Bonnie Prince Charlie and “Free Scotland”

     As I write this blog post, the people of Scotland are voting – on Independence. As an American, even the mention of voting on “Independence” makes my heart sing. That’s likely a purely American reaction. Or is it?
     What has kept the hope of being an Independent, Free Scotland alive for more than two hundred years?
     After the rising of 1745, when the Highlanders followed Prince Charlie onto the field at Drumossie Moor, and were slaughtered in just over an hour, the Highlanders that remained were hunted down, tried for treason and hanged. Or they fled to America.
     Remember the scene in Braveheart after William Wallace’s father was killed? The funeral scene? Young William wanders outside to see pipers lit only by the bonfire they stand around, and asks his uncle what they’re doing.
     “Playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes,” his uncle replies. 

      That was the truth of it, too. Everything that made the Scots a distinct people was forbidden and the Scots could no longer be the Scots.
     But was it that very forbidding that kept the dream of a Free Scotland alive?  The Scots are a rather stubborn, "thistley" people, are they no?
     I am re-reading the Outlander books and there’s a passage in Dragonfly in Amber that takes place in 1968. Claire and Roger are discussing Bonnie Prince Charlie. Claire believes that Charles Stuart was a “fool, and a drunkard, and a weak, sill man.” The Highland Chiefs, she believed were enthralled with the Bonnie Prince’s silly dreams that had no chance of success.
     Her conversation with Roger continues and he comments that you can’t go anywhere in the Highlands without seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie paraphernalia in every tourist shop. The discussion continues as they glance at a wall that’s been graffiti’d with “FREE SCOTLAND.” (Even then.) Roger asks Claire if the historians and artists and vendors are wrong.
     “You still don’t understand, do you?” she said.
     And she continues.
     “You don’t know why,” she said. “You don’t know, and I don’t know, and we never will know. Can’t you see? You don’t know, because you can’t say what the end is—there isn’t any end. You can’t say, ‘This particular event’ was ‘destined’ to happen, and therefore all these other things happened. What Charles did to the people of Scotland – was that the ‘thing’ that had to happen? Or was it ‘meant’ to happen as it did, and Charles’s real purpose was to be what he is not – a figurehead, an icon? Without him, would Scotland have endured two hundred years of union with England, and still – still – have kept its own identity?”
     Diana Gabaldon might be onto something.
     Would drive for Independence have died in 1745 had the English not forbidden them to be Scots? Of course, like Claire, we’ll never know.
     But by this time tomorrow we will know how they’ve voted. And either way, there are costs to be paid. Freedom – or lack thereof – is never free.