The Contemplator's Short History of

The Jacobite Uprisings
The background music is Wha'll be King But Charlie?
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns

On the death of Charles II, his brother, James VII of Scotland and II of England, succeeded to the throne. (The word Jacobite comes from the Latin for James - Jacobus.) He was a Roman Catholic and a firm believer in the divine right of Kings. Both stances made him so unpopular that in 1688 Parliament invited William of Orange and Mary (James II's daughter by his first wife, a Protestant) to rule. In 1689 James VII & II was deposed. In the sixty years that followed there were five attempts to restore James and his descendents to the throne. Of these, three were major - 1689, 1715 and 1745. The massacre at Glen Coe is also part of Jacobite history.

First and Second Jacobite Uprising (1689, 1708)

In 1689 the Convention of Estates in Scotland found in favor of William and Mary, recognizing them as the legitimate monarchs. This led to the first Jacobite (Latin for James) rebellion. The most prominent figure of the first uprising was "Bonnie Dundee", John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse. However, Graham was killed in his victory at Killikrankie (July 1689) and shortly thereafter the resistance was defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld. James had raised an army in Ireland where a Parliament had acknowledged him as king. However, his forces in Ireland were defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne (July 1690) and James fled back to France. At Limerick, the last remnants of the Jacobites were defeated and the Jacobite forces surrendered. The Flight of the Wild Geese, some 10,000 Irishmen, fled for France to support James there.

In 1708 a planned invasion from France didn't materialize.

Third and Fourth Jacobite Uprising (1715, 1719)

In 1715 John Erskine, Earl of Mar, (known later as "Bobbing John" because he changed sides and later informed on many of his former allies), raised the clans again. The battle at Sheriffmuir was indecisive, but the Jacobites withdrew. A small Jacobite army was defeated at Preston. James VIII (the Old Pretender) landed at Peterhead but was forced to retreat to France.

In 1719 an army of approximately 300 Spaniards landed at Eilean Donan Castle. The Casle with its contingent of 48 Spaniards was attacked and taken by three frigates. Jacobite forces were defeated in June at Glen Shiel.

Fifth Jacobite Uprising (1745)

Charles Edward Stuart, the son of James VIII, aka The Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland in July 1745. The English, under General John Cope ( of the song Johnny Cope) moved north, but not knowing the size of Jacobite forces, avoided battle. He marched to Inverness and Aberdeen and then finally, in September sailed to Edinburgh to meet the Jacobite forces that were at Dunbar. The Battle of Presonpans was a complete victory for the Jacobites (largely due to the efforts of Lord George Murray). The total number of men involved was only around 2500 - and the battle was over almost as soon as it began. Cope's troops broke rans and fled.

The Jacobites got to within 130 miles of London, but at Derby fell to fighting amongst each other. Without support from the Scottish lowlands or England, and with a promised French force never materializing, they were forced to retreat. Murray led a skilful retreat from Derby and defeated the English at Falkirk in January 1747. He opposed Charles Edward Stuart's decision to stand at Culloden because of the terrain. Nevertheless, the Jacobites took the stand. At Culloden Moor they met the army of the Duke of Cumberland (King George II's son and known to Scots as "Butcher Cumberland"). The Scots were cut down by cannonfire and the exhausted few that made it to English lines were cut down.

Bonnie Prince Charlie was hounded for months by English troops. The Butcher of Cumberland brutally suppressed the Highlands. Wearing of the kilt and use of the tartan was prohibited on pain of death, the gathering of clans was forbidden and the Highland culture virtually destroyed. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped only with the help of Flora MacDonald, who dressed him up as her servant "Betty Burke" to get him safely to the Isle of Skye where he then took ship to France.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's fortunes never recovered. He became an alocholic. His wife eventually deserted him and he moved to Rome where he died in 1788 at the age of 67. His brother, Henry Stuart, Cardinal York became the last Stuart pretender. The Jacobite was lost, alive only in sentiment and in a large number of Jacobite songs. The cause eventually became so romanticized that George III even granted a pension to Henry Stuart.

Historical and musical links


Jacobite Music
(Note: Most of these were written long after the Uprisings)

Folk Music Pages | Songs by Country | Child Ballads
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