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Mon 28 September 2020
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The Earl of Mar - Bobbin' JohnBefore the Old Pretender ever set foot on Scottish soil, the Earl of Mar raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar on 6 September 1715 in support of the restoration of the Stuart Kings.

The rising was doomed to fail from the start. Promise of lavish military aid from the French came to naught when Louis XIV died on 1 September. It was said that hopes for the Stuart cause ' sank as he declined and died as he expired '. Even then, if Mar had proceeded resolutely, the rebellion might still have succeeded. The Jacobites captured Perth and might have taken Edinburgh too had Mar - known as Bobbin' John - not dallied for weeks, giving the Hanoverian forces vital time to prepare.

On 13 November 1715, the armies met at Sheriffmuir, five miles north of Stirling. The outcome ought to have been certain, for the government army of between 3,000 and 5,000 men was opposed by a Jacobite army of greater than twice that number. The threat faced by the Duke of Argyle, who commanded the government forces, was stark. A defeat would have left the way into England wide open. His task, then, was simply to bar the route south.

The Macraes fought that day, as ever, as ' Mackenzie's shirt of mail '. Assigned to the left wing of the Jacobite army, they formed the Kintail Company of the Lochalsh Highland Battallion under Lord Seaforth. Owing to the rising and uneven ground, the opposing armies James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretenderoutflanked each other, with the result that the right wing of each army overwhelmed the left wing of the other. The Highlanders on the Jacobites' left wing, the Macraes among them, fought bravely for some three hours, but were driven back by Argyle's dragoons to the Allan Water, from where further retreat was impossible. It is probable that many died from drowning.

The battle as a whole was indecisive. Mar simply withdrew his troops back to Perth. On the same day, the English Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Preston. The rebellion continued for some weeks more, but was effectively ended by Sheriffmuir. Even the late arrival of the Old Pretender on 22 December 1715 could not turn the Jacobites' fortunes around. He returned to France just six weeks later and never set foot in Scotland again.

As for the Macraes, the Battle of Sheriffmuir proved one of their blackest days. It is said that by nightfall on the day of the battle, there were fifty-eight new widows in Kintail.

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