By Tim Porteus

DURING the end of a walking tour of the Prestonpans battlefield site with pupils from Prestonpans Primary School this week, one of the girls in the class came up to me and asked a very good question: “How about women and girls, did they not fight for the Jacobites as well?”

I had been aware of how the traditional story of the events around the Battle of Prestonpans is male dominated and, of course, in many ways the main characters of the events are men.

But the question from the girl (whose name I sadly can’t remember) made me think how to answer this.

There are many stories of Jacobite women, but many of these portray the women as fawning over Bonnie Prince Charlie, or playing the role of cheerleaders to the main characters. The fantastic book Damn’ Rebel Bitches by Maggie Craig has managed to challenge this stereotype and I think it should be an essential resource for any teaching on the subject.

In response to her question, I briefly told her about Jenny Cameron, who legend tells us led a contingent of Camerons at Prestonpans. However, sadly the stories about her role in the rebellion may have been largely created by men who used her legend as a propaganda tool, and even as a way to discredit the Jacobite cause. Tales made up about her behaviour are typical of the misogynistic view of women.

A more historical tale is that of Lady Anne Mackintosh. Her husband was Angus Mackintosh, the chief of the Mackintosh clan. But Angus was a captain in the Black Watch, a British Government regiment.

But Lady Anne was a Jacobite! And so, despite the fact her husband was the clan chief and actually serving in the British Army, she used her status and the influence it gave her to raise hundreds of clansmen to fight for the Jacobites. While she did not personally lead these men in battle, her role in raising them earned her the title of ‘Colonel Anne’.

This story sheds light on an important fact about the Jacobite rising: it was a civil war in which very often families were divided with different member on different sides.

Anne’s husband was eventually taken prisoner by the Jacobites and it was decided he should be put into captivity to keep him from playing an active role.

So where to put him? Well, he was placed into the custody of his wife! She famously greeted him with the words “your servant, captain”, to which he replied: “Your servant, colonel.”

After the end of the rising, Anne was placed in prison in Inverness, where she spent six weeks in the cells. Then she was released but remained in custody.

Guess what? She was placed into the custody of her husband!

There are other adventures Colonel Anne got into during the time of the rising, and it’s clear she was a brave and determined women who broke the rules which put severe disadvantages and restrictions on women in her time.

But it is a story very connected to the tale of the Battle of Prestonpans. And there are a host of other stories which show women played an active role in events and were not just cheerleaders swooning at the good looks of a prince.

That question from the schoolgirl on the tour highlighted this for me, and has made me go back to the drawing board, so to speak, and make sure next time there is a better gender balance in the telling of the tale!