The Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745-46

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  • Topic: Jacobitism, Jacobite Rising, Charles Edward Stuart
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  • Published : January 15, 2013
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It could be said that the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745-46 were the two most serious threats to the Hanovarian Crown. Although there were numerous smaller attempts to restore the Stewarts to the throne, the 1715 and 1745-46 remain the closest to succeeding. This essay will examine the several factors pertaining to the failures of these risings. According to Lenman the 1715 rising is one that was - “the result of a private decision taken by one man because of his personal circumstances. The man was John Erskine Earl of Mar, and the circumstances were simply the complete collapse of his political career.” (Lenman, 1980, p.126)

Mar had originally been in favour of the Union of 1707 which had been the catalyst for the abortive invasion and was also far from popular within the Jacobite community. Moreover, Mar had also been appointed secretary of state in 1714 with a special responsibility for Scotland. However - “Mar’s reputation had in fact been destroyed in the eyes of George I by Whig slanders about his secret Jacobite sympathies. With characteristic rudeness George I literally turned his back on the erstwhile Secretary of State when he appeared at Court and thereby turned a depressed man into a desperate one.” (Lenman, 1980, p.126)

Lenman then further discusses Mar’s fateful strategy - “What Mar then did is highly revealing. He did not set about consulting with the Pretender. Mar did not even have commission from the Pretender when he raised the Jacobite standard and was reduced to using what some historians with a tact worthy of a public relation officer, have called ‘anticipatory draft’. Mar’s rebellion was really on behalf of the man Mar cared for most in this world – himself.” (Lenman, 1980, pp.126-127)

Mar was able to gather approximately 10,000 foot and horse to fight against only 4,000 in the government army. In particular, Devine suggests that - “from a Jacobite perspective, the prospect for the rising of 1715 was bright indeed. But when Mar, who as a general possessed a fatal combination of caution, timidity and ambiguity, failed to defeat the numerically inferior forces of the Crown in the inconclusive battle of Sherrifmuir in November 1715, the Jacobites completely lost the initiative. The failure of the rebellion was a crushing blow to their morale. Opportunities were there, but had literally been thrown away by inept leadership. Mars indecisiveness cost the Staurts dear and soon squandered the Jacobite military superiority. His delay in marching south from the movement’s strongholds in the southern Highlands was crucial: ‘Mar waited and waited: he waited for French help, he waited for the Duke of Berwick, he waited for the King, he waited for yet more recruits to make his position impregnable.” (Devine, 2012, pp.37-38)

Nevertheless - “Berwick (a naturalised Frenchman), had, however, been refused permission to join the rebellion by Louis XIV, and refused to gamble everything he had on such a risky venture.” (Szechi, 1994, p.77) Consequently, Szechi conveys the battle at Sherrifmuir to be the - “death-knell of the rebellion. The Old Pretender’s arrival in Scotland on 22 December might have railed the dispirited Jacobite army, had he been accompanied by Berwick or possessed more military talent himself, but it was not mean to be.” (Szechi, 1994, p.78)

The same lack of leadership skills can be said for the 1745 rebellion led by the young pretender, or better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Devine describes the battle of Culloden in 1746 as - “a total victory for the Hanovarian forces. Virtually every factor was against Charles’s army on the fateful day. As commander-in-chief he had chosen a field of battle which gave a huge tactical advantage to his opponent. Culloden Moor is open, flat and exposed, almost designed by nature for the effective deployment of artillery firing case.” (Devine, 2012, p.44)

Not only was this a disadvantage, but - “the Jacobites had also engaged in...
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