A Cairn by the side of the road in Glenmoriston signifies the point where one of the more colourful members of the Clan Mackenzie died in a skirmish with Royalist soldiers and in so doing sought to to protect his leader, Bonnie Prince Charlie. Due to Roderick Mackenzie’s death and his mistaken identity as that of the Prince, this without doubt facilitated the Prince’s escape to France.
Lord Elcho's Lifeguards - Trooper
Roderick Mackenzie, the son of an Edinburgh watchmaker, a well dressed man of similar statue to the Prince and often mistaken for him, was attacked by some of Cumberland’s men and during the fight he was slain, crying out “You have killed your Prince” The soldiers struck his head from his body, no doubt very hopeful of the reward of some £30,000, which was truly a King’s ransome in those days. It is doubtful that they would ever have been paid as King George had insisted that the whole body must be presented for the reward. Some of Roderick Mackenzie’s comrades are said to have interred his body in a grave on the other side of the road down by the river shortly afterwards. Despite MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a prisoner at Fort Augustus, failing to identify the head; he refused to identify the Prince without the body-he may well of realised the error but seen the advantage in it; the Duke of Cumberland, believing the Prince to be killed returned to London and the head was paraded through Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh before being taken to London. The Prince’s valet, Eichard Morison was brought from Carlisle prison to identify it, which he failed to do. It was then realised that a mistake had been made, but in the meantime the Prince had made his escape to France. It may well have been the appearance in Paris of a very living Prince caused them to have realised their error. There are various accounts of Roderick Mackenzie’s heroism but we do know that the bulk of Elcho Troop surrendered to Inverness Garrison on the 19th April so we may assume that he and the others with him were hoping for the Prince to return with the promised gold and French troops that never materialised. He may well have been on the way to Kintail to seek refuge amongst his kinsmen. Tradition has it that he was a Murchison, a sept of the Mackenzies, whose members often have used the clan surname outwith the Highlands. It is also suggested that as a Jacobite fugitive he felt unable toreturn to Edinburgh lest he put his widowed mother and sister in peril.
From Bishop Forbes “Lyon in Mourning” it is unlikely that Roderick Mackenzie was actually in touch with the Seven Men of Glenmoriston and the Prince himself and it may have been a freak of circumstances that they were so close at the time. The Prince’s records suggest they did hear the exchange of fire and made a speedy retreat to Glen Cannich, some way to the north. Wheter this was the skirmish with Roderick Mackenzie is debatable. Certainly, for the Prince, it was fortuitous as it meant that the hunt for him subsided allowing for his eventual escape to France. Previous suggestion of Mackenzie being killed by Redcoats is also doubtful as the majority of the “pacification” of the Clans of the Great Glen were carried out by the Highland Independant Companies. The comment “You have killed your Prince” actually makes far more sense addressed to other Highlanders. Records held at Culloden strongly question any Redcoat or regular soldiers being active in the area on that day. Cumberland did leave Fort Augustus in July, handing over to Lord Albemarle.
“Rod’rick Mackenzie, a merchant-man,
At Ed’iiburgh town had join’d the Clan,
Had in the expedition been,
And at this time durst not be seen.
Being skulking in Glen-Morriston,
Him the soldiers lighted on.
Near about the Prince’s age and size,
Genteely drest, in no disguise,
In ev’ry feature, for’s very face
Might well be taken in any case,
And lest he’d like a dog be hang’d,
He chose to die with sword in hand,
And round him like a madman struck,
Vowing alive he’d ne’er be took,
Deep wounds he got, and wounds he gave;
At last a shot he did receive,
And as he fell, them to convince,
Cry’d, Ah! Alas! You’ve killed your Prince;
Ye murderers and bloody crew,
You had no orders thus to do.”