Wednesday, March 30, 2005


What is a Jacobite?

In order to tell this story properly, Contagion has let me tell it. Let me introduce myself, I’m Seamus MacPhail, Contagion’s alter ego from 1756. For the Gathering of the Blogs he needs to make various posts regarding and related to Scots and their history. He thought it would be best to do a “What is a Jacobite.” Well since I am a Jacobite, this was probably one of the smarter decisions he has ever made.

When King Charles II of England died, his brother, James VII of Scotland and II of England succeeded him to the throne. King James was a firm believer in the Divine right of kings. More importantly he was a Roman Catholic. Catholicism was the religion of France and Spain. Both were the traditional enemies of England. Therefore being Catholic was considered unpatriotic in England. England had its own religion which had as its head the English monarch. Any individual that would follow any other religion was thus suspect and considered a traitor. Scotland, which had strong ties with France in the past, didn’t have as strong of a dislike of Catholicism. Their disdain for it was more of a spiritual nature, not political. Both of these issues made James very unpopular with Parliament. The Parliament, in 1688, decided that William of Orange and his wife Mary should rule. Mary was King James’ daughter by his first wife. His first wife was a Protestant. King James VII of Scotland and II of England was deposed in 1689, ending the Stuart line on the throne. Over the next 60 years there where 5 separate attempts to restore James, or one of his descendants, to the throne. Those that supported King James and his descendants in these rebellions where known as Jacobites. The word Jacobite comes from the Latin for James – Jacobus.

In 1689, after the Scottish Convention had accepted William III as king, Bonnie Dundee, John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse withdrew from the convention and raised a small army. Bonnie Dundee was a cavalry commander and based his small army around his own unit. He won a spectacular victory against the Williamite army at Killiecrankie. The price for this battle was costly; Dundee lost his own life at the moment of victory. After his death the rebellion started to fall apart. The rebellion was fought to a standstill at Dunkeld. Ironically, the commander of the English forces that defeated the Jacobites died at the moment of the English victory.

James VII & II died in 1701, his son James Francis Stuart became the legitimate king of Scotland in the eyes of Jacobites. James (VIII) was called the “Old Pretender” by those loyal to William III. In 1707 came the union of the Scottish and English parliaments. This was very unpopular in Scotland and gave Jacobites a much needed opening and additional support from the public.

In 1708 James VIII left for Scotland from France. He had the support of King Louis XIV. The French were having problems with the English in Flanders. They felt that a Jacobite rebellion may relieve some of the pressure off of them and onto the Scots. James VIII never landed in Scotland. The French naval commander of the expedition was forced to flee when a much superior English naval force appeared. There is speculation that if James VIII had landed he would have been able to take Scotland with his force of 5,000 infantry. The English politicians of the time, which dominated parliament, had little to no interest in Scotland and left it mostly defenseless. If James had landed and taken Scotland there was a good chance he could have used it as a launching point to also take England.

This concludes Part 1 of “What is a Jacobite” Part 2 will come tomorrow. Remember this is a brief summary of their history; a lot of details have been left out due to space and time constraints.