What 'Outlander' Gets Right About The Historic Battle Of Culloden

In some ways, the setting of my current favorite TV show, Outlander, is as important as its two central characters, Jamie and Claire. Which may lead many to wonder how much of the history within the show is fact and how much is fiction, especially since a big battle was underway at the end of Season 2. So did the Battle of Culloden on Outlander really happen? While the time-travel aspect of the series is clearly fictional (or is it?), the history behind the story is based in fact.

When she initially passed through the standing stones at Craigh Na Dun, Claire found herself in Scotland in the early 1740s, just a few years before the Scottish forces would be decimated at Culloden Moor. At the time in which the series is based, real life Scottish Jacobites supported the Stuart King James, whose family had been sent into exile following the Glorious Revolution. This was when the English Protestants overthrew the Roman Catholic King James II. In the show, Jamie and the rest of his Highland compatriots are devoutly Catholic. While the show (and books) mostly focus on how much the Scottish Highlanders chafed under English rule, the religious component was a factor behind the rebellion as well.

Given Jamie's background, it makes sense that he would be a Jacobite supporter. But the movement in 1745 was not as popular or widespread as the series seems to imply.

In the 60 years following the Glorious Revolution, no less than five rebellions broke out. The most serious was in 1715, but the Battle of Culloden in 1746 was the last of them. After winning a few battles led by "Bonnie Prince Charlie," the quick and bloody battle at Culloden on April 16 ended it. There was not enough Scottish support and the Scottish army was utterly crushed. The book describes how Scottish rebels were executed and then later hunted down and killed. This is very much based on what actually happened. About 80 rebels were executed following the battle. Luckily for all of us Outlander fans, Jamie was not one of them in the series. (Otherwise, there'd be no more story to tell.)

When Frank Randall, in the first season, described Culloden as the end of the Scottish way of life, his history was accurate. Following the bloody uprising, the English were determined to quell any further rebellion. Estates were broken up, people were imprisoned, the clan system was dismantled, and the weapons, plaids, and pipes central to Scottish Highland culture were outlawed. While it was devastating to Scottish culture, clearly, the Scottish people still remember. Though their traditions were outlawed, they are still remembered today.

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