Part Three: The '15 and the '45
The Jacobite Rebellion, which lasted over a period of almost sixty years, was a war of succession and religion. The Jacobites were largely Roman Catholics who supported the exiled Stuart dynasty against a Protestant and Presbyterian system that was in control of England, Scotland and Ireland. This final installment of the three-part story covers the time period between 1713 and 1747.
In March 1713, France and England signed the Treaty of Utrecht, a codicil of which forbid the French from continuing to harbor James Stuart III (James VIII in Scotland), the current leader of the Jacobite cause and a claimant for the throne of England. James was forced to seek refuge elsewhere and ended up living in Spain, where he continued to seek support.
In 1714, Queen Anne, the last of Protestant Stuart monarchs died. In her place, King George I came into power. George was viewed as a foreigner and his inability to speak English did not endear him to his critics. Many people were very dissatisfied with this arrangement, including the Earl of Mar, who was rebuffed when he went to meet with the new monarch. In response to this snub, the Earl responded by again raising the colours of the exiled Stuart kings.
This rebellion of the Jacobite cause led by the Earl of Mar began in 1715. By the end of September, most of the Highlands were in his control and his army numbered some 5,000 with more appearing daily. But all this was done without even notifying the King they were claiming to support. The "Old Pretender", King James III, was not even aware of the situation as of yet. Word was sent to the King, and the size of the force continued to grow. The Earl, with his growing army, moved to Perth and established his base there after taking the city.
Meanwhile another Jacobite army was forming to the south, The Old Pretender hearing the news began to make preparations for his trip to Scotland and his crowning. By early November, the northern Jacobite army numbered some 12,000, mostly Clansmen from the Highlands. The Earl then decided to march south where he soon met the army of the Duke of Argyll, the only remaining government troops in Scotland.
The Jacobite forces were mismanaged and split. The southern army marched south to raise Lancashire instead of turning on the Duke of Argyll's flank, while a much smaller force under the Duke defeated the larger northern army of the Jacobites at Sherrrifmuir on November 13th. The southern army was also met and defeated at Preston by other government forces in England. The Jacobites were forced to retreat to Perth, while still waiting for their leader to arrive. The "Old Pretender" finally arrived in Scotland on the 22nd of December after leaving fittingly enough from Dunkirk. But the matter was already settled, as the Duke of Argyll was already receiving reinforcements of experienced troops and was preparing an overwhelming force to march north. The King, James III, was again forced to retreat after spending a dismal six weeks in Scotland.
After facing this possibly disastrous rebellion, the English soon passed the Disarming Act of 1716, which forbade the Highlanders from owning weapons. Another abortive rebellion was attempted in 1719, when James III got some minor support from both the French and the Spanish after he married the daughter of the Polish King.
In the aftermath of the Risings of 1715 and 1719 Major General George Wade was appointed to investigate conditions in the Highlands by the English. The main results of this were the building of better roads, so troops could move more easily, and the building of the major forts of Fort Augustus and Fort William.
The Polish bride of the Old Pretender quickly gave James III two sons: the eldest, Prince Charles, was born in Italy somewhat prophetically on the last day of the year 1720. His brother, Henry, was born on March 6th, 1725. The Stuart cause passed to the older of the two boys, who led the Scottish armies again during the '45 as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.
But this final Jacobite rebellion was also doomed to failure by lack of intelligence and poor leadership after many successes. This final rebellion ended at Culloden, a total disaster for the Scots, and Prince Charlie barely escaped. This ended the Jacobite Rebellions forever, as the English quickly passed many Acts against the Highlanders.
In retrospect, the Jacobite Rebellions are a reminder of man's fear of those who are different. It was largely a war of religion, fought for reasons that have no real bearing on the peaceful lives of those who fought in it, even though the participants thought so. The Rebellions of '15 and '45 could have ended much differently, as they had surprise and superior forces working in their favor. But they simply lacked the leadership to effectively take advantage of the situation.
Unfortunately, this episode in history continues to cause problems for the remaining Celtic nations. The Orangemen and the Catholics continue to fight, although any reason to continue this feud has passed long ago. Maybe some day, the remaining Celtic people will learn to live with each other, instead of fighting over matters which have little bearing on their day to day lives.
by Brian Workman, May 2000
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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