John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, (also remembered as "Bonnie Dundee") lived from 1648 to 27 July 1689. He was a Scottish nobleman and professional soldier and is best known for leading the Jacobite cause in the first Jacobite uprising of 1689. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Dundee's family owned the estate of Claverhouse near Dundee. He was the elder son of Sir William Graham and Lady Madeline Carnegie and was educated at the University of St Andrews in the 1660s. His military career began in the French army of Louis XIV. Dundee distinguished himself at the Battle of Seneff in Belgium, in 1674, where he is said to have saved the life of the Prince of Orange.
On his return to Scotland in 1678, Dundee was commissioned in the army of Charles II, and given the task of suppressing conventicles, Lowland Presbyterian meetings, that the king deemed seditious. His zealousness in this cause resulted in his nickname of "Bluidy Clavers". Dundee's troop were beaten back by Covenanters at the Battle of Drumclog on 1 June 1679, but he achieved a decisive victory three weeks later on 22 June at the Battle of Bothwell Brig.
In 1680 Dundee met Charles II in London, and this proved the start of a meteoric rise for Dundee, during which he was appointed Sheriff of a number of areas of south-west Scotland and colonel of a new Scottish regiment. And in 1683 he was appointed to the Scottish Privy Council. In 1686 he became a major-general and was appointed to the post of Provost of Dundee. In 1688 he was created Viscount Dundee by James VII.
In 1689 a Scottish convention decided to follow England in awarding the crown of Scotland to William and Mary on the grounds that James VII could be deemed to have abdicated. Viscount Dundee tried to have the decision overturned and when this failed, fled Edinburgh to gather an army at Blair Castle in support of James VII.
Dundee's largely Highland army met the official Williamite Army at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July 1689. The Jacobites won the day, but at the cost of the death of Dundee, mortally wounded as he led a charge. He is said to have died while sitting against a standing stone in a field near Killiecrankie, which has since become known as Claverhouse's Stone. Dundee was buried in a vault underneath St Bride's Kirk in the grounds of Blair Castle. The 1689 Jacobite uprising stuttered on for a little longer, but without Dundee at the helm it went nowhere.
Had this not been the first of a series of Jacobite uprisings that were to punctuate Scottish history for another 57 years until Bonnie Prince Charlie's disastrous bid to drive out the House of Hanover in 1745/6, it's unlike that Viscount Dundee would have been heard of beyond a footnote in a few dusty history books. Instead he's now seen as an intimate part of the great Jacobite (mis)adventure. He even became the subject of a song written by Sir Walter Scott:
|The Bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee
1. Tae the lairds i' convention t'was Claverhouse spoke
E'er the Kings crown go down, there'll be crowns to be broke;
Then let each cavalier who loves honour and me
Come follow the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Saddle my horses and call out my men.
And it's Ho! for the west port and let us gae free,
And we'll follow the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee!
2. Dundee he is mounted, he rides doon the street,
The bells they ring backwards, the drums they are beat,
But the Provost, (douce man!), says; Just e'en let him be
For the toon is well rid of that de'il o' Dundee.
3. There are hills beyond Pentland and lands beyond Forth,
Be there lairds i' the south, there are chiefs i' the north!
There are brave Duniewassals, three thousand times three
Will cry "Hoy!" for the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee.
4. Then awa' tae the hills, tae the lea, tae the rocks
E'er I own a usurper, I'll couch wi' the fox!
Then tremble, false Whigs, in the midst o' your glee
Ye hae no seen the last o' my bonnets and me.