James VII.—The Battle of Killiecrankie
If the Covenanters had suffered under Charles ii. , they suffered yet more under James vii. "There will never be peace in Scotland until the whole country south of the Forth is turned into a hunting field," he had said. And this he seemed bent on doing. Lauderdale had long been dead, but his place had been taken by James Graham of Claverhouse—Bloody Clavers, the people called him. He was a fine gentleman, he had a beautiful face and grand manners, but he was as cruel as polished steel. His time of power, however, "the killing time," was drawing to an end. For thirty years the terrible war of religions had racked Scotland, but now it was almost over.
James vii. was a despot. Despot is a Greek word for master, but it has come to mean a cruel, hard master. The English would not suffer a despot, and they hated Roman Catholics, and when they saw that James was bent on making the whole country Roman Catholic once more, they rebelled.
Mary, the eldest daughter of King James, had married William, Prince of Orange, who lived in Holland. He was a Protestant Prince, and had given a refuge to many Protestants who had fled from persecution. So now the people of England sent to Prince William, and asked him to come to take the throne of England. He came, and James, finding himself deserted even by his own family, fled away to France. Never was revolution so sudden and bloodless. Almost without a struggle, William and Mary became King and Queen of Britain. This was called the Glorious Revolution.
James had reigned only three years when he fled in 1688 a.d.
In Scotland, however, the revolution was hardly so bloodless as in England. In spite of all his cruelties, there were some who still clung to James, and fought for him as their King. These people came to be called Jacobites, from Jacobus, which is Latin for James.
Chief among the leaders of the Jacobites was Claverhouse, who was now called Viscount Dundee. From being a butcher of defenceless men and women, he turned into the gallant leader of a lost cause. Men gathered to his standard until he had an army of six thousand, chiefly Highlanders. At a place called Killiecrankie a battle between the Jacobites and the royal troops was fought.
The two armies met, and lay opposite to each other all day. Dundee and his Highlanders lay on a slope above King William's troops. Mackay, the leader of King William's army, dared not attack, and Dundee would not, until the sun had gone down and no longer dazzled his soldiers' eyes. At last, about seven in the evening, he rode along the lines giving orders. The Highlanders threw away their plaids and their leathern socks, so that they might charge more easily. Then, as Dundee gave the order to advance, they cheered wildly.
From the King's army came an answering cheer, but it was faint and spiritless. "Courage," cried Locheil, one of the Highland chieftains, "the day is ours. That is not the cheer of men who are going to win." Then he too threw off his shoes and charged barefoot with his clan.
On they came to the skirl of the pipes. Slowly at first they advanced, then faster and faster, till they broke through the royal lines, scattering them to right and left.
Dundee rode at the head of his few horsemen. But they did not follow him quickly enough. He stopped, and rising in his stirrups took off his white plumed hat to wave them onward. At that moment a ball struck him. He swayed in his saddle, and was caught in the arms of a soldier as he fell to the ground.
"How does the day go?" he asked
"Well for the King," replied the man, meaning King James, "but I am sorry for your lordship."
"It is the less matter for me," said Dundee, "seeing the day goes well for my master." Then he died.
But the Highlanders swept on. Claymores flashed and fell. Highland dirks did fearful work, and the southern troops fled in utter confusion and dismay. In vain did Mackay try to rally his men; they could not stand against the mad onslaught of the Highlanders.
The Jacobite victory was complete, but their leader lay dead upon the field, and it was worse than a defeat for them. When the news was told to William and he was urged to send an army to the Highlands, "There is no need," he said, "the war ended with Dundee's life." And so it did. Some more fighting there was, but the cause of James was lost. Leaderless, the Highlanders grew dispirited, and returned homewards. But many of the gentlemen carried their swords and their misfortunes to France, to share the exile of their King.