Enter the Jacobites. You may have heard them mentioned in your European history classes before, perhaps heard about the multiple uprisings they started. They weren’t just ordinary rebels, however. They didn’t want lowered taxes or more freedom for the peasantry or anything like that. No, the Jacobites fought for much more than that. To truly understand the Jacobite cause and its roots, allow me to take you back to the end of the reign of Charles II.
Charles II of England
Titus "The Liar" Oates
The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
King James II of England
Monmouth’s revolt had been in tandem with Argyll’s, however, Monmouth’s was far more threatening to King James II’s claim to the throne. Due to his unpreparedness, overconfidence, and the quick defeat of his ally, he was defeated by James’ standing army and executed at the tower of London. While Monmouth’s revolt had been easily suppressed, the manner in which it had been done made the British people more suspicious of King James II and the Stadtholder of The Dutch Republic began to distance himself from the English despite his marriage to James II’s daughter.
These Revolts made King James increasingly nervous about his personal safety and as a result he had the size of the British army increased, and significantly enlarged his personal standing army. This enraged the Protestants, as they saw it unreasonable to keep an army during peacetime, despite the obvious threats to King James’s life. Protestants became even more furious when King James assigned fellow Roman Catholics to command his personal standing army, This began the eventual resentment of parliament towards King James that would culminate in the so-called “Glorious Revolution”.
In late 1685, James disbanded parliament for the last time during his reign; he refused to allow them to meet again. They had attempted to discriminate against the Catholics he had employed too many times. While going through his Elder Brother Charles II’s writings, he discovered a detailed refutation of the Protestant heresy written by him. He quickly had the writings published and challenged the English Clergy to dismiss Charles II’s claims, stating himself: "Let me have a solid answer, and in a gentlemanlike style; and it may have the effect which you so much desire of bringing me over to your church." Despite this offer of debate by King James, the Archbishops of the Anglican Church collectively refused, saying that it would be rude to the late King to refute his writings. However, it is far more likely that they were simply unable.
James II continued to increase liberties for British Catholics and curb privileges for the Protestants. He attempted to repeal the Test Act and penal laws against Catholics in all three British Kingdoms. One of his goals as King was to grant the same civil liberties to the Catholic Church that were afforded to the Anglican Communion. King James II granted Catholics some of the highest offices in the kingdom, allowed the Apostolic Nuncio to return to England, and granted his confessor, Edward Petre, particular influence in the court. The Protestant Anglican nobles believed this to be a threat that could potentially remove them from their positions of power and return the Catholic Church to the British Isles, something they refused to let happen. Slowly but surely, one by one, King James’ former Anglican allies and friends unjustly turned against him to dismount the Catholic Church from its rightful place in Britain.
The straw that finally broke the camel’s back came twofold. The first was when King James issued a second Declaration of Indulgence to be read by the Anglican clergy. Although many rightfully accepted, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury along with seven others, protested the King’s decree and demanded he reconsider. For this offense, they were arrested and tried by the English court for seditious libel. The second, which began the “Glorious Revolution” was the birth of King James’ new Catholic son and heir, James Francis Edward. William, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, was married to King James’ Protestant daughter Mary, and outrageously claimed that Mary was the legitimate heir. The Anglican Nobles petitioned the Prince of Orange to invade due to their burning hatred for the Catholic Church, and invade the Prince did. King James was captured in Kent by his demonic son-in-law and was nearly executed. However, Prince William knew that killing his father-in-law would not only make him look terrible to the other lords of Europe, but would also make King James into a Catholic Martyr for the English, so he reluctantly allowed him to flee with his wife and son. King James II fled the land of his birth, the land which he had dedicated himself to fixing, the land which he had worked so hard to turn back to God. James was received warmly into Paris, under the protection of his close friend, King Louis XIV.
"Queen" Mary II of England
King James’ successors would try again on multiple occasions to take back their God-given birthright, but none would succeed. The Jacobite mandate would pass from James II to his son, James III, then to “Bonnie Prince” Charles, to the final Stuart Jacobite claimant, Henry Cardinal Stuart. After 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. Thus, the Jacobite claim has remained active, but untouched. It still remains with the House of Wittelsbach, but they seem to have no interest in pursuing it. Nonetheless, the Jacobite’s have stood as a symbol of English Catholicism, Divine Right, Absolutism, and Monarchism, and it continues to inspire us to this day.