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Jacobite Risings

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It could be said that the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745-46 were the two most serious threats to the Hanovarian Crown. Although there were numerous smaller attempts to restore the Stewarts to the throne, the 1715 and 1745-46 remain the closest to succeeding. This essay will examine the several factors pertaining to the failures of these risings. According to Lenman the 1715 rising is one that was – “the result of a private decision taken by one man because of his personal circumstances. The man was John Erskine Earl of Mar, and the circumstances were simply the complete collapse of his political career.” (Lenman, 1980, p.126)

Mar had originally been in favour of the Union of 1707 which had been the catalyst for the abortive invasion and was also far from popular within the Jacobite community. Moreover, Mar had also been appointed secretary of state in 1714 with a special responsibility for Scotland. However – “Mar’s reputation had in fact been destroyed in the eyes of George I by Whig slanders about his secret Jacobite sympathies. With characteristic rudeness George I literally turned his back on the erstwhile Secretary of State when he appeared at Court and thereby turned a depressed man into a desperate one.” (Lenman, 1980, p.126)

Lenman then further discusses Mar’s fateful strategy – “What Mar then did is highly revealing. He did not set about consulting with the Pretender. Mar did not even have commission from the Pretender when he raised the Jacobite standard and was reduced to using what some historians with a tact worthy of a public relation officer, have called ‘anticipatory draft’. Mar’s rebellion was really on behalf of the man Mar cared for most in this world – himself.” (Lenman, 1980, pp.126-127)

Mar was able to gather approximately 10,000 foot and horse to fight against only 4,000 in the government army. In particular, Devine suggests that – “from a Jacobite perspective, the prospect for the rising of 1715 was bright indeed. But when Mar, who as a general possessed a fatal combination of caution, timidity and ambiguity, failed to defeat the numerically inferior forces of the Crown in the inconclusive battle of Sherrifmuir in November 1715, the Jacobites completely lost the initiative. The failure of the rebellion was a crushing blow to their morale. Opportunities were there, but had literally been thrown away by inept leadership. Mars indecisiveness cost the Staurts dear and soon squandered the Jacobite military superiority. His delay in marching south from the movement’s strongholds in the southern Highlands was crucial: ‘Mar waited and waited: he waited for French help, he waited for the Duke of Berwick, he waited for the King, he waited for yet more recruits to make his position impregnable.” (Devine, 2012, pp.37-38)

Nevertheless – “Berwick (a naturalised Frenchman), had, however, been refused permission to join the rebellion by Louis XIV, and refused to gamble everything he had on such a risky venture.” (Szechi, 1994, p.77) Consequently, Szechi conveys the battle at Sherrifmuir to be the – “death-knell of the rebellion. The Old Pretender’s arrival in Scotland on 22 December might have railed the dispirited Jacobite army, had he been accompanied by Berwick or possessed more military talent himself, but it was not mean to be.” (Szechi, 1994, p.78)

The same lack of leadership skills can be said for the 1745 rebellion led by the young pretender, or better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Devine describes the battle of Culloden in 1746 as – “a total victory for the Hanovarian forces. Virtually every factor was against Charles’s army on the fateful day. As commander-in-chief he had chosen a field of battle which gave a huge tactical advantage to his opponent. Culloden Moor is open, flat and exposed, almost designed by nature for the effective deployment of artillery firing case.” (Devine, 2012, p.44)

Not only was this a disadvantage, but – “the Jacobites had also engaged in an abortive night attack on Cumberland’s camp at Nairn, and this left many of the clansmen exhausted on the morning of the battle. Because of this, as many as one-fifth of Charles’s potential force may not have taken part in the final engagement.” (Devine, 2012, p44)

In addition, Devine also points out that – “the Jacobites were significantly outnumbered, by about two to one, by Cumberland’s army of around 9,000 foot and horse.” (Devine, 2012, p.45)

In 1715, the Stuarts could have had a real chance of there being a counter-rebellion however this was much less likely by 1745 as – “Jacobitism was unpopular throughout most of the Lowlands south of the River Tay; the central Lowlands in particular were most hostile and Glasgow and the western towns resolutely opposed. In 1715 opposition to the union of 1707 had been a major factor strengthening Jacobite support. By the 1740’s, however, there was much greater acceptance of the relationship with England. In addition, a fundamental obstacle for the Stuarts was their Catholicism. They were not prepared to sacrifice their faith for political ambition and so inevitably paid the price.” (Devine, 2012, p.47)

Devine then goes on to discuss that – “while throughout the entire rebellion only a tiny minority of the Scottish landed classes came out for the Stuarts. Scottish backing for the Stuarts during the rising was remarkably thin on the ground long before the crushing defeat of Culloden; it was rather than force of arms itself which ultimately ended their last hopes of restoration.” (Devine, 2012, p.47)

To show the decline statistically Devine states that – “in 1689 an estimated 28 clans rose for the Stuarts, but by the time of the last rebellion, the ’45 this had fallen to 18.” (Devine, 2012, p.48)

Another vital factor in the failure of the rebellions was the importance for foreign military support. Although the events that occurred in March 1944 where the French attempted to send resources was a disappointment, Charles – “still recognised how important French military support was if any future attempt to restore James was to succeed – the English Jacobites in particular had made this a necessary pre-condition of their rising in favour of his father.” (Hook & Ross, 1995, p.6)

More importantly, support from France and Spain for Jacobitism was inconsistent and inefficient and was only given when it suited their own political and military objectives as Hook and Ross evidence – “What James and his advisers consistently failed to appreciate during the negotiations with foreign power was that the leaders of these nations, no matter how sympathetic they might have been to James’s cause, would only agree to provide help if and when it was in their interest to do so: no country wished to risk war with Britain with the sole objective of restoring the Stuarts.” (Hook & Ross, 1995, p.4)

Attempts were made in both 1715 & 1745-46 by the Spanish, however the results were damaging to the Jacobites as – “the ship bearing Spanish gold that alone could keep the Jacobite army in being ran aground on the Dundee sandbanks and was stranded. This disaster was an uncanny pre-echo of the loss of the treasure ship Le Prince Charles thirty years later during the ’45. In both cases the demise of their treasure ships sounded the death-knell for the Jacobite rising.” (McLynn, 1985, p.101)

It was evident that the Jacobites may not have had all the support they could have obtained as many Irish Jacobites were not involved in the risings of 1715 and 1745-46. This was due to the Jacobite war in 1690 where William of Orange crushed James’s army and – “within three days James was on a ship back to France, lamenting his fate and blaming the disaster on his Irish subjects. Their feelings towards him after his flight are summarised in the nickname he subsequently acquired from the Old Irish bards: ‘Seamus an chaca’ (‘James the beshitten’).” (Szechi, 1994, p.48)

Whereas McLynn states – “James II never lived down this blow to his reputation nor the canard of his ‘cowardice’ that subsequently haunted him. Perhaps this explains the headlong withdrawal of the Jacobites into central Ireland.” (McLynn, 1985, p.15)

In effect the war was to leave one seventh of all land in Catholic hands and Penal laws were applied where often authorities would turn a blind eye in return for good behaviour. Yet – “the combination of carrot and stick proved most effective and partly explains the quiescence of Ireland during the great tow Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745.” (McLynn, 1985, p.19)

One particular factor that may have had an effect on the failure of the risings was that the majority of the population were Presbyterians who were against a Catholic monarch and saw the Stewart Restoration as a threat to the Protestant faith, the Established Church and above all, liberty and freedom. (Lecture notes, 15/10/2012)

In conclusion, there were a substantial amount of factors that caused the failures of the risings of 1715 and 1745-46. In particular there was poor leadership and tactical skills from The Earl of Mar in 1715 from Charles Edward Stewart in 1745-46. A contributing factor was also the lack of foreign military support and financial aid from France and Spain. Furthermore, many Scottish and English Jacobites were not fully commited to the cause, especially in 1745 and after the fiasco of 1690 which lost the Jacobites support from the Irish, which were ultimately the demise to the failures of the Jacobite risings.

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