The Jacobites and Britain: These were not Scottish v English Conflicts

April 16, 2020

"The Earl of Angus's Regiment (The Cameronians) at the Defence of Dunkeld, 1689" by Richard Simkin. Pic from Wikipedia.

 

On the 274th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, A Force For Good is pleased to present our new series on "The Jacobites and Britain". It's written by John Provan, who has an MA (Hons) in History, and is the author of our 2015, 7-part series "Scottish Origins of British Unionism" and our 2016, 6-part series "Scottish Desire for Union 1707" both of which are available on our Legacy Site.

 

As with our previous series, this one dispels the popular Scottish Nationalist myths related around the subject.

 

For example, if you ever thought the Jacobite movement was entirely Scottish, or the battles were "Scottish v English", or "Highland v Lowland", or "Catholic v Protestant", then be prepared to think again!

 

Before we begin – here is a Timeline to put things in context:

 

Timeline of Events referred to in the Text

The term Jacobite is derived from "Jacobus", the Latin form of "James".

 

1689 Rising: James VII was deposed by William and Mary at the Glorious Revolution. He left for France on the night of 9/10 December 1688. Uprisings for James began in Ireland when James landed there at Kinsale on 12 March 1689. Shortly thereafter, on 11 April, John Graham (Viscount "Bonnie" Dundee) launched a Jacobite Rising in Scotland, which won the Battle of Killikrankie (27 July 1689), which also resulted in his death.

 

The battles in Scotland ended after Williamite victories at Dunkeld (21 August 1689, pictured above) and Cromdale (30 April-1 May 1690); and the Glencoe massacre (13 Feb 1692).

 

James fled Ireland for France following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. Irish Jacobites surrendered under the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691.

 

1715 Rising: His son James Francis Edward Stuart (The Old Pretender, "James VIII") landed in Peterhead on 22 December 1715, after the Jacobite's had been set back and demoralised at the Battle of Sheriffmuir (13 November 1715) and defeated at the Battle of Preston (9-14 November 1715). He returned to France on 5 February 1716.

 

1745 Rising: His son Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Young Pretender, "Charles III") landed in Eriskay on 23 July 1745. After raising men to his cause, he raised his Royal Standard on the banks of Loch Shiel, in Glenfinnan on 19 August 1745. He escaped back to France after defeat at the decisive Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.

Introduction to the Misconceptions

There are several ways in which the Jacobite Risings are commonly misunderstood. Jacobites and Hanoverians are often mis-represented as being divided variously along Scottish and English, Highland and Lowland, or Catholic and Protestant lines.

 

Others define the conflict as a simplistic clash of values; of anti-Union Jacobites against Unionist Hanoverians – this despite the fact that the first Jacobite Rising in 1689 predates the Act of Union.

 

Others are yet more abstract; viewing the Jacobites as reactionary romanticists pitted against the modernising Hanoverians who were set to lead Britain into a new era of Empire, industrialisation and the standing army.

 

Some of these misconceptions have come to hold an important place in Scottish nationalist mythology. They fail to appreciate the complexity and diversity of the Jacobite cause.

 

It is important to challenge them, so that we may do justice to both Jacobite and Hanoverian, who can both claim to be core parts of British – and not just Scottish – history.

 

It's also worth noting that each of these misconceptions contains a degree of truth, and their validity varies depending on the Jacobite Rising in question.

 

Neither should we forget the long periods in between the Risings in which Jacobitism remained a political and cultural phenomenon. The 1745 Rising which collapsed on the moors of Culloden on 16 April 1746 is ingrained in the modern mind in a way that the earlier Risings are not; yet many forget that the earlier Risings in 1689 and 1715 posed a greater existential threat to the Revolutionary Settlement and the Hanoverian monarchy.

 

Each Rising had its own very distinct character in which different factors exerted different influences. Ireland was the chief stage for the 1689 Rising; Northern England the 1715; and Scotland the much romanticised '45. Yet all had a thoroughly British dimension, and the Pretenders themselves were members of the House of Stuart which had ruled over the three Kingdoms for almost the entirety of the Seventeenth Century.

 

This first article in our series will address the flawed notion that the Jacobite Risings were a Scottish versus English conflict. It will consider just how divided Scotland was by the conflict, and the difficulties and opposition the Jacobites faced throughout many parts of Scotland.

 

Scotland Divided: Hanoverian Support and Popular Anti-Jacobitism in Scotland

It is the 1745 Rising which captures Scottish nationalist imagination, and indeed the '45 is the only Rising in which Scotland was the dominant platform for Jacobite activity.

 

Yet even as that '45 reached its dramatic conclusion on Culloden Moor, as historian Stuart Reid notes: "...there were easily as many Scots fighting for King George as there were standing in Prince Charles Edward's ranks". [1]

 

Nor were many of the Jacobites even there of their own volition, for the evidence suggests that a majority of men in many regiments were forced out, threatened with having their homes burnt or cattle stolen; some were physically dragged from their homes. [2]

 

Landowners in the Jacobite heartlands were instructed to supply one able-bodied man for every £100 (Scots) of valued rent. This was strictly enforced. Lord Lewis Gordon issued instructions to officers that if this quota was not met, they were to "burn all the houses, corn and planting upon the foresaid estates". [3]

 

Scotland was not a haven of popular Jacobitism, nor were Hanoverian Scots lacking in zeal for their cause. Consider for example the single regiment of Cameronians who fended off a far greater Jacobite force at the Battle of Dunkeld (21 August 1689, pictured above), halting the advance of James VII's forces after their victory at Killiekrankie.

 

The Jacobites had struggled within Scotland in the previous Risings. In the 1710 General Election, just 16 of 45 MPs returned from Scotland could be identified as Jacobite in their sympathies, by campaigning, for example, for Episcopalian toleration and the repeal of the Union. [4]

 

It is little wonder that in the 1715 Rising, out of frustration and desperation James VIII used his experience of continental warfare and deployed scorched earth tactics. From 24-28 January 1716 his Jacobite forces burned the six Scottish towns of Auchterarder, Blackford, Crieff, Dubroch, Dunning and Muthill. Villagers had their homes burnt to the ground in front of their eyes, their animals killed and their crops destroyed. [5]

 

Scotland had proven far from a safe haven of Jacobite sympathy and recruitment.

Popular Anti-Jacobite Unrest

Unsurprisingly, the Jacobites were met with often quite fierce popular opposition in many parts of Scotland. Anti-Jacobite riots were a regular occurrence in many of the Scottish towns and cities which Jacobite forces occupied.

 

For example, in Dundee there were riots against the Jacobite occupation on the King's Birthday on 30th October 1745, while the town's clergy insisted on continuing to pray for King George and refused a Jacobite offer of compromise to pray "for all Christian Kings" instead. [6]

 

There was pro-Hanoverian rioting in Perth on the same day, although much of the scuffling was with a local pro-Jacobite mob which had also assembled within the town. [7] Nonetheless, the pro-Hanoverian rioters were able to besiege the Town House which was rather tenuously defended by just 19 armed Jacobite infantrymen. [8]


Popular unrest, both pro and anti-Jacobite, was well established in Scotland long before the '45, and indeed was something of a tradition. Upon the proclamation of George I in 1714 there was low level disorder by Jacobite supporters in towns across North East Scotland, which would serve as the heartland of the '45 three decades later.

 

However, at the same time as Jacobites stirred unrest upon George I's proclamation in 1714, a pro-Hanoverian Whig mob of some 5,000 people assembled in Glasgow to show their support for the new monarch. [9] The Stuarts were after all deeply unpopular in South West Scotland, the heartland of the Covenanting movement which had faced persecution under Charles II.

 

Southern Scotland Rejects the Jacobites

In the '45 Rising, Jacobite recruitment in Southern Scotland was phenomenally poor. Barely a company's strength was recruited from the Borders, while literally two individuals joined from Campbeltown and the surrounding Clan Campbell heartlands. [10]

 

A paltry 10 recruits joined from Glasgow, which had a population of 25,000 and which strongly celebrated the Hanoverian King George II's Birthday in October 1745. [11]

 

Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire raised only 47 recruits; these were areas that had raised thousands of men for the Covenanting cause within then-living memory. It is estimated that south of Haddington less than 100 Scotsmen joined the Jacobites. [12]


It is significant that the Forth-Clyde line, and not the Highland Line, seems to be the meaningful line of demarcation in Scotland when it comes to support, opposition and enthusiasm either way for the Jacobite cause.

 

 In our articles, the "Highland Line" means the mountainous area of Scotland which begins above the Clyde, near Dumbarton, heads diagonally below Loch Lomond, around the Cairngorms and up to the Moray Firth and right up to the far north.

 

The "Lowlands" means all the area which is not mountainous, including the area in the North East of Scotland, eastern central, and south Scotland. Pic from Wikipedia.

 

Especially in 1715 and to a large extent also in 1745, north of Stirling was broadly pro-Jacobite and a major source of Jacobite recruitment; yet south of Stirling was a mixture of pro-Hanoverianism and apathy. [13]

 

It was the North East Lowlands; the Episcopalian heartlands of areas like Angus and Kincardineshire that were the hotbed of Jacobite recruitment and activity in the '45; more so than the Highlands. This debunks the myth of a Highland-Lowland divide along Jacobite and Hanoverian lines, and will be the subject of a later article.

 

This first article has looked at some of the evidence which demonstrates just how divided Scotland was by the Jacobite cause.

 

In order to further debunk the myth of a Scottish versus English conflict, the second of our articles will examine the fascinating history of English Jacobitism: a world of plots, assassinations, secret societies and popular rioting that commanded support from peasants to parliamentarians.

 

All-English regiments were raised by the Jacobites in the '45, and some Englishmen would even take part in the Highland charge at Culloden! One did so under a banner that read 'Britons Strike Home'.

 

This, and more of the little-known world of English Jacobitism, will be investigated in part two.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Reid, S., The Scottish Jacobite Army 1745-46, (Osprey Publishing, 2006), p.3

[2] Ibid., pp.7-8

[3] Ibid., p.10

[4] Pittock, M., The Myth of the Jacobite Clans, The Jacobite Army in 1745, (Edinburgh University Press, 2009, 2nd ed.), p.53

[5] Lord, E., The Stuarts Secret Army: The Hidden History of the English Jacobites, (Routledge, 2014) p.86

[6] Pittock, Myth of the Jacobite Clans, p.115

[7] Ibid., p.115

[8] Ibid., p.121

[9] Ibid., p.54

[10] Ibid., p.115

[11] Ibid., p.122

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., pp.32-33

 

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