Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, wearing the Jacobite blue bonnet
Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, wearing the Jacobite blue bonnet

Jacobitism was (and, to a very limited extent, is) the political movement dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England and Scotland (including after 1707, when the Hanoverian government deemed those thrones to have been combined into the throne of Great Britain). The movement took its name from the Latin form Jacobus of the name of King James II and VII.

Jacobitism was a response to the deposition of James II and VII in 1688 when he was replaced by his daughter Mary II jointly with her husband and first cousin William of Orange. The Stuarts lived on the European continent after that, occasionally attempting to regain the throne with the aid of France or Spain. Within the British Isles, the primary seats of Jacobitism were Ireland and (especially Highland) Scotland. There was also some support in England and Wales, particularly in Northern England. Royalists supported Jacobitism because they believed that Parliament had no authority to interfere with the Royal succession, and many Catholics looked to it to restore their preeminence, but people became involved in the military campaigns for all sorts of allegiances and motives. In Scotland the Jacobite cause became entangled in the last throes of the warrior Clan system, and became a lasting romantic memory.

The emblem of the Jacobites is the White Rose of York; white rose day is celebrated on 10 June, the anniversary of the birth of James III and VIII in 1688.

Political background

The second half of the 17th century was a time of political and religious turmoil in the British Isles. The Protestant Commonwealth ended with the Restoration of Charles II who renewed attempts to impose Episcopalian Anglican worship on Scotland, provoking rebellions by Covenanters such as the Cameronians who were repressed in the "Killing Times" in attempts to stamp out Presbyterianism.

Since the late Middle Ages the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been evolving towards a quasi-oligarchical or collegiate form of government in which the monarch was held to rule with the consensus of the land-owning upper classes. Alone among the peoples of the British Isles it was this minority of landowners and a related minority of wealthy merchants and financiers who had the right to be represented in the Scots, Irish, or English parliaments. The parliamentary representatives of this minority were unashamed in their use of parliament to further the interests of their own class in politics, economics, social questions, and religion.

In addition to excluding the rest of the population from public life the representatives of this dominant minority expected the monarch to rule in accordance with their particular views. This quasi-oligarchical model of rule of government was the ancestor of the constitutional monarchy of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

The reigns of the last three Stuart Kings Charles I, Charles II and James II and VII were marked by growing Royal resistance to this developing consensual model of government. In part the Kings were inspired by the development of Royal Absolutism in contemporary Europe. In part, however, the apologists of royal authority based their claims on a just assessment of the powers claimed by England and Scotland's medieval monarchs.

In 1685 Charles II] was succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James II and VII. In addition, to sharing his family's absolutist views of government James committed the cardinal sin of trying to introduce religious tolerance of Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. In Seventeenth Century Europe being a religious outsider meant being a political and social outsider as well. James tried to encourage the participation in public life of Roman Catholics, Protestant Dissenters, and Quakers such as William Penn the Younger. Such attempts to broaden his basis of support succeeded in antagonizing members of the Anglican establishment.

In Ireland James's viceroy, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, was the first Catholic viceroy since the Reformation and acted to reduce Protestant ascendancy and to have strong points in Ireland controlled by garrisons loyal to the cause of absolutism.

In England and Scotland, James attempted to impose religious toleration, which helped the Catholic minority but offended others. William of Orange, building alliances against France, lobbied Whigs to have James replaced by William's wife Mary who was James's daughter and next in line to the throne, but they were reluctant to rush a succession expected to happen in due course. Then in 1688 James's second wife had a boy, bringing the prospect of a Catholic dynasty, and the "Immortal Seven" invited William and Mary to depose James. In November William arrived in England and James fled to France: in February 1689 the Glorious Revolution formally changed England's monarch, but many Catholics, Episcopalians and Tory royalists, convinced that Parliament had no right to define the succession, still supported James.

Scotland was slow to accept William, who summoned a Convention of the Estates which met on 14 March 1689 in Edinburgh and considered a conciliatory letter from William and a haughty one from James. Forces of Cameronians as well as Clan Campbell highlanders led by the Earl of Argyll had come to bolster William's support. On James's side, cavalry led by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee attended at the start but withdrew four days later when support for William became evident. The convention set out its terms and William and Mary were proclaimed at Edinburgh on 11 April 1689, then had their coronation in London in May.

On the death of Queen Anne, the last of James II and VII's children to sit upon the thrones of England and Scotland, a minority of Whig politicians succeeded in excluding James's legitimate son from the throne.

Setting aside the rules of primogeniture which then (as today) played a decisive role in the succession of the British Monarchy, the Whig conspirators invited a German prince, the Elector of Hanover to become King as George I, in accordance with the law as expressed by the Act of Settlement 1701.

George's claim to the throne was that he was a descendant of James I and VI - the great grandfather of his predecessor, Queen Anne.

Religion, politics and adventurers

While Jacobitism was closely linked with Catholicism from the outset particularly in Ireland, elsewhere in Britain Catholics were in a tiny minority by 1689 and the bulk of Jacobite support came from other groups. Catholics formed about 75% of the population of Ireland, but in England only around 1% and in Scotland about 2%.


Irish support for James II was mostly from Catholics, though by taking the French side against the League of Augsburg, he was siding against the Papacy. William was allied to many Catholic states, including the Holy Roman Empire and his elite force the Dutch Blue Guards had the Papal Banner with them. The war in Ireland was predominantly a Catholic nationalist uprising and after its defeat in 1691 their only military contribution to Jacobite support came from the Irish Brigade of the French army.

Jacobitism in Ireland had its roots in Irish support for the Stuart dynasty which dated back to the accession of James I to throne in 1603. Gaelic poets in Ireland lauded James as the first "Irish" king of the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, because of his family's Gaelic ancestry. James and his successors were also viewed as being less hostile to Catholicism than the Tudors. In the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 1640s, Irish Catholics, organised in Confederate Ireland pledged allegiance to Charles I and Charles II against the English Parliament. As a result, most Catholic landowners had their lands confiscated after the Parliaments victory and the Catholic Church suffered harsh repression. James II, the first openly Catholic king of England for over century was therefore viewed as a saviour by Irish Catholics. James appointed an Irish Catholic - Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell as Lord Deputy of Ireland, re-admitted Catholics into the army and militia and introduced toleration for the Catholic religion. During the Williamite war in Ireland, he also reluctantly agreed to proclaim the autonomy of the Irish Parliament from the English one and the restitution of lands confiscated from Catholics after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The demands of religious toleration, legislative autonomy and land ownership were the three key elements of Irish Jacobitism, which remained influential until the mid eighteenth century.

England and Scotland

In lowland Britain the Catholics tended to come from the gentry and formed the most ideologically committed supporters, drawing on almost two centuries of subterfuge as a minority persecuted by the state and rallying enthusiastically to Jacobite armies as well as contributing financial support to the court in exile. Some Scottish Highland clans such as the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald remained Catholic, but they were exceptions.

Just as much dedicated support in England came from the Nonjuring Anglicans, which started with Church of England clergy who refused on principle to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary while James still lived, and developed into an Episcopalian schism of the church with small congregations in all the English cities. In many respects, Jacobites perceived themselves as the heirs of the Royalists or Cavaliers of the English Civil War era, who had fought for James II's father Charles I and for the Established Church against the Parliamentarians - who stood for the primacy of Parliament and for religious dissent. Jacobite supporters displayed pictures of both Cavalier and Jacobite heroes in their homes.

Scottish Episcopalians provided over half of the Jacobite forces in Britain, and although Dundee's rising in 1689 came mostly from the western Highlands, in later risings Episcopalians came from the north-east Scottish Lowlands as well as from the Highland clans, although Highlanders were always in the majority. They too were described as Nonjurors. As Protestants they could take part in Scottish politics, but were in a minority and were repeatedly discriminated against in legislation favouring the established Church of Scotland although they were never treated as violently as Presbyterians had been under Stuart rule. However many Episcopalians were quiet about any Jacobite sympathies and were able to accommodate themselves to the new regime.

The Scottish Highlands

To the Scottish Highland clans the conflict was more about inter-clan politics than about religion, and a significant factor was resistance to the territorial ambitions of the (Presbyterian) Campbells of Argyll. There was a precedent for post 1689 Jacobitism during the period of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, when clans from the western Highlands had fought for James's father Charles I in the Scottish Civil War against the Campbells and the Covenanters. Another factor in Highland Jacobitism was James II's sympathetic treatment of the Highland clans. Whereas previous monarchs since the late 16th century had been antagonistic to the Gaelic Highland way of life, James had worked sympathetically with the clan chieftains in the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands. Some Highland chieftains therefore viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies. During the Jacobite Risings, they provided the bulk of Jacobite manpower.

Opportunists and Adventurers

Another source of Jacobite support came from those dissatisfied with political developments. Some Whigs, most obviously the Earl of Mar, reacted to political disappointments by joining the Jacobites, but while others were courted from 1692 onwards and indicated support, mostly this was just reinsurance in case the Jacobites came out on top.

The Tories were a more likely source of support given their commitment to church and king, but many were reluctant to trust the Church of England to a Catholic king. At times such as 17151722 when the Hanoverians appeared to be dismantling Anglican dominance and 1743–1745 when Whig dealings denied the Tories parliamentary victory they would coalesce and turn to the Jacobites, but they were fainthearts when it came to serious action. Nevertheless this gave hopes that large numbers of Tories would support a Jacobite rising with a serious prospect of winning, particularly when helped by foreign intervention. The rise and fall of the earlier Tory alliance with the Jacobites forms a major part of the background for Sir Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor.

Other Jacobite recruits could be described as adventurers — desperate men who saw the cause as a solution to their (usually financial) problems. Although small in number and varying from unemployed weavers looking for excitement to impoverished gentry like William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock who served Charles as a colonel and became a general after the Battle of Falkirk, they contributed significantly to the daring that brought the Jacobites a prospect of success in their campaigns. However, other such mercenaries often became spies and informers.

Jacobite community, ideology and policy

From its religious roots, Jacobite ideology was passed on through committed families of the nobility and gentry who would have pictures of the exiled royal family and of Cavalier and Jacobite martyrs, and take part in networks of like minded Freemasons. Even today, some Highland clans and regiments pass their drink over a glass of water during the Loyal Toast — to the King Over the Water. More widely, commoners developed communities in areas where they could fraternise in Jacobite alehouses, inns and taverns, singing seditious songs, collecting for the cause and on occasion being recruited for risings. At government attempts to close such places they simply transferred to another venue. In these neighbourhoods Jacobite wares such as inscribed glassware, brooches with hidden symbols and tartan waistcoats were popular. The criminal activity of smuggling became associated with Jacobitism throughout Britain, partly because of the advantage of dealing through exiled Jacobites in France.

Further developments are mentioned under "Jacobitism in England" below.

Official policy of the court in exile initially reflected the uncompromising intransigence that got James into trouble in the first place. With the powerful support of the French they saw no need to accommodate the concerns of his Protestant subjects, and effectively issued a summons for them to return to their duty. In 1703 Louis pressed James into a more accommodating stance in the hopes of detaching England from the Grand Alliance, essentially promising to maintain the status quo. This policy soon changed, and icreasingly Jacobitism ostensibly identified itself with causes of the alienated and dispossessed.

Military campaigns and Jacobitism

Jacobite war in Ireland

James II and VII had his viceroy Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell take action to secure Ireland for the Catholic cause, culminating in the Siege of Derry which began on 7 December 1688. By then the deposed James had fled to France, and with support from King Louis XIV of France, who was already at war with William of Orange, James landed in Ireland on 12 March 1689. Having taken Dublin and joined the Siege of Londonderry, to maintain the support of Catholic nationalists he reluctantly agreed to the Irish Parliament's demand for an Act declaring that the Parliament of England had no right to pass laws for Ireland. By August 1689 Williamite forces relieved the siege and cleared most of Ulster of Jacobites.

The following July, William's army was victorious in a skirmish at the Battle of the Boyne. The Jacobite army retreated, little damaged, but James fled to France, acquiring the nickname Séamus an chaca (James the beshitten) and leaving the Irish to fight on until in October 1691 they surrendered and the Irish army was made to leave Ireland to become the Irish Brigade of the French army. Jacobitism lingered on for another century in the ideology of nationalist secret societies, but did not play an overt role again in Ireland.

"Bonnie Dundee"

Morier's painting "Culloden" shows the highlanders still wearing the plaids which they normally set aside before battle, where they would fire a volley then run full tilt at the enemy with broadsword and targe in the Highland charge wearing only their shirts
Morier's painting "Culloden" shows the highlanders still wearing the plaids which they normally set aside before battle, where they would fire a volley then run full tilt at the enemy with broadsword and targe in the Highland charge wearing only their shirts

On 16 April 1689, almost a month after he left the Convention in Edinburgh and five days after it had proclaimed William and Mary, Viscount Dundee, known as Bonnie Dundee to his supporters and as Bluidy Clavers to his opponents, raised James's standard on the hilltop of Dundee Law with less than 50 men in support. At first he had difficulty in raising many supporters, but after the Williamite commander had proved ineffective and 200 Irish troops had landed at Kintyre he gained support from Catholic and Episcopalian Highland Clans, though not from the Episcopal Bishops of the Scots nobility.

Victory for the Jacobite Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July 1689 was marred when Dundee was killed in the fighting. A series of government expeditions to subdue the Highlands eventually led to Jacobite defeat in May 1690 and lingering hopes faded with news of the Battle of the Boyne. A year later the Jacobites were forced to agree to a truce while the Clan chieftains sent requests to the exiled James VII and II for permission to submit to William, and in January 1692 the Jacobite Clans formally surrendered to the government.

William's main interest was in the War of the Grand Alliance in the Low Countries against the French and he paid little attention to Scotland, trying to bribe or coerce the clan leaders. His demands that each chief put in writing the submission authorised by James resulted in the Massacre of Glencoe on 13 February 1692.

The Old Pretender's attempted invasion

In 1701 James II and VII died. He was succeeded in his claims by his son, James Francis Edward Stuart. He was recognised as King James III of England and King James VIII of Scotland by the courts of France, Spain, and Modena, and by the pope; to his detractors he was eventually to be known as the Old Pretender.

After a brief peace, the War of the Spanish Succession renewed French support for the Jacobites and in 1708 James Francis set out with French troops, but the French fleet was chased away by the Royal Navy and retreated round the north of Scotland back to France.


In March 1702 William died and the throne passed to Mary's sister who became Queen Anne. Scotland's economy was faltering and the English parliament used trade sanctions to force the Scottish parliament towards union. One Scottish politician who thrived in these unpopular negotiations was John Erskine, Earl of Mar who, despite his Episcopalian background, ably supported the Scottish Revolution interest and after being a signatory to the Act of Union of 1707 was rewarded by Queen Anne and rose in the new British parliament to a key role in running Scottish affairs, a position formalised in 1713 when the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was revived for him. In that year he was part of the ministry that negotiated the Treaty of Utrecht which ended hostilities between France and Britain, in a deal unpopular with Hanoverians and Whigs.

Widespread discontent gave the Jacobites increasing hopes of James Francis gaining power when the popular Anne died leaving no immediate successor. However, the Act of Settlement 1701 required the monarch to be Protestant while James Francis was a devout Catholic. In the event the Whigs were quick to bring in from Hanover George I, great grandson of James I of England and VI of Scotland, an uncharismatic German who spoke poor English. This unattractive foreign figure revived populist loyalism, still slow to transfer affection to the new regime while the old dynasty lived. His arrival in 1714 was greeted by a winter of riots in England. George favoured the Whigs, and in the spring of 1715 the Tories lost the General Election to the Whigs who then impeached Tory leaders for their part in the peace negotiations with France. Tory fears for themselves and for the High Church of England led to conspiracy for armed rebellion, but when the time came their leaders were paralysed with fear and indecision and an alerted government ordered the arrest of the major players. At the day for the rising in the south-west a large number of Tory gentry turned up for "a race meeting" at Bath, but on receiving a letter from their leader (who was in hiding) saying that all was lost, they went home.

The 'Fifteen

In Scotland years of famine and hardship provided 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 Francis 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 27 August 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, he turned out to be an indifferent and indecisive general. Planned risings in Wales and Devon 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. A ship from France belatedly brought James Francis to Peterhead, but he 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, he withdrew to France with Mar on 4 February 1716, leaving a message advising his Highland followers to shift for themselves.

Jacobitism in England

The unpopularity of George and the Whigs continued. Over the next five years, and to a reduced extent afterwards, a significant section of the English crowd asserted loyalism in Jacobite forms, including songs, symbolic oak leaves and white roses worn on anniversaries, attacks on Whigs and hanging or burning effigies of George with cuckold's horns. They derided his marital problems and mistresses (who got nicknames like the Goose and the Elephant) with songs (preserved in Jacobite Reliques) like Cam Ye O'er Frae France which includes the words "Saw ye Geordie's grace, Riding on a goosie?". In the minds of many, the "King over the Water" (whom the Jacobites' opponents called the Old Pretender) became a mythical Arthurian figure, a good king who would one day return and put things right. There was also a developing myth of Jacobite martyrs, praising the brave defiance of Jacobites at the scaffold and treasuring relics in an almost religious way. This inspired their supporters, but for most people these hangings merely showed that the Jacobites were on the losing side.

Spanish supported Jacobite invasion

The failure of the '15 convinced the Jacobites that to overthrow the Hanoverians they needed the support of a major European power, and in an age when the Habsburg empire was collapsing and armies becoming professionalised this gave a lever to any country in dispute with Britain. With France still at peace, the Jacobites found a new ally in Spain's Minister to the King, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, but an invasion force which set sail in 1719 failed to reach England and the party of Jacobites and Spanish soldiers which reached Scotland met only lukewarm support and the Spanish soldiers were forced to surrender at the Battle of Glen Shiel.

The Atterbury plot

Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester and a passionate High Tory, conspired with Mar who had been appointed "Secretary of State" by James Francis in France, for a rising to coincide with the general election in 1722 aiming to exploit public anger over the South Sea Bubble. English Tories out in their constituencies were to summon their kinsmen, friends and tenants to secure their localities and march on London, while volunteers from the Irish Brigade were to land in the south to join them. While the French were sympathetic, an official request for assistance from the Jacobite court in exile meant that they could no longer turn a blind eye so they informed the English ambassador and posted the Irish Brigade out of temptation's way. Mar was bullied into betraying the conspiracy, which collapsed with arrests, denunciations and flights abroad.

Aftermath of the 'Fifteen in Scotland

In the aftermath of the 'Fifteen, the Disarming Act and the Clan Act made ineffectual attempts to subdue the Scottish Highlands, and efforts at "rooting out of the Irish language" (Gaelic) were renewed. Government garrisons were built or extended and linked to the south by the Wade roads constructed for Major-General George Wade. Jacobitism lingered on amid resentment of economic hardship and the Whig government, and Catholic missionaries increased their influence with some clans, but, generally Jacobitism became more of a secretive game with the glasses of claret being waved over water before the Loyal Toast so that it became a toast to "the King (over the water)".

In 1725 Wade raised the independent companies of the Black Watch as a militia to keep peace in the unruly Highlands, but in 1743 they were moved to fight the French in Flanders.

The Cornbury plot

Robert Walpole's Excise Scheme of 1733 caused a crisis with public disorders, and Lord Cornbury, heir to the Earl of Clarendon, convinced the French ambassador in London and the French Secretary of State in Paris that the Hanoverian regime was crumbling and proposed a French invasion matched with Jacobite risings. The French cabinet considered the scheme then rejected it, their officials were demoted and Cornbury abandoned politics.

1744 French invasion attempt

Anglo-French relations gradually worsened and the Jacobites tried proposing further schemes, starting in 1737 with John Gordon of Glenbucket suggesting a Highland rising backed by French invasion and continued with lobbying by Lord Semphill as "official" Jacobite agent at the French court. During 1743 the War of the Austrian Succession drew Britain and France into open, though unofficial, hostilities against each other. Through Semphill, English Jacobites made a formal request to France for armed intervention. The French king's Master of Horse toured southern England meeting Tories and discussing their proposals, and in November 1743 Louis XV of France authorised a large-scale invasion of southern England in February 1744. Charles Edward Stuart (later known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender) who was in exile in Rome with his father (James Francis) was invited to accompany the expedition and rushed to France, but a storm destroyed the attempt. The British lodged strong diplomatic objections to the presence of Charles, and France declared war but abandoned ideas of Jacobite risings and gave Charles no more encouragement.

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 on 22 June 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 23 July 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 Hanoverian 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 sung 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 4 December, 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 16 April 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.

Decline of Jacobitism

Jacobitism entered permanent decline after the "Forty-Five" rebellion. The French made every effort to rescue Jacobite chieftains as well as Charles, and gave him a hero's welcome back to France, but soon tired of his badgering them to provide a renewed assault on the Hanoverians. After French victories knocked the Netherlands out of the war, the British offered reasonable peace terms and made the expulsion of Charles from France a precondition of negotiations. Charles ignored the French court's order to depart, continued to demand military action and support for his extravagant lifestyle and flaunted his presence around Paris as peace negotiations for the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle got under way. After British complaints the French government lost patience with Charles and in December 1748 he was seized on his way to the Opéra and briefly jailed before being expelled.

The Elibank plot

From 1749 to 1751 Charles laid the groundwork for a rising in England including a visit to London in 1750 when he conferred with the Jacobite leaders and considered an assault on the Tower of London as well as converting to Anglicanism. The English were clear that they would not move without foreign assistance, and Charles turned to Frederick II of Prussia. While Frederick was indifferent to the Jacobite cause he made diplomatic use of the opportunity, and appointed the Earl Marischal as his ambassador to Paris, in a position to keep him informed and veto any plans. Andrew Murray of Elibank, the liaison between Charles and the plotters, finally realised there was no hope of foreign assistance and ended the conspiracy, but by then Charles had sent two exiled Scots as agents to prepare the clans. They were betrayed by Aleistair Ruadh MacDonell of Glengarry, a spy in Charles' entourage, and while one was arrested the other barely escaped. Typically Charles responded to the failure by denouncing his comrades, drunkenness and beating his mistress. Finally, in a dispute with Marischal and the English conspirators in 1754 a drunken Charles apparently threatened to publish their names for having "betrayed" him, finally forcing his supporters to abandon the Jacobite cause. The English Jacobites stopped sending funds and by 1760 Charles had returned to Catholicism and to relying on the Papacy to support his lifestyle. In 1766, when Old Pretender James (VIII/II) Edward Stuart died, the Holy See refused to recognise "Bonnie" Prince Charles as the lawful sovereign of Great Britain, thus losing the most powerful support, the French one being long gone. In 1788, the Scottish Catholics swore allegiance to the Hanover Dynasty, and resolved two years later to pray for King George by name.

Crushing of the clans

In an effort to prevent further trouble in the Scottish Highlands, the government outlawed many cultural practices in order to destroy the warrior clan system. The Act of Proscription incorporating the Disarming Act and the Dress Act required all swords to be surrendered to the government and prohibited wearing of tartans or kilts. The Tenures Abolition Act ended the feudal bond of military service and the Heritable Jurisdictions Act removed the virtually sovereign power the chiefs had over their clan. The extent of enforcement of the prohibitions was variable and sometimes related to a clan's support of the government during the rebellion.

Government troops were stationed in the Highlands and built more roads and barracks to better control the region, with a new fortress at Fort George to the east of Inverness which still serves as a base for Highland Regiments of the British Army. Highland clans found a way back to legitimacy by providing regiments to the British Army.

Henry IX

When Charles died in 1788 the Stuart claim to the throne passed to his younger brother Henry, who had become a Cardinal, and who now styled himself King Henry IX. After falling into financial difficulty during the French Revolution, he was granted a stipend by George III. However, he never actually surrendered his claims to the throne, though all former supporters of Jacobitism had stopped funding. Following the death of Henry in 1807, the Jacobite claims passed to those excluded by the Act of Settlement: initially the House of Savoy, and then to the House of Bavaria. Franz, Duke of Bavaria is the current Jacobite heir. Neither he nor any of his predecessors since 1807 have pursued their claim, although his father was known to wear the Stuart tartan on occasion.


What began with the English parliament asserting a new authority and William looking to expand alliances against France quickly developed into a major distraction, with William being forced to focus attention on Ireland and Scotland, and parliament having to fund the armies needed to overcome the Jacobites. This distraction helped keep Britain from intervening on the continent and contributed to twenty years of peace in Europe, while continuing unrest forced the British state to develop repressive strategies with networks of spies and informers as well as increasing its standing army. Nationalism was bolstered in both Ireland and Scotland, but was then set back by association with the catastrophic failure of Jacobitism. While it increasingly appealed to the disaffected, Jacobitism inherently bowed to higher authority and thus reinforced the social order. It left the British state strengthened to deal with the more revolutionary movements that developed later in the 18th century.

Romantic revival

Jacobitism became a remnant of hidden relics. It was remembered in folk songs and became the subject of romantic poetry and literature, notably the work of Robert Burns and Walter Scott. Walter Scott combined romantic Jacobitism with an appreciation of the practical benefits of the Hanoverian government, and in 1822 he arranged a pageantry of reinvented Scottish traditions for the visit of King George IV to Scotland when George IV visited Edinburgh and dressed as a tubby kilted successor to his distant relative Bonnie Prince Charlie. The tartan pageantry was immensely popular and the kilt became Scotland's National Dress.

Jacobite claimants to the thrones of England, Scotland, (France), and Ireland

Since Henry's death, none of the Jacobite heirs has actually claimed the throne. They are as follows (given with their Jacobite regnal titles):

1Mary III/II and Mary IV/III were numbered in such a way because some Jacobites regard Elizabeth I of England as illegitimate, and therefore consider Mary Queen of Scots to have been the rightful Queen of England from the death of Mary I.

Future descent after the Duke of Bavaria

The heir presumptive of Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is his younger brother

Alternative Successions

While Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is the most universally acknowledged Stuart heir there are two others. If one discounts the marriage of the Duke of Bavaria's ancestress Maria Beatrice of Savoy as being invalid in British law (she married her uncle) then the succession would have passed from her to her younger sister Maria Teresa who married the Duke of Parma. Her representative today is HRH The Infanta Alicia, dowager Duchess of Calabria (b. 1917) and mother of the heir of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The second alternative succession is rather surprising to many. In the book The Highland Clans, by The Honourable Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk it is stated that "by the fourteenth century it had become common law [in both England and Scotland] that a person who was not born in the liegeance of the Sovereign, nor naturalized, could not have the capacity to succeed as an heir. He was in the strictest sense "illegitimate," though not of course born out of wedlock. This legal incapacity of aliens to be heirs applied to all inheritances, whether honours or lands.

The effect of the succession opening to a foreigner was that, if he had not been naturalized or if his case was not covered by some special statute, the succession passed to the next heir "of the blood," who thus became the only "lawful" heir. It was of course always open to the Sovereign to confer an honor or an estate on a foreigner; the rule of law merely prevented aliens from being "lawful heirs" to existing inheritances. This "common law" principle was rigorously applied until the Whig Revolution of 1688 after which it was gradually done away with by the mid-nineteenth century. It was precisely because of this law that Queen Anne found it necessary to pass special legislation naturalizing all alien-born potential royal heirs under the "Act of Settlement" provisions. But, of course, from the Jacobite point of view, no new statute could be passed after 1688, and the old law remained static until the death of Cardinal York [King Henry IX] in 1807.

At that time, Henry IX's nearest heir in blood under this argument was not as is sometimes supposed the King of Sardinia, for he had not the legal capacity to be an heir in Britain, unless naturalized which he was not. The nearest British-born heir of Henry IX would have been, in fact, George III (of Hanover, in the eyes of the Jacobites), hence his son could indeed legitimately claim to be a Jacobite monarch as portrayed during the visit of King George IV to Scotland.

Thus, following this argument, the present day de jure and legitimist Jacobite heir to the crowns of England and Ireland would, ironically, be the de facto sovereign Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

However, this argument is weakened by the fact that James I and VI had been born in Scotland, which was not then under the liegeance of the English Crown, but had been allowed to succeed to the English throne without opposition in 1603. Under that argument the heir to the throne of England would be Michael Abney-Hastings, 14th Earl of Loudoun.

Another caveat to this argument must be mentioned. In 1807, there were other, more genealogically senior, descendants of James I living in Great Britain. The most senior of these included Charles Ferdinand, Duc de Berry, second son of King Charles X of France and a descendant of James I through his mother, Maria Teresa, Princess of Savoy. Charles Ferdinand may have married Amy Brown, an English subject, and had at least two recognized daughters. However there were other children of Amy Brown who were in all likelihood Charles's. If Charles and Amy married in 1804 as some historians have speculated, then their descendants are the statutory Jacobite heirs and heiresses, as opposed to the descendants of George III.

Further reading

  • Ruvigny & Raineval, Marquis de (Melville Henry Massue) (comp.). The Jacobite Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage & Grants of Honour. Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1904.

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index