©Trustees of the National Library of Scotland


This is the original order sent to Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, instructing him to kill the MacDonalds of Glencoe. He was to spare none below the age of seventy. The resulting massacre is remembered not just for its premeditated brutality but for its violation of an unwritten code of conduct: the perpetrators of the deed had enjoyed the hospitality of their victims for twelve days before turning on them.

In 1688 the removal of James II and VII in favour of William of Orange had led to the first ever Jacobite uprising. Its leader, Viscount Dundee, died at the battle of Killiecrankie and the rebellion broke up. All that remained was to pacify the Highland chiefs who had joined the enterprise. To this end a proclamation was issued in August 1691 requiring clan chiefs to take the Oath of Allegiance to King William by Hogmanay that year. By the accident of reporting to the wrong official at the last possible moment, Clan MacDonald of Glencoe missed the vital deadline. Secretary of State James Dalymple, Master of Stair, was no friend to the MacDonalds. This was the excuse he had been waiting for. The order for the massacre went ahead.

Presented in 1925 by the Rt Hon James Ramsay MacDonald. Adv. MS. 23.6.24