The Failed French Invasion of 1708

In 1701, James Francis Edward Stuart, at the age of thirteen, inherited the Jacobite claim; seven years later, with the help of the French, he attempted to invade Scotland and rule it and England as James VIII and III.

James Francis had spent most of his life in France, his family having been given shelter by King Louis XIV from 1688 onwards. Spain, Modena and the Papal States all supported James Francis, but in London the claim continued to be ignored, and when William of Orange died in 1702, James Francis’s half-sister Anne became Queen of Scotland, England and Ireland.

louis
Louis XIV

Louis XIV was a first cousin of James Francis’s father, and he believed wholeheartedly in the divine right of kings. The fact that James VII and II’s Catholicism had led to his deposition caused Louis, himself a Catholic, to offer support and a home in France for James and his family.

After nearly ten years of James VII & II living in France, Louis offered him the Crown of Poland. James refused it, feeling that his focus should be on the countries that he felt were his by hereditary right. Then, in 1697 Louis signed the Treaty of Ryswick, formally acknowledging William of Orange as King and agreeing not to offer James any military assistance. James still had his home at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and he lived his last few years quietly, though always making it clear to his young son that he saw him as the future King of Scotland, England and Ireland.

In early 1708, James Francis, being nineteen, felt that the time had come to do something. By this point, Louis XIV was back to being actively pro-Jacobite, having acknowledged James Francis as King. After the Acts of Union in 1707, it was believed to be an opportune time to rely on the Scottish people to fight for the Jacobite cause, as many had been angry about merging with England under Queen Anne. It was also believed that there would be few trained soldiers in Scotland to resist James’s landing, as many were away fighting in continental Europe. Louis sent someone to Scotland to judge the atmosphere, and it was reported back that the people of Scotland were eager to rise up for their true King.

 

james
James Francis Edward Stuart

In February preparations were made for the journey. Six French regiments and the Irish Brigade gathered at Dunkirk. Louis XIV appointed Le Comte de Forbin Admiral of the fleet, with the instruction that, whatever happened, James Francis could not die. Almost 6,000 men filled the five warships and twenty frigates. Weapons enough for 13,000 men were taken aboard in anticipation of the large crowds that were expected to be there waiting for them.

James Francis contracted measles, so the departure was delayed until March. The journey was dangerous, as a result of the stormy weather, but de Forbin commented that James Francis faced it ‘with a courage and coolness beyond his years’. The plan had been to land close to Edinburgh, but the bad weather interfered with their navigation and they travelled too far north. A few members of the fleet were sent out in Fife, but only a small number of supporters had gathered to see James Francis.

forbin
Le Comte de Forbin

Admiral George Byng arrived with a fleet of British warships, and proceeded to chase the French northwards. James Francis had asked to get off in Fife, but de Forbin had refused. Byng turned back, believing that he had missed the other fleet, but the French, with the belief that they were still being chased, continued to go north. They travelled across the north coast, around Cape Wrath and back to Dunkirk. Several ships were lost on the rocks.

The attempt was a failure and James Francis returned to France and joined the French army. His next attempt at taking the throne would come in the form of the 1715 Uprising.

We hope you enjoyed this short glimpse into history. As always please like, share, tweet and follow.

All the best, The Culloden Team

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