Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Other Anniversary this year

The Earl of Mar
While everyone is commemorating and celebrating the victory of 1815 at Waterloo, there’s another event that should be remembered this year, equally important to the British people
In October, 1715, the Jacobites were defeated. This was the nearest the Jacobites came to regaining the throne, nearer than the ill-fated campaign of 1745 that led to Culloden.
James II turned publicly Roman Catholic after he married his second wife Mary of Modena. After that, the clock was ticking, and in 1689, he was deposed. His daughter Mary, and her husband William of Orange gained the throne, followed by James’ other daughter, Anne.
Anne gave both to at least 14 children, and none of them reached adulthood. Just think about that for a minute. Anne’s tragedy led to a political crisis on her death in 1714. The Tories lost power, and the Whigs came to prominence. The Tories were not pleased.
It had already been decided by the oligarchy that George of Hanover was the next in line. If Anne had died earlier, Britain would have had an astonishing woman as queen, and what’s more, three Queen Regnants in a row, which is quite something. But Sophia died, and her son George came to the throne.
George couldn’t speak English very well and he’d locked up his wife, Dorothea, for adultery, so he came over alone. Well, except for his two mistresses.
The change in regime all played into the Stuarts’ hands. You think James II gave up? Not a chance, and his son, James Francis, known as the Old Pretender, took on the fight.
What with the change of political party, the French not being friends with the British and the Catholics in Rome decidedly not happy with Britain throwing one of their own out of the country, James Francis had a strong chance.
The Stuarts tended to come in two varieties – the idealistic, not-so-bright ones, (Charles I and James II) and the clever, cynical ones (James I, Charles II). They were also a bit fixated on two male names, which makes matters confusing for us. Guess what James Francis called his son? Yep, Charles.
James Francis was one of the clever ones. Later, when all hope of the Stuarts regaining the throne had gone, he set to politics, gaining leverage as a political influence in Europe. But in 1714, he prepared to attack.
What, you thought it was all about the Scots? They were just the patsys the Stuarts used (twice). Scotland was a easy way into the rest of the country, and the citizens were disgruntled.
In August, the standard of James 8th and 3rd was raised. That officially started the campaign. In return, Parliament said that anyone loyal to the Crown, whose landlord was a Jacobite, could take the land. Pretty sneaky move, that.
In October, the Earl of Mar had gathered 20,000 men and officially received James’s sanction. He marched. Or rather, he rode while the troops marched. They swept through Scotland, taking lands and castles with them.
The first battle was at Sherrifmuir. The Duke of Argyll, for the Crown, didn’t have nearly so many men, but he met Mar anyway. For some reason Mar retreated. Don’t ask me. Actually, don’t ask him either.
It was looking bad for the Crown.
Disaffected Catholics in England also joined the rebellion, although some sat on the fence and awaited events. A rebellion was planned, but Parliament got hold of the ringleaders and locked them up. The Scots lost the initial impetus. Hesitation and lack of experience proved their downfall, plus that other factor, the “Yes, of course I’ll join you,” factor, but when pressed, they changed their minds.
The turning point came in November, at Preston. The Battle of Preston was a really close-run thing, as Wellington was to say a century later. The Jacobites were winning until the government sent reinforcements, but it was still close. And bloody.
James didn’t land in the country until December, and by then it was all over. If he’d arrived sooner, or if the Scots had taken advantage of their superior resources at the beginning, they might have done it. They might have forced a split, and the Stuarts could have reclaimed Scotland, but they did nothing of the kind. They went home, which then was in Italy.
If the Stuarts were to regain the throne, they would have done it in 1715.
By contrast, the more famous 1745 rebellion was a blip.

Buy the Emperors of London series from Lynne Connolly and find out what happened after Culloden! (or did it?)


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