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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

II. Jacobitism

II. Jacobitism

Texte intégral

  • 1 Until Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, queen from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567) the family nam (...)

1The term Jacobitism comes from the Latin word Jacobus meaning James. The Jacobites wanted to restore the Stuart1 dynasty which had lost the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1688-1689 when James II of England (who was also James VII of Scotland) was deposed by his own daughter Mary and her husband the Dutch prince William of Orange and forced into exile in France. Jacobitism had the sympathy of most of the Catholic countries in Europe, especially France and Spain. The existence of Jacobitism gave the French an opportunity to destabilise the Hanoverian regime. The French never went as far as invading Britain but the potential French help strengthened the Jacobite cause. It is necessary to specify that support to the Jacobite cause did not only come from the Highlands. The Highlanders represented less than fifty percent of the Jacobite troops.

2The first Jacobite uprising occurred in 1689 when Major-General John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee (1648-1689), led a mainly Highland army against the government forces commanded by General Hugh MacKay. Dundee’s victory over Mackay’s forces at the pass of Killiecrankie in Perthshire (27 July 1689) proved the effectiveness of the Highland army. Yet Dundee was killed during the battle and nearly 40 per cent of his 2,500 strong army killed or injured.

  • 2 Prince James (“The Old Pretender”; 1688–1766) was the son of James II and VII. When James II died (...)

3There were Jacobite risings in Scotland in 1715, 1719 and 1745-1746. In 1715 the Earl of Mar, with other conspirators, started to scheme to restore a Stuart to the throne. At Braemar on 6 September 1715, he proclaimed James VIII King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland2. This marked the beginning of the 1715 Jacobite rising. Mar’s army was defeated by the government forces at the battle of Sheriffmuir (13 November 1715). The Jacobites then lost the initiative and the rising disintegrated.

4In 1719 about 300 Spanish troops were landed near Glenshiel in the county of Inverness. King Philip V of Spain aimed at destabilizing Great Britain and restoring the Stuart dynasty to the British throne. But less than a thousand men from the Highland clans joined the Spanish troops and the rising (the “Little Rising”) was easily suppressed by the government forces.

  • 3 He became known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

5The final flowering of Jacobitism in Scotland came when Prince Charles Edward Stuart3 (1720-1788), the grandson of James II, landed in the Outer Hebrides in 1745 to claim the throne on his father’s behalf. Charles managed to raise an army of about 2,500 men which moved into the Lowlands and, to everyone’s surprise, conquered Edinburgh only one month after he had landed. The Jacobite army, led by Lord George Murray, an outstanding military tactician, won other significant victories, such as Falkirk in January 1746. But the rising ended on the moors of Culloden near Inverness on 16 April 1746. The defeat at Culloden was a total victory for the Hanoverian forces led by George II’s younger son, the Duke of Cumberland (who was thereafter to be nicknamed ‘Butcher’ Cumberland for his campaign of mass-reprisal). After several months spent hiding in the Highlands, Charles managed to escape to France in early September 1746. This was the end of the Prince’s adventure but the traumatic impact of the complete defeat of Culloden was to be felt for decades by all those who had fought for the Stuart cause.

  • 4 An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotlan (...)

6Charles’s supporters were severely punished after Culloden. One hundred and twenty prisoners were executed. About 1,150 were banished or transported. The British government took a whole series of measures aimed at suppressing the patriarchal powers of the Highland chiefs. The office of Secretary of Scotland was abolished and the Lord Advocate came to represent the royal power in Scotland. The provisions of the Disarming Act4 of 1725, which had banned the kilt and condemned the pipes, were strengthened in the Act of Proscription of 1747. An Act of 1747 abolished the ‘Heritable Jurisdictions’ of landowners, which had been guaranteed by the Act of Union. The lands of traitors were forfeited; some of the lands were annexed to the Crown and the management of the income was assigned to trustees. The governmental measures caused the rapid collapse of the old clan system although it had already been disintegrating before the 1745 Jacobite rising. By the 1780s, the Jacobite threat had all but disappeared; in 1782, the ban on the kilt was removed and, in 1784, the forfeited lands were restored to their former owners.

7Jacobitism has continued to live in the Scottish imagination, especially because of its romantic associations. As Tom Devine has noted,

  • 5 T. M. Devine, The Scottish Nation 1700-2000 (1999), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000, p. 31.

Jacobitism is a subject littered with some of the most colourful personalities and familiar events in Scottish history. […] it is not easy to penetrate the historical reality behind the seductive smokescreen created by countless poets, novelists, dramatists, film-makers and songwriters.5

Notes

1 Until Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, queen from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567) the family name was “Stewart.” However, while in France Mary adopted the French spelling of “Stuart”. The two variants were used almost interchangeably by later generations of the House of Stuart.

2 Prince James (“The Old Pretender”; 1688–1766) was the son of James II and VII. When James II died in 1701 the King of France, Louis XIV, proclaimed James II’s son king of England, Scotland and Ireland.

3 He became known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

4 An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; and for the better securing the peace and quiet of that part of the kingdom.

5 T. M. Devine, The Scottish Nation 1700-2000 (1999), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000, p. 31.

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