Sunday, 25 May 2014

Glenfinnan Monument

After the '45 and Bonnie Prince Charlie's flight to France the Highlanders expressed their continued loyalty by building monuments to the lost cause. Scattered across Scotland are scores of memorials to Culloden and its aftermath and a similar number of cairns, caves and cottages where Prince Charles Edward or one of his supporters was supposed to have hidden. But Glenfinnan occupies a preeminent position in the pantheon of places associated with the Prince. It was here that the Bonie Prince Charlie's standard was raised and the long road to Derby and back to disaster at Culloden began.

After spending the night at Glenaladale, the Prince and his supporters rowed up Loch Shiel and landed at Glenfinnan at about one o'clock in the afternoon on 19 August 1745.  The Prince must have been concerned that there was no clan army waiting for him, but around three o'clock, Lochiel arrived with around 600 men and then about six o'clock MacDonald of Keppoch came over the hill with 350 more. So, in the midst of this small band of supporters  the 'Royal Standard' was raised.

The Raising of the Standard was a dramatic and symbolic act. The 'Royal Standard' was a large banner of red silk with a white area in the middle. It was unfurled and held by the Marquis of Tullibardine. The declaration, dated at Rome, 23 December 1743, was read by Tullibardine and proclaimed the Prince's father, James VIII, as King of England, Scotland and Ireland. At the end of the ceremony the Highlanders threw their bonnets in the air and cheered, 'Long live king James the Eighth and Charles Prince of Wales, Prosperity to Scotland and No Union.'

The Monument to the Jacobite campaign of 1745 was commissioned by the local landowner, Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale whose father's cousin had supported Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The monument is suitably impressive, enclosed by an octagonal wall is a tall round tower 18.3 meters high with palmette battlements, surmounted by a statue of the hapless Prince. Erected in 1815 the monument carries inscriptions in Gaelic, English and Latin. The Glenfinnan Monument is one of the most iconic monuments in Scotland and it has a backdrop of some of the most romantic and inspiring scenery in the country.

The Glenfinnan Monument was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1938. However the coach load of visitors to Glenfinnan today do not come to gaze at the Monument or even be inspired by the scenery. No, they turn their backs on Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument and wait  instead for a train to cross the viaduct, the viaduct that carried the express to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. No sooner has the train crossed, than the visitors head back to their coaches.