An Unlikely Jacobite Hero

Mole_bbc-300x176A number of molehills have sprung up across the battlefield site at Culloden, much to the delight of a Jacobite supporters group. The Circle of Gentlemen – a Highland based Jacobite supporters society – is welcoming the site’s newest residents and hoping the creatures will be kept from harm.

Said to have played a role in the death of Protestant monarch William of Orange, the humble mole is much respected in Jacobean circles. In 1702 King William III’s horse stumbled on a molehill, causing him to fall and break his collarbone, subsequently developing pneumonia which killed him. Jacobite supporters still toast “the wee gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat” at gatherings.

Alasdair MacNeill of the Circle of Gentlemen said the Culloden moles are not desecrating the historic site. “Although the molehills have been appearing around Culloden, with some extremely close to markers of where clan leaders are thought to have fallen in battle, there is no concern by the society.”

“The men buried there had no choice in their final resting places but, to the moles, it’s their natural habitat. They have no concept of history or appreciation of the bones they tunnel around. Given this, I can’t really see it as a desecration. Humans souvenir-hunting, or sitting atop a grave mound munching on a Scotch egg is desecration, but moles doing what they were designed to do is entirely different.”

Owners of the battlefield, The National Trust for Scotland, said they are aware of the molehills but are not currently concerned about the numbers – much to the relief of MacNeill. “Perhaps if bones start appearing among the molehills then something may possibly need to be done. But I’m certainly not in favour of any sort of cull.”

William III was a staunch Protestent who deposed King James II and VII of England and Scotland in 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, to prevent Catholicism in the monarchy. This sparked the Jacobite Wars and culminated in the final confrontation of the 1745 Rising at Culloden – the last civil conflict on British soil. 

The Circle of Gentlemen were established in Edinburgh in 1748 and were originally a secret society who remained loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie after the defeat at Culloden. Membership was by invitation only, however in 2011 the group began to accept membership from people anywhere in the world in order to support Jacobite heritage and archaeology projects.

William III by Sir Godfrey Kneller

William III by Sir Godfrey Kneller


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One thought on “An Unlikely Jacobite Hero

  1. Emilia

    Has it ever struck anybody that King William may have been felled by a little lady in a black velvet dress? (Maybe the mole was female.)


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