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Reprieve and Retribution
MacGregors Fight In The Great British Civil War
James VI of Scotland and I of England died in bed, the
first of his family to achieve that peaceful end. His son, who
became Charles I, inherited his father's war on the MacGregors and his
family's firm belief in the divine right of Kings to rule with only God to
answer to. In 1633, he passed the Proscriptive Act
, which was meant to quell Highland uprisings but it had little real
effect and they continued to flourish.
When the Great Civil War broke out between Royalists and 'Roundheads,'
the Gregor clan decided to forgive Charles and back the Royalist
cause. Their reasoning was that their ancestors had been Kings of
Scotland also, and their sympathies naturally flowed towards a fellow
catholic under duress. In Scotland, the War became a battle
between the two rival families of Argyle and Graham, (the
Protestant Campbell, Duke of Argyle and the Catholic Graham, Marquis of
All the Highland clans, except the Campbells and their allies, fell behind
Montrose. It was virtually a racial conflict between Highlanders and
Lowlanders. The MacGregors took a heavy revenge on their hereditary
persecutors. At Kilsyth, they participated in the massacre of
Covenanters who, being trapped in a peat bog , were shot without mercy.
At Inverlochy, near Ben Nevis, after an astonishing crossing of
Drumalban, the Spine of Britain, in the depths of a severe winter,
which no regular troops could have endured, Montrose's clans fell on the Duke
of Argyle's army and annihilated them. The victors devastated the
whole of Argyle country, burning and destroying Inverary and
Campbeltown. However, when the Royalist cause finally failed,
Montrose was executed.
Charles I of Scotland and England was beheaded in London on 30 January, 1649.
His execution had been carried out with no consultation with anyone in
Scotland, where his real power base was. Many in Scotland
turned to his 18 year old son, and proclaimed him Charles II of
Scotland. In the unsuccessful uprising of Glencairn in the
Royalist cause in 1653, the forces of Charles II met in
'MacGregor Hall' on the Isle of Loch Rannoch. But Cromwell won
a decisive victory at the Battle of Dunbar and turned Scotland into an
occupied country, abolishing its separate Parliament.
Strangely enough, Cromwell lifted the persecutions of the MacGregors,
partly due to his belief in fair play and, also because of his hatred
towards fanaticism, whatever its source.
The Monarchy is Restored, Clan Gregor is Freed
By the time the monarchy was restored in 1660, Charles
II had lost interest in Scotland. He was a weak King and relied on
court favourites to manage Britain. His dragoons wrecked awful
vengeance on Whigs and Covenanters alike throughout Scotland for a quarter
century of misrule. Many MacGregors rose to staff positions in the
Kings army, including Lieutenant-Colonel Donald MacGregor, the father of Rob
In 1661, the MacGregors were particularly happy to hear of the
execution of Argyle. He was not charged with his campaign
against the MacGregors, but, in addition to his treason against the Stuarts,
he was found guilty of the massacre of the Lamonts of Cowal, after
promising those that were taken prisoner they would be dealt with fairly.
Charles II's 'Highland Host' consisting of mainly MacGregors, MacDonalds,
and Stewarts, also took part in his 'Divide and Rule' policy, effectively
dividing Scotland in two. He promised the Gregor Clan full restitution
of their lands in return for the considerable services they had performed in
support of his - and his father's causes but he only lifted the proscription
of their name. He died of apoplexy in 1685.
When Charles II died, his brother James, became king.
With the rotten judgment that dogged the Stuarts, James II imposed the death
penalty on Covenanters. His power base in London soon crumbled and he
was deposed in favour of his nephew and son-in-law, the Protestant William
Enter William of Orange, Clan
Gregor Is Set Upon Again
Most of the Highlanders remained
faithful to James and rose up against the Dutch interloper. These rebels
(called Jacobites) rallied under Graham of Claverhouse and almost annihilated
William's army in a fierce battle at Killiecrankie in 1689. However,
Claverhouse was mortally wounded and left the Jacobites leaderless. Most
of them lost heart and returned to their Highlands. Among the
Highland contingents were one hundred Glen Gyle MacGregors, included in their
number was one young
Campbell (later known as Rob Roy
William came from a tolerant country and people
expected good things from him. His coming was a welcome change for
the English and Presbyterian Scots, but his unfamiliarity with
Scotland or its people caused him to rely on those such as the Campbell Earl
of Stair, who had many axes to grind. His father, the Duke of Argyle
had been executed by the Stuarts so he got to work exacting vengeance on his
personal foes amongst the clans. The outstanding targets of his rage
were that MacDonald sept-the MacIans of Glencoe, the MacGregors, the
Stewarts and all those other clans that had taken part in the rout at
He would first deal with the MacIans in such a shameful and treacherous
manner as to shock to its very core the entire Scottish nation and bring
disdain throughout Europe. William's rule was a period of vengeance
against the catholic Highlanders under the guise of 'pacification.'
The new Argyle would use this cause as an opportunity to eliminate his foes
once and for all.
Massacre of Glencoe,
Murder MacIans (after
Determined to exert his authority over the Scots,
William demanded that every clan Chief swear an oath of loyalty to him
before a certain date. Due to inclimate weather and other reasons
about where the ceremony would take place, the Chief of the Clan MacDonald,
took his oath several days after the deadline.
Here was an opportunity to make an example of a
prominent leader. The Campbells, old enemies of the MacDonalds, were
ordered to lodge their troops with the MacDonalds at their homes in Glencoe,
get to know them, gain their confidence, then put every MacDonald, male and
female, younger than 70 to the sword. The Campbells were only too
pleased to carry out their commission and the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692
remains one of the bloodiest dates in Scotland's bloodstained history.
The Glencoe massacre shocked everyone in Scotland and
Yet such was the stupidity of William III, advised by Stair, in
the year following Glencoe, severe proscriptive
Acts were again laid upon the MacGregors.
However, this time they only served the predatory services of the Campbells
as they were not pursued with much enthusiasm by the real authorities.