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Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel.

Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel (c.1700 – October 1748), the "Gentle Lochiel" of Scottish folklore, was the 19th chief of Clan Cameron and the eldest son of the 18th chief John Cameron of Lochiel. Like his father he was a staunch Jacobite, and with his brother, Archibald, played a major part in the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

His father was a key participant in the First Jacobite Rising of 1715, being created "Lord Lochiel" in the Jacobite peerage, but with the failure of the rising he fled to a permanent exile in France. Shortly thereafter Donald became the acting chief of the clan.

With the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession, and the resumption of hostilities between Britain and France, Lochiel offered to raise twenty thousand armed clansmen if a Jacobite invasion was made with French support. A proposed invasion of England in 1744 was abandoned, however, and Prince Charles, the 'Young Pretender', decided to begin a rising in the Highlands.

Lochiel urged him not to do this - at least not without extensive French support - but Charles was undaunted, arriving on the west coast in August 1745 with a handful of men and no supplies, munitions or money. The local lairds showed little enthusiasm for the rising, whilst Lochiel played for time, hoping that the prince would see the futility of his plans and return to France. However, Charles burned his bridges, sending his ships away and placing himself irretrievably in the hands of Clan Cameron. When the standard was raised, the largest contingent present was that raised by Lochiel, finally persuaded that the endeavour was inevitable.

Lochiel had no military experience - having been a child during the 1715 rising - but quickly showed himself competent; he was instrumental in capturing Edinburgh, and successfully led the main attack at the Battle of Prestonpans. In late 1745 he was appointed the governor of Edinburgh, leading the siege against the government forces in Edinburgh Castle.

At this point, he counselled the Prince to stop; he argued that Jacobite forces were in effective control of Scotland, and with French support could mount an effective defence against what troops were available in England. He returned to this position at Derby in December, when the army finally called off the march on London and turned back northwards. He was wounded at the battle of Falkirk in January 1746, and travelled north to Fort William, where the government garrison still held out. He abandoned the siege in April, and rejoined the Prince's army outside Inverness in time for the Battle of Culloden, which effectively ended the rising.

Clan Cameron lost about half their strength at Culloden, and Lochiel himself was badly wounded; he eventually made it to France with the Prince in October. Despite attempting to persuade Louis XV to mount a second landing, he never returned to Scotland. He took command of a French regiment in 1747, and died in Flanders in October 1748.

It is notable that one of his acts whilst in charge of Edinburgh was to order that there be no reprisals against the Whigs for their opposition to the Prince. He had previously given orders to care for the prisoners after Prestonpans, and later he would ensure that Glasgow did not suffer any reprisals for its loyalty to George II. Such acts contributed to his reputation for humanity; he became known to both friends and foes as the "Gentle Lochiel", a name that carried into the romantic myths which would grow up around the Rising.

References

  • John Sibbald Gibson, "Cameron, Donald, of Lochiel (c.1700–1748)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
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