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Alexander Robertson of Struan


(13th Chief of Clan Donnachaidh)

c.1669 - 1749

Ardent Jacobite, who was uniquely present from the beginning to the end of that historical episode. Robertson succeeded his father as 13th Chief of Clan Donnachaidh in 1687 and left his studies at the University of St Andrews to join the rising in support of King James VII two years later, fighting alongside John Graham of Claverhouse ('Bonnie Dundee'; 1649-89). Robertson was taken prisoner a few weeks after Battle of Dunkeld (1689). He was released but followed his King to France, and became established at the Jacobite Court in St. Germains, remaining there for thirteen years. He served some time in the French army. Robertson returned to Scotland in 1703. In 1715, he led a force of 500 of his clansmen in support of John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar (1675 - 1732) at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. He was again taken prisoner, but later rescued and returned to France.

Robertson was well educated and his periods of exile gave him time to write poetry in several languages, including English, Gaelic, French, Italian and Latin.

Unsurprisingly, Robertson was a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites in the '45. Despite his age, he led his clansmen at the Battle of Prestonpans. After the Jacobite victory, Robertson took as prizes a gold chain, wolf-fur cloak, brandy and a carriage which had belonged to the defeated commander, General Sir John Cope (1690 - 1760). His clansmen escorted him back home in the coach, savouring their success. When the wheel of the coach broke, they carried both Robertson and the coach for the last few miles of the journey. This happy situation did now continue; his home at Dunalastair was torched by government troops following the failure of the rebellion and his estates were forfeited. However, given that Robertson was an old man who was very popular with his clansmen, and had taken only a very limited part in the fighting, the government was in no hurry to oust him and only took over the running of the estate after his death.

Robertson never married, indeed he was a notorious misogynist who enjoyed the 'good life', reciting his own, often rude, poetry to friends and drinking heavily. His portrait held by the National Gallery of Scotland shows Robertson raising a glass of wine and, it is reported that when Bonnie Prince Charlie summoned James Drummond, the Earl of Perth, to support the '45, he was staying with Robertson and could not reply for several weeks owing to his state of drunkenness!

So popular was Robertson as a leader that it is said that 2,000 of his clansmen marched the 14 miles (22 km) behind his coffin from Carie House (on Loch Rannoch) to his grave in Struan kirkyard. Much of the Robertson land was returned to the clan in 1784.


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