Jacobite Rebellions

The 'Fifteen'

In Scotland years of famine and hardship fed discontent with the Union, providing 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 Stuart, the Old Pretender, 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 August 27, 1715 where he announced his change of allegiance. On September 6 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 united mainly in detesting the Union and recent Whig repression, he turned out to be an indifferent and indecisive general. Planned risings in Wales and Devonshire 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 (1715). Mar's forces in Scotland were unable to defeat government forces and when a ship from France belatedly brought the Old Pretender to Peterhead James 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, James fled to France with Mar on February 4, 1716, leaving a message advising his Highland followers to shift for themselves.

The 'Forty-Five'

Early in 1744 a small number of Scottish Highland clan chieftains 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 in July 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 August 2nd 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 British 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, Johnny Cope, are you waking yet?". There was alarm in England, and in London a patriotic song was performed including the defiant verse:

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
Shall by thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the King.

This song was widely adopted and was to become the National Anthem (usually without that 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 December 4th, 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. They returned to join their growing force in Scotland, with a petulant Charles refusing to take any part in running the campaign until he insisted on fighting an orthodox defensive action at the Battle of Culloden on April 16th 1746 and they were finally defeated. Charles fled to France blaming everything on the treachery of his officers and making a dramatic if humiliating escape disguised as Flora Macdonald's "lady's maid". Cumberland's forces crushed the rebellion and effectively ended Jacobitism as a serious political force in Britain.

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