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Jacobitism (//; Irish: Seacaibíteachas, Scottish Gaelic: Seumasachas) was the political movement in Great Britain and Ireland to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The movement took its name from Jacobus, the Latinised form of James, and refers to a long series of Jacobite risings between 1688 and 1746. After James II was deposed in 1688 and replaced by his daughter Mary II, ruling jointly with her husband and first cousin (James's nephew) William III, the Stuarts lived in exile, occasionally attempting to regain the throne. The strongholds of Jacobitism were the Scottish Highlands, Ireland and Northern England. Significant support also existed in Wales and South-West England.
The Jacobites believed that parliamentary interference with monarchical succession was illegal. Catholics also hoped the Stuarts would end recusancy. In Scotland, the Jacobite cause became entangled in the last throes of the warrior clan system.
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From the second half of the 17th century onwards, a time of political and religious turmoil existed in the kingdoms. The Commonwealth ended with the Restoration of Charles II. During his reign the Church of England was re-established, and episcopal church government was restored in Scotland. The latter move was particularly contentious, causing many, especially in the south-west of Scotland, to abandon the official church, attending illegal field assemblies known as conventicles in preference. The authorities attempted some accommodation with Presbyterian dissidents, introducing official 'Indulgences' in 1669 and 1672, meeting with some limited success. Towards the end of Charles' reign those with more radical Presbyterian opinions, known as the Covenanters, who favoured rejecting all compromise with the state, began to move away from religious dissent to outright political sedition. This was particularly true of the followers of the Reverend Richard Cameron, soon to be known as the Cameronians. The government increasingly resorted to force in its attempts to stamp out the Cameronians and the other Society Men, in a period subsequently labelled as the Killing Time.
Since the late Middle Ages, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been evolving towards a quasi-oligarchical or collegiate form of government in which the monarch was held to rule with the consensus of the land-owning upper classes.
The reigns of the last three Stuart Kings – Charles I, Charles II and James II and VII – were marked by growing Royal resistance to this developing consensual model of government. In part the Kings were inspired by the development of Royal Absolutism in contemporary Europe (see Louis XIV). In part, however, the apologists of royal authority based their claims on a just assessment of the powers claimed by England and Scotland's medieval monarchs.
In 1685, Charles II was succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James II and VII. In addition to sharing his family's absolutist views of government, James tried to introduce religious tolerance of Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. In Seventeenth-century Europe, being a religious outsider meant being a political and social outsider as well. James tried to encourage the participation in public life of Roman Catholics, Protestant Dissenters, and Quakers such as William Penn the Younger. Such attempts to broaden his basis of support succeeded in antagonising members of the Anglican establishment.
In Ireland, James's viceroy, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, was the first Catholic viceroy since the Reformation and acted to reduce Protestant ascendancy and to have strong points in Ireland controlled by garrisons loyal to the views of James.
In England and Scotland, James attempted to impose religious toleration, which helped the Catholic minority but alarmed the religious and political establishment. William of Orange, building alliances against France, lobbied the English political élite to have James replaced by William's wife Mary who was James's daughter and next in line to the throne, but they were reluctant to rush a succession expected to happen in due course. Then in 1688 James's second wife had a boy, bringing the prospect of a Catholic dynasty, and the "Immortal Seven" invited William and Mary to depose James. On 4 November 1688 William arrived at Torbay, England and, when he landed the next day, at Brixham, James fled to France: in February 1689 the Glorious Revolution formally changed England's monarch, but many Catholics, Episcopalians and Tory royalists still supported James as the constitutionally legitimate monarch.
Scotland was slow to accept William, who summoned a Convention of the Estates which met on 14 March 1689 in Edinburgh and considered a conciliatory letter from William and a haughty one from James. Forces of Cameronians as well as Clan Campbell highlanders led by the Earl of Argyll had come to bolster William's support. On James's side a more modest force of a troop of fifty horsemen gathered by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee was in town, and he attended the convention at the start but withdrew four days later when support for William became evident. The convention set out its terms and William and Mary were proclaimed at Edinburgh on 11 April 1689, then had their coronation in London in May.
While Jacobitism was closely linked with Catholicism from the outset, particularly in Ireland, in Britain Catholics were a small minority by 1689 and the bulk of Jacobite support came from other groups. Catholics formed about 75% of the population of Ireland. In England, however, not more than 2–3 percent of the population could have been "practising Catholics," though in the north and south of England, "at least one half of the population outside the towns were Catholic in some degree." By this definition, Catholics would have numbered "10–15 percent of the total English population." Catholics survived most strongly among the nobility, of whom "15–20 percent clung to the old faith..." In Scotland (excluding the Highlands and the Isles), about two percent.
Irish support for James II was mostly from Catholics, though by taking the French side against the League of Augsburg, James was siding against the Papacy politically. William was allied to many Catholic states, including the Holy Roman Empire, and his elite force the Dutch Blue Guards had the papal banner with them. The war in Ireland was predominantly a Catholic uprising, and after its defeat in 1691, the Catholics' only military contribution to Jacobite support came from the Irish Brigade of the French army.
Jacobitism in Ireland had its roots in support for the Stuart dynasty dating back to the accession of James I to the throne in 1603. Gaelic poets in Ireland lauded James as the first "Irish" king of the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, because of his family's Gaelic ancestry. James and his successors were also viewed as being less hostile to Catholicism than the Tudors. In the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 1640s, Catholics organised in Confederate Ireland pledged allegiance to Charles I and Charles II against the English Parliament. As a result, most Catholic landowners had their lands confiscated after Parliament's victory and the Catholic Church suffered harsh repression. James II, the first openly Catholic king of England in over a century, was therefore viewed as a saviour by Irish Catholics. James appointed an Irish Catholic – Tyrconnell – as Lord Deputy of Ireland, re-admitted Catholics into the army and militia and introduced toleration for the Catholic religion. During the Williamite war in Ireland, he also reluctantly agreed to proclaim the autonomy of the Irish Parliament from the English one and the restitution of lands confiscated from Catholics after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The demands of religious toleration, legislative autonomy and land ownership were the three key elements of Irish Jacobitism, which remained influential until the mid eighteenth century.
The majority of Irish people were "Jacobites" and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.
In lowland Scotland, the Catholics tended to come from the gentry and formed the most ideologically committed supporters, drawing on almost two centuries of subterfuge as a minority persecuted by the state and rallying enthusiastically to Jacobite armies as well as contributing financial support to the court in exile. Highland clans such as the MacDonnels/MacDonalds of Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry and Glencoe, the Clan Chisolm and the Ogilvys were largely still Catholic. Other clans, such as the powerful Camerons, were Episcopalian, and as staunch Jacobites as their allies, the Catholic MacDonalds. The clan chief who led his men at the Battle of Culloden, the 'Gentle Lochiel', survived to command the French Régiment d'Albanie, and died at Bergues in 1748.
Just as much dedicated support in England came from the Nonjuring Anglicans, which started with Church of England clergy who refused on principle to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary while James still lived, and developed into an Episcopalian schism of the church with small congregations in all the English cities. In many respects, Jacobites perceived themselves as the heirs of the Royalists or Cavaliers of the English Civil War era, who had fought for James II's father Charles I and for the Established Church against the Parliamentarians – who stood for the primacy of Parliament and for religious dissent. Jacobite supporters displayed pictures of both Cavalier and Jacobite heroes in their homes.
Scottish Episcopalians provided over half of the Jacobite forces in Britain, and although Dundee's rising in 1689 came mostly from the western Highlands, in later risings Episcopalians came roughly equally from the north-east Scottish Lowlands north of the River Tay and from the Highland clans (the latter containing a large Catholic component). The Episcopalians were also described as Nonjurors. As Protestants they could take part in Scottish politics, but were in a minority and were repeatedly discriminated against in legislation favouring the established Church of Scotland. The clergy could even be imprisoned, as occurred in the Stonehaven Tolbooth after three clergymen held services at the chapel at Muchalls Castle. However, many Episcopalians were quiet about any Jacobite sympathies and were able to accommodate themselves to the new regime. About half of the Episcopalians supporting the Jacobite cause came from the Lowlands, but this was obscured in the risings by their tendency to wear Highland dress as a type of Jacobite uniform.
To the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highland clans, to whom the supporters of Jacobitism were known as Seumasaich, the conflict was more about inter-clan politics than about religion, and a significant factor was resistance to the territorial ambitions of the (Presbyterian) Campbells of Argyll. There was a precedent for post-1689 Jacobitism during the period of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, when clans from the western Highlands had fought for James's father Charles I against the Campbells and the Covenanters. Another factor in Highland Jacobitism was James VII's sympathetic treatment of the Highland clans. Whereas previous monarchs since the late 16th century had been antagonistic to the Gaelic Highland way of life, James had worked sympathetically with the clan chieftains in the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands. Some Highland chieftains therefore viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies. During the Jacobite Risings, they provided the bulk of Jacobite manpower.
Another source of Jacobite support came from those dissatisfied with political developments. Some Whigs, most obviously the Earl of Mar, reacted to political disappointments by joining the Jacobites, but while others were courted from 1692 onwards and indicated support, mostly this was just reinsurance in case the Jacobites came out on top.
The Tories were a more likely source of support given their commitment to church and king, but many were reluctant to trust the Church of England to a Catholic king. At times such as 1715–22 when the Hanoverians appeared to be dismantling Anglican dominance and 1743–45 when Whig dealings denied the Tories parliamentary victory they would coalesce and turn to the Jacobites, but they were reluctant when it came to serious action. Nevertheless this gave hopes that large numbers of Tories would support a Jacobite rising with a serious prospect of winning, particularly when helped by foreign intervention. The rise and fall of the earlier Tory alliance with the Jacobites forms a major part of the background for Sir Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor.
Other Jacobite recruits could be described as adventurers – desperate men who saw the cause as a solution to their (usually financial) problems. Although small in number and varying from unemployed weavers looking for excitement to impoverished gentry like William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock who served Charles as a colonel and became a general after the Battle of Falkirk, they contributed significantly to the daring that brought the Jacobites a prospect of success in their campaigns. However, other such mercenaries often became spies and informers.
Jacobite ideology comprised four main tenets: The divine right of kings, the "accountability of Kings to God alone", inalienable hereditary right, and the "unequivocal scriptural injunction of non-resistance and passive obedience", though these positions were not unique to the Jacobites. What distinguished Jacobites from Whigs was their adherence to 'right' as the basis for the law, whereas the Whigs held to the idea of 'possession' as the basis of the law. However, such distinctions became less clear over time, with an increase in the use of contract theory by some Jacobite writers during the reign of George I.
Jacobites contended that James II had not been legally deprived of his throne, that the Convention Parliament and its successors were not legal. Scottish Jacobites resisted the Act of Union 1707, while not recognising Parliamentary Great Britain Jacobites recognised their monarchs as Kings of Great Britain.
The majority of Irish people supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.
From its religious roots, Jacobite ideology was passed on through committed families of the nobility and gentry who would have pictures of the exiled royal family and of Cavalier and Jacobite martyrs, and take part in like minded networks. Even today, some Highland clans and regiments pass their drink over a glass of water during the Loyal Toast – to the King Over the Water. More widely, commoners developed communities in areas where they could fraternise in Jacobite alehouses, inns and taverns, singing seditious songs, collecting for the cause and on occasion being recruited for risings. At government attempts to close such places they simply transferred to another venue. In these neighbourhoods Jacobite wares such as inscribed glassware, brooches with hidden symbols and tartan waistcoats were popular. The criminal activity of smuggling became associated with Jacobitism throughout Britain, partly because of the advantage of dealing through exiled Jacobites in France.
Official policy of the court in exile initially reflected the uncompromising intransigence that got James into trouble in the first place. With the powerful support of the French they saw no need to accommodate the concerns of his Protestant subjects, and effectively issued a summons for them to return to their duty. In 1703 Louis pressed James into a more accommodating stance in the hopes of detaching England from the Grand Alliance, essentially promising to maintain the status quo. This policy soon changed, and increasingly Jacobitism ostensibly identified itself with causes of the alienated and dispossessed.
James II and VII had his viceroy Tyrconnell take action to secure Ireland for the Catholic cause, culminating in the Siege of Derry which began on 7 December 1688. By then the deposed James had fled to France, and with support from Louis XIV, who was already at war with William of Orange.
James landed in Ireland on 12 March 1689. Having taken Dublin and joined the Siege of Derry, he reluctantly agreed to the demands of a now almost all Catholic Irish Parliament (the Patriot Parliament) for an act declaring that the Parliament of England had no right to pass laws for Ireland, toleration of Catholicism and a reversal of the Cromwellian confiscations. Williamite forces relieved the siege of Derry in August 1689 and cleared most of Ulster of Jacobites. Skirmishes continued across the country until winter set in, hitting the Williamite army particularly hard.
In light of the little progress, William decided to take charge in person and arrived at Belfast Lough on 14 June 1690. The following 1 July, William and James met, accompanied by 50,000 of their men, at the Battle of the Boyne. The Jacobite army retreated, incurring little damage under cavalry, but demoralised by defeat. Despite leaving the field relatively unscathed, James fled to France, leaving supporters in Ireland to fight on and acquiring the nickname Séamus an chaca (James, the shite) in Irish folk memory. A year later on 12 July 1691, over 7,000 died at the Battle of Aughrim. This defeat saw the effective end of the Jacobite cause in Ireland although the city of Limerick held out under siege until October (see the Siege of Limerick) eventually negotiating a treaty. Under the terms, 14,000 Jacobite soldiers chose to continue fighting the Jacobite cause on the Continent, the so-called Flight of the Wild Geese (1,000 more chose to join the Williamite cause and 2,000 more chose to return to their homes). The treaty also contained provision for religious tolerance in Ireland. These latter terms were not upheld and following the conclusion of the war in Ireland a return to the Anglican-dominated parliament saw the provisions of the Patriot Parliament declared null and void, and as a series of Penal Laws subsequently enacted.
Jacobitism lingered on for another century in the ideology of nationalist secret societies, but did not play an overt role again in Ireland.
On 16 April 1689, almost a month after he left the Convention in Edinburgh and five days after it had proclaimed William and Mary joint monarchs, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, raised James's standard on the hilltop of Dundee Law with fewer than fifty men in support. At that time he was known as Bluidy Clavers for his part in dealing with Covenanters, but subsequently people called him Bonnie Dundee based on a sentimental popular song written by the Romantic novelist, Walter Scott, in 1830. At first he had difficulty in raising many supporters, but after the Williamite commander Major-General Hugh Mackay had proved ineffective and 200 Irish troops had landed at Kintyre he gained support from Catholic and Episcopalian Highland clans, though not from the Episcopal bishops of the Scots nobility.
Victory for the Jacobite Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July 1689 turned sour when Dundee was killed in the fighting. A series of government expeditions to subdue the Highlands eventually led to Jacobite defeat at Cromdale in May 1690 and lingering hopes faded with news of the Battle of the Boyne. A year later the Jacobites had to agree to a truce while the clan chiefs sent requests to the exiled James VII and II for permission to submit to William, and in January 1692 the Jacobite clans formally surrendered to the government.
William himself concentrated his attention on the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697) in the Low Countries against the French and paid little attention to Scotland, trying to bribe or coerce the clan leaders. His demands that each chief put in writing the submission authorised by James resulted in the Massacre of Glencoe on 13 February 1692.
In 1701 James II and VII died. He was succeeded in his claims by his son, James Francis Edward Stuart. He was recognised as King James III of England and King James VIII of Scotland by the courts of France, Spain, Modena, and by the Papacy. To his detractors he was eventually to be known as the Old Pretender, while his supporters referred to him as the King Across the Water.
After a brief peace, the War of the Spanish Succession renewed French support for the Jacobites and in 1708 James Francis set out with French troops, but the French fleet was chased away by the Royal Navy and retreated round the north of Scotland back to France.
In March 1702 William died and the throne passed to Mary's sister Anne, the last of James II and VII's children to sit upon the thrones of England and Scotland. Scotland's economy was faltering and the English parliament used trade sanctions to force the Scottish parliament towards union. One Scottish politician who thrived in these unpopular negotiations was the Earl of Mar who, despite his Episcopalian background, ably supported the Scottish Revolution interest and after being a signatory to the Act of Union of 1707 was rewarded by Queen Anne and rose in the new British parliament to a key role in running Scottish affairs, a position formalised in 1713 when the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was revived for him. In that year he was part of the ministry that negotiated the Treaty of Utrecht which ended hostilities between France and Britain, in a deal unpopular with Hanoverians and Whigs.
Widespread discontent gave the Jacobites increasing hopes that James Francis Edward Stuart would gain power when the popular Anne died leaving no immediate successor. However, the Act of Settlement 1701 required the monarch to be Protestant while James Francis was a devout Catholic. The crown therefore passed to Anne's second cousin the Elector of Hanover, great grandson of James I of England and VI of Scotland, who thus became George I. The Whigs acted quickly to bring in the new king, forestalling possible arguments. George I spoke poor English, but was a proven soldier and statesman and extremely popular with his subjects, who constructed their own images of his kingship in the absence of a centrally-driven propaganda campaign of the sort undertaken by Louis XIV of France and the later Stuart kings. George favoured the Whigs, and in the spring of 1715 the Tories lost the general election to the Whigs, who then impeached Tory leaders for their part in the peace negotiations with France. Tory fears for themselves and for the high Church of England led to conspiracy for armed rebellion, but when the time came their leaders were paralysed with fear and indecision and an alerted government ordered the arrest of the major players. At the day for the rising in the south-west a large number of Tory gentry turned up for "a race meeting" at Bath, but on receiving a letter from their leader (who was in hiding) saying that all was lost, they went home.
In Scotland years of famine and hardship provided fertile ground for what is often referred to as the First Jacobite Rising (or Rebellion). Mar had found himself identified with the previous government, which thwarted his attempts to continue in office in the incoming Hanoverian government of King George I, and fearing impeachment, he turned his loyalty to James, justifying his nickname Bobbin' John.
James Francis corresponded with Mar from France as part of widespread Jacobite plotting, and in the summer of 1715 he called on Mar to raise the clans without further delay. Mar, realising that the government had found out about his part in the conspiracy, rushed from London to Braemar and summoned clan leaders to "a grand hunting-match" on 27 August 1715 where he announced his change of allegiance. On 6 September he proclaimed James as "their lawful sovereign" and raised the old Scottish standard, whereupon (ominously) the gold ball fell off the top of the flagpole. Mar's proclamation called on men to fight "for the relief of our native country from oppression and a foreign yoke too heavy for us or our posterity to bear."
While Mar succeeded in raising an alliance of clans and northern Lowlanders, he turned out to be an indifferent and indecisive general. Planned risings in Wales and Devon were forestalled by government arrests. A rising in the north of England joined forces with a rising in the south of Scotland and with a contingent from Mar marched into England, but did not meet the expected welcome and surrendered after a brief siege at the Battle of Preston.
Mar's forces in Scotland were unable to defeat government forces. A ship from France belatedly brought James Francis to Peterhead, but he was too consumed by melancholy and fits of fever to inspire his followers. After briefly setting up court at Scone, Perthshire then retreating to the coast, he withdrew to France with Mar on 4 February 1716, leaving a message advising his Highland followers to shift for themselves. In 1717, most of the Jacobites still surviving in a variety of prisons were released by virtue of the Act of Grace and Pardon.
George remained popular with the majority of his subjects, but over the next five years, and to a reduced extent afterwards, a significant section of the British crowd asserted loyalism in Jacobite forms, including songs, symbolic oak leaves and white roses worn on anniversaries, attacks on Whigs and hanging or burning effigies of George with cuckold's horns. They derided his marital problems and alleged mistresses (who got nicknames like the Goose and the Elephant) with songs (preserved in Jacobite Reliques) like Cam Ye O'er Frae France which includes the words "Saw ye Geordie's grace, riding on a goosie?". Roman Catholic liturgical books were often decorated with Jacobite floral imagery, and the texts had coded Jacobite meanings, one example being the hymn Adeste Fideles (also known as O Come All Ye Faithful), a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie replete with secret references decipherable by the "faithful" – the followers of the Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart.
In the minds of many, the "King over the Water" (whom the Jacobites' opponents called the Old Pretender) became a mythical Arthurian figure, a good king who would one day return and put things right. There was also a developing myth of Jacobite martyrs, praising the brave defiance of Jacobites at the scaffold and treasuring relics in an almost religious way. This inspired their supporters, but for most people these hangings merely showed that the Jacobites were on the losing side.
The failure of the 'Fifteen convinced the Jacobites that to overthrow the Hanoverians they needed the support of a major European power, and in an age when the Habsburg empire was collapsing and armies becoming professionalised this gave a lever to any country in dispute with Britain. With France still at peace, the Jacobites found a new ally in Spain's Minister to the King, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, but an invasion force which set sail in 1719 failed to reach England and the party of Jacobites and Spanish soldiers which reached Scotland met only lukewarm support and the Spanish soldiers were forced to surrender at the Battle of Glen Shiel.
Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester and a passionate High Tory, conspired with Mar who had been appointed "Secretary of State" by James Francis in France, for a rising to coincide with the general election in 1722 aiming to exploit public anger over the South Sea Bubble. English Tories out in their constituencies were to summon their kinsmen, friends and tenants to secure their localities and march on London, while volunteers from the Irish Brigade were to land in the south to join them. While the French were sympathetic, an official request for assistance from the Jacobite court in exile meant that they could no longer turn a blind eye so they informed the English ambassador and posted the Irish Brigade out of temptation's way. Mar was bullied into betraying the conspiracy, which collapsed with arrests, denunciations and flights abroad.
In the aftermath of the 'Fifteen, the Disarming Act and the Clan Act made ineffectual attempts to subdue the Scottish Highlands, and efforts at "rooting out of the Irish language" (Gaelic) were renewed. Government garrisons were built or extended and linked to the south by the Wade roads constructed for Major-General George Wade. Jacobitism lingered on amid resentment of economic hardship and the Whig government, and Catholic missionaries increased their influence with some clans, but, generally Jacobitism became more of a secretive game with the glasses of claret being waved over water before the Loyal Toast so that it became a toast to "the King (over the water)".
Robert Walpole's Excise Scheme of 1733 caused a crisis with public disorders, and Lord Cornbury, heir to the Earl of Clarendon, convinced the French ambassador in London and the French secretary of state in Paris that the Hanoverian regime was crumbling and proposed a French invasion matched with Jacobite risings. The French cabinet considered the scheme then rejected it, their officials were demoted and Cornbury abandoned politics.
Anglo-French relations gradually worsened and the Jacobites tried proposing further schemes, starting in 1737 with John Gordon of Glenbucket suggesting a Highland rising backed by French invasion and continued with lobbying by Lord Semphill as "official" Jacobite agent at the French court. During 1743 the War of the Austrian Succession drew Britain and France into open, though unofficial, hostilities against each other. Through Semphill, English Jacobites made a formal request to France for armed intervention. The French king's Master of Horse toured southern England meeting Tories and discussing their proposals, and in November 1743 Louis XV of France authorised a large-scale invasion of southern England in February 1744. Charles Edward Stuart (later known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender) who was in exile in Rome with his father (James Francis) was invited to accompany the expedition and rushed to France, but a storm destroyed the attempt. The British lodged strong diplomatic objections to the presence of Charles, and France declared war but abandoned ideas of Jacobite risings and gave Charles no more encouragement.
Early in 1744 a small number of Scottish Highland clan chiefs had sent Charles a message that they would rise if he arrived with as few as 3,000 French troops, and even against later cautions from his advisers he was determined not to turn back. He secretively borrowed funds, pawned his mother's jewellery and made preparations with a consortium of privateers. He set out for Scotland on 22 June 1745 with two ships, but the larger ship with 700 volunteers from the Irish Brigade and supplies of armaments was forced back. Charles landed with his seven men of Moidart on the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 23 July 1745, and though Scottish clans initially showed little enthusiasm Charles went on to lead the Second Jacobite Rising in his father's name, taking Perth and Edinburgh almost unopposed.
The small Hanoverian army in Scotland under Sir John Cope chased round the Highlands, and eventually encountered Charles near Edinburgh where they were routed by a surprise attack at the Battle of Prestonpans, as celebrated in the Jacobite song "Hey, Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Waking Yet?". There was alarm in England, and in London a patriotic song was performed including the defiant verse:
This song, God Save the King, was widely adopted and was to become the National Anthem, but is rarely sung with this second verse.
After Charles held court at Holyrood Palace for five weeks he overcame Lord George Murray's caution by declaring that he had Tory assurances of an English rising and the Jacobite army set for England. Under Murray's command they successfully manoeuvred past government armies to reach Derby on 4 December, only 125 miles (200 km) from a panicking London, with a resentful Charles barely on speaking terms with his general. By then Charles was advised of progress on the French invasion fleet which was then assembling at Dunkirk, but at his council of war his previous lies about assurances were exposed. The Jacobite general, Lord George Murray, and the council of war insisted on returning to join their growing force in Scotland. On 6 December 1745 they withdrew, with Charles Edward Stuart leaving command to Murray. The Jacobites defeated a Hanoverian British army of superior numbers at the Battle of Falkirk 17 January 1746. Charles refused to take any part in running the campaign until he insisted on fighting an orthodox defensive action at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 where they suffered a crushing defeat.
Charles fled to France blaming everything on the treachery of his officers, making a dramatic if humiliating escape disguised as Flora MacDonald's "lady's maid" with the help of his aide, Neil MacEachen-MacDonald. Cumberland's forces crushed the rebellion and effectively ended Jacobitism as a serious political force in Britain but at the cost of abandoning the field in Flanders to France.
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Jacobitism entered permanent decline after the "Forty-Five" rebellion. The French made every effort to rescue Jacobite chieftains as well as Charles, and gave him a hero's welcome back to France, but soon tired of his badgering them to provide a renewed assault on the Hanoverians. After French victories knocked the Netherlands out of the war, the British offered reasonable peace terms and made the expulsion of Charles from France a precondition of negotiations. Charles ignored the French court's order to depart, continued to demand military action and support for his extravagant lifestyle and flaunted his presence around Paris as peace negotiations for the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle got under way. After British complaints the French government lost patience with Charles and in December 1748 he was seized on his way to the Opéra and briefly gaoled before being expelled.
From 1749 to 1751 Charles laid the groundwork for a rising in England including a visit to London in 1750 when he conferred with the Jacobite leaders and considered an assault on the Tower of London as well as converting to Anglicanism. The English Jacobites were clear that they would not move without foreign assistance, and Charles turned to Frederick II of Prussia. While Frederick was indifferent to the Jacobite cause he made diplomatic use of the opportunity, and appointed the Earl Marischal as his ambassador to Paris, in a position to keep him informed and veto any plans. Alexander Murray of Elibank House, Taplow, the liaison between Charles and the plotters, finally realised there was no hope of foreign assistance and ended the conspiracy, but by then Charles had sent two exiled Scots as agents to prepare the clans. They were betrayed by Alistair Ruadh MacDonell of Glengarry, a spy in Charles' entourage, and while one was arrested, the other barely escaped. Charles responded to the failure by denouncing his comrades, and continuing with his by now routine drunkenness and abuse of his mistress. Finally, in a dispute with Marischal and the English conspirators in 1754, a drunken Charles threatened to publish their names for having "betrayed" him, finally causing his supporters to abandon the Jacobite cause.
In 1759 French naval defeats at Lagos and Quiberon Bay forced them to abandon a planned invasion of Britain, which would have placed Charles on the throne. It is often considered the last realistic chance for the Jacobites. With its passing, Charles collapsed yet further into alcoholism and was soon entirely abandoned by the French government, who saw little further use for him. The English Jacobites stopped sending funds and by 1760 Charles had returned to Catholicism and was relying on the Papacy to support his lifestyle in Rome.
In 1766, when Old Pretender James (VIII/III) Edward Stuart died, the Holy See refused to recognise "Bonnie" Prince Charles as the lawful sovereign of Great Britain, thus losing his most powerful support, the French support being long gone. In 1788, the Scottish Catholics swore allegiance to the Hanover Dynasty, and resolved two years later to pray for King George by name.
In an effort to prevent further trouble in the Scottish Highlands, the government outlawed many cultural practices to destroy the warrior clan system. The Act of Proscription incorporating the Disarming Act and the Dress Act required all swords to be surrendered to the government and prohibited wearing of tartans or kilts. The Tenures Abolition Act ended the feudal bond of military service and the Heritable Jurisdictions Act removed the virtually sovereign power the chiefs had over their clan. The extent of enforcement of the prohibitions was variable and sometimes related to a clan's support of the government during the rebellion.
Government troops were stationed in the Highlands and built more roads and barracks to better control the region, with a new fortress at Fort George to the east of Inverness which still serves as a base for Highland Regiments of the British Army. Highland clans found a way back to legitimacy by providing regiments to the British Army, many of whom served with distinction in the subsequent Seven Years War.
When Charles died in 1788 the Stuart claim to the throne passed to his younger brother Henry, who had become a Cardinal, and who now styled himself King Henry IX of England. After falling into financial difficulty during the French Revolution, he was granted a stipend by George III. However, he never actually surrendered his claims to the throne, though all former supporters of Jacobitism had stopped funding. Following the death of Henry in 1807, the Jacobite claims passed to those excluded by the Act of Settlement: initially to the House of Savoy (1807–1840), then to the Modenese branch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (1840–1919), and finally to the House of Wittelsbach (1919–present). Franz, Duke of Bavaria is the current Jacobite heir. Neither he nor any of his predecessors since 1807 have pursued their claim. Henry, Charles and James are memorialised in the Monument to the Royal Stuarts in the Vatican.
What began with the English parliament asserting a new authority and William looking to expand alliances against France quickly developed into a major distraction, with William being forced to focus attention on Ireland and Scotland, and parliament having to fund the armies needed to overcome the Jacobites. This distraction helped keep Britain from intervening on the continent and contributed to twenty years of peace in Europe, while continuing unrest forced the British state to develop repressive strategies with networks of spies and informers as well as increasing its standing army. While Jacobitism increasingly appealed to the disaffected, it inherently bowed to higher authority and thus reinforced the social order. It left the British state strengthened to deal with the more revolutionary movements that developed later in the 18th century.
Jacobitism is celebrated in many folk songs, including those by the Corries and by Carolina Nairne, Lady Nairne (whose "Bonnie Charlie" remains popular). Additionally, it has became the subject of romantic poetry and literature, notably the work of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
Walter Scott, author of Waverley, a story of the 1745 rebellion, combined romantic Jacobitism with an appreciation of the practical benefits of the Hanoverian government, and in 1822 he arranged a pageantry of reinvented Scottish traditions for the visit of King George IV to Scotland when George IV visited Edinburgh and dressed as a tubby kilted successor to his distant relative Charles Stuart. The tartan pageantry was immensely popular and the kilt became Scotland's National Dress.
In the late nineteenth century, there was a brief revival of political Jacobitism, with the creation of a number of Jacobite clubs and societies such as the Order of the White Rose and the Legitimist Jacobite League of Great Britain and Ireland. These largely came to an end with the first World War and are now represented by the Royal Stuart Society.
Other vestiges, however limited, remain of Jacobitism even today. Noel S. McFerran's The Jacobite Heritage, for example, is a website which not only provides extensive information on Jacobitism, but still advocates a Jacobite position (see External Links, below).
Jacobitism has been a popular subject for speculative and humorous fiction.
In the 1920s, D. K. Broster wrote the Jacobite Trilogy of novels featuring the dashing hero Ewen Cameron.
Science Fiction writer John Whitbourn described his 1998 book, The Royal Changeling as "The first work of Jacobite propaganda for several centuries".
Among the political entities sharing a future human-settled galaxy depicted by A. Bertram Chandler is "The Jacobite Kingdom of Waverly". One of Chandler's stories mentions "the coronation of King James XIV", held with great pomp and broadcast throughout the Galaxy.
In an episode of The Avengers TV series, "Esprit de Corps," originally broadcast 14 March 1964, a Scottish general plots a coup using Cathy Gale as the Stuart heir, whom he wishes to enthrone as Queen Anne II.
Garrison Keillor told one of his Lake Wobegon stories, "The Royal Family," about a poor Minnesota family who are persuaded that they are the long-lost Stuart heirs. They dream of returning to Edinburgh and taking their rightful place on the throne of Scotland.
A fictional account is given of the Jacobite/Hanoverian conflict in The Long Shadow, The Chevalier and The Maiden, Volumes 6–8 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Insight is given through the eyes of the Morland family into the religious, political and emotional issues at the heart of the struggle.
In the movie King Ralph, Ralph Jones, an American, becomes King of the United Kingdom when he is believed to be the only surviving member of the current Royal Family. Lord Percival Graves, the current heir to the throne under the Stuart line of succession, tries to have King Ralph deposed so he can take his place.
In the 1995 film Rob Roy it is a minor plot element with the English Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt) attempting to covertly cultivate rumours that his personal rival the Scottish, Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir) is a Jacobite; much to the latter's fury.
Since Henry's death, none of the Jacobite heirs have claimed the English or Scottish thrones.