Lord George Murray lived from 4 October 1694 to 11 October 1760. He was a professional soldier and Jacobite who was one of Bonnie Prince Charlie's commanders during the ill-fated 1745 uprising. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
George Murray was born at Huntingtower Castle near Perth, the son of John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl. In 1712 at the age of 18 he joined the army in Flanders. Three years later he and his two brothers, the Marquis of Tullibardine and Lord Charles Murray took part in the 1715 Jacobite uprising under John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar. Each of the brothers commanded a regiment of the men of Atholl. After the failure of the uprising, Lord George escaped to South Uist en route to exile in France. In 1719 he was involved in the little known and equally ill-fated 1719 Jacobite uprising, during which Spanish troops captured Eilean Donan Castle. Here Lord George commanded part of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Glen Shiel on 10 June 1719. He was wounded during the battle, but escaped the Government troops and managed to make his way back into exile in Rotterdam, where he arrived in May 1720.
Some say he then spent time as an officer in the Sardinian army. He was pardoned for his participation in the Jacobite uprisings in 1725, and returned to live in Scotland, where in 1728 he married Amelia, daughter and heiress of James Murray of Strowan and Glencarse. They had three sons and two daughters, one of whom became Sir John Murray, 3rd Duke of Atholl. Ahead of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, Lord George rejected a request from Bonnie Prince Charlie to become involved. At around the same time he accepted a Government position as Deputy-Sheriff of Perthshire.
Lord George declared his support for Bonnie Prince Charlie when the 1745 uprising was well under way an the latter's forces had reached Murray's ancestral home at Blair Castle in Perthshire. Although he was not wholly trusted by Charles, Lord George was made a Lieutenant-General in the Jacobite army and commanded the left wing during the defeat of the Government's army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans on 21 September 1745. Murray opposed Prince Charlie's plans to invade England, but during the invasion led the successful siege of Carlisle. When the Jacobites reached Derby, Murray was among the loudest of the voices prevailing on Charles to retreat rather than to advance on London. Many have suggested that this was the main reason for the failure of the 1745 uprising. It is interesting that Murray's own aide-de-camp, James Chevalier de Johnstone, takes a different view, noting in his memoirs that, "had Prince Charles slept during the whole of the expedition, and allowed Lord George Murray to act for him according to his own judgment, he would have found the crown of Great Britain on his head when he awoke."
During the Jacobite retreat north, Lord George Murray successfully commanded the rearguard of the army. Lord George and Prince Charles were by now disagreeing bitterly on a range of subjects, and at one point Charles called Lord George a traitor. Matters were not helped by Murray's failure to capture the Atholl stronghold, Blair Castle. As the uprising neared its bloody end at the Battle of Culloden, Lord George Murray tried to persuade Bonnie Prince Charlie to take up positions on ground more favourable to Highland tactics, but to no avail. After the defeat at Culloden, Lord George tried to reorganise the remnants of the Jacobite army at Ruthven Barracks. Charles merely sent a message that each man should save himself the best he could, and sacked Lord George from his position.
Lord George Murray managed to escape to the continent in December 1746, the third time he had had to flee Scotland for Europe following participation in an unsuccessful Jacobite uprising. He was well received by James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, in Rome, but shunned by Bonnie Prince Charlie in Paris. Murray spent the rest of his life living in various parts of the continent before dying at the age of 66 in Medemblik, Holland.