The TV show Outlander has captivated millions around the globe with its drama, romance, suspense, and superb acting. But even more intriguing is that the show reflects aspects of Scottish history, which is not well known to the masses around the globe.
But is everything about Scottish history portrayed in the series accurate? Read on.
The first thing to appreciate about The Outlander is that it is a TV show and for the purpose of entertainment, fantasy is usually combined with historical events. Some historical events are glamorized, some people are immortalized and some scenes are fabricated- but that is true of all TV series. We live in a world of entertainment where truth and fiction often merge to produce a story that everyone likes.
So what true historical Scottish facts did Outlander portray?
The castles do exist: In the Outlander series, there are many scenes around Castles in Scotland, and these castles do exist even today. The one prominent castle featured in the show is Castle Leoch, which is where Colum Mackenzie and his clan reside.
Another castle on Outlander is the infamous Fort Williams, which was the abode for Black Jack Randall. In real life, this is Blackness Castle, which was built in the 11th century and served as an artillery fortress.
Battle of Culloden
The key feature in the Outlander series is the Battle of Culloden. This battle, in fact, did happen with Prince Charles Edward Stuart captaining the Jacobites.
In the series, the Jacobites are led by Bonnie Prince Charles into this infamous battle where many Scottish lives were lost. Most of the portrayal of the war in the series is accurate; the Battle of Culloden was bloody and the Jacobites were defeated outright. The war completely changed the clan’s future and things were never the same again. And in the series, once the Jacobites were defeated, Bonnie Prince fled never to be heard of again- and in real life, the Bonnie Prince did disappear and was never heard from again.
A Fraser Soldier did survive the Battle of Culloden- a minute fact that is true but may not be obvious to the fans of the series. The character of Jamie Fraser was actually loosely created from a real-life Jacobite soldier who had survived the Battle of Culloden.
In the book, author Diana Gabaldon does mention that 19 wounded Jacobites who had hid in the farmhouse after the battle were all caught and executed, except for one man who survived the slaughter. This was a Fraser of the Master of Lovat’s regiment, but his real-life name was not Jamie Fraser.
After Culloden: Rebel Hunting by John Seymour Lucas depicts the rigorous search for Jacobites in the days that followed Culloden.
Women were treated terribly
Back in the 18th century, the treatment of women was not ideal.
Women in Scotland were considered to be the property of men and had almost no rights. The series revealed many examples of women being treated like second class citizens. In one scene that involved Jamie and Claire’s relationship.
Jamie was very controlling and made all the decisions. It was he who decided to have Claire punished for her behavior that led to her capture by the Red Coats. Jamie insisted he was in charge but Claire eventually convinced him that they were partners.
Who was Lord Lovat
In season 2, we were introduced to Jamie’s eccentric relative Lord Lovat.
In Scottish history, Simon Fraser, who was also known as the old fox. was the 11th Lord Lovat. In the Outlander series, Lord Lovat presents as the grandfather of Jamie Fraser and the father of Brian Fraser.
In the series, there are many instances of superstitious beliefs among the Scots. This was very true of that era not only in Scotland but in most of Europe. In the Outlander episodes, the scots celebrated holidays like the Samhain which is also known as the ‘Day of the Dead.’
During this Celtic holiday, the belief was that “spirits were freely roaming amongst the living.” In addition, in the series, there was often talk about witches, fairies, sorcery, black magic and spirits. This was the normal thinking process during the 18th century and well depicted in the series. Part of the reason for such beliefs was that the population was ignorant at that time.
Medical therapy was non-existent
In Outlander, there is an accurate portrayal of the healing arts or its lack of effectiveness. In the 18th century, like everywhere else, Scottish folks did not have many good options if they became sick. There was a general lack of medical knowledge and the public relied on healers and spiritualists for cures. There was no such thing as doctors.
In the series, Claire starts off as a nurse and wants to become a healer- and this was how it was done in the old days. Claire was more into naturopathy and utilized herbal therapies to treat people. So the series did have a very accurate reflection of medicine at that time- which was primitive.
Did the British lose to the Jacobites at Prestonpans?
In the series, one of the battle scenes depicts the Jacobites against the British at Prestonpans; and this is an accurate reflection of what happened.
This was one of the most aggressive battles and was tied to the storyline. In the historical archives, it has been documented that the Jacobites did succeed in winning the battle against the British at Prestonpans, unlike the defeat they suffered at the Battle of Culloden.
The strategy to win the war at Prestonpans by sneaking up on the enemy in the early hours of the morning is straight out of the history book.
A class distinction existed
In the series, it has been portrayed that the highlanders in Jamie’s militia were all from the working class.
During the Jacobite rebellion, it was evident in the series that the highlanders were not healthy, they wore ragged garments and had barely functioning firearms. Even those that they had been acquired from the enemy which they had defeated.
Unfortunately, this is the true status of highlanders in real life 18th century. These men did not come from royalty or noble families and had little money. The series was right on track with this segment of Scottish history portrayal.
In the series, the costumes worn by women were accurately portrayed. This is exactly how the female population dressed in 18th century Scotland. The tight corsets with extra padding of the pannier as reflected in the dressing of the females are what was typical in that era.
The producers of the show had to create 1000s of costumes with meticulous detail to ensure that they reflected 18th-century Scottish garb for women.
So while the Outlander series is made for entertainment and contains works of fiction, the producers did accurately reflect a significant part of Scottish history.