Posted for Sky Harbor.
It is true that most ‘true’ Scots, and those of us descended from them, hold the Jacobite Prince Charles, the disaster at Culloden and what followed in a special place of romantic heartbreak and a strange longing…
But viewed in the cold light of history as I read it, I must beg to differ, even at the risk of of offence to my MacFie clan brethren…
We think today of Scottish thrift, clear-eyed science and brilliant engineering… and yes, OK – the ‘Braveheart’ William Wallace too… although Mel Gibson’s portrayal is as inaccurate as was John Wayne’s “Alamo”… (the end result was the same though)
Indeed, the entire sad 18th century history of Scotland is a tale of miscalculation and vainglory…
First came the catastrophe of ‘New Caledonia’… no, not the New Zealand one, the Panamanian one… the unmitigated disaster at Darrien. Although the idea of a shortcut from Pacific to Atlantic was a bright one, the planning and execution were botched again and again… all the money went, and all the misguided colonists died in the malarial swamps of the Isthmus.
Then came the adventures of the Jacobins and their very French/continental ‘bonnie’ prince. At first, things seemed to go well… the Brits were unprepared and busy elsewhere. But once the English got their act together, the end result was pathetically predictable. Firstly, most Scots were lowlanders, and were loyal to Britain. (a fact much down-played today)…
Consider – did any kilted son of Scotland seriously believe that Catholic France would come to the aid of a bunch of crazy pike waving gaelic speaking peasants? PLEASE… even the French weren’t THAT stupid! And for all the pretty fake kilt and sporran… Charles was a just plain lousy general….
So, in the end – the hapless Scots were slaughtered wholesale at Culloden by a far superiour force and the Bonnie Prince skedaddled in disguise back to safety in France… where he whored and drank himself to an early death. Not quite the romantic image that the pretty oil paintings would have us believe, is it?
Please note that I do NOT give a pass to the English in this sad tale… the Highland ‘clearances’ that followed the collapse of the Jacobite cause were shameful by any standard. Indeed almost the entire history of England’s treatment of the gaelic peoples of the British Ilses is one of brutal domination by force of arms or money or both. (The upshot of which echoes down to us today in Ulster and elsewhere.)
But the entire tragic panoply from Braveheart and the conniving ‘Bruce’ through ‘Bloody’ Catholic Mary, ‘Queen of Scots’ and on and on to the last Jacobite gasp at Culloden… strikes me as one of Repeated Glorious Half-Baked Disaster … No one EVER has doubted the bravery or courage of the Scots… but let’s be honest… a bit of cool-headed planning might have gone a LONG way.
In the end of course, Scotland became a dutiful part of Great Britain… went to school, and finally learned to get it right… Today, they finally DO have an independent parliament… not through vainglorious kamikaze charges, but through hard-headed politics and crafty use of cash…. ummm… the English way… come to think of it!! ;-}