The Jacobite Rebellion was one of a series of attempts to reinstate the House of Stuart as monarchs of Great Britain. Jacobite opposition first occurred following the Glorious Revolution. The Jacobin revolts ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Jacobinism received support from overseas. It was a largely Catholic movement with support coming from Ireland. In Scotland the Jacobite’s received support not only from the Catholic community but also from Scottish Episcopalians.
Origins of the Jacobins
When James II was ousted from the throne, his supporters made attempts at restoration. These supporters were called Jacobites. Their opposition came in several forms but is mainly remembered for Jacobite Uprisings and Rebellions within the life of James II and later under heirs.
1689 Jacobite Rebellion
The first sign of Jacobite opposition was the uprising of 1689. This was an attempt to immediately restore James II to the throne. The Scottish covenanters in the Highlands rose in rebellion. They took control of Edinburgh castle in the name of James II and defeated forces loyal to the newly formed government / crown at the Battle of Killiecrankie. However, the Jacobite army was then defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld. This, and the defeat in Ireland of James’ Jacobin army in the Williamite wars, led to this uprising failing.
James himself was leading a Jacobin uprising in Ireland whilst the Scots rose in revolt. His attempt to regain the throne also failed. William III led an army in Ireland that defeated the Jacobites. Following the victory in the Williamite wars, severe restrictions were imposed on Ireland and the plantation and settlement of Ireland began in earnest.
Plot to Assassinate William III
In 1696 a groups of Jacobins plotted to assassinate William III. This plan was based on William’s regular routine when hunting. He used the same route each time. Plotters intended to have 3 groups of armed men surprise William and his guards at a narrow point on the road. The guards would be overpowered by two groups of men, the third group would capture King William. The plotters were ready to execute their plan on several occasions. William Trumbull, Secretary of State for the Northern Department, heard of the plot. Investigations identified some 40 plotters. Many of the plotters were arrested. Some were put on trial for treason and executed. Others were detained in Newgate gaol, several for life without trial. The plot made it clear that there was a clear threat to William III and, other than treason charges and an act of attainder being used, led to a tightening up of anti-Jacobin surveillance and policies.
1708: Foiled Jacobite invasion
In 1708 a French and Jacobin force set sail from Dunkirk. It aimed to meet up with Jacobin rebels in the Firth of Forth. However the fleet was intercepted by the Royal Navy and despite protestations from James (The Old Pretender) Stuart, was forced to turn back to France. Many of the French ships were shipwrecked on their return journey.
1715 Jacobite Rebellion
In 1715 the Jacobins once again attempted an uprising. The Earl of Mar raised the Standard for James III and VIII at Braemar on September 6th. Forces soon gathered and captured much of the North of Scotland quite quickly. Parliament responded by issuing the Habeas Corpus Act which effectively granted land to tenants if the landlord was implicated in the uprising. By October only Stirling Castle remained in government hands north of the Forth. Though the initiative seems to have been in the hands of the Jacobite’s, it was not seized upon. The Earl of Mar failed to order a final decisive advance against the Earl of Argyll, allowing reinforcements to arrive.
In England the government moved quickly to ensure that no Jacobin sympathisers could rally to the cause. Key ports were reinforced. Cities such as Oxford that were known to have a significant number of Jacobin sympathisers had Dragoons enter them and take control of the area, with the sympathisers detained to ensure their good conduct. By November 1715 the Jacobins were retreating, defeated at Preston and surrendering at Inverness.
Failure of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion
James the Old Pretender landed in Scotland himself in December. The cause was almost lost as he arrived. Mar adopted a scorched earth tactic to try and deny the government forces supplies. It was a futile attempt to retain any control. James sailed from Montrose for France in February 1716, the uprising had come to an end.
An Indemnity Act pardoned most of the people involved in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. A significant exclusion to that pardon was Rob Roy MacGregor.
French Plans to invade England and the ‘Forty-Five’
In January 1744 King Louis XV of France formally declared war of Great Britain. In real terms the two nations had been fighting for some time in the Americas and in the War of the Austrian Succession. The formal declaration led to a revival of Jacobin hopes. France prepared an invasion of Great Britain which supported the Jacobin claim. The plan was to invade and place James on the throne as James III. He would then stop the war with France and become an ally, not enemy of the French. France gathered an army near Dunkirk. Ships were harboured there and at Brest in readiness for an invasion.
Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Battle of Culloden
This French invasion plan had been the basis of a Jacobite uprising in Scotland. Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, instigated an uprising in Scotland. With the promise of a French invasion and Jacobin sympathisers in England, many Scots rose in support. Charles’ Jacobite army marched as far south as Derby. The Jacobins did not receive the news they expected of a French invasion. Support from sympathisers in England was not as strong as expected. With no invasion force to repel the Government was able to concentrate efforts on defeating the Jacobin force. It did so at the Battle of Culloden. Bonnie Prince Charlie was able to escape but it was the last time that a Stuart army was led by a Stuart on British soil.
1759 plans to invade thwarted at sea
One final potential Jacobin Rebellion could have stemmed from a planned French invasion in 1759. A major invasion was mooted as a method of eliminating Great Britain from the continental wars. Jacobins were involved in the initial planning but Charles Stuart was by this time considered to be something of a liability. His cause was mentioned to sympathisers but he himself was left on the side-lines of advanced plans for the invasion. The invasion plan was cancelled after the French lost two naval battles against the British.
Recommended links on the Jacobite Rebellions
British Battles – Jacobite Rebellion
Jacobites – Story of the ’45
Heritage History – Jacobite Revolts
Further Reading on the British Empire
Making of the United Kingdom
Making of the United Kingdom unit homepage – Glorious Revolution – The British in Ireland, 1688-1691 – Settlement of Ireland – Jacobite Opposition – Glencoe Massacre – Darien Scheme – Act of Union – Migration to the Americas
Economic Consequences of Empire
Economic Consequences of Empire – Unit homepage – Royal African Company – Triangular Trade – Lifting of the RAC monopoly – Plantations – The Slave Economy – Opposition to the Slave Trade in North America – Slave Resistance – East India Company – Expansion of trade in East India – Bank of England – South Sea Bubble Bursts
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