The Glencoe Massacre occurred on the morning of February 13, 1692, during the era known as the Glorious Revolution in the British Isles. The massacre resulted from political intrigue and power struggles rather than clan rivalry, although it did involve members of two distinct Scottish clans.
The event unfolded after the Scottish clans were ordered to swear allegiance to the new monarchs, William III and Mary II, who had taken the throne from James II, Mary's father, in 1688. This change of power was primarily peaceful, but it left the loyalties of the Scottish Highland clans in doubt. The deadline for this pledge was January 1, 1692. The chief of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, Alasdair Maclain, arrived late due to a series of unfortunate events, which set the stage for the massacre.
The soldiers who carried out the attack belonged to the Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot and were led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. The soldiers had been staying with the MacDonalds for nearly two weeks as guests—eating their food and enjoying their hospitality—before they received orders to "fall upon the rebels, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy."
In the attack, approximately 38 MacDonalds were killed by the guests who had accepted their hospitality. However, many died of exposure after their homes were burned and destroyed. It was not a fratricidal or civil war but a sanctioned military action.
The Massacre of Glencoe is remembered in Scotland as a symbol of betrayal and abuse of hospitality. It has been commemorated in folk songs, literature, and history books and is often used as a reminder of the importance of trust and honour.
The perception of this event can vary between Scotland and England and among individuals themselves, reflecting differing historical perspectives and interpretations. Some see it as a dark stain on British history, a brutal act of government betrayal. Others might view it in the context of the broader political turmoil of the time. It's important to remember that modern Scots and English should not be held accountable for historical events, and views on such events can be diverse within any group.