The long-lived Peter Grant was born at the Dubrach (An Dubh Bhruthach) in a farmhouse in a remote Deeside glen above the Linn of Dee, hence his nickname, near the Castleton of Braemar in 1714. He died at Auchendryne one-hundred and ten years later at a grand old age. His gravestone lies near to the Farquharson Mausoleum in Braemar Cemetery can still be read:
In 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788), the Bonnie Prince or the Pretender depending on political proclivities, arrived in Eriskay on 23 July. A few weeks later, the standard was raised, on 19 August, in Glenfinnan by Loch Shiel, in an attempt to put a Stuart back on the British throne. Many Highlanders were sympathetic to the Stuart cause, and Peter Grant was but one of many who rallied to the cause. He “flung down the tailor’s goose”, picked up a broadsword, and joined Monaltrie’s regiment of the Jacobite Army, and fought in various engagements. If there is any truth to the following anecdote, then Grant, like most of the rebels, was not content to stay on the sidelines and, in the heat of his ardour, is said to have cried out to to his superior officer, “I lat’s throw awa’ thae fushionless things o’ guns, ’er we get doon upo’ the smatchets wi’ oor swords!”
For bravery shown at the Battle of Prestonpans fought on 21 September 1745, Grant was decorated and raised to the rank of Sergeant-Major. His military career, however, came to an abrupt end for, although he survived the carnage that was Culloden, Grant was captured and taken prisoner to Carlisle Castle. He is said to have killed around a dozen of Cumberland’s soldiers in that encounter. He was made a prisoner, taken to nearby Inverness before being transferred to Carlisle Castle to await trial and sentencing. His future, and those of his other Jacobite comrades, looked particularly bleak. His and their fate could have been hanging, deportation to the colonies (if the journey was survived), or death due to the inhumane conditions that Jacobite prisoners had to endure. Grant, though, had other plans. Scaling the castle walls in which he and his fellow Jacobites had been incarcerated, he escaped and possibly unmolested, but probably in fear of his life made it all the way back to Deeside on foot.
The petition drawn up at the behest of William Maule (1771–1852), afterwards Lord Panmure, containing an epitome of Grant’s history, was forwarded to the king when he arrived in Edinburgh. After informing his Majesty of his age and so forth, and that he was perhaps his oldest enemy alive, it proceeded thus:
Colvin Smith’s depiction, now in the care of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, shows ‘Auld Dubrach’ dressed in tartan trews and plaid, and looking far younger than belies a gentleman at one-hundred-and-eight years of age. Lightly clasping a basket-hilted broadsword, the congenial-looking Grant retains the vestiges of his rebellious past, marking him out as the last surviving Jacobite of the Battle of Culloden.
George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 was the first made by a reigning monarch since the time of King Charles II. Sir Walter Scott stage-managed the event, which was seen as symbolising the new relationship between the kingdoms after the traumas of the previous century. Scott convinced many of the participants in the ceremonies to wear Highland dress, which provoked amusement and some criticism. The king, too, insisted on wearing Highland dress, although he only wore a kilt once, to greet guests at Holyrood. Satirists had a field day; here George is shown alongside Sir William Curtis, former Lord Mayor of London, whose experiment with Highland dress seems even more ill-advised than that of the king.
Braemar Castle, once a Hanoverian Garrison