Jacobite Scotland has been largely romanticized over the course of history, and the men and women who participated in the risings are often painted in a vivid black and white picture as either hero or villain. An avid researcher, and stickler for the facts, Diana Gabaldon is forever dropping historical Easter eggs throughout her stories, and just like Paris, the setting of pre-Culloden Scotland is blanketed with historical figures. From Jamie’s grandfather, Lord Simon Fraser of Lovat, to Prince Charlie’s advisors, George Murray and John O’Sullivan, key players of the 1745 Jacobite Rising make an appearance throughout Season 2 and Dragonfly in Amber. Keep reading for more information on who these men were and the lives they led!
Most of what we know of John O’Sullivan comes from a biographical work by M. Michell titled Young Juba. While some of the information in this work seems likely, not all can be considered reliable according to John Bergin of the Cambridge University Press. What we do know is this: John William O’Sullivan was born in 1700 in County Kerry Ireland to Dermot O’Sullivan and his wife (maiden name McCarthy), and at the age of nine was sent to Paris for his education. At the age of 15 he was then sent to Rome with the intent to enter the priesthood. However, there is no information to support the theory that O’Sullivan actually became a priest. In fact, while O’Sullivan was in Rome, he received the news that his father had died and returned to Ireland where he sold his inheritance and returned to France.
While in France, John found himself in the employ of French military commander Maréchal Maillebois, and it is commonly thought that this was his entrée into a military career. O’Sullivan proceeded to go on campaign with Maillebois to Corsica upon request for French intervention from the Genoese government. From there he served in the French army in Italy and on the Rhine, reaching the rank of Captain before leaving the French service. By then it was the mid 1740s, and the Jacobite Rebellion was brewing in Scotland. O’Sullivan was well known in the Jacobite court of Rome and in the Parisian circles Prince Charles Edward Stuart frequented. Through these Jacobite connections, O’Sullivan was able to join Prince Charlie’s household in March of 1745, and quickly became a confidante and advisor to the Young Pretender. As one of Prince Charles’s closest military advisors, O’Sullivan was one of the “Seven Men of Moidart” who accompanied Prince Charles on his voyage from France to Scotland prior to the ‘45.
After the disaster at Culloden, O’Sullivan fled to the Hebrides with Prince Charlie, and after laying low for six months, was finally able to escape back to France in October of 1746. James III knighted John O’Sullivan in late 1746 or 1747 and awarded him an Irish baronetcy in 1753. In 1749, John married Louisa Fitzgerald and together they had one son–Thomas Herbert O’Sullivan. The last documented mention of Sir John O’Sullivan is dated back to 20 December 1760, and it is believed that he passed soon after, although there is no official record of his death. It is a common debate among historians on whether O’Sullivan was a good or bad military strategist–with arguments on both sides. I personally tend to believe O’Sullivan’s decisions were not always sound — The Battle of Culloden being Exhibit A.
Lord George Murray
George Murray was born on October 4, 1694 to John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl and his wife in Huntingtower near Perth. All his life he was recognized as a proud and charismatic figure, and in 1715 at the age of 21 took up arms against the crown in the third Jacobite Rising, and went on to fight alongside Spanish forces in the Battle of Glenshiel in 1719. While in exile for his treason, Murray served as an officer in the Sardinian Army until he was pardoned and returned to Scotland.
Not one to walk away from a fight, Lord Murray took up arms against King George again in September of 1745 when he joined the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his forces in Perth. Murray was immediate appointed Lieutenant-General of the Highlander army and used his talents to rout the British army at Prestonpans. After a disastrous surrender at Carlisle and much wavering to and fro, Murray was appointed General of the Jacobite forces. Lord George was described by the men he worked alongside as proud, blunt and imperious as well as indefatigable, diligent, and a judicious planner– all skills that made him a very talented military strategist. The famous night march to Nairn in the hours before Culloden is credited to Lord George. Had it been successful, the outcome of the Jacobite rebellion may have been much different. However, the rear Highlanders not under Murray’s command got lost in the dark, and Murray and his troops were forced to retreat.
After Culloden, Lord George and several clan chiefs retreated to Ruthven and were gathering troops to strike back (a force of 3,000 men) when they received orders from Prince Charlie to stand down and disperse. It was Muray’s belief that with rest and a reinvigorated summer campaign, the Jacobites could be successful and urged the Prince to reconsider, but when he found that Charles planned to desert his troops and escape to France, Lord George sent his formal resignation and fled for the continent where he lived out the rest of his days until he died in Holland on July 8, 1760.
Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat
“The Fox” Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, was a constant schemer, and had a reputation as such. Born in 1667 as the second son of Thomas Fraser and grandson of the 7th Lord Lovat, he had no great entitlement, but was never satisfied with what life had to offer him. He persisted in his path forward toward being the chieftain of Clan Fraser, and succeeded by forcing himself in marriage upon Lady Amelia of Lovat. At the time, Amelia was the dowager Lady Lovat, her previous husband being the recently deceased 10th Lord Lovat. As she and her first husband had no heirs, the title rested with Amelia until she could remarry.
While the entire act was legal, it did nothing but anger Amelia’s family–some very influential men including the Duke of Atholl, and Lovat was forced to forfeit his title and flee to France. There, he converted to Catholicism and became an ardent supporter of King James and his Jacobites, and when he returned to Scotland in 1703, it was in the hopes of gaining supporters for the Old Pretender. However, after several misguided actions in the service of self-gain, Simon Fraser ended up running back to France where he was imprisoned for nearly 10 years before he managed to escape and return to Scotland. Again. By this time, the Jacobite rising of 1715 was gaining traction, and Lovat proved to be a fence sitter of epic proportions. Throughout the entire rebellion he managed to write both the Jacobites and the British Crown, hoping to suss out support for his own ambitions — gaining the title of 11th Lord Lovat back, which he finally succeeded in doing in 1733.
Because of his previous games trying to play both sides against the middle, the British government saw right through Lovat’s pretenses when it came to the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Fraser outwardly remained supportive of the crown while sending his son Simon to fight in support of the Jacobites, but after the crushing defeat of General Cope’s forces at Prestonpans he openly declared his support for Prince Charlie. Once Lord Murray and his forces were defeated at Culloden, Fraser lent his voice in support of a retreat and regroup. Once it was made clear the prince had no intention of doing this, Fraser along with many other notable Jacobites fled for safer ground, but unlike Lord George Murray and Sir John O’Sullivan, 80-year-old Fraser was captured, convicted of treason, and on 9 April 1747, publicly beheaded on Tower Hill in London.
I hope this piece gives you a little more insight into these minor characters in the Outlander series, and who they were in real life! As always, let me know what you think in the comments, and feel free to Like and Share!!
Until next time, Cheers!