Gosh, what a response! A 'farrago of nonsense' and a 'worrying lack of
historical perceptiveness'.! And at the weekend too!
I am grateful to John Briggs for pointing out my sloppiness. I can only
plead late-night exhaustion after what had been a long day. Of course,
'William IV' should have been 'George IV'. Sir Walter Scott was a Romantic
who managed to see the political potential of dressing the king in a kilt.
I think it was still actually illegal to wear one - the highlanders must
have been mystified! Still it must have impressed the natives and shown him
to be a benign ruler. One is reminded a bit of the elephant procession
through Delhi to the great Durbar held to celebrate the coronation of Edward
I must particularly apologise for misquoting the title of Handel's 'See, the
conquering Hero comes'. As he correctly says, it was added to Judas
Maccabeus in 1750, after the conquering hero's troops had spent four years
terrorising and massacring the highlanders (regardless of whose side they
had fought on), banning their language, dress and culture, and building
roads and forts to control the area. Today it would be called 'ethnic
Cumberland was a national hero in London, after whom the Sweet William
flower was named. But the truth is that he was a war criminal here. For
many years that flower suffered the local name of 'Stinking Billy' and
people refused to grow it. What the poor flower did to deserve that, I
My point was not about 'Scotland v. England' at all, or about the ethnicity
of those who ran the empire. There were highlanders, lowlanders, English,
and indeed other nationalities on both sides at Culloden; and for centuries
earlier, highlanders had been recruited into the government forces just as
Indian, African and other peoples later found themselves fighting for the
British Empire. Highlanders of course also fought in the Swedish, French,
and other armies too. As for many peoples in poor agricultural or trading
areas, soldiering was an established local export.
I just wanted to post a reminder that there are some very different
perspectives on things in different parts of the British Isles. I had no
idea it would bring such a response.
Thanks to Julia Murphy for pointing out that children are taught about the
interpretation of sources in their history lessons, rather than learning
grand narratives. Thank goodness for that. May the widest range of sources
be available to them.
And finally, regarding Peter Pickering's point about Calgacus: quite the
contrary Peter. I realise very well that the speech was recorded by
Tacitus. Whether Calgacus actually said it, or whether it was simply a
rhetorical device, it indeed shows that some Romans at least were capable of
reflection about their own actions. Would that we were as capable!
John Wood of Highland