History Scotland

Scottish History Society

A prince’s landing at Prestonpan­s


In this edition (pg. 18), we have read about the fascinatin­g life and career of James Gardiner – decorated soldier who fought on the continent and on British soil, early rake then religious convert, family man and lowlander. He joined the British army aged fourteen and saw considerab­le action, being seriously wounded fighting the French, before dying on a battlefiel­d much closer to home: Prestonpan­s. Some of the context of Prestonpan­s is given in the Account which is the focus here.

The Account is a relatively short document – only 20 pages or so – but it is action-packed, covering the landing of Charles Edward Stuart at Glenfinnan to the night before the battle of Prestonpan­s, where James Gardiner would die in combat, mortally wounded as he tried to control fleeing troops. It is assumed to have been written by Ranald Macdonald, as his role in the tumultuous proceeding­s is emphasised throughout, sometimes to the detriment of the reputation­s of the other key figures in the rising, although to the reader’s amusement.

It is a pretty robust and straightfo­rward account of the key operations, troop movements and decision-making at the heart of the Jacobite camp, peppered with sharp observatio­ns and some non-too respectful analysis of the actions and motivation­s of leading Jacobites, Charles Edward Stuart (referred throughout the document as ‘P.’) included. What comes across strongly is the sheer oddness and unreality of much of the campaign in the lowlands: great bodies of troops marching along roads and overtaking civilians in carriages on their way to balls, the endless negotiatio­ns with town and city councils, tents in public parks filled with troops and constant wrangling over funds for the campaign.

There was nothing unreal about the sharp military edge of the campaign, as the life and death of James Gardiner demonstrat­es. He was one figure among many, unjustly overlooked for contempora­ries and historians since: this Account goes some way to redress the balance.

‘An Account of the proceeding­s of Prince Charles’ landing to Prestonpan­s,’ (ed. D. Nicholas) Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, third series, volume 50 (Edinburgh, 1958). Read the text at: http://scot.sh/prestonpan­s

The Scottish History Society is the leading publisher of original sources relating to the history of Scotland. Founded in 1886, the Society has published over 170 volumes; taken together, these form a collection of great richness and variety illustrati­ng the history of the nation as recorded by contempora­ries. Membership is open to all and benefits include a free hard copy of our annual volume, and invitation­s to our events, including our AGM, Presidenti­al Lecture and Publicatio­nsWorkshop­s.To join, please see: https://scot.sh/hsjoin. Our entire publicatio­ns list has also been recently digitised in partnershi­p with the National Library of Scotland.To access the digital edition for free, please see: https://scot.sh/shspublica

 ??  ?? Print showing General Sir John Cope riding to the gates of Berwick and announcing the defeat of British forces at Prestonpan­s
Print showing General Sir John Cope riding to the gates of Berwick and announcing the defeat of British forces at Prestonpan­s

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