Closing in on the Jacobite Gold? Jacobite Stash Unearthed in Scotland

    On the 16th April 1746, the  Battle of Culloden was Charles Edward Stuart’s final stand in his Jacobite uprising of 1745. Pitted against British government forces led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, son of king George II of England, the carnage that unfolded that day on Drummossie Moor to the east of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands was the last  pitched battle  fought in Britain.

    1,500 Jacobites lost their lives that day for want of supplies. Now, thanks to metal detectorists in Scotland, a Jacobite stash of musket balls, buttons and coins have been found near a ruined Lochaber croft house which were intended for the fallen flower of Scotland. This historically significant haul of arms and coins is a spectacular find.

    The Battle of Culloden was Charles Edward Stuart’s final stand in the Jacobite Uprising. It took place on the 16th April 1746, culminating in the death of hundreds of Jacobites. (Public domain)

    The Battle of Culloden was Charles Edward Stuart’s final stand in the Jacobite Uprising. It took place on the 16 th April 1746, culminating in the death of hundreds of Jacobites. ( Public domain )

    Jacobite Stash Meant for Scotland’s Bonniest Prince

    The word Jacobite means supporter of James. The Jacobites represented those men fighting for Prince Charles’ father’s claim to the thrones of Scotland and England. This story begins in 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) departed France and arrived in Scotland claiming the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland, in the name of his father James Stuart, known as the Old Pretender. Before the Battle of Culloden, King Louis XV of France sent Charlie several shipments of arms and gold coins, but they arrived too late to assist the fleeing prince and his Jacobite rebellion.

    Amateur archaeologists in Scotland have uncovered a Jacobite hoard of 215 musket balls, coins and gilt buttons from a shipment of arms that landed in Lochaber two weeks after Charles’s forces were crushed at Culloden. The monarchy of France saw the prince’s campaign as a fast track way to seizing control of Britain. They supported the Jacobite cause by sent the cache of weapons and gold to Scotland, where some of it was discovered near Sandaig on the shores of the sea loch.

    The team from Conflicts of Interest, have permits to metal detect near a ruined croft house, and it is here that they found the Jacobite stash. (Paul Macdonald / Conflicts of Interest)

    The team from Conflicts of Interest, have permits to metal detect near a ruined croft house, and it is here that they found the Jacobite stash. (Paul Macdonald / Conflicts of Interest)

    Are the Hunters Happy, or Secretly Sad?

    Conflicts of Interest is a group of Scottish historical researchers who were permitted to metal detect near a ruined croft house which Prince Charlie’s Gaelic tutor once owned. The Jacobite hoard of artifacts was immediately reported to Treasure Trove Scotland, who process archaeologically significant finds.

    Paul Macdonald, of Conflicts of Interest, told BBC Naidheachdan that his team made the find “by joining the dots.” He added that the researchers knew there were arms landed in the area and they narrowed down the search zone. Macdonald said the musket balls, coins and other supplies were landed in Loch nan Uamh and that they were distributed and hidden in separate caches. However, did the metal detectors really find what they were looking for?

    The team made the discovery of the Jacobite stash of supplies near the shores of Loch nan Uamh in Scotland. (Paul Macdonald / Conflicts of Interest)

    The ‘Real’ Jacobite Treasure Is Still Out There

    For over 20 years, another Scottish metal detectorist and history enthusiast, yours truly, has scoured the west coast of Scotland looking for Jacobite artifacts, relics and treasures. On May 10, 1746, two French ships, the Bellona and Mars, sailed into Loch nan Umah near Fort William where they unloaded these musket balls, buttons and coins. But they also landed “six caskets of gold coins.” It is known this treasure cache was transported about 20 miles overland and buried somewhere near the banks of Loch Arkaig, just north of Fort William. Finding it became such an obsession of mine that in 2018 I called in the might of Discovery Channel, and their intrepid explorer and treasure hunter, Josh Gates.

    Season 7 of Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown features Josh and I following historical clues, “joining the dots,” hunting in the Scottish Highlands for the missing Jacobite gold. You can watch the show on Discovery Channel here and a long form article presenting the full backstory and research can be read here. Known as the Treasure of Loch Arkaig or Jacobite Gold, the gold is estimated to be worth over ten million pounds in today’s money, but the historic value of such a discovery would be unarguably priceless to Scottish culture.

    Tracking the Royal Scottish Treasure Cache

    The secret location of the gold coins was entrusted to Murray of Broughton, a Jacobite fugitive who was tasked with distributing the gold to the Scottish clan chiefs to pay their warriors, but he was unfortunately apprehended by government forces. The treasure was then protected first by Lochiel, chief of Clan Cameron, and then by Macpherson of Cluny, head of Clan Macpherson, and it was during his watch that the treasure vanished.

    In September 1746, Prince Charles escaped on the French frigate L’Heureux and Euan Macpherson of Cluny, chief of Clan Macpherson, retained control of the treasure for the next eight years. Macpherson famously lived in exile in the Scottish Highlands at a mysterious location known as Cluny’s Cave, which was featured in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Kidnapped. It was that location Josh and I hunted for in the 2018 documentary. We too discovered Jacobite button’s and coins at an abandoned 18th century croft, but like the Jacobite stash unearthed by Conflicts of Interest, we failed to uncover the remaining gold coins.

    What has happened now, is that Paul Macdonald and Conflicts of Interest have greatly advanced this treasure hunt, 10-fold, and his team have presented further hard evidence of the supplies landed on May 10, 1746, by the Bellona and Mars, Loch nan Umah. Every year it seems, Scottish researchers get closer to unveiling this legendary lost treasure and it is only a matter of time before the bulk of this legendary royal treasure cache is unearthed.

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    Top image: Metal detectorists from the Scottish historical research group Conflicts of Interest have discovered a Jacobite stash of arms and coins dating back to the 1700s. Source: Paul Macdonald / Conflicts of Interest

    By Ashley Cowie

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