A later representation of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Edinburgh, 1745; City of Edinburgh Council

The White Cockade: a Jacobite tale

O he’s a ranting, roving lad,

He is a brisk an’ a bonny lad,

Betide what may, I will be wed,

And follow the boy wi’ the White Cockade.

(The White Cockade, Robert Burns)

The White Cockade
Image sourced via Pinterest.

In 1745, Joseph D’Acre of Kirklinton Hall in Cumbria, was one of His Majesty’s troops defending Carlisle Castle from the approaching Jacobite army. He had left his wife, Catherine and young children in the care of his father-in-law, Sir George Fleming, Bishop of Carlisle, and they were at Fleming’s Cumbrian estate, Rose Castle: Mrs D’Acre was in the late stages of pregnancy and about to be confined.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, wearing a white cockade; William Mosman; National Galleries of Scotland.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, wearing a white cockade; William Mosman; National Galleries of Scotland.

Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as the Young Pretender, had raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Highlands on the 19th August 1745 and many of the clans had gathered at his side. The prince claimed the thrones of Scotland and England in the name of his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender.

A later representation of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Edinburgh, 1745; City of Edinburgh Council
A later representation of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Edinburgh, 1745; City of Edinburgh Council

After taking Edinburgh – although not the castle – and vanquishing the government army at Prestonpans, the Highland army travelled south to invade England. One column reached the strategically important city of Carlisle on the 10th November 1745. They surrounded the city on the 13th and Carlisle Castle surrendered with surprisingly little resistance the next day. The men and garrison were allowed to leave a day or two later, on the condition that they did not bear arms against the bonnie prince’s army for twelve months (or, if they preferred, for a handsome bounty they could agree to be conscripted into the Highland army).

South East View of Carlisle Castle, Cumberland, by Robert Carlyle snr, 1791. (Tullie House Museum : 1935.80.5)
South East View of Carlisle Castle, Cumberland, by Robert Carlyle snr, 1791. (Tullie House Museum: 1935.80.5)

A letter to the newspapers, written in the aftermath of the Siege of Carlisle Castle, gave details of the marauding which had taken place in the immediate vicinity.

Hexham, Nov. 19th

I am sorry to tell you that CARLISLE is taken by the Rebels. They have plundered and destroyed all our Country. I was a Prisoner amongst them on Saturday sen’night, and made my escape from them with extream hazard of my life; I left them on Sunday sen’night. The Pretender’s son lay at my house all the last week. I left my brother and a servant maid to take care of my house; but they have destroy’d all my meat, drink, corn and hay…

Rose Castle lies a few miles south of Carlisle. On 15th November 1745, with her husband’s fate still in the hands of the Jacobite army, Catherine D’Acre went into labour and was delivered of a baby girl, who she named Rosemary. An hour after the birth, a company of Highlanders, led by a Captain Macdonald, arrived at the gates of Rose Castle, intending to plunder it of the plate and other valuables they had heard lay inside. A servant, old and grey-haired, bravely stopped the Scots and asked them not to venture inside, knowing that the new mother would be alarmed at their presence. Captain Macdonald asked when the lady had been confined and upon being told ‘within this hour’, he halted his men. The servant added, ‘They are just going to christen the infant’. Perhaps Rosemary was sickly at birth to warrant such a hasty, private baptism, hence the extra impetus to keep the troops from the door? Captain Macdonald swept off his bonnet and removed the white cockade from it, presenting the knot of ribbons to the old servant and saying, ‘Let her be christened with this cockade in her cap; it will be her protection now, and after, if any of our stragglers should come this way: we will await the ceremony in silence’.

Rose Castle, Raughton Head cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Alexander P Kapp - geograph.org.uk/p/2140455
Rose Castle, Raughton Head
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Alexander P Kapp – geograph.org.uk/p/2140455

The Highlanders withdrew to the coach-yard where beef, cheese and ale was sent out to them: after eating their fill they left without further disturbing mother and daughter.

The White Cockade by John Everett Millais; Wikimedia.
The White Cockade by John Everett Millais; Wikimedia.

The following year, on the 3rd November and shortly before her first birthday, Rosemary was publicly christened in the church at Kirklinton (as Mary D’Acre). Of course, in the first twelve months of Rosemary’s life, the Jacobite army had been defeated at Culloden (on the 16th April 1746), the survivors of that battle vanishing into the Highlands in the hope of outrunning the British troops who were ruthlessly hunting them down.

The Battle of Culloden; Peel Ross; Highland Council
The Battle of Culloden; Peel Ross; Highland Council

The white cockade was the symbol of the Jacobites, usually worn on a blue bonnet. There are a few myths and legends about this emblem, but it is often said to have come about because Bonnie Prince Charlie picked a wild, white rose and pinned it to his hat. The captain’s gift was preserved by the D’Acre family and, as an old lady, Rosemary recalled that:

My white cockade was safely preserved, and shewn to me from time to time, always reminding me to respect the Scotch, and the Highlanders in particular. I think I have obeyed the injunction, by spending my life in Scotland, and also by hoping at last to die there.

Rosemary, or Molly, as she was known to her friends and family, lived a long and happy life. In December 1777, at the age of 32, she married John Clerk of Penicuik (pronounced Pennycook) in Midlothian, Scotland, an officer in the navy and heir to the baronetcy of Penicuik.

Last week at Kirklington, in Cumberland, Capt. Clarke, to Miss Molly Dacre, daughter of Jos. Dacre, of that place, Esq; a young lady whose engaging temper and disposition, cannot fail of securing every wish’d for happiness in the marriage state.

In 1817, Rosemary sent an account of the particulars surrounding her birth to the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, in which they were published. She did so, she wrote, with infinite pleasure, ‘as it reflects great honour on the Highlanders, (to whom I always feel the greatest gratitude,) that at the time when their hearts were set on plunder, the fear of hurting a sick lady and child instantly stopped their intentions’.

Portrait of Sir John and Lady Clerk of Penicuik by Henry Raeburn; National Galleries of Ireland.
Portrait of Sir John and Rosemary, Lady Clerk of Penicuik by Henry Raeburn; National Galleries of Ireland.

The subject of our first biography, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, was descended from a lowland family who had served in the military during the 1700s. But on which side? To discover more, click here.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough

N.B. Joseph D’Acre was also known as Joseph D’Acre Appleby.


Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, volume 1

The History and Antiquities of Carlisle: with an Account of the Castle, Gentlemen’s Seats and Antiquities in the Vicinity and Biographical Memoirs of Eminent Men Connected with the Locality by Samuel Jefferson, 1838.

Derby Mercury, 22nd November 1745

Newcastle Courant, 27th December 1777

The Battle of Culloden; Peel Ross; Highland Council

Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion

Today we are honoured to be handing the reins over to a very special guest, the esteemed Dr Jacqueline Riding, art historian.  Amongst her many credits she was the research consultant for Mike Leigh’s award-winning film Mr. Turner (2014) and is now working on his next feature film Peterloo. 

Her book Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion has just been released by Bloomsbury Publishing. As a bonus, at the end of her article there is a competition to win a personally signed copy of her beautiful new book. So, without further ado, we’ll leave Jacqueline to tell you more. Fig.1

The recent commemorations for the 270th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden (16th April 1746), the last battle fought on the British mainland, and the phenomenal success of the TV series Outlander, have certainly brought the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion back into the news, as well as the broader public consciousness. This, in turn, has generated an interest in discovering the history behind Diana Gabaldon’s popular novels (the inspiration for the TV drama).

Thomas Sandby, A Sketch of the field at the Battle of Culloden, 1746, Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Over the centuries, many books have been written on the ’45 that could be described, broadly speaking, as either pro-Jacobite or pro-Hanoverian: the former vastly outnumbering the latter. But in recent years there has been a desire among established and emerging scholars alike, to present this extraordinary moment in British history in all its complexity, and to place it, correctly, in an international, as well as national and local context. In this spirit, my book, Jacobites, straddles different disciplines, blending military, social, political, court, cultural and art history, and shifts, chapter by chapter, between an international setting, to the national, regional and local: from the battlefields of Flanders and the Palace of Versailles, to the Wynds of Auld Reekie and the taverns of Derby.

Paul Sandby, Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh, 1750 © National Galleries of Scotland

I also based the narrative, as far as possible, on first person or primary accounts – letters, journals, diaries and newspapers – through which the reader discovers what was known, or believed, by individuals or groups, at the moment the action or event is occurring. Vital to this was the year and a half I spent working on the Stuart and Cumberland Papers, the private papers of the exiled Stuarts and William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (commander-in-chief of the British army at Culloden), both in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. The book’s style is often, therefore, closer to reportage and current affairs, than a retrospective history. In this way I aimed to avoid the overwhelming sense of romantic doom that tends to envelop ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the ’45, while, hopefully, keeping the reader in the moment: after all, in the years 1745-6, nothing was certain.

Fig. 4
Nicolas de Largillière, James VII and II, c.1686 © Royal Museums Greenwich

To whet your appetite, here is a quick introduction to the ’45.

In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart (b.1720) had one key aim: regaining the thrones his grandfather, the Roman Catholic convert James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland, had lost in 1688-90 to his protestant nephew and son-in-law William of Orange, who reigned as William III with James’ eldest daughter, Mary II. This ‘Glorious’ Revolution confirmed a Protestant succession in a predominantly protestant Great Britain, which, from 1714, was embodied in the Hanoverian dynasty.

Following George I’s accession, several armed risings in support of the exiled Stuarts occurred, most notably in the years 1715 and 1719, and Jacobite (from the Latin for James ‘Jacobus’) plots continued to plague the new Royal Dynasty. By this stage, on the death of James VII and II in 1701, the chief claimant, the ‘Old Pretender’ (from the French for claimant ‘prétendant’) was his only legitimate son, and father of Charles, James Francis Edward (b.1688). A major French invasion of Britain in support of the Stuarts in early 1744 had been abandoned, mainly due to severe weather, leaving Charles, who had arrived in France to lead the invasion, kicking his heels in Paris.

Allan Ramsay, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1746 © National Galleries of Scotland

A year on, having understandably lost patience with his chief supporter and cousin, Louis XV, and with the greater part of the British army fighting in Flanders against the French, leaving Great Britain largely undefended, Charles secretly gathered together arms and a modest war chest, and set sail from Brittany, landing a small party at Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 23rd July 1745. His audacious – or reckless – plan was to gain a foothold in the Western Highlands, rally support en route south via Edinburgh, meet up with a French invasion force at London, remove the Hanoverian ‘usurper’ George II (r.1727), and then settle in at St. James’s Palace, while awaiting the arrival of his father, King James VIII and III. And while luck and the element of surprise were on his side, for a time it proved almost as straightforward as that…

To find out more you will of course need to read the book, but in the meantime here is a chance to win your very own copy.

The question Jacqueline has devised is for you is to tell us

Who is your favourite rebel and why?

There is no right or wrong answer and you don’t need to provide your address as we’ll email the lucky winner. The rebel can be from any period of history.

How to enter

Please reply to this post using the ‘Leave a Comment’ at the end of the post.

The Rules

All entries must be received by midnight on Tuesday 17th May 2016.  The competition is open to readers in the UK only (prize courtesy of the publisher).

Good luck!



If you’re not our lucky winner but would like to buy a copy of Jacqueline’s book, it can be purchased from Bloomsbury PublishingWaterstonesAmazon plus many other leading book sellers.
Featured image: The Battle of Culloden; Peel Ross; Highland Council.