Following the failure of the Jacobite cause after the close call that was the 1745 rebellion, the British government, in a marriage of revenge and acquisitiveness, attaindered the families of the leading rebels.
The Acts of Attainder were used against them, declaring their families down the continuing generations to be of ‘corrupt blood’ (the ‘taint’ in the attainder); confiscating their estates and property – which went to the King; prevented any inheritance, the passing on of family rights and titles to succeeding generations; and exiling the primary culprits.
The attainder placed on these families has never been lifted, seeing the old titles lost and current descendants unable to assume that link with their family’s past – just because they ended up on the losing side over two and a half centuries ago.
A couple of years or so ago we covered the efforts by Peter Drummond-Murray and his associates in raising a petition to have these attainders lifted, with their bloodlines freed of the official stain of ‘corruption’ and with living descendants able to resume the use of their ancient family titles.
This has been about a metaphorical homecoming – a personal reuniting with family identity – and it was during the Year of Homecoming that the effort to have the attainders removed saw its last strong push.
The fact that the petition remains unanswered says everything about a culture that does not listen and has little interest in addressing wrongs that may have been acceptable in a distant time but, in justice, should not afflict descendent families in the 21st century.
The Duke of Argyll – in a major recognition of different times – has now signed the petition asking the Queen for clemency for these families as an appropriate gesture of reconciliation with the past in her Diamond Jubilee year.
His ancestors fought stoutly and successfully with the English crown in the Jacobite uprisings and benefited hugely from the canny political judgment that rarely let them down.
Their particular affinity and their profit, jointly and severally, have offended many Scots down the generations.
The 13th Duke of Argyll is a man of today and in adding his unexpected support to the plea for clemency for those who were his clan’s enemies, he has set an example one can only hope the Queen will follow.
These old sores must be healed – and perhaps Argyll’s largeness in the interests of simple justice should now bring a setting aside of the old antipathies to Clan Cambell?