How to use Timeline

You can move up and down the timeline using the date bands: the bottom band moves you along centuries quickly and the middle bank moves along decades. Click on individual events to see more details and description.

Timeline of Scottish History

A timeline of events in Scottish History!. Scroll through a growing chronology of events and click on them for more details and links

William & Mary & Glencoe

While Claverhouse hovered in the north the Convention (declared to be a Parliament by William on June 5) took on, for the first time in Scotland since the reign of Charles I, the aspect of an English Parliament, and demanded English constitutional freedom of debate.  The Secretary in Scotland was William, Earl of Melville; that hereditary waverer, the Duke of Hamilton, was Royal Commissioner; but some official supporters of William, especially Sir James and Sir John Dalrymple, were criticised and thwarted by “the club” of more extreme Liberals.  They were led by the Lowland ally who had vexed Argyll, Hume of Polwarth; and by Montgomery of Skelmorley, who, disappointed in his desire of place, soon engaged in a Jacobite plot.

The club wished to hasten the grant of Parliamentary liberties which William was anxious not to give; and to take vengeance on officials such as Sir James Dalrymple, and his son, Sir John, now Lord Advocate, as he had been under James II.  To these two men, foes of Claverhouse, William clung while he could.  The council obtained, but did not need to use, permission to torture Jacobite prisoners, “Cavaliers” as at this time they were styled; but Chieseley of Dalry, who murdered Sir George Lockhart, President of the College of Justice, was tortured.

The advanced Liberal Acts which were passed did not receive the touch of the sceptre from Hamilton, William’s Commissioner: thus they were “vetoed,” and of no effect.  The old packed committee, “The Lords of the Articles,” was denounced as a grievance; the king was to be permitted to appoint no officers of State without Parliament’s approbation.  Hamilton offered compromises, for William clung to “the Articles”; but he abandoned them in the following year, and thenceforth till the Union (1707) the Scottish was “a Free Parliament.”  Various measures of legislation for the Kirk-—some to emancipate it as in its palmy days, some to keep it from meddling in politics—were proposed; some measures to abolish, some to retain lay patronage of livings, were mooted.  The advanced party for a while put a stop to the appointment of judges, but in August came news of the Viscount Dundee in the north which terrified parliamentary politicians.

Edinburgh Castle had been tamely yielded by the Duke of Gordon; Balcarres, the associate of Dundee, had been imprisoned; but Dundee himself, after being declared a rebel, in April raised the standard of King James.  As against him the Whigs relied on Mackay, a brave officer who had been in Dutch service, and now commanded regiments of the Scots Brigade of Holland.  Mackay pursued Dundee, as Baillie had pursued Montrose, through the north: at Inverness, Dundee picked up some Macdonalds under Keppoch, but Keppoch was not satisfactory, being something of a freebooter.  The Viscount now rode to the centre of his hopes, to the Macdonalds of Glengarry, the Camerons of Lochiel, and the Macleans who had been robbed of their lands by the Earl of Argyll, executed in 1685.  Dundee summoned them to Lochiel’s house on Loch Arkaig for May 18; he visited Atholl and Badenoch; found a few mounted men as recruits at Dundee; returned through the wilds to Lochaber, and sent round that old summons to a rising, the Fiery Cross, charred and dipped in a goat’s blood.

Much time was spent in preliminary manœuvring and sparring between Mackay, now reinforced by English regulars, and Dundee, who for a time disbanded his levies, while Mackay went to receive fresh forces and to consult the Government at Edinburgh.  He decided to march to the west and bridle the clans by erecting a strong fort at Inverlochy, where Montrose routed Argyll.  A stronghold at Inverlochy menaced the Macdonalds to the north, and the Camerons in Lochaber, and, southwards, the Stewarts in Appin.  But to reach Inverlochy Mackay had to march up the Tay, past Blair Atholl, and so westward through very wild mountainous country.  To oppose him Dundee had collected 4000 of the clansmen, and awaited ammunition and men from James, then in Ireland.  By the advice of the great Lochiel, a man over seventy but miraculously athletic, Dundee decided to let the clans fight in their old way,—a rush, a volley at close quarters, and then the claymore.  By June 28 Dundee had received no aid from James,—of money “we have not twenty pounds”; and he was between the Earl of Argyll (son of the martyr of 1685) and Mackay with his 4000 foot and eight troops of horse.

On July 23 1689 Dundee seized the castle of Blair Atholl, which had been the base of Montrose in his campaigns, and was the key of the country between the Tay and Lochaber.  The Atholl clans, Murrays and Stewarts, breaking away from the son of their chief, the fickle Marquis of Atholl, were led by Stewart of Ballechin, but did not swell Dundee’s force at the moment.  From James in Ireland, Dundee now received but a battalion of half-starved Irishmen, under the futile General Cannon.

Battle of Killiecrankie

On July 27 1689, at Blair, Dundee learned that Mackay’s force had already entered the steep and narrow pass of Killiecrankie, where the road skirted the brawling waters of the Garry.  Dundee had not time to defend the pass; he marched his men from Blair, keeping the heights, while Mackay emerged from the gorge, and let his forces rest on the wide level haugh beside the Garry, under the house of Runraurie, now called Urrard, with the deep and rapid river in their rear.  On this haugh the tourist sees the tall standing stone which, since 1735 at least, has been known as “Dundee’s stone.”  From the haugh rises a steep acclivity, leading to the plateau where the house of Runraurie stood.  Mackay feared that Dundee would occupy this plateau, and that the fire thence would break up his own men on the haugh below.  He therefore seized the plateau, which was an unfortunate manœuvre.  He was so superior in numbers that both of his wings extended beyond Dundee’s, who had but forty ill-horsed gentlemen by way of cavalry. 

After distracting Mackay by movements along the heights, as if to cut off his communications with the south, Dundee, who had resisted the prayers of the chiefs that he would be sparing of his person, gave the word to charge as the sun sank behind the western hills.  Rushing down hill, under heavy fire and losing many men, the clans, when they came to the shock, swept the enemy from the plateau, drove them over the declivity, forced many to attempt crossing the Garry, where they were drowned, and followed, slaying, through the pass.  Half of Hastings’ regiment, untouched by the Highland charge, and all of Leven’s men, stood their ground, and were standing there when sixteen of Dundee’s horse returned from the pursuit.  Mackay, who had lost his army, stole across the Garry with this remnant and made for Stirling.  He knew not that Dundee lay on the field, dying in the arms of Victory.  Precisely when and in what manner Dundee was slain is unknown; there is even a fair presumption, from letters of the English Government, that he was murdered by two men sent from England on some very secret mission.  When last seen by his men, Dundee was plunged in the battle smoke, sword in hand, in advance of his horse.

Siege of Dunkeld

When the Whigs—terrified by the defeat and expecting Dundee at Stirling with the clans and the cavaliers of the Lowlands—heard of his fall, their sorrow was changed into rejoicing.  The cause of King James was mortally wounded by the death of “the glory of the Grahams,” who alone could lead and keep together a Highland host.  Deprived of his leadership and distrustful of his successor, General Cannon, the clans gradually left the Royal Standard.  The Cameronian regiment, recruited from the young men of the organised societies, had been ordered to occupy Dunkeld.  Here they were left isolated, “in the air,” by Mackay or his subordinates, and on August 21 these raw recruits, under Colonel Cleland, who had fought at Drumclog, had to receive the attack of the Highlanders.  Cleland had fortified the Abbey church and the “castle,” and his Cameronians fired from behind walls and from loopholes with such success that Cannon called off the clansmen, or could not bring them to a second attack: both versions are given.  Cleland fell in the fight; the clans disbanded, and Mackay occupied the castle of Blair.

Three weeks later the Cameronians, being unpaid, mutinied; and Ross, Annandale, and Polwarth, urging their demands for constitutional rights, threw the Lowlands into a ferment.  Crawford, whose manner of speech was sanctimonious, was evicting from their parishes ministers who remained true to Episcopacy, and would not pray for William and Mary.  Polwarth now went to London with an address to these Sovereigns framed by “the Club,” the party of liberty.  But the other leaders of that party, Annandale, Ross, and Montgomery of Skelmorley, all of them eager for place and office, entered into a conspiracy of intrigue with the Jacobites for James’s restoration.  In February 1690 the Club was distracted; and to Melville, as Commissioner in the Scottish Parliament, William gave orders that the Acts for re-establishing Presbytery and abolishing lay patronage of livings were to be passed.  Montgomery was obliged to bid yet higher for the favour of the more extreme preachers and devotees,—but he failed.  In April the Lords of the Articles were abolished at last, and freedom of parliamentary debate was thus secured.  The Westminster Confession was reinstated, and in May, after the last remnants of a Jacobite force in the north had been surprised and scattered or captured by Sir Thomas Livingstone at Cromdale Haugh (May 1), the alliance of Jacobites and of the Club broke down, and the leaders of the Club saved themselves by playing the part of informers.

The new Act regarding the Kirk permitted the holding of Synods and General Assemblies, to be summoned by permission of William or of the Privy Council, with a Royal Commissioner present to restrain the preachers from meddling, as a body, with secular politics.  The Kirk was to be organised by the “Sixty Bishops,” the survivors of the ministers ejected in 1663.  The benefices of ejected Episcopalian conformists were declared to be vacant.  Lay patronage was annulled: the congregations had the right to approve or disapprove of presentees.  But the Kirk was deprived of her old weapon, the attachment of civil penalties (that is practical outlawry) to her sentences of excommunication (July 19, 1690).  The Covenant was silently dropped.

Thus ended, practically, the war between Kirk and State which had raged for nearly a hundred and twenty years.  The cruel torturing of Nevile Payne, an English Jacobite taken in Scotland, showed that the new sovereigns and Privy Council retained the passions and methods of the old, but this was the last occasion of judicial torture for political offences in Scotland.  Payne was silent, but was illegally imprisoned till his death.

The proceedings of the restored General Assembly were awaited with anxiety by the Government.  The extremists of the Remnant, the “Cameronians,” sent deputies to the Kirk.  They were opposed to acknowledging sovereigns who were “the head of the Prelatics” in England, and they, not being supported by the Assembly, remained apart from the Kirk and true to the Covenants.

Much had passed which William disliked—the abolition of patronage, the persecution of Episcopalians—and Melville, in 1691, was removed by the king from the Commissionership.

The Highlands were still unsettled.  In June 1691 Breadalbane, at heart a Jacobite, attempted to appease the chiefs by promises of money in settlement of various feuds, especially that of the dispossessed Macleans against the occupant of their lands, Argyll.  Breadalbane was known by Hill, the commander of Fort William at Inverlochy, to be dealing between the clans and James, as well as between William and the clans.  William, then campaigning in Flanders, was informed of this fact, thought it of no importance, and accepted a truce from July 1 to October 1 with Buchan, who commanded such feeble forces as still stood for James in the north.  At the same time William threatened the clans, in the usual terms, with “fire and sword,” if the chiefs did not take the oaths to his Government by January 1, 1692.  Money and titles under the rank of earldoms were to be offered to Macdonald of Sleat, Maclean of Dowart, Lochiel, Glengarry, and Clanranald, if they would come in.  All declined the bait—if Breadalbane really fished with it.  It is plain, contrary to Lord Macaulay’s statement, that Sir John Dalrymple, William’s trusted man for Scotland, at this time hoped for Breadalbane’s success in pacifying the clans.  But Dalrymple, by December 1691, wrote, “I think the Clan Donell must be rooted out, and Lochiel.”  He could not mean that he hoped to massacre so large a part of the population.  He probably meant by “punitive expeditions” in the modern phrase—by “fire and sword,” in the style current then—to break up the recalcitrants.  Meanwhile it was Dalrymple’s hope to settle ancient quarrels about the “superiorities” of Argyll over the Camerons, and the question of compensation for the lands reft by the Argyll family from the Macleans.

Massacre at Glencoe - 1692

Before December 31, in fear of “fire and sword,” the chiefs submitted, except the greatest, Glengarry, and the least in power, MacIan or Macdonald, with his narrow realm of Glencoe, whence his men were used to plunder the cattle of their powerful neighbour, Breadalbane.  Dalrymple now desired not peace, but the sword.  By January 9, 1692, Dalrymple, in London, heard that Glencoe had come in (he had accidentally failed to come in by January 1), and Dalrymple was “sorry.”  By January 11 Dalrymple knew that Glencoe had not taken the oath before January 1, and rejoiced in the chance to “root out that damnable sect.”  In fact, in the end of December Glencoe had gone to Fort William to take the oaths before Colonel Hill, but found that he must do so before the Sheriff of the shire at remote Inveraray.  Various accidents of weather delayed him; the Sheriff also was not at Inveraray when Glencoe arrived, but administered the oaths on January 6.  The document was taken to Edinburgh, where Lord Stair, Dalrymple’s father, and others caused it to be deleted.  Glengarry was still unsworn, but Glengarry was too strong to be “rooted out”; William ordered his commanding officer, Livingstone, “to extirpate that sect of thieves,” the Glencoe men (January 16).  On the same day Dalrymple sent down orders to hem in the MacIans, and to guard all the passes, by land or water, from their glen.  Of the actual method of massacre employed Dalrymple may have been ignorant; but orders “from Court” to “spare none,” and to take no prisoners, were received by Livingstone on January 23.

In February 1, Campbell of Glenlyon, with 120 men, was hospitably received by MacIan, whose son, Alexander, had married Glenlyon’s niece.  On February 12, Hill sent 400 of his Inverlochy garrison to Glencoe to join hands with 400 of Argyll’s regiment, under Major Duncanson.  These troops were to guard the southern passes out of Glencoe, while Hamilton was to sweep the passes from the north.

At 5 A.M. on February 13 the soldier-guests of MacIan began to slay and plunder.  Men, women, and children were shot or bayoneted, 1000 head of cattle were driven away; but Hamilton arrived too late.  Though the aged chief had been shot at once, his sons took to the hills, and the greater part of the population escaped with their lives, thanks to Hamilton’s dilatoriness.  “All I regret is that any of the sect got away,” wrote Dalrymple on March 5, “and there is necessity to prosecute them to the utmost.”  News had already reached London “that they are murdered in their beds.”  The newspapers, however, were silenced, and the story was first given to Europe in April by the ‘Paris Gazette.’  The crime was unprecedented: it had no precedent, admits of no apology.  Many an expedition of “fire and sword” had occurred, but never had there been a midnight massacre “under trust” of hosts by guests.  King William, on March 6, went off to his glorious wars on the Continent, probably hoping to hear that the fugitive MacIans were still being “prosecuted”—if, indeed, he thought of them at all.  But by October they were received into his peace.

William was more troubled by the General Assembly, which refused to take oaths of allegiance to him and his wife, and actually appointed a date for an Assembly without his consent.  When he gave it, it was on condition that the members should take the oaths of allegiance.  They refused: it was the old deadlock, but William at the last moment withdrew from the imposition of oaths of allegiance—moved, it is said, by Mr Carstares, “Cardinal Carstares,” who had been privy to the Rye House Plot.  Under Queen Anne, however, the conscientious preachers were compelled to take the oaths like mere laymen.

Print Email