Duke of Cumberland

Duke of Cumberland

William Augustus, the third son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, was born in 1721. Created the Duke of Cumberland in 1726, he became a soldier and in May 1745 commanded the British, Hanoverian, Austrian and Dutch forces at the Battle of Fontenoy. Later that year he was sent to Scotland to crush the Jacobite Rebellion.

When Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) arrived in Scotland, most of the highland clans gave him their support. At the Battle of Prestonpans in September 1745 and the Battle of Falkirk in January 1746, the Highland Charge once again proved successful against the English army.

By the time the two sides met again in Culloden in April 1746, the Duke of Cumberland had developed a new strategy against the Highland Charge. The infantry were put into three ranks. The front rank were ordered not to fire until the Highlanders were only twelve yards away. While the front rank reloaded, the second rank fired their guns. By the time the third rank had fired their guns, the first rank were ready to fire again.

The infantry now used firelocks which were faster to reload than the previous matchlock guns. These guns were also fitted with bayonets so that even if some of the enemy were able to reach the English front-lines they were able to defend themselves against the broadswords of the Highlanders.

This time the English army did not run away when the Highlanders charged. Faced with the well-organised infantry that fired their guns in stages, very few Highlanders managed to reach the English lines. Unable to get dose enough to use their broadswords, some Highlanders even resorted to throwing stones at the English army.

George II gave the Duke of Cumberland instructions that the Scots had to be punished for supporting Charles. Many of those who had joined his army were executed and their land was given to those who had remained loyal to the king.

After their victory the English were determined to make sure the highland clans did not rebel again. The English army killed any Highlander they could find that had been a member of Charles Stuart's Jacobite army. Even Highlanders who had not joined the rebellion were slaughtered. There were even cases of highland women and children being murdered. As a result of these atrocities the Duke of Cumberland was given the name "Butcher".

Cumberland's army was defeated in the War of the Austrian Succession at Langfield in 1747. He was also forced to surrender at Kloster-Zeven (1757) during the Seven Years War.

William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, died in 1765.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Edward Lunn was an English soldier who fought at the Battle of Culloden.

They came up very boldly and fast all in a cloud together, sword in hand. They fired their guns and flung them away.... They thought that it was such a bad day (heavy rain)... that our firelocks would not fire.... but we kept them dry with our coat laps... not one in our regiment missed firing... we also had two or three cannon that fired grape-shot... this upset them very much.

(2) Chevalier Johnstone was an officer in the Jacobite army. After the battle he described how the Highlanders reacted when they realised they had been beaten.

The Highlanders gave vent to their grief with wild howlings... tears flowed down their cheeks... They knew that their country was now under the control of the Duke of Cumberland and would be plundered whilst they and their children would be reduced to slavery.