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Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Culloden battle hoard found

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It remained buried for two and a half centuries. Now a hoard believed to have been part of a supply of weapons for Bonnie Prince Charlie has been found in the Highlands of Scotland.

A group of amateur archaeologists made the discovery near a ruined croft house in rural Lochaber. The hoard includes more than 200 musket balls, gold and silver coins, and gilt buttons.

Musket balls intended for use by the Jacobites. They were found by amateur archaeologists using metal-detectors. Image: Conflicts of Interest.
Musket balls intended for use by the Jacobites. They were found by amateur archaeologists using metal-detectors. Image: Conflicts of Interest.

The find is believed to have been part of an arms shipment that landed in Lochaber a fortnight after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat at Culloden.

The battle was fought near Inverness in April 1746 and was the climax of the Jacobite campaign to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne of England and Scotland. However, they were beaten by a Government army led by the Duke of Cumberland, marking the end of the last significant Jacobite rebellion.

The violent clash cost the Jacobites at least 1,500 men, so it is doubtful the hoard would have helped even if it had reached the prince in time. It was probably sent by France, which supported the Stuarts and sheltered the prince before and after the battle.

The discovery was made by a group of amateur archaeologists called Conflicts of Interest. Using metal detectors, they found the musket balls – which match the calibre of muskets sent to the Jacobites – and coins near a house in Sandaig on Loch nan Uamh.

The house is itself significant, as it belonged to Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, a poet and writer who fought in the uprising and was the prince’s Gaelic tutor.

In compliance with Scottish law, the group subsequently reported their find to Treasure Trove, an organisation responsible for protecting significant archaeological discoveries.

Paul MacDonald, of Conflicts of Interest, told the BBC that the find was made ‘by joining the dots’.

‘We knew there were arms landed in the area,’ he said, ‘and it then became a matter of narrowing down where they might be.’

This is an article from the February/March 2021 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.


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