Secret love letters between exiled Jacobite and wife who were forced apart after Culloden found


Like a story straight from the pages of Outlander, the secret letters between an exiled Jacobite warrior and his wife who were forced apart for eight years after the defeat at Culloden have been published.

Military strategist Lord George Murray, who was a close confidant of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his wife, Lady Amelia, were separated after the Battle of Culloden when he was forced to go into exile in the Netherlands for eight years.

Tragically, after years spent sharing secret correspondence, which showed the deep bond that remained between the couple, they were only reunited shortly before Lord George died.

Penning the notes in the third person to avoid being detected, the letters referred to their friendship and repeatedly affirmed their love for each other.

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The letters were often laced with pseudonyms, with numerical codes used to refer to members of their family, which was split over the Jacobite cause.

The Jacobite lieutenant commander had fallen out with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 and vanished to the Netherlands following an eight-month period on the run after Culloden, with his wife remaining at the family seat of Blair Castle, Perthshire.

Keren Guthrie, archivist at Blair Castle said: “Writing from exile in the Netherlands, the letters illustrate the depth of love between the two in terrible circumstances.

“It is a long distance love affair against the backdrop of conflict not only between countries, but also within the immediate family.”

In one letter, Lord George wrote: “I am always exceedingly obliged to you, & have not confessions so strong, as can paint the overflowings of my heart, when I consider the innumerable marks I receive of your affections.”

The secret love letters from Lord George Murray and his wife, Lady Amelia
The secret love letters from Lord George Murray and his wife, Lady Amelia

In another, he said: “May every thing that is good constantly attend you and yours; and believe that no person upon earth values, esteems or loves you better.”

The letters, which were delivered using a network of friends, were initially “very formal in tone”, with pseudonyms such as Harry Dow and Mr Fogo appearing in the correspondence.

Ms Guthrie said: “In 1747 Lord George wrote to Lady Strowan of Arnhall. This letter, as with many others, was intended for his wife, but written under a pseudonym.

“He referred to his wife as Miss Gordon and himself as her friend.

“But the words of devotion are nonetheless prominent throughout, illustrating the strength of feeling.”

Lord George wrote: “Madam, I had the good fortune to see Miss Gordon’s Friend at this place both in his going & coming.

“He is in good health & he tells me he is going for France.”

Ms Guthrie said the couple – and their children – did manage to meet on occasion.

A portrait of Lady Murray (1710-1764) by Jeremiah Davison
A portrait of Lady Murray (1710-1764) by Jeremiah Davison

Once the political situation calmed down, Lady Amelia took a house in Medmblik in The Netherlands to be near her husband as he was dying.

It was from here she wrote to her son, saying: “God only knows my sad and afflicted heart, and disconsolate situation in the loss I have made of so kind, affectionate, and inestimable friend and husband.”

Lord George Murray and Bonnie Prince Charlie turned on each other in the latter stages of the 1745 rising.

He resigned his command following the siege of Carlisle in November 1745, although he led troops into Derby.

The two became bitterly at odds after Jacobite leaders backed Murray’s decision to then retreat north.

When he went into exile in the Netherlands, it was the third time he had sought safety on the Continent, having fought for the Jacobites in 1715 and 1719.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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