2015 has been quite a year for commemorations and celebrations. We have had the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, the centenary of the Dardanelles Campaign, and the seventieth anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day. It is also the first anniversary of the Scottish Independence Referendum.
So far, not much has been said about the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Let us not miss that out!
Many people think of it as a Scottish rebellion against the oppression of the English, especially if they have seen Braveheart. (That was about events in another century, but who cares?) The tragic hero was Prince James Edward Stewart, the so-called James III, also known as the Old Pretender. He was the son of James II who had been deposed in 1688. After the death of Queen Anne, daughter of James II, in 1714, the British Parliament proclaimed George of Hanover as King George I of Great Britain. Within a year the supporters of Anne’s half-brother James, known as Jacobites, rebelled, trying to make him King. They failed. Some think of that event as an attempt at gaining freedom and independence for Scotland. Others see it as all about religion because James was a Roman Catholic.
Here are a ten facts about the 1715 rebellion you might not know and you might find interesting. Some of them contradict certain popular myths.
- Not all James’ supporters were Scottish. Several English M.P.s and noblemen were arrested during and afterwards for their involvement.
- There were risings or attempts, in the West of England, Oxford, Wales, the North East and Lancashire, as well as Scotland.
- Many Scots supported King George, especially in the cities and the Lowlands.
- Many Jacobites were Protestants, including some of the English leaders of the rebellion.
- James claimed the throne of Great Britain (and Ireland, the Channel Islands and various overseas territories) not just Scotland.
- James was born in London. He was the great-grandson of James VI of Scots and I of Great Britain (etc.) but his mother was Mary of Modena, an Italian.
- James had been offered the crown if he would become a Protestant and agree to ruling with and through Parliament. He refused. George was already a Protestant and was happy to rule through Parliament.
- The following century saw Britain (including Scotland) move forwards in civil and religious liberties and democratic government. It is most unlikely that this would have occurred under Stewart kings.
- The death toll was in the hundreds. Most of the casualties were soldiers in the British Army.
- King George used his influence to moderate the reprisals demanded by the British Government, desiring peace and reconciliation.
Perhaps the Scots (and the English) should be celebrating this year as the bicentenary of the defeat of the Pretender.