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James II of England

Jacobites or Jacobites (from English Jacobites , derived from James II and VII of England and Scotland ) were the English , Scottish and Irish supporters of the exiled pretenders to the throne from the House of Stuart called (especially 1688–1766).

Origin and composition

In a few years (1685–1688), King James II gambled away the relatively strong political position of the Stuarts that his brother Charles II had left him with his pro-Catholic policy . In particular, the traditional British elites, who were largely Anglican , kept their distance from the crown. When a Catholic succession to the throne was threatened by a son born in June 1688, Jacob II was driven from the English throne as part of the so-called Glorious Revolution and replaced by his daughter Maria II and William (William) of Orange .

The followers of Jacob II, the Jacobites, opposed the new system of rule and the Protestant succession to the throne several times between 1689 and 1760. They tried in the 1690s to enable James II and later his son James Francis Edward Stuart (or "James III") to return to the English throne. The latter was therefore called The Old Pretender. Like his father, he first stayed in France, but from 1719 on in Italy.

The Catholic supporters were, however, only one of the numerous groups that rallied under the Stuarts banner. The majority of the Jacobites in the British Isles were even Protestant. Mostly it was a mixture of patriotic attitudes (in Scotland), religious convictions ( Scottish Episcopal Church and English non-jurors , i.e. devout Anglicans), economic hardship (in Scotland or northern England) and loyalty to the Stuarts , which led people to the Jacobite camp let change. Jacobites of various origins formed around a hard core of ideologically convinced supporters of Stuart ( divine right ). This gave the Jacobite movement a certain dynamic, but also contributed to the fact that military planning and the uprisings in 1689, 1708, 1715, 1719 and 1745 were repeatedly hampered by internal disputes. The heterogeneous composition explains both the survival of Jacobiteism into the 1750s and the eventual unsuccessfulness of their attempts to regain the British throne.

The Scottish Rebellion 1689

The Stuart supporters rose for the first time in Scotland in the uprising of 1689 under the leadership of John Graham of Claverhouse , known as "Bonnie Dundee".

In April 1689 he hoisted the flag of James VII, as James II was called in Scotland , on Dundee Law . By July of the same year, Bonnie Dundee was at the head of a highland uprising and defeated government forces at Killiecrankie . This battle only lasted about ten minutes - but it was grueling. More than 30% of Dundee's combat forces, originally 2,000 men, and probably 60% of twice the size of the enemy force led by General Hugh Mackay , were killed in that short time.

Killiecrankie could have opened the gateway to the north of Scotland and brought King James back. The fate of this uprising was decided by a stray bullet that killed Dundee; the highlands were now without strong leadership. A few weeks later, after another brief but equally grueling battle in Dunkeld , they withdrew to their homeland for lack of leadership like Dundee.

Simultaneously with the end of the uprising, the Presbyterian Church was finally established in Scotland. The Episcopal Church of the Restoration period was officially dissolved. In the episcopal-dominated Scottish northeast, this led to political radicalization. The supporters of the Episcopal Church now joined the Catholic royalists from the highlands, and the supporters of the Stuarts in Scotland were recruited from these two milieus in the following decades. Finally, after Killiecrankie, the government developed plans for the first time to control the previously impassable highlands. The pro-government Campbell of Breadalbane , a member of Scotland's most powerful clan, had the idea that each of the clan chiefs should take an oath of allegiance to King William. Wilhelm took up this idea, the oath should be taken by January 1, 1692. When one of the clan chiefs, Alastair MacDonald, wanted to take his oath very late but on time, but only reached the person responsible for it late, Wilhelm took advantage of this to set an example: the massacre of Glencoe, which was carried out with seldom maliciousness . This massacre aroused great sympathy for the Jacobites in the western highlands. It also quickly became clear that the king in London was precious little interested in Scottish matters. He ratified English laws of the English Parliament which strengthened the English colonies and protected English trade, but Scotland was excluded from all of this. So u failed. a. Due to the English passivity, a planned Scottish colony in Central America - the Darién project  - and subsequently became another source of Jacobite poems and anger over the alleged as well as the actual English oppression.

The campaign in Ireland from 1689

Ireland was initially a good destination for restoration. James II landed with a French army at Kinsale on March 12, 1689 . Supported by the Catholic population, he first moved to Dublin and then to Derry , a Protestant stronghold, which he besieged. On July 1, 1690 (July 12 according to the Gregorian calendar), immediately before the fall of the city, the decisive battle between the rushed troops of Wilhelm and Jacob's army took place, the Battle of the Boyne , which the Orange King won, which ultimately resulted in the reconquest of the entire island by 1691. In 1691 many Irish had to leave the island. Peter Graf von Lacy is the best-known representative of these so-called "wild geese".

In total, this first uprising lasted 13 months and ended in Ireland with the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Aughrim . The Battle of the Boyne is commemorated every year in Northern Ireland and its outcome is a major cause of the ongoing Northern Ireland conflict .

The attempted invasion of 1708

In the course of the Glorious Revolution in 1689, the succession of rule for Scotland was not clearly regulated, and when the Scottish Parliament wanted to insist on this and other rights and squeeze advantages from the personal union (since 1603), the English elite saw the Protestant succession to the throne in danger and began to work towards union with Scotland. By exploiting financial problems of the Scottish government and many members of parliament, supported by bribery, intrigue and pressure, the Act of Union came about in 1707 . The agreements included the replacement of the Scottish and English parliaments by a British one in London. However, the majority of Scots rejected this treaty.

Only one year after the union between England and Scotland in 1708, Louis XIV of France wanted to use the internal British tensions for military relief on the continental theater of war. Reports from Scotland seemed to suggest that the country regretted its decision to join the Union and was ready to revolt. Ludwig provided James, the Old Pretender, with a fleet and six hundred men. Bad weather and some ships of the English Navy however thwarted the planned invasion.

The Jacobite Revolt of 1715 ("The Fifteen")

1715 John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar hoisted the standard of James on September 6th in Braemar for the first major uprising of the Jacobites. Soon after, Mar was at the head of a force of 12,000 highlands. As the leader of the rebels, however, he was by no means up to the whole thing; he hesitated and failed to take the initiative. When he finally marched on Stirling , he was caught not far from it in the battle of Sheriffmuir , which ended in a draw. The "Old Pretender" finally landed in Peterhead in December and tried to give the uprising the much needed support and impetus.

Still, support from the Highlanders melted after the battle of Sheriffmuir; the venture failed as the great cities of Scotland clung to the now British government. In addition, the Earl of Sutherland raised the outer north of Scotland against the rebels and won them over to the side of the government in London and to King George I, who had been reigning there since 1714. The Jacobites received no support from France, because after the death of Louis XIV tried the regent Philip of Orléans to conclude a peace treaty and even an alliance with England. So both of them - Mar and the "Old Pretender" - settled on the continent on February 4, 1716.

Eilean Donan Castle

While the uprising of 1715 still represented the interests of the Jacobites in Scotland, the attempt of 1719 was more of an outgrowth of the diplomacy of the Italian Cardinal Giulio Alberoni . However, his plans were made in close cooperation with the Exile Court of the Stuarts. Alberoni tried to enforce Spain's political great power ambitions in Europe by attacking Britain with a fleet of 27 ships and 5,000 men. On a second front he tried to split up the British defense forces, making clever use of the Scottish question.

Alberoni promoted a raid on the north-west of Scotland and used two frigates and a few hundred men under the leadership of William Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth . However, this force was wiped out by the government army units in June of the same year in the battle in the valley of Glen Shiel after the Seaforth fortress of the MacRaes - Eilean Donan Castle - was attacked by government ships and then blown up.

The Atterbury Coup 1722/23

While plans were constantly being made in the Stuarts' exile court (Sweden 1716, Spain 1719), no attack was as promising as the plans of Francis Atterbury , Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster and other Jacobites. The very detailed attempt of the Bishop of Rochester became known as the “Atterbury Plot”, although he himself was not privy to all the details of the other conspirators. With Baron Lansdowne and Viscount Dillon, an excellent network was built with the English Tories and Irish Jacobites, respectively. With the regent of France, Duke Philip of Orleans, as military aid and large donors (Spain, Pope Clemens) at his side, as well as long lists of British loyal to James for an army, the coup was supposed to take place in the summer of 1722 after the turmoil of the South Seas and the Mississippi Bubble . Just before the Jacobites could raise their troops in all parts of Britain, Walpole struck and arrested everyone involved. Despite torture and illegal arrests, Walpole could only get the conviction of the Jacobite agent and messenger Christopher Layer , who was cruelly tortured to death (May 17, 1723). Atterbury fled into exile in continental Europe, where he remained politically active for the Stuart pretender for a few years.

The Jacobite Revolt of 1745 ("The Forty-Five")

The uprising of 1745 was not spontaneous either. It came about for two reasons: firstly because of the diplomatic situation in Western Europe and secondly because of the personality of the young Charles Edward Stuart , Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

The first son of James Francis Edward Stewart and the Polish Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska was born in Rome in 1720 and was fluent in Latin, Italian, French, English, Polish and Gaelic . Coming from France, he hoisted his standard on August 19, 1745, a few days after landing at Glenfinnan , as a sign of rebellion. With around 3,000 highlanders from various clans, he marched towards Edinburgh and was able to take the city - but not the castle - on September 17th without significant resistance. The garrison fled hastily. The government troops under Sir John Cope advancing to retake Edinburgh were defeated by Charles' Highlands on September 21 at the Battle of Prestonpans . After that there was no longer any resistance worth mentioning in Scotland; only the fortresses of Edinburgh and Stirling were held by government troops. For a good six weeks, the prince even resided in the Palace of Holyroodhouse and gave a big ball there.

But control over Scotland was not enough for him: with his highland army, which had grown to 5000 men, Charles Edward marched into England soon afterwards, where he hoped for an even greater influx of the English and Irish Jacobites. But this expectation was disappointed: the English side was more cautious. In quick action, however, the cities of Lancaster and Manchester were captured. In December he was already facing the derby , just 150 kilometers from completely unprepared London. The rapid advance of the Jacobite army caused panic at court and throughout the city. In addition to the Jacobite army, King George II was also falsely announced that 10,000 soldiers from France would land on the south coast of England.

However, it was precisely at this point in time - at least as Jacobite mythology claims - Charles made the strategically decisive mistake. Instead of moving on to London, which was completely taken by surprise, he was forced by his officers to retreat to Scotland in order to rebuild the troops there. Only now did the government recall with Wilhelm August, Duke of Cumberland , the son of King George II and Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, as well as other battle-tested troops from mainland Europe and oppose them to the Jacobites. From then on the Stuarts cause was lost. The Jacobite army defeated British troops under Lieutenant General Henry Hawley in the Battle of Falkirk on January 17, 1746 , but actually withdrew before the troops of Cumberland far north as far as Inverness .

The Battle of Culloden ( 1746 ) in a contemporary illustration
Memorial stone on the battlefield of Culloden

On April 16, 1746, this totally exhausted, starving and poorly equipped army of almost 5,000 men was defeated near Inverness in the Battle of Culloden . You faced a well-armed, disciplined and trained army of 9,000 men under the command of Cumberland. Cumberland had lost the important battle of Fontenoy eleven months earlier in the War of the Austrian Succession, which was taking place at the same time , but had gained some experience as a general there. With his armed force almost twice as strong, consisting of a regular army and additionally raised troops under better and stronger armament, he only needed 25 minutes to destroy the clan army, and he knew no mercy. In England, Cumberland was hailed as a great savior after his victory at Culloden. In Scotland he was called "butcher" from then on.

The prince escaped. On his escape he wandered all over the highlands and islands for five months. Despite and after all that the people of the highlands had suffered with and through him, and despite the incredible £ 30,000 reward that was placed on his head, they helped him during this escape. He was hidden and escaped in women's clothes with the help of Flora MacDonald , who is still celebrated as a hero in the highlands . Disguised as a maid, Betty Burke , he rowed with Flora on a highly adventurous journey across the sea to the Isle of Skye . On September 20, 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie finally managed to secretly embark and sail to France in the Moidart area , where his expedition had started a little over a year earlier. He left the people who had helped him and who believed in him - they were "taken care of" in a notoriously brutal manner by Cumberland and the government army. Charles Edward Stuart went back to the continent and wandered all over Europe for the next 15 years. Although he tried to get further support for the Jacobite cause at numerous courts, his increasing alcoholism and the firm position of Great Britain on the oceans (from 1760 at the latest) made any diplomatic initiative more difficult and also caused the number of his own supporters to decrease significantly. His conversion to the Anglican Church during a clandestine visit to London in 1750 can only be seen as a propaganda epilogue.

The British government reacted to the uprising of 1745 very decisively and with draconian measures. Troops were brought into the highlands via the network of roads and roads, which had already been expanded in the 1730s, and were posted there at strategically important points in fortresses such as the giant Fort George, which was specially built for this purpose, near Inverness.

The clan chiefs involved in the uprising and often also the clan members had to flee abroad or were executed after show trials. In the Disarming Act of 1747, the highlands were banned from carrying weapons and their traditional highland clothing. Much of the ancient Gaelic cultural heritage dried up forever. The economic and social structure in the highlands was drastically changed. What remained was the romantic memory of the last Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Myth of the Jacobites after Heinrich Benedikt († 1807)

On a theoretical level, the succession to the throne is still being contested. The dispute remains theoretical, since Elizabeth II's claim is no less valid than that of the Jacobites. So as long as the current heirs of the British crown do not become incapacitated , it remains with the House of Mountbatten-Windsor (i.e. Windsor - Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg ). Most aristocratic houses and most of the British are convinced that the House of Stuart has merged into the House of Hanover , because the House of Stuart has died out in its male line. From a political point of view, a Catholic successor would later have been unthinkable because the church problem was too important. In addition, the Catholic succession to the throne had been excluded because of the Church of England . In the list of British monarchs , the succession to the throne is brought to the present. Today's Jacobites pursue a romantic genealogy, although none of the possible pretenders have raised claims since Bonnie Prince Charlie's brother Heinrich Benedikt. Since in Great Britain the line of succession also passes to women, the Protestant line can also be understood as Jacobite.

Further, since - except for the Jacobites - only a throne is vacant and then the next candidate successor is appointed by the Parliament, the claim can be considered extinct. If there is no first-degree heir (son, daughter), parliament generally determines the succession to the throne (as happened in the Act of Settlement ), and the Jacobite line is regarded by this as extinct. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, the entire list should be given here.

The Protestant Line

Because of the still valid Act of Settlement , only the Protestant line is entitled to the throne. It has never been repealed, but was reformed with the Perth Agreement , which came into force on March 26, 2015. With him the violent religious disputes from the civil war had been settled. Therefore, Catholics are still excluded from the English throne. Nevertheless, to this day all British monarchs are in direct - female - line of Stuart, descendants of Elisabeth Stuart , the daughter of King Jacob I / VI. , called the Winter Queen, and her daughter Sophie , wife of Ernst August, Elector of Hanover .

The Catholic line

Heirs of the Stuarts according to the modern Jacobites

Officially, the Stuart house in the male line with Heinrich went out. The current heir, who could be the pretender to the throne , but does not actually make any claims, is Franz Duke of Bavaria . He is the great-grandson of Princess Maria Theresa of Modena , a descendant of the Stuarts . Unlike the successor to the boss of the Wittelsbach family , the succession to the pretender to the throne also passes to female descendants. Since Franz has no descendants, his niece Sophie , who is married to Alois , Hereditary Prince von und zu Liechtenstein, becomes the heiress of the Stuarts after his brother . So the House of Liechtenstein will replace the Wittelsbach family as heir to the Stuarts. Their son Joseph Wenzel II von und zu Liechtenstein is the first heir since James Francis Edward Stuart , who was born on the British Isles (* 1995 in London).

However, it is more than unlikely that anyone in this line of succession will ever claim the throne. The last to do so was the Jacobite pretender to the throne, Henry Benedict Stuart, in the 18th century. In fact, this claim is no longer valid, as there are only a comparatively small number of followers today. The fact that the old claims are still being pursued is more due to the desire for Scottish independence than to English royalists . The modern Jacobites can be found accordingly on the Internet as "defenders of Scotland". They reject the decision of the then Scottish Parliament to unite with England and consider the United Kingdom to be illegal. The Stuart line thus represents the basis for plans for an independent Scottish government. It is more interesting that no other lost / extinct royal family has received as much attention as the family of the Stuarts. Michael Lafosse , however, calls himself King of Scotland in his 1998 book The Forgotten Monarchy of Scotland and delivers an (adventurous, since it has been proven to be forged documents) Jacobite genealogy (which rejects the Wittelsbach line), a new constitution and much more.

Jacobite pretenders to the throne

House of Stuart

Jacobite Succession

House of Savoy

House of Habsburg-Lothringen (Austria-Este)

House Wittelsbach (Bavaria)

Future succession candidates from a Jacobite point of view

House of Liechtenstein

See also


  • Carl Amery : The King's Project . Novel. Piper, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-492-02074-7 ; dtv, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-423-01370-2 .
  • Eveline Cruickshanks, Howard Erskine-Hill: The Atterbury Plot . Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills et al. 2004, ISBN 0-333-58668-9 ( Studies in modern History ).
  • Paul Kléber Monod: Jacobitism and the English People. 1688-1788 . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1989, ISBN 0-521-33534-5 .
  • Murray GH Pittock, Jacobitism . Macmillan et al., Houndmills et al. 1998, ISBN 0-333-66797-2 ( British History in Perspective ).
  • Margaret Sankey: Jacobite Prisoners of the 1715 Rebellion. Preventing and Punishing Insurrection in Early Hanoveranian Britain . Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, Hampshire, England 2005, ISBN 0-7546-3631-3 .
  • Daniel Szechi: The Jacobites. Britain and Europe. 1688-1788 . Manchester University Press, Manchester 1994, ISBN 0-7190-3773-5 ( New Frontiers in History ).
  • Daniel Szechi: 1715. The Great Jacobite Rebellion. Yale University Press, New Haven CT et al. 2006, ISBN 0-300-11100-2 .


  • The German heavy metal band Grave Digger treated the history of Scotland, including the Jacobite uprisings , on their album Tunes of War .

Web links

Commons : Jacobites  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Jacobite-royalist websites (all in English):