The history of the Jacobites begins with James II being deposed in 1688 in favour of William and Mary, in the Glorious Revolution. The supporters of James and his successors became known as Jacobites. Following the coronation of George I in 1714 in the Hanoverian succession, two Jacobite rebellions occurred, in 1715 and 1745. The second of these rebellions was led by Charles Edward Stuart, the charismatic Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Jacobite dream was to end with the battle of Culloden in 1746. This node will look at these events in detail.

James II

At the time when James II of England (James VII of Scotland) came to the throne, the protestant and catholic faiths were competing for domination of Britain. James was a devout catholic, and his coronation in 1685 was fiercely opposed by protestants in England. The Duke of Monmouth led an army of rebellion in June and July of that year, but he was defeated and executed at the Tower in London. The execution was badly bungled, with five strokes of the axe not being enough to finish the job, and a knife had to be used to separate his head from his shoulders. The Earl of Argyll led a similar rebellion in Scotland, but it was also quashed. Over 300 Monmouth rebels were sentenced to death by Judge Jeffreys in the "Bloody Assizes" in Bristol in September.

In September, 1686, an ecclesiastical commission set up by James suspended the bishop of London in controversial circumstances. James published a "Declaration of Indulgences" in April 1687 designed to allow freedom of religion to non-Anglicans, but this was bound to be defeated by parliament. Even William Penn, leader of the Quakers, tried to gain support for these reforms from William of Orange, but he was unsuccessful. James proceeded to install catholic magistrates in many courts as part of his overall vision of catholic domination. May 1688 saw the Church of England resist James' orders that they read out the "Declaration of Indulgences" from every pulpit. In June the same year Queen Mary gave birth to a son, who would be brought up as a catholic heir.

William and Mary and the Glorious Revolution

On the 9th of November, 1688, William of Orange, a Dutch prince, landed at Brixham near Torbay in southwest England with an army of 15,000 protestant troops. William was the husband of James' daughter Mary, and hoped to take over the English crown, with widespread support from protestants in the country. James planned to lead an army against William at Salisbury, but his forces were demoralised, and many defected to William. James eventually fled to France with his wife and child, without raising arms against his enemy. James' attempts to impose Roman Catholicism on England had failed, amid strong resentment from the Church of England and its followers.

William and Mary were jointly made king and queen of both England and Scotland by May 1689, taking oaths which had major implications for the future British constitution. Their oaths for the English crown were to form the basis of a constitutional monarchy; they swore they would govern according to the "statutes of parliament" and would maintain the established protestant religion. The Scottish oaths imposed similar restrictions: the Scottish succession would be limited to protestants, no catholics were to hold office, and the royal prerogative was to be subject to the rule of law. These constitutional changes removed the divine right of kings and replaced it with a monarchy subject to the will of the people, in an attempt to prevent the worst excesses of James' anti-parliamentary methods.

In March 1689, James sailed for Ireland and set up a "patriot parliament" to represent catholics on the island. Ireland rallied to his cause, except Derry, which was besieged by the Jacobites between April and July. Williams' Ulster protestants held firm despite a continuous artillery bombardment, and the siege was eventually lifted.

In Scotland, too, Jacobite forces resisted government troops. They won a victory at the pass of Killiecrankie, near Pitlochry, but were defeated at Dunkeld.

William led his forces in Ireland to a famous victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and James again retreated to France. The fall of Limerick in October 1691 meant William had regained control over Ireland.

Queen Anne and the Hanoverian Succession

In 1695 William recognised his sister-in-law, Anne, as the heir to his throne. Her son William was to die in 1700, at the age of 11, however, and a battle for the succession erupted. The Westminster parliament passed an Act of Settlement in 1701 which prevented Roman Catholics succeeding to the throne, but the Scots protested that the law would not apply to them, as the Scots parliament had not been consulted. The English succession was set to go to Electress Sofia of Hanover after Anne's death, James I's granddaughter, but the Scots were making their reluctance to ratify such a move plain.

James II died in exile in France in September 1701, and the French king Louis XIV was quick to recognise his 13-year-old son as James VIII of Scots and James III of England. William III himself died in March 1702, and was succeeded by James' daughter Anne, a protestant. Anne was keen to unite England and Scotland - Scotland opposed the Hanoverian succession - and block the Jacobites.

Successive Scottish parliaments remained opposed to the succession, however, and in 1703 they passed an Act of Security which protected their right to choose their own monarch and religion.

The Act of Union

Edinburgh's parliament debated the Articles of Union for ten weeks beginning in October 1706 amidst rumours of bribes, and protests from angry mobs outside. London's highly-organised campaign was backed by large sums of money, and threatening troop movements on the border of the two countries.

Eventually, however, the Unionists won the day, and the Articles passed through the English Houses of Parliament in only six weeks. The royal assent was given by Anne in March1707, and the Union was formalised in a ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral on the first of May. The United Kingdom of Great Britain had been formed.

The terms of the Union stated that the English and Scottish parliaments would be dissolved, and a parliament of Great Britain established. Scotland would keep its own Presbyterian church, and its own legal and education systems.

The first Jacobite landing plan fails

The Jacobites had been steadily gaining influence over this period, and by March 1708 James Stuart, son of James II, was ready to attempt a landing in Scotland, backed by Louis XIV of France. He planned to meet his supporters on the shores of the Firth of Forth, but turned back after being followed by a larger fleet, led by an Admiral Byng. The Jacobites would need to try harder if they were ever to rule Britain.

Anti-English feeling was growing in Scotland, however, as Westminster legislation seemed to deliberately limit Scottish participation in government, and interfered in the Scottish church, or "kirk". In June 1713 a motion to dissolve the Act of Union was defeated in the House of Lords.

The Hanoverian succession

Anne died in August 1714 and the protestant majority inisted on George of Hanover becoming George I, despite James Stuart's clearer claim to the throne. James had repeatedly refused to renounce his catholicism. George was crowned in October, in a ceremony held in Latin, since he spoke little English. Jacobite demonstrations took place in London and elsewhere. The Tory party had also supported James' succession, but the Whigs preferred the Hanoverian option. George returned the Whigs' support by installing them as his new government.

The 1715 Jacobite Rebellion (The '15)

Jacobite unrest continued in 1715, with riots in June in Manchester, subdued by Dragoon guards. James Butler, the Duke of Ormond, was impeached by parliament for treason and fled to join the Pretender in France. His men were ready to seize arsenals in the south of England. An Act of Encouraging Loyalty was passed in August, which had an opposite effect, pushing many wavering Scottish Tories into the Jacobite camp.

John Erskine, the Earl of Mar, officially proclaimed James Stuart as king by raising the Jacobite standard at Braemar in the Grampians of Scotland on 6 September. Mar expected an English uprising and further money and soldiers when James arrived from France.

Mar was notoriously fickle in changing his allegiance, having previously supported George's accession to the throne. He had the support of several Jacobite nobles, however, especially among highland chieftains and Episcopalian nobility in north-east England.

An attempt to take Edinburgh Castle failed on the 8th of September, but Aberdeen's earl marischal also proclaimed James as king twelve days later.

On 6 October, 1715, Thomas Forster declared a Jacobite rising in Northumberland in the north-east of England. Forster was an MP who fled from London fearing arrest. He accepted command of a force brought from Scotland by James Ratcliffe, Earl of Derwentwater, a Roman Catholic. Derwentwater brought a group of northern gentry who joined some Jacobite borderers led by Lord Kenmure to form a force of 2,000 infantry and 600 cavalry.

Jacobites entered Preston on 9 November, seizing control when the militia fled. They were defeated by government troops led by the generals Carpenter and Wills, who surrounded the town and besieged the Jacobites.

The Duke of Ormond led a seaborne attack on Plymouth, but it failed. Other English Jacobites were reluctant to move until James Stuart arrived with a French army. These hopes were almost dashed by news of the death of Louis XIV on 8 September.

The other major battle of the 1715 rebellion took place at Sheriffmuir, near Stirling, on 13 November. The earl of Mar led 12,000 Jacobites against 3,000 men led by the duke of Argyll. Mar should have won easily, but he had waited since 14 September at Perth, and failed to deny Argyll the chance to occupy Stirling. Mar was prevented from proceeding further south, and Argyll was able to wait for Hanoverian reinforcements already en route from England.

The "pretender" James Stuart finally landed at Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, on 22 December, hoping to lead an army to London to claim the throne. James was seasick, with no troops or guns, and his treasury ship was shipwrecked. His army was welcomed in Dundee on 6 January, 1716, and he himself arrived at Scone to claim the Scottish throne as James VIII on 8 January. When John Campbell, the Duke of Argyll, marched on Perth on 21 January, however, James fled. James and Mar took to their ships at Montrose on 4 February, and clan chiefs submitted to King George.


Jacobite supporters were punished for their support of the rebellion. The Duke of Ormond and Viscount Bolingbroke, another supporter, fled to France. Thomas Forster and the Earls of Nithsdale and Winton escaped from prison. The Earl of Derwentwater and Viscount Kenmure were beheaded at the Tower of London. Many Scottish nobles had their estates forfeited and fled into exile. The duke of Ormond also had his estates confiscated. King George dismissed the duke of Argyll for his leniency with the Jacobites, after he failed to capture James Stuart. In 1717, the government passed the Act of Grace which pardonned many rebellious Jacobites.

In March, 1719, a force of 500 Spanish troops under the command of James Butler, Duke of Ormond, sailed from Spain to join highland Jacobites. In Italy James Stuart married the young Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of King John III of Poland, in May. The Scottish Jacobites had planned a rising in the highlands in June, led by George Keith the earl marischal, and supported by "Rob Roy" 's MacGregor clan. The Jacobites had been relying on a Spanish invasion of south-west England, but a storm prevented a landing, and a garrison from Inverness defeated the rebels at Glenshiel. 1200 men on each side met in battle, but the Jacobites fled after mortar and infantry attack.

The last day of 1720 saw the birth of Charles Edward Stuart to James and the Princess. Charles was born in Rome, and gave the Jacobites an heir to pin their hopes on.

1722 saw the arrest of Francis Atterbury, the Bishop of Rochester, when a Jacobite plot was uncovered. The bishop had connections with extreme Tories, who tended to support the return of James Stuart as king, as opposed to the Whigs, who supported George I. The new Whig prime minister, Robert Walpole, elected to keep the plot from the public until thousands of troops were brought into London, and encamped in Hyde Park. Attenbury was later exiled.

In September, 1725, King George granted a pardon to Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, a leading Jacobite. George was to die in Germany, in June 1727. His son was crowned George II on 11 October.

In 1739, the earl of Winchelsea assured the House of Lords that the Jacobite party was "entirely broke". That same year, however, the Association of Highland Gentlemen was formed in Scotland to plot for a Stuart restoration.

The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion (The '45)

February, 1744, saw fears of a French-backed Jacobite invasion as Charles Edward Stuart travelled to France from Rome, and a French fleet sailed into the Channel, then turned back in bad weather. France and Britain were almost continually at war over this period.

Charles landed in the Hebrides at Eriskay in July 1745, and crossed to the mainland. He raised his rebel Stuart standard at Glenfinnan in August, gaining the nickname "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Clan chiefs paid homage to him and brought toops, but Hanoverian troops at Fort William seemed unaware of his presence in the country.

Prince Charles entered Perth and Edinburgh in September; catholics were ordered to leave London. The highland army won a significant victory at Prestonpans on 21 September, when government troops under General Sir John Cope turned and fled - 300 lost their lives and 1,500 were captured.

Around this time "God Save the King" became popular as an anti-Jacobite song. It is now the British national anthem, amended to "God Save the Queen".

On 8 November, 1745, the Jacobite army crossed the river Esk into England. By 18 November, Carlisle had surrendered, but not before Charles' judgement had been brought into question, especially in terms of motivating his men against what turned out to be an easy foe.

Prince Charles met little support in England, and was forced by his generals to turn back at Derby on 6 December. The Scots numbered about 5,500 at this point; London had 4,000 soldiers and many volunteers. General Wade led a force of 6,000 men and William, Duke of Cumberland, had about 13,000. Charles was keen to press on to London, but the Scottish generals adopted the motto that "discretion is the better part of valour", and they would be better returning to Scotland. They crossed the river Esk again, this time heading north, on 20 December, 1745.


The Jacobites were finally defeated at Culloden, near Inverness, on 16 April, 1746. Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, led the redcoats against a depleted force of about 5,000 highlanders.

Charles had been drinking beforehand, and was led away when cannon fire began, the chief of his bodyguard, Lord Elcho, cursing him as a "damned Italian coward!"

The departure of their prince left the clansmen leaderless, and they withstood a 20-minute bombardment before attacking "like wildcats", slashing at the ranks of soldiers with their swords. They were outnumbered 9 to 1, though, and a dreadful slaughter ensued.

After Culloden

Following the massacre at Culloden, the government cracked down hard on both the Jacobites and the Scots. Highland dress was banned for all but serving soldiers. Prince William became known as "Butcher" Cumberland for his fierce reprisals against the highlanders. Homes were looted and burned, livestock driven away, and rebels transported or hanged. Rebel noblemen like Lord Balmerino and the Earl of Kilmarnock were executed in London.

"Bonnie Prince Charlie" hid for months in the highlands, and eventually escaped to France in September, 1746. A woman named Flora MacDonald famously disguised him as a woman at one point to evade detection.

Simon, Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser, was beheaded in April, 1747, and bagpipes were banned as "instruments of war", as the "war on Scottish culture" continued.

In May, 1752, protests against compulsory evictions of Jacobite crofters reached a head when Colin Campbell of Glenmure, a commissioner in charge of confiscating estates, was murdered near Ballachulish, in Appin district. Despite protesting his innocence, James Stewart was hanged for the crime that November.

The "Old Pretender", James Stuart, died in January, 1766. The heads of Jacobite rebels executed for treason were not removed from spikes at Temple Bar in London until 1777.

Some attempt to recompense owners or heirs of Jacobite estates previously confiscated after "the '45" was made in 1784, when they were restored to their rightful owners. The wearing of the kilt was again allowed in 1782.

The "Young Pretender", Charles Stuart, died heirless in January, 1788, alone and unmourned. This brought an end to Jacobite upheaval, but the harsh highland reprisals were to be echoed in the highland clearances of the 1800s.

Charles' brother, Henry Benedict Maria Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart (born 1725), was both a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, and also Duke of York in the English peerage. He combined both titles in his preferred styling of "Cardinal Duke of York". On Charles' death, Henry assumed the Jacobite inheritance, and was recognised by them as "King Henry IX and I". Henry died in 1807. He was succeeded by Charles Emanuel of Savoy, from the line of James II's sister, Henrietta Anne. He was known by Jacobites as Charles IV. More about Charles and his heirs can be read at the website below.

Chronicle of Britain, Chronicle Communications

Jac"o*bite (?), n. [L. Jacobus James: cf. F. Jacobite. See 2d Jack.]

1. Eng. Hist.

A partisan or adherent of James the Second, after his abdication, or of his descendants, an opposer of the revolution in 1688 in favor of William and Mary.


2. Eccl.

One of the sect of Syrian Monophysites. The sect is named after Jacob Baradaeus, its leader in the sixth century.


© Webster 1913.

Jac"o*bite, a.

Of or pertaining to the Jacobites.


© Webster 1913.

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