Dr James Mackenzie of Drumsheugh or “Benevolent Mackenzie”


History has traditionally depicted a fundamental gulf between the Highlands and Lowlands in the eighteenth century. Thus, the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6 is still widely seen as the last-ditch bid on behalf of the Highlanders to preserve their own traditional way of life in the face of progress from the Lowlands and England. The Edinburgh Enlightenment, moreover, is generally perceived as the antithesis of Jacobitism and the backward, tribal clan system that has been deemed to be at its roots.

The story of the Mackenzies has equally often been seen as a tale of tragic but noble failure in the Highlanders’ struggle against changes imposed from the south. From being seen as perpetually backing the wrong side and losing the fight against progress, their history has been dismissed as irrelevant by most serious historians, happy to allow the romantic novelists and screenwriters to make it their property. The pessimistic stance behind the celebrated legend of Seaforth’s Doom further serves to reinforce the image of a benighted region whose clan chief and his family are doomed to fall victim to an inevitable curse, which is a blatant metaphor for historical progress. The words of Coinneach Odhar Mackenzie, better known as the Brahan Seer, tell us that by the time of the death of the last Lord Seaforth in 1815, there was no longer room for the Highland chief:

“I see into the far future, and I read the doom of the race of my oppressor. The long-descended line of Seaforth will, ere many generations have passed, end in extinction and sorrow. I see a chief, the last of his house … his broad lands shall pass away to the stranger, and … his race shall come to an end.”

While maintaining with no small degree of passion that the story of the Mackenzies still very much deserves the attention of the novelists and screenwriters, a more nuanced approach is justified and an examination of the life of at least one Highlander from this period, fundamentally challenges this romantic perception of a doomed race. Dr James Mackenzie of Drumsheugh, who was born in remote Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland, blatantly defies the traditional stereotype, serving as a remarkable example of how a Highlander could participate successfully in Britain’s wider history.

A scion of the Mackenzies of Gairloch, whose grandfather had settled in Strathnaver, the remote country of his kinsman, Lord Reay, Chief of Clan MacKay, Dr James was not originally destined to be a medic. He came from a family in which the ecclesiastical profession predominated. His great uncle, Murdoch Mackenzie, was Bishop of first Moray and then Orkney; his uncle (not his father as the 19th century historian, Alexander Mackenzie, mistakenly gives him) was minister for Inverness, thanks to the patronage of the Clan Chief, his cousin, the Earl of Seaforth; while his cousins, Hector’s two sons, Alexander and James, were both Ministers in Edinburgh. The church career of this Alexander, also got under way with the benefit of clan patronage. Between 1715 and 1717 he was minister at New Tarbat, effectively the chapel to the Earl of Cromartie’s fine new country house, and in 1716 he was chaplain to the second Earl. Both Seaforth and Cromartie were Roman Catholics and Jacobites and the Rev Alexander’s involvement in the Jacobite Rising in 1715 thus meant that his fortunes followed those of his family’s noble patrons: after 1717 we find him out of favour with the Presbyter of Tain and out of office.

It would appear that the patronage that had traditionally positioned his uncle, great uncle and two of his cousins in successful positions within the church was now no longer an option for an ambitious Mackenzie cadet. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 had a devastating effect on numerous Mackenzie churchmen when it replaced the Episcopalian Kirk (the chosen denomination of most Mackenzies at this time) with the Presbyterian system. This doubtless led James to abandon his original theological studies and begin his career as a teacher, later taking up an astonishingly successful career in Medicine. Like an increasing number of his family, he began his studies at Aberdeen. The University records state that the fee for Dr James’s M.D. at Marischal College was not exacted, no doubt owing to either the favour of Lord Seaforth, who had been his uncle’s patron, or the fact that his great-uncle, Bishop Murdoch had the distinction of having been the University’s Visitor. By the seventeen-teens his intellect had attracted the attention of that other influential cousin, the 2nd Earl of Cromartie, who employed him as tutor to the future 3rd Earl (the famous Jacobite rebel of the ’Forty-Five). The roll of undergraduates describes him as “Tutor to the Lord Tarbat … he being a gentleman of an established character and noted for his acquaintance with the belle letters and Mathematiks and particularly for his proficiency in Physick.” We also know that Dr James was employed as the teacher in Inverness’s school in Church Street, where he would have taught many a family member; in the 1720s he took his two English nephews under his wing; and in the 1750s his pedagogic abilities were revived when he took his Chief’s son, the “Little Milord” and future last Earl of Seaforth on the Grand Tour. These two highly cultivated individuals were portrayed by the Scottish artist, Catherine Read in Rome in 1753. Both being Jacobite sympathisers, there is a strong likelihood that they will have, like Catherine was recorded to have done at the time, dined with James Francis Edward Stuart, the “Old Pretender” at the Palazzo del Re in Rome.

Catherine Read’s portrait of Kenneth Mackenzie, Viscount Fortrose with his “Governor”, Dr James Mackenzie

After practising Medicine in France for a short period, his lawyer cousin, Kenneth Mackenzie of Portsea and Salterness, brought him into close contact with the Warwickshire family connections of Kenneth’s wife (who was also the Dowager Countess of Seaforth’s sister), Anne, Viscountess Carrington’s Warwickshire family. James was to marry Elizabeth Holte, the daughter of Lady Carrington’s relative, Sir Charles Holte, Baronet, of nearby Aston Hall. We know also know that Dr James was tutor to his two young nephews, Sir Lister and Charles Holte, and acted as head of the family at Aston Hall during their minority.

Sir Lister and Sir Charles Holte

Dr James subsequently set up an extremely successful medical practice in the area, also collaborating with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and becoming a pioneer in the promotion of inoculation for smallpox. Lady Mary’s son, Edward was the first Englishman to be inoculated against smallpox in 1718 after she witnessed its success in Turkey where she had been with her husband, who was ambassador in Constantinople. Her work in persuading the King to have two of his daughters inoculated (though not his male heirs) opened the door, and others followed with improvements. Dr James advocated inoculation in his History of Health and the Art of preserving it:, in part due to his friendship with Lady Mary. The third edition of the book, published in 1760 in Edinburgh included an appendix entitled “A short and clear account of the commencement, progress, utility, and proper management of inoculating the small pox as a valuable branch of prophylaxis.” The appendix provided a brief history of inoculation in Britain and a detailed account of how to inoculate individuals. Dr James advocated a less invasive technique than had been used earlier in the century, and indicated that inoculation was widely accepted as a beneficial practice.

While in the light of the recent Covid Pandemic in particular Edward Jenner has been praised for showing that cowpox could be substituted by inoculation for the more dangerous smallpox (hence vaccination from vacca, the Latin for cow), Lady Mary and Dr James’s efforts, which laid the groundwork for the eventual eradication of the disease in the 1970s, have unfairly fallen into obscurity.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

In 1745 Dr James co-founded the Worcester Infirmary, where he served as attending physician until his retirement in 1751. By the close of his career, this physician was a household name as a medical authority: Lawrence Sterne, in his Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, quoted Dr James Mackenzie as an authority in the same breath as Hippocrites. In 1755, he achieved the ultimate recognition of his peers when he was elected honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, an office that had previously been bestowed on the1st Earl of Cromartie and the Earl’s brother, Lord Prestonhall. 

A brief biography in the preface to Dr James’s Essays and Meditations on Various Subjects, a pious volume published posthumously in 1762, explains how his career was finally crowned with a period of contemplation and reflection. “After the most diligent and successful practice of physic, for more than twenty-six years, he resolved upon giving up the luxury of business, that he might find more leisure to mind the important concerns of another world (or, as he wont to express it) ‘to think where he was going.'” It further reported that “after his retirement he gave his professional service to those whose narrow circumstances forbade their access to the best advice and proper medicine.” Even when he was in his 60s he was famous for riding between 30 and 50 miles a day to visit patients. Known to the public as “Benevolent Mackenzie”, his reputation as a philanthropist moved William Somerville, the poet who was a Warwickshire neighbour, to write the following flattering ode about the Doctor:

“O thou! whose penetrating mind

Whose heart, benevolent and kind,

Is ever present in distress,

Glad to preserve, and proud to bless, …

Wher’er thy Maker’s image dwells,

In gilded roof or smoky cells,

The same thy zeal; o’erjoyed to save

Thy fellow creature from the grave

For well thy soul can understand

The poor man’s call in God’s command;

No frail, mo transient good, his fee,

But heav’n and bless’d eternity.

Nor are they labours here in vain,

Thy pleasure overplays the pain.

True happiness (as understood)

Consists alone in doing good …

Health, life, by Heav’ns indulgency sent,

And thou the glorious instrument.”

The rising financial predominance of such successful professionals in the Clan is also evident from the family’s letters. The Mackenzies of Delvine were a family of lawyers who kept up a prolific correspondence with a considerable number of family members from the late 17th century until the end of the 18th century. From that time their extensive correspondence remained hidden from the world in a cupboard, the door of which was papered over. Their accidental discovery by a butler in the last century shortly before Lady Muir Mackenzie gave up the Delvine family seat, allows some of history’s lesser known players to speak for themselves for the first time in two centuries. Among this mine of family correspondence are numerous letters between Dr James and his cousin, John Mackenzie of Delvine. When the Clan’s Chief, Lord Fortrose, was in need of raising £2,000 he suggested selling one of his west coast estates to Mackenzie of Delvine’s “moneyed friends, if they incline for a Scotch Lairdship” and, preferring a Mackenzie, proposed “your brother’s lady or Dr James.” From the will that his cousin, John Mackenzie of Delvine, prepared for Dr James, we see him in command of a fortune that would have been the envy of many of his landed cousins, leaving among other substantial legacies to nephews, cousins and nieces, a capital sum of £20,000 Scots and the fine estate of Drumsheugh, a country house with a park, orchards and summerhouse on the inner boundary of what was to become Edinburgh’s fashionable New Town.

In 1751 Dr James’s friend, Bishop Isaac Maddox of Worcester had succeeded in persuading him to retire and write books. Having invested in the property of Drumsheugh, just to the west of Edinburgh’s present day Prince’s Street, he was to catch up with his old circle of friends, who had come to establish themselves as luminaries in the movement that came to be known as the Edinburgh Enlightenment. In the Medical Faculty this included such men as John Rutherford, holder of the Chair of the practice of Medicine at Edinburgh. Dr James’s niece, Jean, was married to another doctor, Joshua Mackenzie, whose son, Henry was the celebrated writer of The Man of Feeling, regarded as the first Romantic novel, and an Edinburgh High School friend of the architect, Robert Adam, who himself attended Rutherford’s lectures as well as being in turn a friend of the celebrated Enlightenment historians, William Robertson and Lord Kames. Dr. Joshua’s first wife had been Margaret, daughter of Hugh Rose of Kilravock, another of whose daughters married Robert Adam’s virtuoso friend, Sir Harry Munro of Foulis and it was when factor to Kilravock that Adam built his first private house for Dr Joshua. We also know that Dr James dined with Robert Adam in Nice during the winter of 1755 when he was on the Grand Tour again with his young protégé, Lord Fortrose.

It is not surprising therefore to find the ideas promulgated by this enlightened circle reflected in Dr James’s own writings. Like other men of intellectual curiosity in his family, he took up the Clan’s fascination with the past. While this interest inevitably had its roots in the ancient oral traditions of family genealogists and seannachies, Dr James’s achievement was to imbue his historical writing with a truly modern approach. In 1758 he published in Edinburgh a History of Health and the Art of Preserving it. The book quickly passed through three editions in English and one in French by the time of his death in 1761, later being republished in 1780 and 1812. A further example of the family interest in oriental civilization, first displayed by the 1st Earl of Cromartie, it is perhaps the earliest western study to give significant recognition to the huge contribution made by Arabic medicine to modern civilization. But most importantly in the context of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, he adopted the same revolutionary structural approach that his associate historians, Lord Kames, David Hume and William Robertson were in the process of developing. In his History, Dr James crucially discusses how man’s diet and medical opinions changed in different epochs; he writes how after the introduction of agriculture, when man no longer lived from hand to mouth, “the first approach towards more mild and wholesome diet among the Greeks and towards a fund of plenty for all seasons of the year, was made by tilling the ground.” This concern with the means of production as defining the process of historical change was later to inform the modern study of History, Anthropology and Sociology, and to have enormous influence on such important figures as Adam Smith, Hegel and, of course, Karl Marx. 

William Robertson

Dr James, David Hume, William Robertson and Adam Smith all subscribed to Kames’s four-stage theory of civilization that traced human development through certain common stages of progress from barbarism to civility. Kames demonstrated that modern commercial society softens and polishes men, uniting people, disposing them to peace, by establishing in every state an order of citizens bound by their common desire of supplying their mutual wants.

Henry Home, later Lord Kames

Dr James reflected this modernist stance in his History of Health, in which he dismissed the hitherto widespread Arcadian vision of a pastoral golden age, “for such a splendid appellation could not, with any propriety be given with respect to the comforts and conveniences of life, which have been enjoyed in a much higher degree by succeeding ages, instructed in the knowledge of arts and sciences.” In this view the “gradual advances made by the human mind in cultivating the sciences” meant that English society represented a standard to which Scotland should aspire, linking commercial society with a more refined existence. In a letter to John Mackenzie of Delvine, he asserted that “England indeed gives greater Encouragement to Industry than any other Nation I know.” Thus, while feeling a strong obligation to use his influence to support those numerous nephews who, like him, hailed from Lord Reay’s remote country in Strathnaver, his attitude towards them was ambivalent, frequently referring to them in his correspondence as “useless blockhead”, “Brutes”, “worthless” and a “Rabble of Hottentots.” 

But the great irony of this world view was that by endorsing it, a “Highlander” such as Dr James Mackenzie was a major participant in laying the seeds of an historical perspective that viewed the Highlands as part of an anachronistic culture. On the one hand many writers on Scotland from the middle of the eighteenth century came to regard the Highlanders as uncouth barbarians, fuelling the prejudice that came to demonise a stereotype spawned during the ’Forty-Five and its aftermath; while others conversely began to debate the cultural costs of capitalism. Enlightenment values thus sowed the seeds of a Romantic perception of the Highlands that was to transform later histories.

A further irony was that it was owing to Dr James’s Highland attachment to clanship that his career had an impact on the wider family. It is worth noting that a number of Dr James’s cousins followed him to Aston Hall and its surrounding Birmingham, where they became business associates and married into the families of such men as Benjamin Franklin. In his Essays and Meditations Dr James expressed the importance of family obligations: not just towards one’s wife and one’s own children, but “if a man has relations of merit who depend upon him, humanity requires (in case his estate be not sufficient to maintain them and himself) that he should defer his retirement, until he can settle them in a rational way of maintaining themselves by their own industry.” First, in the 1720s, Dr James found positions for his cousins, Colin and Thomas, at Aston Hall, where he was acting as guardian to his young Holte nephews. In 1756 we find him advising another cousin, Kenneth Mackenzie, who was seeking a post as a physician in the Worcestershire area in 1756. As the 18th century progressed into the 19th and the Birmingham of the Industrial Revolution ensconced on the rural charms of Aston, the Hall itself becoming the residence from which James Watt the Younger ran the engine-building business of Boulton, Watt and Sons, we find the sons of these cousins drawing more relatives who were beginning to appear in the commercial directories of Birmingham. These were amateur experimenters who formed the Lunar Society in Birmingham in the 1760s, imaginative individuals who manufactured the highly finished decorative arts based on the designs of Robert Adam, putting the economic philosophy of Adam Smith and the Edinburgh Enlightenment into practice and laying the foundations of the Industrial Revolution.  

Contrary to the widely accepted stereotype, many of the Mackenzies came to identify with Jacobite culture precisely because of their cosmopolitan and cultivated background, rather than as a reflection of any supposed backwardness. It is thus ironic that the traditional approach to history, which has tended to view the Highlanders and Jacobites as having a peripheral culture that inspired them to resist progress, came itself out of a very different perspective that can be found to have belonged to a number of members of the Mackenzie family. This perspective viewed society in terms of a preferred social and economic structure (which, in fact, followed naturally out of an intellectual tradition that can be traced back to the writings and actions of the 1st Earl of Cromartie and Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh at the end of the 17th century). This was a perspective that found its most articulate voice in both the career and writing of Dr James Mackenzie, a man who can be placed right at the heart of the Enlightenment, a movement that laid the foundations of modern history and shaped the very way in which the modern age came to look at the world.


The varied experiences of the Mackenzies in the ’Forty-Five contradict any suggestion that an adherence to Jacobitism was derived from the family’s separate identity which sought to cling on to a conservative Highland culture in the face of changes imposed from the south. This fact cannot be better illustrated by the example of Dr James Mackenzie of Drumsheugh. Far from being a Jacobite owing to a supposed Highland heritage, as a resident in England by 1745, this clan member’s Jacobite background should and can be placed in the context of his English counterparts.

Dr James had significant Jacobite family connections: his aunt’s elder brother, James Strachan, was killed alongside Viscount “Bonnie” Dundee at Killicrankie in 1689; while her younger half-brother brother, Sir Kenneth Strachan, took the Jesuit name of Francis Xavier on his conversion to Roman Catholicism and between 1700 and 1736 was attached to the Scots Colleges in Douai and Madrid, being sometime Rector of both institutions. His sister, Anne, married John MacKinnon of Torrin, whose family in Skye concealed Charles Edward Stuart during his escape after Culloden. The Doctor pioneered smallpox inoculation with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, sister-in-law of the Earl of Mar, who led the ’Fifteen, and his cousin, the Rev Alexander, played a major rôle in the same rising, going on to baptise Lord Fortrose’s son at a notably Jacobite ceremony which took place in Old St Paul’s Church in 1744, a church which came to be known as a “Jacobite stronghold” for its staunch rôle in the ’Forty-Five rising. St. Paul’s Church Register reads like a roll-call of the most prominent members of the Scottish aristocracy who were one year later to play a major rôle in the Jacobite cause. The Rev Alexander was a former chaplain to Lord Cromartie and fugitive of Presbyterian justice in 1717; and his brother, the Rev James, was also known to officiate on occasion at St Paul’s. St Paul’s was further attended by Dr James’s niece, Jean, her husband, Dr Joshua Mackenzie, and his friend and lawyer, John Mackenzie of Delvine, WS. Dr James also maintained extremely close ties with Lord Fortrose’s family, retaining an estate in Durham, near that of his Clan Chief at Coxhow, often calling on the family and attending to their health on his way to and from Scotland. As we have seen, he accompanied Lord Fortrose’s son on his travels on the European Continent on at least two occasions, in one of which the two travelling companions were being painted by the Jacobite artist, Catherine Read. In 1758 the physician writes of his visit to “Lord Seaforth” in Durham and says that he thinks “Fortrose should be sent home to his native country rather than abroad again” because of his “puny fabrick”.

But there was clearly no antagonism between Dr James’s Jacobite family connections and his professional contacts in the Edinburgh Enlightenment. Another constant attendant of St Paul’s was Thomas Ruddiman, the editor of Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh’s Works and David Hume’s predecessor as Keeper of the Advocate’s Library, that encyclopaedic resource that was founded by Sir George and is now recognised by historians as the very nursery of the Scottish Enlightenment. It is also evident from the correspondence in the Delvine Papers that the Enlightenment historian and Episcopal minister, the Rev Principal William Robertson, was a friend of the Mackenzies of Delvine, as well as of the family of Drs James and Joshua. He lived in the Close next to St Paul’s and married Dr Joshua to Dr James’s niece, Jean, in 1762, later baptising their children in the church and later marrying there Joshua’s son, Henry the novelist, to Lord Seaforth’s daughter, the Hon Helen Mackenzie, in 1821. Delvine’s wife was in turn a close friend of Flora MacDonald, who was in turn a client of Delvine himself; while another prominent member of this circle, who is mentioned in Dr James’s will, was Lieutenant-General James St Clair. A notable Hanoverian diplomat and spy, St Clair employed that beacon of the Enlightenment, David Hume, as his secretary; while his elder brother, John, Master of Sinclair, was attainted for his involvement in the 1715 rising and married Amelia, daughter of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s famous general at Culloden, Lord George Murray.

As one of those who attended St Paul’s in the 1740s, Dr James’s professional associate, Professor Alexander Munro “Primus”, first Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh University, clearly exemplifies the easy relationship in Scottish society between modern men of science and Jacobitism. A patron of the artist, Allan Ramsay and a friend of David Hume, he shared Dr James’s interest in inoculation against smallpox, publishing a pamphlet recommending the practice in 1765. His family dynasty dominated the Edinburgh medical schools and comprised key figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, even non-medics such as Edward Gibbon and Adam Smith, attending their lectures. Munro was both a cousin of Dr James, through the latter’s Munro mother, and a grandson of the staunch Hanoverian, Duncan Forbes of Culloden. Yet, despite his family, the Munros of Foulis, being traditional rivals of the Mackenzies in Ross-shire politics, two members of his family were themselves Jacobites. It is thus understandable that in his youth he famously treated the wounded on both sides at Prestonpans.

Dr Alexander Munro “Primus”

Indeed, the eminent physician of Worcester Infirmary also had significant Jacobite connections through the family of his wife, Elizabeth Holte, from Aston, near Birmingham. Dr James was extremely close to the Holtes, for whom he acted as the senior member following the death of his father-in-law, Sir Charles Holte, 3rd Baronet, who left two grandsons as minors. As a suspected Jacobite, Sir Charles had taken no office under William III and his tomb in Aston Church bears a cryptic Latin inscription which is purported to indicate Jacobite sympathies. His successor, and Dr James’s nephew, Sir Lister Holte, was elected Tory M.P. for Lichfield in 1741 and voted consistently against the Whig administration of Walpole, Carteret and Pelham. Like a number of their Jacobite relatives north of the border, the Holtes were also financially burdened in the 1730s and 40s, so that as a consequence of falling corn prices their tenants were going into arrears. The current guide book to Aston Hall, however, does not label Sir Lister as a Jacobite, owing to the apparent stand he took against the ’Forty-Five Rebellion. Indeed, in raising 250 horses, which included even his own coach-horse, for the service of the Duke of Cumberland to see off the Pretender’s retreating army, he received the public and private thanks of the English Commander-in-Chief. A closer review of his behaviour in 1745-6, however, would suggest close parallels with the way in which his Mackenzie cousins were acting during this difficult time.

Aston Hall

When the Jacobite army invaded England, only to turn and retreat, the southernmost point that it reached, on 4 December 1745, was Swarkeston Bridge, which was on the land of Sir Lister’s brother-in-law, Sir Henry Harpur, two miles from his seat at Calke Abbey. The Prince was recorded as having gone outside Derby to canvas the sympathetic Tory landowners in the neighbourhood for written support in order to try and overturn the entrenched view of his council of war, which was in favour of retreat. It is highly likely that he rode out to visit to Sir Henry Harpur at Calke, Sir Henry being one of the most important of those gentlemen – as was the latter’s brother-in-law, Sir Lister, in the Birmingham area.  Indeed, Birmingham was the next scheduled stop in the planned invasion after Stafford. A further target of the Prince was another relative of Sir Lister’s wife at the time, Mary Harpur. This was Sir Nathaniel Curzon of Kedleston Hall, four miles north-west of Derby. Sir Nathaniel is recorded as having displayed an “equivocal” attitude towards the Jacobite rebels and the term “equivocating” was also used in connection with Sir Lister’s course at this time. For, on 27 November, Cumberland’s army was concentrated only a few miles north of Aston Hall at Sir Lister’s constituency of Lichfield and yet Sir Lister made no attempt to send Cumberland his stable of horses which he had already raised by November. Indeed, rather deviously, he had not committed his horses to either side and, given that he had evidently raised them for a purpose, if that purpose had been to back the Government there is no question that he would have offered them at this crucial stage. It can only have been the news of the Jacobite army’s volte face that led him to back the Government. The news could easily have been relayed by messenger travelling by horseback cross-country in the space of a few hours the short distance between Calke Abbey and Aston Hall. One recent historian has written that “Once the Jacobite army’s retreat from Derby had signalled which way the cat would jump, Holte discharged his expected patriotic duty to his government.” Historians have noted a large support for Jacobitism in Birmingham, particularly among the ironmakers, and Sir Lister’s involvement with local resistance strongly suggests sympathies that were more correctly reflected by the contingent of north Warwickshire gentry and folk from Birmingham which he accompanied to the Lichfield races in 1747, who were said to have “drunk the Pretender’s health publicly in the streets, singing treasonable songs”.

It is tempting to speculate what the outcome might have been had Sir Lister taken an earlier initiative in providing the Tory support that Prince Charles was so hoping for. His contribution of 250 horses would have made a significant difference had the Jacobite army advanced further, the Prince invading England with only 600 in total, and this potential support goes some way to confirm the recent consensus of many historians that the Rising was close to succeeding.  But much as these people hated the Hanoverians, they were loathe to put their own property and lives at risk. As the Lichfield Tory and Jacobite sympathiser, Dr Samuel Johnson, once put it: “If England were fairly polled, the present king would be sent away to-night.” But then he added that the people “would not … risk anything to restore the exiled family. They would not give twenty shillings a piece to bring it about.”

From what we can learn from the behaviour of Dr James’s family in his homeland, Dr Johnson’s remark might almost equally have been made with regard to Scotland. For, while the Clan held a natural sympathy for Jacobitism, by the middle of the 18th century it rarely amounted to active participation. Indeed, the very consciousness that led some members of the family to the bitter awareness that they were unequal to their English counterparts and had no choice but to fight for their advancement also inspired in the majority of them a widespread predilection for peace and compromise. The Scottish historian, Rosalind Mitchison, reflecting directly on the case of George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, made the pertinent observation that “the belated Jacobitism of the bankrupt Earl of Cromarty [sic] reminds us that bringing the chiefs into the orbit of other landed society was apt to increase their expenses and there was a marked correlation between bankruptcy and rebellion.” The fundamental motivation that lay behind George, 3rd Earl of Cromartie’s Jacobitism was not substantially different from that which moved his namesake and grandfather, the 1st Earl, to be the foremost advocate of Union, even if both their individual characters and capabilities were markedly different. None of these men was a cultural nationalist and it was precisely their desire to emulate and match the status of the English that aroused them.

In the final analysis extensive research has shown that it was this fundamental shared identity regarding their own worth that allowed the varying members of the Clan to continue to support one another, whatever their political affiliations. The interest the family had in stability overrode ideological divides and by hedging their bets most families ensured that there was a strong contingency on the winning side. What is most remarkable about a wider examination of the history of the Mackenzies throughout the Jacobite period from 1715-46 is that it shows us that for them the clan system was no anachronism that was marching itself into self-destruction. On the contrary, the Clan continued to adapt to serve the reciprocal interests of the family, an ever-progressing kinship network that sought advancement for its members. Indeed, it was above all the family’s clannishness that allowed its remarkable survival during these, its darkest days.