In 1746 contemporary documents recorded that the Hanoverian army camped a few hundred yards north of Brodie Castle and nearby Dyke village during the nights of the 2nd and 3rd of April. With few mature trees on the landscape of the time the camp fires were clearly visible from the castle and the village.

The Day of the Battle of Culloden

But local folk stayed away. Everybody was well aware that the final stand of the Jacobite challenge to the throne was looming and almost all people not involved with either army wanted to avoid becoming embroiled in a battle nearby or in the inevitable hideous aftermath. On April the 5th, after a night beside Nairn a few miles farther west the army, under the generalship of the 25 year old Duke of Cumberland, went on to win the Battle of Culloden.

Updating the Dates

Until not so long ago that is what British pupils learned. In today’s history books, however, the date of this last battle on British soil is considered to be April 16th. The dating conflict arises from a readjustment of dating which was imposed on some nations in 1752, six years after the battle. The calendar was advanced by ten days in order to ensure that the vernal or spring equinox fell on March 21st, as it should, so that Easter could be celebrated more nearly to its chosen lunar time of year.

1752 was also when the last diehard countries in Europe, which included England, adopted January 1st as New Year’s Day instead of March 1st. Most other countries had long since switched over to the calendar decreed for use throughout Christendom by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, when an adjustment was made to correct an error in the Julian Calendar of ten days in the church seasonal holidays, the dates of which had lagged steadily farther behind the actuality.

‘Give us Back our Eleven Days’

Gregory’s decree was that October 4th 1572 be followed by October 15th, which is still used as New Year’s Day in the rare Lilian Calendar. When the common people were told they believed they were having eleven (by inclusive counting) days of their lives stolen and rioted in the streets across Europe demanding their return.

Even the removal of ten days was not exact, with eleven minutes and four seconds going adrift in each Julian year and many seconds more. To compensate, leap year days had been inserted, but not in century years unless divisible by four, all this in order to maintain a correct religious calendar. In effect Pope Gregory was readjusting the Christian Calendar which had slipped away from the Roman calendar instituted with slight inaccuracies by Julius Caesar in pre-Christian times.

After the second decree, historians and scholars disagreed about how to address the dates prior to 1752 in their documents. The matter was confused even more by the fact that Scotland had already changed over to the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. The Scottish dating of Culloden, if it had been adhered to, always had been the later date.

Time Lag in Instituting Change

Throughout much of the Victorian era, small annual registers were produced in many local areas. These contained a wealth of information fascinating to historians and researchers, everything from times of postal deliveries throughout a county, when coaches (and later trains) arrived or departed, ferry times and tide tables to local salaries of school teachers or ministers, cost of classes and lists of named parishioners on poor law benefits or those eligible to vote.

Dates of events such as feeing fairs and various town markets are particularly interesting. Until well on in the 19th century both pre- and post-Julian systems were still in use side by side, so that publishers were obliged to state whether the Old or the New Calendar was being used for their lists. This was the only way to ensure folk did not turn up eleven days too soon. Or was it too late?

Current Anomalies

It was well through the 20th century before it was finally accepted that dates should be calculated back from the calendar we use today. Usually. But even now not always. Several Eastern European cultures are still out of kilter with the West with both Christmas and Easter. Even today there are also a few historians who quibble about the dates between 1582 and 1752. Also, when calculating dates prior to the removal of New Year from March to January, care must be made to assign events in January and February to the right year.

Whatever the date of Culloden the day itself was bitterly cold with flurries of snow in the wind. It sapped the energy of the half-starved, exhausted Jacobites many of whom had gone blundering through the dark during the previous night, becoming lost while attempting a surprise attack on the enemy. They put up a brave and awesome fight, but were no match for disciplined troops who had made the most of their stay in Moray to rest and eat well.