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Useful Notes / Hanover-Stuart Wars

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"Bonniey Charlie's noo awa
Safely oer the friendly main;
Mony a heart will break in twa,
Should he no come back again.
Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better loed ye canna be;
Will ye no come back again?"

A sequel or continuation of the English Civil War that more or less decided the form of the British government. Following the birth of a son to the Catholic King James II and VII note , there was a coup (known to some as the Glorious Revolution partly because of its surprisingly easy success). James II was expelled for fear of presumed contact with Catholic powers (the Wars of Religion were dying down but their aftertaste remained) and was tentatively replaced by his Protestant daughter Mary II (who ruled jointly with her husband, William III) and then his other daughter Anne, but each in turn died without surviving issue note .

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Parliament thereupon brought the ruler of the somewhat obscure German principality of Hanover note  to sit on the throne, as although they were only distantly related to the reigning dynasty (the first Hanoverian to become British monarch was the great-grandson of King James I and VI on his mother's mother's side, making him the first cousin once removed of James II and second cousin to Mary II and Anne) they were the closest relations who were Protestants (by this point, the fact that the Hanover rulers were Lutherans while Britain was Anglican and Presbyterian mattered less than the monarch not being Catholic).

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In response a conspiracy formed to restore the Stuarts. Supporters of the Stuarts were called Jacobites, after "Jacobus," the Latin form of "James" (as in James II). The Jacobites — led by James II's son James Francis Edward Stuart (a.k.a. the Old Pretender, or "King James III" as far as his supporters were concerned) and later his son Charles Edward Stuart (a.k.a. the Young Pretender) made several attempts to organize revolts in their name, and appealed to continental monarchs — especially France — for aid. The two principal uprisings, known as the two Jacobite Rebellions, occurred in 1715 and 1745.

The latter, often referred to as "The '45", was the biggest. Charles Edward Stuart landed in Scotland and attracted the support of many Highland clans. After capturing Edinburgh (the city but not the castle) and defeating the government forces at the battle of Prestonpans, he moved south into England, out-manoeuvring a government army sent north to stop him. He got as far south as Derby (120 miles north of London) but, having attracted little support among the English, he retreated back to Scotland. Pursued by government forces commanded by the Duke of Cumberland (George II's son), he was decisively defeated at the battle of Culloden. Charles's subsequent flight across Scotland and his successful escape back to France played a key role in establishing the legend of "Bonnie Prince Charlie", a romantic figure of heroic failure.

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During the second half of the eighteenth century, the Stuart cause withered away, its noble supporters disinterested and its common supporters alienated and beaten. Eventually, Henry Benedict Stuart — Charles Edward's younger brother — received an annuity from George III note . Although Henry, who was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic church, never formally asserted his claim to the British throne after his brother's death, he never renounced it either, and he was opposed to the Vatican's 1792 decision to formally recognise George III as King of Great Britain and Ireland (the Papacy having previously just recognised him as the Elector of Hanover) note .

Although the conflict had nominally originated in a dispute over the nature of the British constitution (specifically the Right of Succession, the Jacobites holding it to be a royal birthright, the Hanoverians a liberty of Parliament), it also drew in various cultural, ethnic and religious conflicts. In particular, the Hanoverians were supported by the largely Protestant English, Lowland Scots and Ulster Scots, while the Jacobites were supported by the largely Roman Catholic Irish and Highland Scots. Or, to put it cynically, the Irish and some Scots were fighting the English and some other Scots to decide whether a Frenchman note  or a German would sit on the British throne.

Although it is generally accepted that the Hanoverians were the preferable candidates, having greater respect for Parliamentary authority, a good deal of Jacobite romanticism still exists, particularly in Scotland; although in Ireland it was largely superseded by republican sentiments, it entered the Scottish nationalist mythology, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite Highlanders becoming iconic images of the Scottish nationalist movement. To this day, there exists a small number of Britons who express support for the Jacobite cause, although the current claimant, Duke Franz of Bavaria - "Francis II", in the Jacobite reckoning - has formally declined to pursue the claim.


Depictions in fiction:

  • This series of wars has been dealt with in fiction by several authors, most notably Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
    • Scott's Waverley — which some reckon to be the first historical novel — is about the adventures of Edward Waverley, a young Englishman who travels to Scotland and during the '45 (initially as an officer of the British Army) and falls in with a group of Jacobite rebels. Another of his novels, Redgauntlet, is about a fictional third Jacobite Rebellion.
    • Stevenson's Kidnapped is about an Odd Friendship between David Balfour (a Lowland boy of Hanoverian persuasion) and Alan Breck Stewart (a real-life Jacobite Highland warrior) several years after the '45. Another of his novels, The Master of Ballantrae, is about two brothers, James and Henry Durie, who agree to support different sides in the '45 to ensure that the family estate will be safe regardless of who wins — a decision with long-reaching consequences.
  • John Buchan's novel Midwinter has a Jacobite officer on a mission in the English Midlands during the '45 who is befriended by Samuel Johnson (Boswell's Life of Johnson has very little to say on what he was doing during the period 1745-46; Buchan used this as a framing device for his novel). An elderly Bonnie Prince Charlie appears in Buchan's short story "The Company of the Marjolaine".
  • This is an important part of the backstory in Katherine Kurtz's Two Crowns For America (set during The American Revolution). Several characters are stated to have fought in these wars, and there is a conspiracy to invite the current Jacobite heir to take the crown of the new American country.
  • Mentioned (well, the Jacobite remnants at least) in British statesman Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son: The Earl writes that his son may meet if not the Pretender himself, then at least his followers when he's in Rome.
  • In A Jacobite Trilogy by Dorothy Kathleen Broster, dashing Jacobite hero Ewen Cameron leaves his homeland follow the Bonnie Prince Charlie into war.
  • Culloden: The most harrowing example of how it all ended.
  • Outlander (and the TV series based on it) which involves the last Jacobite Rising of 1745.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire features many references to this conflict. The Blackfyre Rebellion, which didn't exactly come from Parliamentary reform, follows the structure of the Jacobite conflict, with the defeated becoming exiles and mercenaries on another continent, periodically conducting many failed rebellions, with their homegrown supporters and sympathizers fiercely persecuted by the government. The Glencoe Massacre is also frequently cited as one of several inspirations for the infamous "Red Wedding", which takes place in the third book of the series.
  • In the Highlander tv series, the Immortal main character Duncan MacLeod fought in these wars in several eras. Flashbacks from various seasons show Duncan's evolution from being totally devoted to the attempt to put Charlie on the throne, his one man Roaring Rampage of Revenge after Culloden, (including using his powers as an Immortal to repeatedly hunt down and brutally murder both English leaders and common soldiers who defeated and then oppressed the Scots) and finally his growing disillusionment with both the conflict and Charlie as time went by. This ultimately culminated in him leaving the conflict behind forever, regretful about some the cruel extremes he went to. (And having earned some Immortal enemies from both sides of the conflict along the way.)

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