The Jacobite risings were a series of revolutions between 1688 and 1746 and played an important part in Scotland’s history. The Jacobites were a group of mainly Scottish Highlanders who wanted to return the exiled James II of England and VII of Scotland, and his descendants of House Stuart, to the throne of Great Britain. It was a bloody civil war between Scottish Catholics and English Protestants.
Possibly the most famous battle was the Battle of Culloden in 1746 which ended the Jacobite risings. The Jacobites were outnumbered and defeated at this infamous and tragic battle – 2,000 of their men were killed or wounded compared to only 300 government soldiers.
So which weapons did the Jacobites use during these revolutions?
Named after the Gaelic word for ‘great sword’, the Claymore is a two-handed, large cross-hilted broadsword used by Scottish clans between the 1400s and 1700s. It’s an unusually heavy and long sword so would have been difficult to wield and required brute strength to use in battle. While most swords weigh around three pounds, the Claymore weighs on average 5.5 pounds and was over 4.5 ft in length. However, this sword was loved by the Scottish Highlanders. Not only would the size of the sword show off the swordsman’s strength, but it would also have been intimidating to come up against on the battlefield.
Did you know the largest Claymore sword on record weighs an impressive 22 lbs and is over 6 ft in length? Used by the Maxwell Clan in the 15th century, you can now see the sword at Edinburgh’s National War Museum.
The basket-hilted broadsword
Commonly known as the ‘claidheamh’, meaning ‘small sword’ in Gaelic, the basket-hilted broadsword was a military sword used by the Jacobites in combat against the British soldiers and their musket guns.
A defining feature of the basket-hilt sword is the basket shaped guard that protects the hand. Basket-hilted broadswords would have been much lighter than the Claymore, therefore a lot easier to use in battle.
The Jacobites would have used the basket-hilted broadsword alongside the Targe. The Targe is a Scottish shield which was used from the 13th to 16th centuries. The Jacobites would defend themselves against the English by using the Targe in one hand to block their opponent’s weapon, while using the other hand to defeat their opponent with the sword.
You weren’t a true Jacobite if you didn’t carry a Dirk! The Scottish Dirk, also known as the Highland Dirk, was carried by almost every Highland male during the 17th and 18th centuries. Carried at all times, the Dirk would have been used by Scots for every-day tasks from hunting to preparing food. However, with an 18-inch blade it was also a powerful weapon which could be used in hand-to-hand combat.
Fancy owning your own replica Jacobite weapon? Click here to view our range of historical basked-hilted swords and dirks.
This is a replica of Jamie Fraser’s dirk used in the TV series Outlander.
Interested in finding out more about the Jacobites? Check out the National Museum of Scotland’s free exhibition which runs until 12th November.