The beautiful thing about a show like Outlander is there are so many things to love about it. The romance, of course, is a big draw, as is the action, drama, incredible acting and writing, and so much more. But the best part about watching it is learning about historical events that a person might never have known about if not watching the show. But not everything is 100% accurate. Outlander‘s historical accuracy is strong despite it being considered fantasy/historical fiction. But because it is a fictional show, there are certain things that occur that are inaccurate. These moments are hard to miss and make viewers wonder if it was a purposeful mistake for creative purposes or if the show dropped the ball.
Starz has announced that Outlander will return for season 8, and it will be the show’s final season, it brings up a lot of excitement for fans of the time-travel historical fantasy, but also a sense of remorse that the end is near. Throughout the series, Outlander‘s historical accuracy has helped educate fans about the past while also entertaining them with high battles and intense romance. However, at the same time, those fans who know a bit about the past already often point out the moments where the show veers away from historical accuracy and becomes mostly fictional in its re-telling of the wars and battles of the time.
Things In Outlander That Are Historically Accurate
The Castles In The Show Are Real Castles
Castle Leoch is a prominent castle shown throughout the series. It is home to Jamie’s Uncle, Colum Mackenzie, and his clan. The medieval castle is actually known as Doune Castle in Perthshire and was built in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany.
Another notable castle from the show is Blackness Castle, but fans of Outlander know it better as the infamous Fort William. This was the setting for Black Jack Randall’s main headquarters in the series. It is an ex-artillery fortress in reality and a 15th-century marvel of a castle.
The Battle Of Culloden Really Happened
The Battle of Culloden was not only a pivotal point in the series, but also in history. The Jacobites were led by Bonnie Prince Charlie into the infamous battle where many Scots’ lives ended that day.
The way it was portrayed in Outlander was very historically accurate, aside from the fictional characters participating in the war. It was a bloody fight that the Jacobites quickly lost. The clans forever changed after this battle and things never went back to how they were before the war. Much like the show, no one ever heard from the Bonnie Prince again once he fled.
There Actually Was A Fraser Soldier Who Survived The Battle Of Culloden
Not all Outlander fans might be aware of it, but Jamie Fraser’s character was loosely based off of a real-life Jacobite soldier who survived the Battle Of Culloden. Author Diana Gabaldon (via National Geographic) said she developed him after reading the book, Prince in the Heather.
That book describes an account where “19 wounded Jacobites hid in a farmhouse after the battle.” They were all executed after two days under the command of the Red Coat’s. One man survived the slaughter, “a Fraser of the Master of Lovat’s regiment, who survived the slaughter.” He likely wasn’t named Jamie Fraser, but it’s fun to imagine they are one and the same.
Women Were Really Treated As Property
Things were not so great for women in 18th-century Scotland. Women weren’t looked at as even second-class citizens – they were viewed as men’s property. There were plenty of examples of this in Outlander, including one instance early on in Jamie and Claire’s relationship.
Jamie decided as her husband, it was his “duty” to punish Claire for her behavior that led to her being captured by Red Coats. Claire eventually showed him that they should be partners, rather than Jamie being in charge of Claire. But most men of that time would not have agreed to these circumstances.
Their Portrayal Of Healers
In rural Scotland in the 18th century, there were not a lot of options for medical treatment. There wasn’t even much knowledge there about medicine in general. There definitely wasn’t a local hospital for the Scots to go to should a problem arise. So seeing Claire go from being a modern-day nurse to a healer in Scotland was a case of Outlander’s historical accuracy.
She adapts to the herbs and natural remedies to treat different ailments the people in Scotland endured. Modern methods of medicine did not exist during this time, so it was incredibly accurate to see the struggles Claire had in finding correct treatments while still succeeding in her endeavor. Her success came from her previous knowledge, her ability to adapt, and her intelligence level. But not everyone in that situation would be so lucky.
Lord Lovat Was A Real Person
Who could forget Jamie’s oddball relative, Lord Lovat? He had quite the personality when first introduced in season 2. Simon Fraser, also known as the Old Fox, was also an actual historical figure and the 11th Lord Lovat. On the show, he is the father of Brian Fraser and grandfather of Jamie Fraser, which is how his character is interweaved in the storylines with our lead hero.
He was not actually related to Jamie Fraser in real life. In Scottish history, he was who author Diana Gabaldon used as a character in her story. According to the author (via Parade), she stayed very close to his real personality in her portrayal of him in Outlander.
There Were A Lot Of Superstitions
There are several instances on the show where the Scots’ superstitions are highlighted in different characters. Even in the pilot, Samhain was celebrated, known as the Day of the Dead. Samhain is a Celtic holiday where “spirits are free to roam amongst the living.” There was also talk of fairies and witches and other Highland myths.
The folklore that occurred on the show was also highly believed by the Scots during that time period. It greatly affected their lives and would alter their decisions if something they didn’t understand came up. Instead of figuring it out, they assumed it was some sorcery or dark magic that they wanted no part of. The portrayal of the highly superstitious moments on the show was an example of Outlander’s historical accuracy.
The Jacobites Did Defeat the British At Prestonpans
On a historical fiction show like Outlander, it is important to include battle scenes not only for historical accuracy but for drama and action as part of the storyline. It ties everything together. One of the best battles shown was the Battle of Prestonpans. This battle was the one the Jacobites actually succeeded in, unlike the tragic Battle of Culloden.
Because of their astonishing battle strategy of sneaking up on the enemy through the bog to their campsite in the wee hours of the morning, they had the upper hand. This was a very real strategy that a Jacobite general came up with. The way the entire battle happened on the show was an incredibly realistic portrayal of Outlander’s historical accuracy.
The Highlanders In Jamie’s Army Were Not Upper Class
During the time of the Jacobite Rebellion, Highlander Scots were largely lower class and did not have a lot of money to their name. This meant their clothes were ragged and their weaponry was slim. If they even had any to claim as their own. When Jamie formed his army for the rebellion, his soldiers from the Highlands were depicted in the same way as they would have looked in the 18th century.
From their clothing to their pitchforks in hand and other small details, it is clear that these men did not come from money. It’s this attention to detail that proves both author Diana Gabaldon and the writers on the show know their history, very well.
The Women’s Costumes Were Spot-On For The Time
Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach has the phenomenal ability to recreate fashions from the time periods of the show. This even includes the fashions of specific countries in the 18th century. It turns out her recreations are spot-on for what women during that time wore – particularly the Scottish ensembles the women wore.
The tight corsets and extra padding of the pannier that we see Claire regularly wear are exactly what a Scottish woman wore in the 18th century. It couldn’t have been an easy task to undertake. In season 2 alone, Dresbach created over 10,000 costumes (via Harper’s Bazaar) for the cast that was impeccably detailed and brought you back to that time seamlessly.
Things In Outlander That Are Not Historically Accurate
The Witch Trial Wouldn’t Have Happened At That Time
There was some artistic licensing happening when the author of the Outlander books, Diana Gabaldon, wrote the witch trial scene in the first Outlander book. It was also later portrayed in the show’s first season. This was when Laoghaire accused Geillis and Claire of witchcraft, mostly to get back at Claire for “stealing” Jamie from her.
But the last witch trial in Scotland actually took place over twenty years prior, in 1727 (via The Scotsman). In fact, there was a law by the 1740s that said it was illegal to accuse someone of being a witch. So the whole storyline is completely off-base for the time period.
Craigh Na Dun Doesn’t Really Exist
The standing stones at Craigh Na Dun have a connection to most events in the series. From Claire going through the stones the first time, to the times she tried to make her way back to get to her own time. They played a role when she was reluctantly sent back to her time before Culloden to finally when she went back to Craigh Na Dun and reunited with Jamie. None of this would have occurred without them.
But in reality, these standing stones don’t exist. At least, not these particular ones. There are, however, other standing stones throughout Scotland that are very similar in nature. The difference is that they probably won’t send a person to the future, like Claire in Outlander.
People Were Not As Hygienic Back Then
On a sweepingly romantic show like Outlander, it would be difficult to enjoy the passionate and steamy scenes if fans knew how bad everyone must have smelled. It isn’t portrayed really at all on the show, but in the 18th century, there were no toothbrushes, toothpaste, or even soap.
It is only imaginable that, during that time, everyone would be decidedly less attractive and decidedly more stench-ridden. That may have been completely normal back then, but now it would seem nauseating. This is one inaccuracy the show had to change to make the romantic scenes so beautiful.
Things Didn’t Go Back To Normal After WWII For Some Time
Claire was a World War II nurse before she went through the stones at Craigh Na Dun. When she first appears, the war had just ended. In the way the war’s ending was depicted in the series, it looked as if everything went back to normal soon after it ended.
But it actually took years for things to go back to normal for everyone involved in the war. It wasn’t until 1947 that things seemed to return to the status quo. So this was definitely an instance where it benefited the story more to make Outlander less historically accurate.
Not Many Jacobites Carried Targes On The Battlefield
There are weapons that either aid in offensive or defensive moves in a battle. So when going up against the enemy on the battlefield, a warrior should not only have an offensive weapon but a defensive weapon, as well. For the Jacobites not to have both was alarming for those who paid attention. Targe is an old-English word for a shield and during the 18th-century battles the Scots fought in the Jacobite Rebellion, they used targes as their main defense against the Red Coat’s weaponry, including bayonets.
But one interesting fact about the cast of Outlander during the battles was there were very few men on the field with targes, even though they were carrying broadswords. The two go hand in hand if they wanted a chance of getting out of there alive. This was likely something that was overlooked but was still noticeable by viewers.
Jamie’s Tartans Are The Wrong Colors
This is actually a pretty big inaccuracy in Outlander. There are two Clan Frasers. One is the highland clan – Clan Fraser of Lovat – which is Jamie’s clan. And there is also a related lowland Fraser family. The Fraser of Lovat’s tartans were actually bold red and green in the clan’s kilts, but on the show, they instead wear gray and blue tartans.
This was a creative costume choice but a considerable historical inaccuracy. Maybe the actual Fraser clan colors were too flashy for Outlander’s setting and story, but it is odd that they wouldn’t want their key players to sport accurate tartan colors. In actuality, Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach said (via Elle Magazine) they had to make compromises because “red dye is quite expensive.”
A Farmer’s Son Didn’t Give Them Their Strategy At Prestonpans – But A General Did
During an incredible scene in season 2 of Outlander, Claire pretends to be taken by the Jacobites so that Jamie can threaten her if the farmer’s son – who grows up to be Lord John Grey – doesn’t help them win the battle the following day. He complies in hopes of saving Claire from harm, though she was never really in any danger.
Their strategy to go through the marshy bog and surprise their enemy’s camp came from Grey’s information on the show. In reality, it was a general in the Jacobite army who helped come up with the strategy. He had grown up in the area of Prestonpans and knew about the bog. It was interesting to see how they changed it to better the storyline of the show.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Idiocy Was Over-Exaggerated
Sure, there were plenty of mistakes made at the hands of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the leader of the Jacobite Rebellion. The first one was he went to Scotland in pursuit of the crown with basically no army at the ready. He quite honestly, had no idea what he was really up against in his fight against England. He was not the best leader, either.
But while Andrew Gower gave a fantastic performance as the Bonnie Prince on Outlander, the way he was written as a bumbling idiot was a bit exaggerated. Not all of his personality was false, but he certainly was not as oblivious as he appeared on the Starz series. Typically, when people think of Prince Charlie, he’s either idiotic or a romanticized version. But in reality, there was a middle ground with the Prince.
It Wasn’t Purely England Vs. Scotland
The way that the Jacobite Uprising was shown on Outlander, it seemed as though it was only England versus all of Scotland in the war. This heightened the tensions between many characters and made Claire’s arrival in Scotland as an English woman all the more frightening for the Scots. This is why Colum and Dougal were so concerned that she was actually a spy for the English.
But historically, there were Scots on the side of the English rather than all Scotsmen being a part of the Jacobite Rebellion. It was mostly Highlanders who were a part of the rebellion, but even then, not all of them wanted a part in the war. This change in history was another way Outlander raised the drama with its creative choices.
Paris Would Have Had More Modern Medicine Treatments Than What Claire Used
Claire not only was a gifted nurse during WWII but became a gifted healer in the 18th century. But apparently, she could have had even more at her disposal when treating patients while in France in season 2. When Claire went to Master Raymond’s Apothecary during the time she spent in Paris with Jamie, she received many herbs and natural medicinals to help treat Jamie and others.
But France actually had much more modern medical treatments at the time that were not showcased on the show. This was likely a creative choice to raise the drama and make the medical treatments seem much more dated, but it was definitely not an example of Outlander’s historical accuracy concerning 18th-century France. But at least her friendship with Master Raymond blossomed.