight at his urgent solicitation. Lord Drummond and the Earl Marischal were left behind. To avoid English cruisers they sailed westwards, and afterwards, on nearing Norway, kept the coast-line till they reached Walden, near Gravelines, where they landed on 10 Feb. Before leaving Scotland the chevalier addressed a letter to the Duke of Argyll, enclosing a sum of money for distribution among the sufferers from the devastation by the Jacobites on Argyll's line of march, and he also sent a letter to General Gordon, left in command of his highland