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Thursday, 30 June 2016

What If: The Jacobites took power in 1745?
For several decades the Jacobites were a serious threat to the British government and in 1745 Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, could have almost achieved this. The idea of Bonnie Prince Charlie overthrowing the government has been looked at in several alternate histories on the internet but I disagree with some of the results of some of these scenarios. As always alternate history is purely speculative so no scenario is incorrect but merely a practice to look at history in a literal alternate way. However, before we begin we must ask who were the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie?

Who were the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie?
The Jacobites found their origin in the final decade of the seventeenth century. In 1688 King James VII and II of Scotland and England gave birth to a son. This turned out to be an issue for the Scottish and English Parliaments. In 1688 religion was the most important thing in the lives of everyone. You lived your entire life based on what religion you subscribed to. Denominations of the same religion were viewed with deep distrust. The Scottish Parliament was Presbyterian and the English Parliament was Anglican; the king, however, was Catholic. This was intolerable for the parliaments but they had a ray of hope. James's heir was Mary who was a devote Protestant and she was married to William of Orange, (who was Dutch), who was fighting a war against Catholic France. They hoped that when James died Protestants would succeed him. However, this changed when James had a son as they knew the son would be Catholic and start an unbroken Catholic succession. When James tried, and failed, to get Catholics more rights and with the birth of a son seven English MPs invited William of Orange to investigate the legitimacy of James's son, (they hoped the son was illegitimate). Seeing an invading Dutch force James panicked and fled from London. In England William and Mary were declared king and queen, soon after they were declared this in Scotland after a battle and, the same in Ireland after many battles between James and William. By the end of 1689 William and Mary were the monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland, (and Wales).

However, William and Mary's rule was not completely recognized. The supporters of James and his son's lines were called Jacobites. Among those who supported Jacobites were non-jurors, (Anglican clergy who found their oaths to James binding), Catholics, high churchmen, (those who favored the theology, hierarchy and worship structure of Anglicanism) and members of the Scottish Highland clans. With the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the succession of George of Hanover nationalism factored into this. On top of this in 1707 with the Act of Union between England and Scotland people, (mostly in Scotland), channeled their dissatisfaction over the union into Jacobitism. There were several Jacobite risings during the eighteenth century. The first major one was in 1715 and was led by the Earl of Mar who used Jacobitism for his own personal gain rather than actual devotion to James. Quickly the uprising was crushed and the Earl of Mar fled to France where James was. There would be other risings but not one on the scale of the 1715 Uprising until 1745 when the grandson of James, Charles Edward Stuart, started one. Backed by the French, (who were at war with Britain at the time), he landed in Scotland and gained support of several Highland clans (both Protestant and Catholic), before marching south. Several major cities including Edinburgh, Carlisle, Manchester and Derby surrendered with little force. After reaching Derbyshire he returned to Scotland due to a lack of English and French support. Despite a victory at the Battle of Falkirk the Jacobites were defeated on April 16 1746 at the Battle of Culloden. Following the 'Forty-Five' Uprising there were no other Jacobite risings and Jacobitism permanently ended in 1807 when the last Jacobite claimant died. Bonnie Prince Charlie had no heir so his brother Henry took up the mantle. Henry had no heir so when he died so did Jacobitism. How could Bonnie Prince Charlie take power if he lost?

Charlies becomes king
In our timeline Bonnie Prince Charlie had little chance of succeeding. Jacobite support in England was located in the north so as Charlies marched south the less support he had. However, originally the Forty-Five was to include a French invasion which never happened. In this scenario French forces land in Kent and Cornwall as the Jacobites reach Derby. The Jacobite rising had not been taken seriously by the Westminster government until they crossed the Scottish/English border and, even then most of the army was abroad fighting the French. A French invasion in the east and west and, the Jacobites from the north would leave the British army virtually surrounded. Most of the fighting at this stage would be done by the French; by the time the Jacobites reached Derby many of the Gaelic Highlander clans had returned north for the harvests. Eventually by the April of 1746 the British army would have collapsed. King George II would flee to his native Hanover and, the many Protestant MPs would flee with George or would go to the Dutch Republic or the American colonies. The only remaining MPs and members of the House of Lords would either be Jacobites or people willing to compromise with them. Following the ascension of William and Mary Catholics were barred from sitting on the British throne. Charles would have this repealed. Charles's father, James the son of James II and VII, would be invited to Britain where he would be crowned James III. When James II and VII was overthrown Mary and William were accepted by non-jurors as it was seen that James had renegaded on his commitment to be king. With George fleeing to Hanover this again would be applied. Thus in an alternate 1746 the Stuarts regain the throne.

James III's reign
One of the most common things that I have seen in regards to the Jacobites winning the Forty-Five is that the Act of Union would be repealed making Scotland an independent nation. I strongly disagree with this idea. If it was the 1715 Uprising then yes; the Earl of Mar got much support by exploiting dissatisfaction over the Act of Union. In the Forty-Five the Gaelic clans joined in because they hoped that a Jacobite regime would restore their old authority. An independent Scotland and England proved to be a serious thorn in the side of every Stuart monarch, with Charles I it even caused his downfall and execution, which James and Charles would not want to repeat. In fact this can be seen in what Bonnie Prince Charlie's brother was styled as. The crowning of monarchs in Britain goes by the English way, (showing the Act of Union was and is not a union of equals), and Charles's brother carried this on calling himself Henry IX. If the Jacobites really wished to have an independent Scotland he would have styled himself Henry I and IX. The association of Jacobitism and Scottish nationalism, (including calling Charles the Bonnie Prince), developed years later. As a result the reign of James III, (not III and VIII), would not see the repeal of the Act of Union.

British society and politics would be drastically different under a Jacobite victory. Catholicism would return as the state religion and become officially tolerated. However, Protestantism wouldn't be virulently persecuted at this early stage. The Jacobite hold over the country would be tenuous and as Catholicism was only dominant in the Scottish Highlands and Ireland any persecution of Protestantism would cause mass uprisings. Smaller Protestant denominations like Quakers and Baptists would be persecuted but this would not receive much criticism amongst most of society. It took until 1828 for government officials to not need to take communion with the Anglican church to sit on office. Only in Ireland would Protestantism be widely persecuted and even then only Presbyterianism would be. The various acts in both Ireland and Britain which forbade Catholics from owning property, inheriting land, owning land, sitting in Parliament and other things would be repealed. During the reign of James the rights of Presbyterians in Scotland and Anglicans in England would be slowly diminished. Parliament would be radically changed. Another thing which was the constant bane of the Stuart monarchs was the Parliament. As the Jacobites took power via force Parliament's power would be diminished. Instead of a regular legislative body it would become more of an irregular advisory one with some legislative power. James could not remove Parliament altogether but he would have it severely weakened. During the eighteenth century extra-parliamentary politics was born in Britain with various societies such as the London Corresponding Society which campaigned for parliamentary reform. Particularly Whig politicians would lead a very vocal underground quest for reform.

James's rule would not be stable. Only in Ireland would his rule be secure. In Scotland the Highland clans would have their power increased which would mean that central government would not govern the Highlands. In our timeline several Scottish regiments, including the Black Watch, were created by the central government to break the last ties of the clans. In this timeline they would not exist. In England, Wales and the Scottish Lowlands James would have to face risings from Protestants, low churchmen and Whigs. Parliamentary reform groups would be far more popular in this timeline thanks to James reducing it's power. The Americas would be in open rebellion. Thanks to the Seven Years' War, (the French-Indian War), and the annexation of Catholic Quebec did anti-Catholicism reduce somewhat in the British American colonies. With so many fleeing Jacobites and residing in the colonies then they would not want to answer to the new king. Although Britain would back out of the Austrian War of Succession a rebellious state would emerge in America. A weakened army could not fight this state so there would be little fighting. However, this America would be different to our USA. It would be far less of a secular society with Catholics being widely persecuted and it would have a government similar to Britain. Instead of a joint Head of State and Government it would have a president and prime minister and, instead of a Congress there would be a House of Commons and a Senate.

Long Term
An aged Bonnie Prince Charlie:
We may not be able to tell the history of the world up until today in this scenario but we can make guesses until the mid-nineteenth century. Today the Jacobites are associated with Scottish nationalism. Sir Walter Scott, the author of Waverly detailing the Forty-Five, would not turn Charles Stuart into the icon he is today. Scottish nationalism dissipated thanks to Scotland's industrial prosperity in the nineteenth century in conjunction with the growth of the British empire. With the loss of the Americas so early on the British empire would be weaker in this timeline than in ours. Britain would have to work harder to build an empire. Industrial growth also prospers when the monarchy takes a backseat. Merchants and mill owners got Britain industrialized quickly as the monarchy had less control over production as it did France. A revival of monarchical power could impede the growth of industry in northern England and Scotland. In accompaniment with the growth of extra-parliamentary politics we could see a more virulent Scottish nationalism in this timeline.

However, when our Bonnie Prince becomes Charles III parliament's power would grow. Following the collapse of Jacobitism with the defeat of the Forty-Five Charles often resorted to having affairs and drinking. Possibly with his goals achieved his purpose, until the death of James, would be over and he would succumb to his vices. By the time of James's death, 1766 in our timeline, these vices may be overwhelming for him. As a result, like with George IV, the British Parliament would have to take over more and more legislative authority. By the time of Charles's death Parliament would have managed to take back some of it's old power. However, there would be, almost, no more wars with France. As France put them in power the Jacobites would rely on France to keep that power. A series of treaties would solidify British/French relations with the possibility of there being royal marriages. Maybe with the British/French alliance Louis XVI could marry a Jacobite daughter instead of Marie Antoinette... 

I hope you enjoyed this and thanks for reading. The sources I have used are:
-The Stuart Age England, 1603-1714. Fourth Edition by Barry Coward
-The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746 by Bruce Lenman
-The Long Eighteenth Century: British Political and Social History, 1689-1832 by Frank O'Gorman

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