Cameron, Donald 1695?-1748, generally known as Gentle Lochiel, was of mature age at the time of the rebellion of 1745. He was born at Achnacarrie, Lochiel, Inverness-shire, but the date of his birth is not known. His father, Colonel John Cameron of Lochiel, who was attainted and forfeited for his share in Mar's rebellion of 1715, and had retired to the continent, was son of Sir Ewen [qv.]. On the death of his grandfather in 1719, and during his father's exile, Donald succeeded as chief of the clan Cameron, and like his ancestors was loyal to the Stuarts. His mother was Isabel, daughter of Alexander Campbell of Lochnell.
Early in 1745 James Stuart (the elder Pretender) opened up negotiations with Cameron. The young Pretender, Charles Stuart, landed at Borodale, Lochnanuagh, and threw himself on the loyalty of the highlanders on 28 July 1745. The undertaking was apparently so desperate that Cameron sent his brother Archibald, the physician [qv.], to reason with the prince. At a subsequent conference Cameron advised the prince to hide in the highlands until supplies arrived from the French court. Stay at home and learn from the newspapers the fate of your prince! was the taunt that stung Cameron beyond endurance. No! was the answer, I will share the fate of my prince, and so shall every man over whom nature or fortune has given me power. Had Cameron held back, no other highland chief would have declared for the Pretender. The mustering of the clans was to be at Glenfinnan on 19 Aug.; Cameron arrived with eight hundred clansmen. Charles Stuart at once declared war against the elector of Hanover, and his father was proclaimed James VIII of Scotland. The prince stayed a few days at Cameron's house at Achnacarrie, where an agreement was formally drawn up and signed by all concerned.
The prince commenced his daring march at the head of twelve hundred men, two-thirds being Camerons. On crossing the Forth the highlanders were intent on plunder, but a summary act of justice by Cameron on a marauder, coupled with his just and humane orders as to discipline, gave his miscellaneous army an honourable character for forbearance. The insurgents were unopposed in their march to Edinburgh. Some leading citizens were returning from a mission to the prince, and as they were entering the West Port in a coach, Cameron poured in his men, disarmed the guards, and captured the city on the morning of 17 Sept. Other successes followed, mainly due to Cameron. When a question of precedence was raised before the affair of Prestonpans, he waived his claim in favour of the Macdonalds, lords of the isles. At Prestonpans the Camerons distinguished themselves, striking at the horses' heads with their claymores, taking no heed of the riders. The expedition in two divisions, passing southwards, met at Derby. There it was decided to return, and by 20 Dec. Scotland was reached. Falkirk was taken by Cameron, who was wounded there; Stirling Castle was besieged but not taken; and desultory fighting filled up the months of January and February. Throughout the campaign Cameron's prudence, courage, and clemency are generally praised. He was a principal leader at Culloden, 16 April 1746; but it was in direct opposition to his counsel that the attempt was made of a night surprise of Cumberland's army. Charles rode off the field, but Cameron was severely wounded, and was borne off by his clansmen.
Cameron was attainted and forfeited, 1 June, but found a refuge in his native district for two months; then returned to the borders of Rannoch, and lay in a miserable hovel on the side of Benalder to be cured of his wounds, his cousin, Cluny Macdonald, bringing him his food. One day (30 Aug.) he and his few attendants were about to fire on an approaching party of men taken for enemies, when Cameron discovered them to be Prince Charles and Archibald Cameron, with a few guides. Soon after two French vessels arrived, and the prince, Cameron, his brother, and a hundred other refugees embarked, and safely reached the coast of Brittany, 29 Sept.
When fully recovered Cameron received command of the regiment of Albany in the French service, Prince Charles being Count of Albany. In the French chronicles of the time we read of Cameron attending the young chevalier on his visit to Versailles as his master of the horse. His father died at Nieuport in Flanders, after a long exile of thirty-three years, in 1748. In the same year Cameron died. By his wife, Anne, daughter of Sir James Campbell, fifth baron Auchinbreck, he had three sons and four daughters: John, who succeeded to his father's Albany regiment, and was afterwards captain of Royal Scots in the French service, died 1762; James, captain of Royal Scots in the same service, died 1759; Charles, who succeeded to his father's highland claims, held from the British crown leases of some of the estates on easy terms, and a commission in the 71st Highlanders, to which he added a company of clansmen of his own raising. On the regiment being ordered on foreign service while he was ill in London, the Camerons refused to march without him. Hastening to Glasgow to appease them, his strength was exhausted, and he died soon after. His descendant, Donald Cameron, late M.P. county Inverness, is the representative of the house of Camerons of Lochiel. Of the four daughters of Cameron, Isabel and Harriet married officers in the French service; Janet became a nun; and Donalda died young.
Bromley, in his Catalogue of Engraved Portraits, mentions a portrait of Cameron, whole-length in a highland dress, but omits the names of artist and engraver. When Sir Walter Scott was in Rome in 1832, he visited the Villa Muti at Fiescati, which had been many years the favourite residence of the Cardinal of York, who was bishop of Tusculuna. In a picture there of a fête given on the cardinal's promotion Scott discovered a portrait like a picture he had formerly seen of Cameron of Lochiel, whom he described as a dark, hard-featured man.
Culloden Papers, 1815
Douglas's Baronage of Scotland, i. 328
Scott's Tales of a Grandfather, c. 75
Chambers's History of the Rebellion
Boswell's Tour to the Western Isles
Lockhart Papers, ii. 439, 479
Scots Mag. 1746, pp. 39, 174
Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 303
Notes and Queries, 4th series, vii. 334
Lockhart's Life of Scott, p. 747
various Histories of Scotland, under date a.d. 1745-6.
Contributor: J. W.-G. [John Westby-Gibson]