Jacobitism (// JAK-ə-bye-tiz-əm; Scottish Gaelic: Seumasachas [ˈʃeːməs̪əxəs̪], Irish: Seacaibíteachas, Séamusachas) was a political movement in Great Britain and Ireland that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and Ireland (as James VII in Scotland) and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. The movement took its name from Jacobus, the Renaissance Latin form of Iacobus, which in turn comes from the original Latin form of James, "Iacobus". Adherents rebelled against the British government on several occasions between 1688 and 1746.
After James II was deposed in 1688 and replaced by his daughter Mary II, ruling jointly with her husband and first cousin (James's nephew) William III, the Stuarts lived in exile, occasionally attempting to regain the throne. The strongholds of Jacobitism were parts of the Scottish Highlands and the lowland north-east of Scotland, Ireland, and parts of Northern England (mostly within the counties of Northumberland and Lancashire). Significant support also existed in Wales and South-West England.
The Jacobites believed that parliamentary interference with the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones was illegal. Catholics also hoped the Stuarts would end the discrimination against recusants. In Scotland, the Jacobite cause became intertwined with the clan system.
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Even though the civil wars were over, the second half of the 17th century was still a time of political and religious turmoil in the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The Commonwealth ended with the Restoration of Charles II. During his reign the Church of England was re-established, and episcopal church government was restored in Scotland. The latter move was particularly contentious, causing many, especially in the south-west of Scotland, to abandon the official church, attending illegal field assemblies known as conventicles in preference. The authorities attempted some accommodation with Presbyterian dissidents, introducing official 'Indulgences' in 1669 and 1672, meeting with some limited success. Towards the end of Charles's reign those with more radical Presbyterian opinions, known as the Covenanters, who favoured rejecting all compromise with the state, began to move away from religious dissent to outright political sedition. This was particularly true of the followers of the Reverend Richard Cameron, soon to be known as the Cameronians. The government increasingly resorted to force in its attempts to stamp out the Cameronians and the other Society Men, in a period subsequently labelled as the Killing Time.
Since the late Middle Ages, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been evolving towards a quasi-oligarchical or collegiate form of government in which the monarch was held to rule with the consensus of the land-owning upper classes.
The reigns of the last three Stuart Kings – Charles I, Charles II and James II and VII – were marked by growing Royal resistance to this developing consensual model of government. In part the Kings were inspired by the development of Royal Absolutism in contemporary Europe, exemplified particularly strongly by their neighbour and contemporary, Louis XIV of France. In part, however, the apologists of royal authority based their claims on a just assessment of the powers claimed by England and Scotland's medieval monarchs.
In 1685, Charles II was succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James II and VII. In addition to sharing his family's absolutist views of government, James attempted to introduce religious toleration of Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. In Seventeenth-century Europe, being a religious outsider meant being a political and social outsider as well. James tried to encourage the participation in public life of Roman Catholics, Protestant Dissenters, and Quakers such as William Penn the Younger. Such attempts to broaden his basis of support succeeded in antagonising members of the Anglican establishment.
In Ireland, James's viceroy, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, was the first Catholic viceroy since the Reformation and acted to reduce Protestant ascendancy. He replaced office holders with Catholics loyal to James II and conducted a purge of Protestants from the Royal Irish Army. The size of the now Catholic army was also greatly expanded.
In England and Scotland, James attempted to impose religious toleration, which helped the Catholic minority but alarmed the religious and political establishment. William of Orange, building alliances against France, lobbied the English political élite to have James replaced by William's wife Mary who was James's daughter and next in line to the throne, but they were reluctant to rush a succession expected to happen in due course. Then in 1688 James's second wife had a boy, bringing the prospect of a Catholic dynasty, and the "Immortal Seven" invited William and Mary to depose James. On 4 November 1688 William arrived at Torbay, England. When he landed the next day, at Brixham, James fled to France. In February 1689, the Glorious Revolution formally changed England's monarch, but many Catholics, Episcopalians and Tory royalists still supported James as the constitutionally legitimate monarch.
Scotland was slow to accept William as king, but he summoned a Convention of the Estates which met on 14 March 1689 in Edinburgh and considered a conciliatory letter from William and a haughty one from James. Forces of Cameronians as well as Clan Campbell Highlanders led by the Earl of Argyll had come to bolster William's support. On James's side a more modest force of a troop of fifty horsemen gathered by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee was in town, and he attended the convention at the start but withdrew four days later when support for William became evident. The convention set out its terms and William and Mary were proclaimed at Edinburgh on 11 April 1689, then had their coronation in London in May.
While Jacobitism was closely linked with Catholicism from the outset, particularly in Ireland, in Britain Catholics were a small minority by 1689 and the bulk of Jacobite support came from other groups. Catholics formed about 75% of the population of Ireland. In England, however, not more than 2–3% of the population could have been "practising Catholics", though in the north and south of England, "at least one half of the population outside the towns were Catholic in some degree". By this definition, Catholics numbered 10–15% of the English population. Catholicism survived most strongly among the nobility, of whom 15–20% clung to the old faith. In Scotland (excluding the Highlands and the Isles), it is estimated that about 2% of the population were Catholic.
Irish support for James II was mostly from Catholics, though by taking the French side against the League of Augsburg, James was siding against the Papacy politically. William was allied to many Catholic states, including the Holy Roman Empire, and his elite force the Dutch Blue Guards had the papal banner with them. The war in Ireland was predominantly a Catholic uprising, and after its defeat in 1691, the Catholics' only military contribution to Jacobite support came from the Irish Brigade of the French army.
Jacobitism in Ireland had its roots in support for the Stuart dynasty dating back to the accession of James I to the throne in 1603. Gaelic poets in Ireland lauded James as the first "Irish" king of the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, because of his family's Gaelic ancestry. James and his successors were also viewed as being less hostile to Catholicism than the Tudors. In the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 1640s, Catholics organised in Confederate Ireland pledged allegiance to Charles I and Charles II against the English Parliament. As a result, most Catholic landowners had their lands confiscated after Parliament's victory and the Catholic Church suffered harsh repression. James II, the first openly Catholic king of England in over a century, was therefore viewed as a saviour by Irish Catholics. James appointed an Irish Catholic, Tyrconnell, as Lord Deputy of Ireland, re-admitted Catholics into the army and militia and introduced toleration for the Catholic religion. During the Williamite war in Ireland, he also reluctantly agreed to proclaim the autonomy of the Irish Parliament from the English one and the restitution of lands confiscated from Catholics after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The demands of religious toleration, legislative autonomy and land ownership were the three key elements of Irish Jacobitism, which remained influential until the mid eighteenth century.
The majority of Irish people were "Jacobites" and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.
In England some support came from the Nonjuring Anglicans, which started with Church of England clergy who refused on principle to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary while James still lived, and developed into an Episcopalian schism of the church with small congregations in all the English cities. In many respects, Jacobites perceived themselves as the heirs of the Royalists or Cavaliers of the English Civil War era, who had fought for James II's father Charles I and for the Established Church against the Parliamentarians, the latter standing for the primacy of Parliament and for religious dissent. Jacobite supporters displayed pictures of both Cavalier and Jacobite heroes in their homes.
In lowland Scotland, the Catholics tended to come from the gentry and formed the most ideologically committed supporters, drawing on almost two centuries of subterfuge as a minority persecuted by the state and rallying enthusiastically to Jacobite armies as well as contributing financial support to the court in exile. Highland clans such as the MacDonnels/MacDonalds of Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry and Glencoe, the Clan Chisolm and the Ogilvys were largely still Catholic. Other clans, such as the powerful Camerons, were Episcopalian, and as staunch Jacobites as their allies, the Catholic MacDonalds. The clan chief who led his men at the Battle of Culloden, the 'Gentle Lochiel', survived to command the French Régiment d'Albanie, and died at Bergues in 1748.
Scottish Episcopalians provided over half of the Jacobite forces in Britain, and although Dundee's rising in 1689 came mostly from the western Highlands, in later risings Episcopalians came roughly equally from north-eastern Scotland and from the Highland clans (the latter containing a large Catholic component). The Episcopalians were also described as Nonjurors. As Protestants they could take part in Scottish politics, but were in a minority and were repeatedly discriminated against in legislation favouring the established Church of Scotland. The clergy could even be imprisoned, as occurred in the Stonehaven Tolbooth after three clergymen held services at the chapel at Muchalls Castle. However, many Episcopalians were quiet about any Jacobite sympathies and were able to accommodate themselves to the new regime. About half of the Episcopalians supporting the Jacobite cause came from the Lowlands, but this was obscured in the risings by their tendency to wear Highland dress as a type of Jacobite uniform.
To the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highland clans, to whom the supporters of Jacobitism were known as Seumasaich, the conflict was more about inter-clan politics than about religion, and a significant factor was resistance to the territorial ambitions of the (Presbyterian) Campbells of Argyll. There was a precedent for post-1689 Jacobitism during the period of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, when clans from the western Highlands had fought for James's father Charles I against the Campbells and the Covenanters. Another factor in Highland Jacobitism was James VII's sympathetic treatment of the Highland clans. Whereas previous monarchs since the late 16th century had been antagonistic to the Gaelic Highland way of life, James had worked sympathetically with the clan chieftains in the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands. Some Highland chieftains therefore viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies. During the Jacobite risings, they provided the bulk of Jacobite manpower.
Another source of Jacobite support came from those dissatisfied with political developments. Some Whigs, most obviously the Earl of Mar, reacted to political disappointments by joining the Jacobites, but while others were courted from 1692 onwards and indicated support, mostly this was just reinsurance in case the Jacobites came out on top.
The Tories were a more likely source of support given their commitment to church and king, but many were reluctant to trust the Church of England to a Catholic king. At times such as 1715–1722 when the Hanoverians appeared to be dismantling Anglican dominance and 1743–1745 when Whig dealings denied the Tories a parliamentary victory they would coalesce and turn to the Jacobites, but they were reluctant when it came to serious action. Nevertheless, this gave hopes that large numbers of Tories would support a Jacobite rising with a serious prospect of winning, particularly when helped by foreign intervention. The rise and fall of the earlier Tory alliance with the Jacobites forms a major part of the background for Sir Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor.
Other Jacobite recruits could be described as adventurers – desperate men who saw the cause as a solution to their (usually financial) problems. Although small in number and varying from unemployed weavers looking for excitement to impoverished gentry like William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock who served Charles as a colonel and became a general after the Battle of Falkirk, they contributed significantly to the daring that brought the Jacobites a prospect of success in their campaigns. However, other such mercenaries often became spies and informers.
A number of pirates were among the opportunists who flocked to the Jacobite banner. Some gave their ships Jacobite names such as Queen Anne's Revenge or Royal James. Others declared their support openly: Charles Vane drank “Damnation to King George” while Thomas Cocklyn toasted the health of "King James the Third", and John Russell threatened to shoot a prisoner for failing to recognize the Pretender. While some pirates like John Norcross actively sought to serve James Stuart directly, many were offering only verbal support, using Jacobitism as an excuse to plunder English shipping, or were using Jacobite slogans in a general show of rebellion without actually working to advance Jacobite ideals.
Jacobite ideology comprised four main tenets: The divine right of kings, the "accountability of Kings to God alone", inalienable hereditary right, and the "unequivocal scriptural injunction of non-resistance and passive obedience", though these positions were not unique to the Jacobites. What distinguished Jacobites from Whigs was their adherence to 'right' as the basis for the law, whereas the Whigs held to the idea of 'possession' as the basis of the law. However, such distinctions became less clear over time, with an increase in the use of contract theory by some Jacobite writers during the reign of George I.
Jacobites contended that James II had not been legally deprived of his throne, and that the Convention Parliament and its successors were not legal. Scottish Jacobites resisted the Act of Union of 1707; while not recognising Parliamentary Great Britain, Jacobites recognised their monarchs as Kings of Great Britain.
The majority of Irish people supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, which granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland, and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.
From its religious roots, Jacobite ideology was passed on through committed families of the nobility and gentry who would have pictures of the exiled royal family and of Cavalier and Jacobite martyrs, and take part in like minded networks. Even today, some Highland clans and regiments pass their drink over a glass of water during the Loyal Toast – to the King Over the Water. More widely, commoners developed communities in areas where they could fraternise in Jacobite alehouses, inns and taverns, singing seditious songs, collecting for the cause and on occasion being recruited for risings. At government attempts to close such places they simply transferred to another venue. In these neighbourhoods Jacobite wares such as inscribed glassware, brooches with hidden symbols and tartan waistcoats were popular. The criminal activity of smuggling became associated with Jacobitism throughout Britain, partly because of the advantage of dealing through exiled Jacobites in France.
Official policy of the court in exile initially reflected the uncompromising intransigence that got James into trouble in the first place. With the powerful support of the French they saw no need to accommodate the concerns of his Protestant subjects, and effectively issued a summons for them to return to their duty. In 1703 Louis pressed James into a more accommodating stance in the hopes of detaching England from the Grand Alliance, essentially promising to maintain the status quo. This policy soon changed, and increasingly Jacobitism ostensibly identified itself with causes of the alienated and dispossessed.
There were Jacobite risings in 1689, 1715, 1719 and 1745. There were also planned French invasions of Britain in support with or in support of the Jacobites in 1708 and 1744.
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Jacobitism entered permanent decline after the "Forty-Five" rebellion.
In an effort to prevent further trouble in the Scottish Highlands, the government outlawed many cultural practices to destroy the warrior clan system. The Act of Proscription 1746 – incorporating the Disarming Act and the Dress Act – required all swords to be surrendered to the government and prohibited wearing of tartans or kilts. The Tenures Abolition Act 1660 ended the feudal bond of military service and the Heritable Jurisdictions Act 1746 removed the virtually sovereign power the chiefs had over their clan. The extent of enforcement of the prohibitions was variable and sometimes related to a clan's support of the government during the rebellion.
Government troops were stationed in the Highlands. More roads and barracks were built to better control the region, with a new fortress at Fort George to the east of Inverness which still serves as a base for Highland Regiments of the British Army. Highland clans found a way back to legitimacy by providing regiments to the British Army, many of whom served with distinction in the subsequent Seven Years' War.
The French made every effort to rescue Jacobite chieftains as well as Charles, and gave him a hero's welcome on his return to France, but soon tired of his badgering them to provide a renewed assault on the Hanoverians. After French victories knocked the Netherlands out of the war, the British offered reasonable peace terms and made the expulsion of Charles from France a precondition of negotiations. Charles ignored the French court's order to depart, continued to demand military action and support for his extravagant lifestyle and flaunted his presence around Paris as peace negotiations for the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle got under way. After British complaints the French government lost patience with Charles and in December 1748 he was seized on his way to the Opéra and briefly jailed before being expelled.
From 1749 to 1751 Charles laid the groundwork for a rising in England, visiting London in 1750 when he conferred with the Jacobite leaders and considered an assault on the Tower of London as well as converting to Anglicanism. The English Jacobites were clear that they would not move without foreign assistance, and Charles turned to Frederick II of Prussia. While Frederick was indifferent to the Jacobite cause he made diplomatic use of the opportunity, and appointed the Earl Marischal as his ambassador to Paris, in a position to keep him informed and veto any plans. Alexander Murray of Elibank House, Taplow, the liaison between Charles and the plotters, finally realised there was no hope of foreign assistance and ended the conspiracy, but by then Charles had sent two exiled Scots as agents to prepare the clans. They were betrayed by Alistair Ruadh MacDonell of Glengarry, a spy in Charles's entourage, and while one was arrested, the other barely escaped. Charles responded to the failure by denouncing his comrades, and continuing with his by now routine drunkenness and abuse of his mistress. Finally, in a dispute with Marischal and the English conspirators in 1754, a drunken Charles threatened to publish their names for having "betrayed" him, finally causing his supporters to abandon the Jacobite cause.
In 1759 French naval defeats at Lagos and Quiberon Bay forced them to abandon a planned invasion of Britain, which would have placed Charles on the throne. It is often considered the last realistic chance for the Jacobites. With its passing, Charles collapsed yet further into alcoholism and was soon entirely abandoned by the French government, who saw little further use for him. The English Jacobites stopped sending funds, and by 1760 Charles, who had returned to Catholicism, was relying on the Papacy to support his lifestyle in Rome.
In 1766, when Old Pretender James (VIII/III) Edward Stuart died, the Holy See refused to recognise "Bonnie" Prince Charles as the lawful sovereign of Great Britain, thus depriving him of his most powerful remaining support, the French support being long gone. In 1788, the Scottish Catholics swore allegiance to the House of Hanover, and resolved two years later to pray for King George by name.
When Charles died in 1788 the Stuart claim to the throne passed to his younger brother Henry, who had become a Cardinal, and who now styled himself King Henry IX of England. After falling into financial difficulty during the French Revolution, he was granted a stipend by George III. However, he never actually surrendered his claims to the throne, though all former supporters of Jacobitism had stopped funding. Following the death of Henry in 1807, the Jacobite claims passed to those excluded by the Act of Settlement: initially to the House of Savoy (1807–1840), then to the Modenese branch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (1840–1919), and finally to the House of Wittelsbach (1919–present). Franz, Duke of Bavaria is the current Jacobite heir. Neither he nor any of his predecessors since 1807 have pursued their claim. Henry, Charles and James are memorialised in the Monument to the Royal Stuarts in the Vatican.
What began with the English parliament asserting a new authority and William looking to expand alliances against France quickly developed into a major distraction, with William being forced to focus attention on Ireland and Scotland, and parliament having to fund the armies needed to overcome the Jacobites. This distraction helped keep Britain from intervening on the continent and contributed to twenty years of peace in Europe, while continuing unrest forced the British state to develop repressive strategies with networks of spies and informers as well as increasing its standing army. While Jacobitism increasingly appealed to the disaffected, it inherently bowed to higher authority and thus reinforced the social order. It left the British state strengthened to deal with the more revolutionary movements that developed later in the 18th century.
Jacobitism is celebrated in many folk songs, including those by the Corries and by nineteenth century Scots poets such as Alicia Spottiswoode and Carolina Nairne, Lady Nairne (whose "Bonnie Charlie" remains popular). One of the best known songs is Mo Ghile Mear by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill which has been sung by many artists including Sting. Additionally, Jacobitism became the subject of romantic poetry and literature, notably the work of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
Walter Scott, author of Waverley, a story of the 1745 rebellion, combined romantic Jacobitism with an appreciation of the practical benefits of the Hanoverian government, and in 1822 he arranged a pageantry of reinvented Scottish traditions for the visit of King George IV to Scotland when George IV visited Edinburgh and dressed as a kilted successor to his distant relative Charles Stuart. The tartan pageantry was immensely popular and the kilt became Scotland's National Dress.
In the late nineteenth century, there was a brief revival of political Jacobitism, with the creation of a number of Jacobite clubs and societies such as the Order of the White Rose (Jacobite) and the Legitimist Jacobite League of Great Britain and Ireland. These largely came to an end with the First World War and are now represented by the Royal Stuart Society.
Jacobitism has been a popular subject for speculative and humorous fiction.
In 1909, a short story by John Buchan entitled The Company of the Marjolaine was published in Blackwood's Magazine. The plot of the story concerns a group of Jacobite sympathisers paying a visit to an aged Bonnie Prince Charlie towards the end of his life.
In the 1920s, D. K. Broster wrote the Jacobite Trilogy of novels featuring the dashing hero Ewen Cameron.
Science Fiction writer John Whitbourn described his 1998 book, The Royal Changeling as "The first work of Jacobite propaganda for several centuries".
Among the political entities sharing a future human-settled galaxy depicted by A. Bertram Chandler is "The Jacobite Kingdom of Waverly". One of Chandler's stories mentions "the coronation of King James XIV", held with great pomp and broadcast throughout the Galaxy.
In an episode of The Avengers TV series, "Esprit de Corps", originally broadcast 14 March 1964, a Scottish general plots a coup using Cathy Gale as the Stuart heir, whom he wishes to enthrone as Queen Anne II.
Garrison Keillor told one of his Lake Wobegon stories, "The Royal Family", about a poor Minnesota family who are persuaded that they are the long-lost Stuart heirs. They dream of returning to Edinburgh and taking their rightful place on the throne of Scotland.
A fictional account is given of the Jacobite/Hanoverian conflict in The Long Shadow, The Chevalier and The Maiden, Volumes 6–8 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Insight is given through the eyes of the Morland family into the religious, political and emotional issues at the heart of the struggle.
In the film King Ralph, Ralph Jones, an American, becomes King of the United Kingdom when he is believed to be the only surviving member of the current Royal Family. Lord Percival Graves, the current heir to the throne under the Stuart line of succession, tries to have King Ralph deposed so he can take his place.
In the 1995 film Rob Roy, it is a minor plot element with the Scottish Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt) attempting to covertly cultivate rumours that his personal rival and fellow Scot, Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir) is a Jacobite, much to the latter's fury.
Since Henry's death, none of the Jacobite heirs have claimed the English or Scottish thrones. Franz, Duke of Bavaria (born 1933), a direct descendant of Charles I, would inherit the thrones if the Act of Settlement of 1701 were repealed.