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William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-65)


Cumberland was born on 15 April 1721 in London. He was the third son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach. He was created Duke of Cumberland in 1726. A soldier by profession, he fought in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), becoming commander of the allied forces in 1745. He was defeated severely by France's Marshal Maurice de Saxe at the Battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745.

Later in 1745 Cumberland was recalled to England to oppose the invasion of England of the Jacobite forces under Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, grandson of the deposed king James II. Cumberland's army defeated the Scots at the Battle of Culloden Moor [1] in Inverness on 16 April 1746, at which about 1,000 Scots died. After the battle he was asked for orders: he wrote, "No quarter", on the back of a playing card (the nine of diamonds - still known as the 'curse of Scotland'). As a result of this action he was given the epithet "Butcher" Cumberland. A flower was named after him to mark his success at Culloden. In England it is known as the Sweet William; it is a fragrant plant named by the King after Culloden for his brother. In Scotland the name 'Stinking Billy' was applied to a weed by the Highland Scots - it is Ragwort which is smelly and poisonous to horses. They are different plants with different names but relate to the same battle and the same person [2] - the Duke of Cumberland, who remained in Scotland for three months after the battle, rounding up some 3,500 men and executing about 120. The English soldiers killed everyone they found, regardless of age or gender (see John Prebble's Culloden, Penguin, 1961)

Cumberland then returned to the European theatre of war. in July 1747 he lost the Battle of Langfeld to Saxe. During the Seven Years' War (1756-63) he was defeated by the French at the Battle of Hastenbeck in July 1757. Hastenbeck was in Hanover, one of George II's possessions. Because he signed the Convention of Klosterzeven in September 1757, promising to evacuate Hanover, Cumberland was dismissed by his father who repudiated the agreement. Cumberland's refusal to serve as commander in chief unless William Pitt was dismissed as Secretary of State led to Pitt's fall in April 1757.

In 1765 the duke was asked by his nephew, King George III, to head a ministry, a rôle that he accepted. Cumberland appointed the second Marquis of Rockingham as First Lord of the Treasury. Cumberland became ill in the summer of 1765 and died from a brain-clot on 31 October of the same year.


The battle of Culloden was not only English fighting but lowland Scots fought against Bonnie Prince Charlie. An example: many streets in the city of Glasgow and Edinburgh are named after Cumberland. On 15 December 1745 the young pretender demanded £15,000 Pounds from the burges and baillies of Glasgow. They negotiated and gave him £5,000-worth: nearly £¼ million today. Munroe's and Barrel's regiments were lowland Scots. The Glasgow regiment raised by Glasgow University was in charge of the baggage trains at the battle of Falkirk. The Jacobites stole the baggage train at Maggies Woods, Falkirk. (My thanks to Denis R Shovlin for this information) [back]

[2] My thanks to a gentleman called Colin, who sent this information. [back]


[3] My thanks to a gentleman called Ron, who drew my attention to this current "Battle of Culloden.

September 2018 — . The Guardian The site where Jacobite forces made their last stand is now threatened by house builders.

The monument to the lost clansmen of Culloden

A development of 16 luxury houses by Kirkwood Homes has been approved despite pleas to the Scottish government by conservation groups to have the plans called in for further scrutiny. Several other planning applications are in varying degrees of progress. The developers maintain that the new buildings will be on the periphery of the ancient battlefield, and that the site itself will not be disturbed. Opponents, though, are aghast at the prospect of the hallowed site being eventually hemmed in by an extensive multi-use development that, they say, will alter drastically the fundamental character of the place. Less than the length of a field away from the scene of battle a digger can be glimpsed amid mounds of earth as a building site begins to take shape.

In another building development near Inverness, it was planned to call one of the new roads "Cumberland Crescent". How crass is that!" -- The proposal has now been banned — someone has discovered a bit of common sense...

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Last modified 6 March, 2019

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