Outlander historical inspiration: Bonnie Prince Charlie retreats back to Scotland

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room

On Dec. 4, 1745, the real Bonnie Prince Charlie retreated back to Scotland.

Plenty of real history has been used for inspiration in the Outlander novels and in the TV adaptation. On Dec. 4, 1745, one of those historical inspirations took place. Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite followers retreated after reaching Derby. This was a fact that the show stuck to during season 2 of the series, based on the historical accuracy in the novel “Dragonfly in Amber.”

Why did the Jacobites retreat when they were winning?

Up until this point, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army was seeing masses of success. They’d already taken important points in Scotland and on the way to the south. There was hope that they could take London and seat Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne until his father James arrived back in England.

However, issues had started all the way back in Edinburgh. The highlanders (and rest of the Jacobite army) hadn’t all wanted to press forward in the winter. Charles Stuart wanted to use the momentum and a small army did indeed move forward. However, some of the Scottish at the time went home. There was an influx of other Scots, but the English army that had been promised never actually arrived.

Things could have been very different had the Scottish army decided to press on. King George II was actually getting ready to flee. It would have been an easier than anticipated takeover. However, the dwindling number of Scottish made others fear the larger British army and they decided to retreat instead.

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The army reached Glasgow at Christmas in 1745 and shortly after that came a victory at the Battle of Falkirk. Charles wanted to use that victory to head back south again, but his Jacobite army refused again. It would lead to the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 and the rest is history.

Did you know about the real retreat in Derby? Would Charles have been crowned in London had they pressed on? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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