On an early summer’s day in May 1740, about seven hundred men armed with muskets and swords and wearing traditional Highland tartan plaids assembled near Tay Bridge, in the field of Boltachan, by the river Tay in the Highlands of Scotland. For the first time in Scotland’s history, Highlanders were to be formed into a regiment in the British Army. In 1758 the Highland Regiment was granted the title ‘Royal’, having famously become the 42nd, or ‘forty-twa’, usually known by its even better name of The Black Watch, Am Freiceadan Dubh. George II’s assent to authorise the first Highland Regiment was a leap of faith. Over thirty years since the 1707 Act of Union and over 130 years since the two kingdoms of England and Scotland were united under one monarch in 1603, the Highlanders –known for their fierce fighting spirit and ambivalent attitude to the Crown – were being entrusted to carry arms as part of the British Army on behalf of the Sovereign. The decision could not have been taken lightly. In 1717 all Highlanders had been disarmed, following the 1715 uprising against George II’s father by those Jacobites wanting to reinstate the Stuart line on the throne. Only the pressing need to police the Highlands and keep a ‘watch o’er the braes’ had led to the formation of six ‘independent companies’ drawn from the pro-Hanoverian clans in 1725.
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The Black Watch Regimental Trust is a charitable company registered in Scotland | Charity No: SC005848