Monday, March 11, 2013

Spotlight on: The Jacobite Rebellions

The traditional image of Jacobite Highlanders
Dear Reader,

During the midst of the Kabinettskriege period, Great Britain's ruling family, the House of Stuart, lost power during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. A protestant ruler, William of Orange, crossed the channel and ousted the Stuart king, James II of England. The Stuart family was Catholic, and this caused major unrest and support for William of Orange.  For more info on this event, and a timeline of the entire Kabinettskriege period, click here. The Stuarts, unwilling to let this stand, attempted to retake the throne in a series of conflicts, known as the Jacobite rebellions. These rebellions began in 1689, and were finally crushed in 1745.

The Stuarts turned to the traditional, Catholic highland clans of Scotland in an effort to retake the throne. The  rebellion became known as the Jacobite rebellions, after the Latin name of King James II: Jacobus. The majority of these rebellions never really got of the ground. The Jacobites would raise the standard of rebellion, and fight one or two battles, but would eventually melt away after the first serious defeat.

The Jacobite Soldier
The image of the Scottish Highland clansman is inseparable from the Jacobite rebellions. For many years historians believed that the Highlanders attacked with sword in hand during the battles of the Jacobite rebellion. This image has been immortalized in hundreds of paintings. These paintings show the robust, hardy Highlanders dashing at the enemy, clutching a basket-hilted sword and Targe (a small shield). However, recent studies and battlefield archaeology show that this romantic image of the Jacobite soldier does not accurately represent history.

The updated view of highland soldiers from Stuart Reid's book, Like Hungry Wolves 
The soldiers of the Stuart armies during the later Jacobite rebellions probably looked much more like this second image than the picture at the top of the post. Battlefield archaeology at Culloden Moor (a prominent battle during this period) shows that many more of the highlanders had muskets than we previously believed. Their tactics slightly resembled those of the Swedish Karoliner. The Highlanders would charge forward, stop to deliver a musket volley at close range, and then attack with bladed weaponry. These types of attacks had a way of unnerving the Jacobites opponents, who usually fled in the face a such an attack.

The End of the Jacobite Rebellions

Unfortunately for the Stuarts, support for the Jacobite cause usually evaporated after the first major defeat. The best examples of this are the Battle of Glen Sheil during the 1719 rebellion, and the final defeat of the Highland cause at Culloden Moor in 1746. While the Scottish Highlands provided the Stuarts with excellent soldiers, the lack of staying power in the face of defeat led to the collapse of the Scottish Jacobite cause, and ended serious hopes of Stuart restoration. After the defeat at Culloden Moor in 1746, the English government eradicated the Highland way of life, by disarming the population of the Highlands, and forbidding traditional Scottish clothing. By the end of the Kabinettskriege period, the Jacobite cause had faded.

For further reading on the Jacobites, check out the works of Christopher Duffy and Stuart Reid.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

No comments:

Post a Comment