Jacobite risings

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Jacobite risings were attempts after 1689 to reverse the expulsion of the senior branch of the Stuart family from its thrones. Supporters of the exiled dynasty were known as Jacobites from the Latin form of the name James which is Jacobus. James VII and II fled from England in December 1688. He landed in Ireland in March 1689, with French troops, but left when defeated at the Boyne in 1690. Military emigration after the last Jacobite army surrendered at Limerick in October 1691 ensured that future Irish Jacobitism was exilic.

The first Jacobite rising was in Scotland in 1689 led by Viscount Dundee and Lord Balcarres. They withdrew from the Scots Estates or Parliament, and launched a military assault on its provisional government. A coalition of conservative episcopalians and the smaller clans of the central and western Highlands, the rising had as little active support as the Williamites. Large clans and great magnates were inactive, apart from the Campbells, whose chief, Argyll, was restored by the events of 1688–9. Dundee died in victory at the battle of Killiecrankie in July 1689, and the Jacobite army was finally routed at the Haughs of Cromdale in May 1690.

Until the French lost control of the sea at La Hogue in 1692 James was more interested in returning with a French army than in promoting risings. However, the exclusively presbyterian settlement in the kirk in 1690 alienated many Scots, as did such tyrannical misgovernment as the massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Nevertheless, despite the stresses of war, it was not until the passage of the Union of 1707 that outraged Scottish national sentiment made another rising thinkable. Louis XIV planned a Jacobite seizure of Scotland. In March 1708 James Francis Edward Stuart, after his father's death in 1701 the Jacobite claimant, was off the coast of Fife with a French expedition, but the French fled north at the sight of Royal Navy ships. Designed to recover only Scotland, the plan aborted.

Queen Anne's death in 1714 was followed by the smooth accession of the protestant Hanoverian dynasty. The outbreak of the 1715 rising surprised the exiled Stuarts. It was the only rising entirely explicable in domestic terms. The Whig coup at the accession of George I drove many Tories to despair, some to rebellion. After failing to get a job from George I, the earl of Mar started a Scottish national rising. There was also a small English rising in Northumberland, supported mostly by catholic and high Anglican squires who were bankrupt. The Scottish rising failed due to the action of Argyll, who blocked the path south at Stirling, and Mar's incompetence. An attempt by an Anglo-Scottish Jacobite force to raise the Lancashire catholics was foiled at Preston on the same day (14 November) that Mar failed to sweep Argyll aside at Sheriffmuir. The late arrival of James Stuart, and surreptitious Spanish aid, failed to avert the collapse of the rising in early 1716.

Forfeitures, plus measures such as the Septennial and Riot Acts, seemed to entrench Whig power permanently. The next Jacobite rebellion was a fiasco cynically sponsored by a Spanish government which was quarrelling with the British over Mediterranean issues. The main invasion force was intended to strike at the west of England, but was scattered by storms. A purely diversionary force, including the exiled Scots Jacobite Lords Tullibardine and Seaforth, did invade the north-west Highlands, only to be crushed by General Wightman at Glenshiel in June 1719.

The rise of an Anglo-French entente, the strength of Walpole's regime, and the disrepute which the failure of the Jacobite claimant's marriage brought ruled out another rising. By 1744, however, war had broken out between France and Britain, and the French brought Prince Charles Stuart, elder son of James Stuart, to France to front an invasion. Then they dropped the idea. The arrival of Charles in the west Highlands in the late summer of 1745 was designed to reverse the French decision by seizing a poorly defended Scotland and then invading England to provoke French intervention. With the help of the Camerons and smaller central Highland clans, Charles occupied Edinburgh before shattering government forces under Cope at Prestonpans. The invasion of England in late 1745 was agreed to reluctantly by many Jacobite Scots. Even the field commander, Lord George Murray, regarded it as a reconnaissance to test English willingness to restore the Stuarts. By Derby, it was clear there was none, and retreat in the face of superior armies was brilliantly executed. A final victory over the pursuing Hanoverian army under General Hawley at Falkirk in January 1746 merely postponed the day of reckoning which came on 16 April at Culloden east of Inverness, where the Jacobites were totally routed by the duke of Cumberland, a younger son of George II. Devastation, confiscation, and disillusionment with both Charles and France effectively destroyed all danger of another rising. The risings underlined the unpopularity of governments which were seen as corrupt and betraying their own principles, but also showed the unacceptability of the Stuart alternative, and their failures reinforced the Hanoverian regime.

Bruce Philip Lenman


Lenman, B. , The Jacobite Risings (1980).