Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 6: The Stuart Cause

The events that led up to the 1745 disaster at Culloden had been triggered in 1688. The inevitable invasion against the rule of James took place, led by Charles's illegitimate (and Protestant) son, James, Duke of Monmouth. He proclaimed himself king at Taunton, but was defeated in the crucial battle of Sedgemoor. His chief Scottish supporter, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, was executed for his part in the rebellion. King James, however, continued to make himself unpopular; in particular, his support for Catholic initiatives challenged existing privileges and property rights; it especially challenged that strong coalition that had built up between the Crown and the Anglican establishment. Charles II had done his best to keep this alliance alive; it had ensured that his last years were peaceful ones.

James, on the other hand, was too anxious to incite change and he did not take into account the anti-Catholic sentiments of much of the British nation. Constant wars with continental powers, (i.e. Catholic) had built a strong, nationalistic British (and Protestant) state. James's plans for equal civil and religious rights for Catholics were out of the question; his efforts to win widespread support for his policies were totally unsuccessful.

On the continent, the Protestant ruler, the Dutch King William III of Orange was engaged in a duel with the French King Louis XIV for military success and diplomatic influence in Western Europe. Charles of England had fought against the Dutch in a series of skirmishes for commercial hegemony, but a rapprochement followed the marriage of William and his first cousin Mary, James's eldest daughter in 1677. William made his decision to intervene in England in early 1688, hoping to be seen as a liberator, not as a conqueror. However, his first invasion attempt in mid-October was easily defeated, mainly because of the English weather, which destroyed most of his supplies.

Yet, it was precisely this weather and the strong northeasterly wind that prevented the British fleet from intercepting the Dutch armies of William landing at Brixham on 5 November. King James, despite having numerical strength in soldiers was forced on the defensive. His weak resolve, poor judgment and ill health caused him to retreat to London, instead of attacking William's vulnerable army.

In the meantime, a series of provincial uprisings did nothing to bolster the morale of James's forces. Derby, Nottingham, York, Hull and Durham declared for William whose army marched towards London. Showing a complete failure of nerve, James fled to France in mid-December; his forces, twice the size of those of William, rapidly disintegrated. William and Mary, in a joint monarchy, became rulers of Britain. James II and his baby son were debarred from the succession, as were all Catholics. The events of 1688-9 were far from conclusive; they were simply the first stages in the War of the British Succession, a conflict that was soon to heavily involve Scotland.

It was quickly apparent that William's success in England did nothing to ensure the compliance of Ireland and Scotland. The cause of the exiled Stuarts became known as Jacobitism, from the Latin for James, Jacobus. During the years 1689-91, James and his supporters controlled part of Britain including most of Ireland. In a series of strategically sound campaigns, William succeeded in having the Jacobites driven from Ireland and Scotland, thus forcing them to become reliant on foreign support. The campaigns against his rule in Ireland began a period of close cooperation with France, both militarily and politically that continued right up the '45 rebellion.

In 1689, the first battle was fought against the new King William in Scotland. At Killiecrankie, a pass that controlled a vital route through the Highlands, the forces of the most active of James's supporters, Viscount Dundee, defeated a much larger Royal Army led by General Mackay. Sadly, "Bonnie Dundee" was killed in the battle, but the Highlanders' success led the hesitant clans to flock to James's standard. This success that gave them false hopes; without Dundee in command, they failed to exploit the victory at Killiecrankie. A consequent series of losing skirmishes including Dunkeld, which was facilitated by offers of indemnity and healthy bribes, resulted in most of the Highland chiefs swearing allegiance to William in late 1691. Those who did not submit included the MacDonalds, whose fate at the hands of the dastardly Campbells at Glencoe led to a deep and abiding resentment of the Sassennach, the Saxon and his treacherous Lowland companions.

The decisive battles involving the Jacobite cause were not fought in Scotland, but in Ireland which was more accessible to French naval power, and thus troops and supplies. In March 1689, James II left France for Ireland in an attempt to regain his throne. His armies soon won most of the country, but a prolonged resistance was put up by the people of Derry, who were eventually relieved by an English fleet in July 1689, a day still celebrated with much pomp and pageantry in Northern Ireland. In August, mainly as a consequence of the resistance of Derry, William's army, mostly Danish and Dutch mercenaries, occupied Belfast.

In June 1690 William marched on Dublin. His way was blocked by the Jacobite forces on the banks of the River Boyne which became the site of the battle so vividly remembered and celebrated by Ulster's Protestant majority today. James's outnumbered forces were cast aside; once more showing a failure of nerve, in time-honored fashion for a Scottish ruler, he fled to France, and William easily took Dublin. At Limerick, what was left of the Jacobite cause suffered another catastrophic defeat; all their forces in Ireland surrendered, with about 11,000 Irishmen, the so-called Wild Geese, going over to continue the fight for James in France.

James had not given up hope of regaining his kingdom, however. He still enjoyed the strong support of Louis XIV, and in June 1690, his hopes were raised when a large French force defeated an Anglo-Dutch fleet. As so often in the past, however, the Jacobite victory was not followed up. French control of the Channel was not exploited and the initiative was soon lost. When Louis finally decided to invade England in May 1692, it was too late; his fleet was sent packing.

In 1697, Louis, having had enough for the time being, made peace with William at Rijswijk. However, the period of peace between France and England, ended when Louis recognized the prince born in 1688 as the future King James III. Prospects for the Jacobites, however, were not helped by the War of the Spanish Succession which tied up Catholic forces in the Netherlands and forced France to withdraw to its own borders. In the meantime, the Union of England and Scotland took place in 1707.

Chapter 7: The Union of 1707