Yes, there is a monster hidden in this post somewhere. But first, the battlefield.
The battlefield is called Culloden. If you’re not Scottish or a history geek, it’s possible you’ve never heard of it – I hadn’t. But for American readers, and the surprising number of folks outside the USA who are versed in our history, consider this name.
Further, consider Gettysburg from the perspective of a southerner, a rebel, a true son of the south who still calls northerners Yankees.
Culloden is something like that. In 1746 the battle of Culloden was the last hurrah for the Scottish kings that had ruled both Scotland and Ireland. Even now, it owns a strong place in the Scottish identity.
I first mentioned Culloden in the Loch Lomond post, when I introduced Bonnie Prince Charlie. There we talked about the line from Queen Elizabeth I to the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary’s boy was James Stuart VI of Scotland, who became James I of England and Scotland in 1603, uniting the throne.
This next bit is heavy on history. Skip it if you wish, but if you read it you’ll see how really screwed up things can get. You thought Brexit was bad…
150 years of kings:
- James I: 1603-1625. United the thrones of Scotland and England. King James Bible fame. The Latin for James is Jacob, a name that’ll come up later…
- Charles I: 1625-1649. Rather unpopular, he believed in the divine right of kings to do whatever they want. The English and Scottish Parliaments believed otherwise. This triggered a civil war, and in 1649 Charles had his head whacked off.
- 1649-1653. No monarchs. Rule by parliament during the Commonwealth of England.
- 1653-1659: Oliver Cromwell takes over via coup d’état. Runs the joint for 5 years as Lord Protector, then passes rule to his son Richard upon his death. Richard didn’t have the cohones for the job and lasted less than a year.
- 1659-1660: Anarchy
- Charles II: 1660-1685. Charles II, who’d been hiding out in France after Charles I was ousted was invited to take the throne. A relatively peaceful period after the chaos of earlier years.
- James II: 1685-1688. James only lasted three years. This was mostly due to religion; the whole Catholic/Protestant thing was still going on. Parliament was Protestant, and James was very Catholic. James II was kicked out, but those in his line were still pretenders to the throne.
- William III of Orange 1689-1707, and Mary II 1689-1694, co-rule by invitation of parliament. Mary II was the daughter of James II, but after she died the throne was William’s.
- Anne: 1707-1714. Sister of Mary II. Anne had no surviving children and was the last of the ruling Stuarts. The pretenders were still hiding out.
- George I: 1714-1727. First of the house of Hanover.
- George II: 1727-1760. King, during the Jacobite rebellion
Now we’re up to 1745. James II had died, but his boy James III was still around, as was James’s III son Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charles was born in 1720, in a residence in Rome given to his father by Pope Clement XI. He’d grown up thinking the throne of England, Scotland, and Ireland rightly belonged to his family. After becoming regent for the House of Stuart at age 23, he plotted the overthrow of George II, supposedly with the help of the French.
The French connection didn’t work out, storms played hell on the French navy. But he still made it to Glenfinnan, where in July of 1745 he raised his father’s flag to attract an army of Scots and other mercenaries sympathetic to his cause. This army captured Edinburgh and won several battles heading south into England. They got as far as Derbyshire (near Nottingham) before his war council opted to retreat. Word of English armies massing, a lack of French support, and a lack of sympathetic Englishmen in the area to join the cause induced the caution. Prince Charlie, being young and hot on the trail was against retreating, but retreat they did, with the English army following behind.
Finally, in April 1746, the armies met at Culloden.
I’ll leave the details to military historians. To make a long story short, the Jacobite’s general attack strategy was to charge, but the ground they choose to charge across was a boggy moor. This slowed them down, giving government artillery the chance to lay waste to the rebels. The battle was over fairly quickly with the rebels taking a severe beating. Prince Charlie, who was stashed in a safer place, escaped to live another day. This was not only the coup de grâce for the Jacobites, it was also the last formal battle on British soil.
But what of the monster?
There were atrocities committed on the battleground and its aftermath. But while these were monstrous acts, they’re not from the monster I’m interested in.
Perhaps I found the monster in an old graveyard. Close to Culloden, there are ancient burial cairns.
These cairns are 4000 years old; a bogeyman from that far back would be terrifying.
But that’s not our monster either.
Perhaps we can find it in the nearby town of Inverness.
Nope, no monster here. But I did encounter a seagull of monstrous proportions, giving me the eye…
So where is this mysterious creature? Where, in Scotland, do people go if they’re looking for a monster?
Loch Ness, of course.
Loch Ness, frankly, was boring. It’s a long, narrow, deep, featureless lake located between a pair of ridges. When we were there, the light was harsh and the wind cool and breezy, not conditions that invited a long stay. Looking across the loch, hoping to see some mysterious creature pop above the waves proved to be fruitless. The local tourist trap provided most of the entertainment.
Perhaps if we had more intent, if we were more forward-looking, perhaps if we had a boat and time to kill we’d have more luck. Perhaps with monsters, it’s all just a question of perspective; being in the right time and place, looking in the right direction, knowing it when you see it.
Click on any photo for a larger view
Maybe it comes down to, what is a monster? Does it have to be a bloodthirsty Godzilla? Or could it also be anyone who sneers at decency, mutual respect, truth, or integrity, and encourages others to do so as well? What then, is the battlefield?