Saturday, June 10, 2017

The History of the Jacobites

The English Monarchy is more complex than one might imagine. Most Englishman themselves probably don’t know just how intricate the centuries of marriages, claimants, intrigue, assassinations, bastards, and laws have affected the line of English monarchs. They probably don’t even realize the current ruling family is illegitimate. Well, illegitimate to some.

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

Charles II was heirless, as he had no living non-bastard children to succeed him on the throne. His heir was by default his younger brother, James. During the reign of Charles II, the Anglican Protestant majority of England was extremely anti-Roman Catholic. The sentiment was so hostile towards followers of the True faith that a false convert and habitual liar named Titus Oates fabricated an anti-Catholic rumor that came to be known as the Popish Plot. In this lengthy manuscript, Oates alleged that the Roman Catholic clergy in Great Britain of plotting the murder of Charles II. A Catholic sympathizer himself (and eventual convert), Charles II dismissed the rumor but allowed Oates to approach one of his ministers with it. This minister, named Thomas Osborne, was more than eager to listen to Oates’ allegations. Eventually, the two of them managed to have at least 22 British Roman Catholic killed for alleged participation in the plot to assassinate Charles II. This plot helped to fuel the anti-Catholic fire that had been brewing in England since the Reformation had begun.

Titus "The Liar" Oates

When it was discovered that Charles’ heir, James, was a Roman Catholic convert himself, the people were furious, particularly Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury found his position strengthened by the proposition of the “Exclusion Bill”, which was drafted specifically to block James from the line of succession. Some of the anti-Catholics went so far as to sponsor Charles II’s illegitimate Protestant son for the throne. There were many who stuck up for James and his rightful claim. They were known as the “Tories” or “the Abhorrers” in reference to their abhorrence of the Exclusion Bill. The anti-Catholics came to be known as “Whigs” or “the Petitioners” in reference to their support for the Bill. King Charles II, with his personal pro-Catholic sentiment and desire for his younger brother to succeed him, dissolved parliament repeatedly in an attempt to make the bill unpopular, which eventually worked. The Earl of Shaftesbury was tried for treason and fled to the Netherlands, where he would later die.

The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury

Not long after preventing the Exclusion Bill, King Charles II fell ill and died the same day he was received into the Catholic Church himself. His younger Catholic brother James was successfully crowned King James the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, as per the Late King Charles II’s wishes. During the first months of King James II’s reign over the Isles, there was little opposition to him, and he ruled with moderate popularity. He was granted a sizable income by parliament, and he was known for working much harder at his kingship than many of his predecessors. He was noted, however, for his refusal to compromise with his advisors.

King James II of England

After the first few months of relative stability and popularity, the rightful King James II faced not one, but two pretender rebellions at once. One was led by his nephew the Duke of Monmouth, in southern England, and the other by the Earl of Argyll in Scotland. Both had initially prepared their revolts in the Netherlands, where the Stadtholder had conveniently neglected to stop them from building up their forces as per King James’ request. Argyll’s revolt was quickly suppressed and he was captured and executed in Edinburgh

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

This is the beginning of the Jacobite cause. With King Louis’ assistance, King James sailed to Ireland, which was still loyal to the One, True Faith. The Irish parliament went against the Scottish and English parliaments and declared that James II was still king and that all British who had supported his removal must be punished for their disloyalty. The Irish even went so far as to write a list of every single nobleman who plotted against King James and demand they come to Ireland to receive their just punishment for their betrayal. James II then proclaimed religious freedom for both Protestants and Catholics of Ireland in order to regain favor with the other two kingdoms. King James II then began building an army but was still unprepared when his son-in-law came across the Irish sea to expel him. The rightful king was defeated yet again at the Battle of the Boyne, and was forced to flee once again back to Paris, never again to return.

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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Excuse me, but did you know that there are living descendents of King Charles III in Poland? We should support their claim.

  3. I was not aware. That does sound like something we should support, though.