For those of us still engrossed in the television series Outlander the sub-plot of the plans of some Scottish clans to support the return of the Catholic Stuarts to the throne of England and Scotland can be confusing.
The push for rebellion was highlighted in Outlander by the collection of secret donations to the cause, made after the brutality of the British was displayed on the lash-scarred back of highland hero Jamie Fraser.
Believing the British throne to be his birthright, Charles Edward Stuart, aka “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, planned to invade Great Britain along with his Jacobite followers and remove the Hanoverian “usurper” George II.
Charles’ grandfather, the Roman Catholic convert James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland, had lost the throne in 1688–90 to his Dutch nephew and son-in-law William of Orange (who reigned as William III).
This “Glorious Revolution” had confirmed a Protestant succession, in a predominantly Protestant Great Britain, which, from 1714, was embodied in the Hanoverian dynasty.
But instead of heralding the king change the rising wanted, the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was a turning point in British history and led to the brutal repression of the clans after the Jacobites were soundly beaten at the the Battle of Culloden (Remember Claire Randall, with hindsight, warning of the defeat).
The wearing of Highland garb, particularly tartan plaid, was banned, and the semi-feudal bond of military service, coupled with the power of the chiefs over their clans, removed.
Charles, meanwhile, had left the field at Culloden, believing his swift return to France would hurry the long-promised French troops he needed to resurrect the campaign.
Others, however, believed he had abandoned his troops to their terrible fate and even abandoned the Stuart cause in order to save his own skin. In the event, Charles spent five months as a fugitive in the western Highlands and islands. He eventually escaped to France and died in Rome in 1788 by all accounts a drink-befuddled and bitter man.
The term Jacobite comes from the Latin for James (ie James VII and II) “Jacobus”, and is not to be confused with “Jacobean”, which refers to James Stuart’s rule in England as James I. Nor is “Jacobite” to be mistaken for “Jacobin”, the radical political group formed during the French Revolution.