Banning of the plaid

Outlander History The Banning of The Plaid

Outlander History The Banning of The Plaid

I’m no historian, but the real facts are compelling to read.

History records for us, the following.

On the 2nd of August 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, eldest son of James (VIII & III – the “Old Pretender”), landed on the isle of Eriskay with seven companions. When the standard of Royal House of Stuart was raised at Glenfinnan, Highland clans rallied to the cause, the ‘Forty-Five Rebellion.  For a time the army of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” looked for a time set to victory, with the Jacobites reaching Derby by December. Panic in the House of Hanover ensued, with King George II preparing to flee to the Continent. Lord George Murray, was among those, however, who counselled a Jacobite retreat, and the long and the short of it was that, on the 16th of April 1746, the army of Charles Edward Stuart was defeated by that of the Duke of Cumberland on Culloden Moor, outside Inverness. There followed a orchestrated series of bitter reprisals committed against the Highlanders –

“As Commander-in-Chief, Cumberland must take responsibility for the many atrocities committed in the aftermath of the Rising, for he instigated them, but he was probably no worse than his Generals – Hawley in particular – and junior officers, whose brutish behaviour, especially when, as they frequently were, in their cups, is well documented. This was an era when murder, pillage and burning were the normal lot of the losing side in any fight but, even so, the reprisals against the ordinary Highland people were, to any normal mind, excessive and left an evil memory, distorted by time and politics.”

(“The Highland People” James D. Scarlett)

The behaviour of the fictional Captain Jonathon Wolverton Randall comes to mind after reading this, although we know, in the Outlander story his acts of evil were perpetrated prior to Culloden.

Regarding the wearing of tartan and plaid, Captain Edmund Burt, a government engineer, who wrote his “Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland” in the 1730s. Burt recorded first-hand experiences of his time in the Highlands. Regarding the traditional clothing of the people he has this to say –

“Various reasons are given both for and against the Highland dress. It is urged against it, that it distinguishes the natives as a body of people distinct and separate from the rest of the subjects of Great Britain, and thereby is one cause of their narrow adherence among themselves, to the exclusion of all the rest of the kingdom…”

The Jacobite rebellion did not happen overnight, like a pot set to boil, it took time, a 30 year process, to erupt into total conflict.


Post the defeat of the Highlanders at Culloden, King George II imposed, the Dress Act of 1746.  It served a dual purpose, to eradicate the Jacobite military threat, to the British government and Crown, and to obliterate the separate cultural identity of the Highland people.