The history of Jacobitism is long and complex and is debated over in many different ways. Today we thought we’d take a little look into how the Jacobites have been romanticised over the years since Culloden.
One of the most obvious examples of this is ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. In his lifetime he was Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the man who attempted to lead the Jacobites to victory against the British Government and reclaim the throne for his father. Following his defeat however, he became an alcoholic and a wife beater but many do not know of this side of him, they only know the ‘Bonnie Prince’ which did not come about until after the end of the ’45.
So how did he become such a ‘hero’? The Jacobites capture peoples attention for many reasons. They could be portrayed as the underdogs fighting for what they believed in. Their defeat in 1746 led to the pacification of the Highlands and the destruction of a way of life. It is not hard to see how the main characters can form a good vs evil with Bonnie Prince Charlie and ‘The Butcher’ Cumberland.
In the Victorian era we saw the publication of ‘Waverley’ by Sir Walter Scott. This book helped popularise a relatively new notion of the romance of the Jacobites in the age of Scottish Enlightenment. After this we then have King George IV visiting Scotland, the first visit by a reigning monarch in nearly two centuries. His visit was orchestrated in part by Sir Walter Scott who used the occasion to bring old traditions back to life. Clan chieftains were celebrated, tartan worn proudly and Scotland was swept up in a new wave of popularity.
It is in the Victorian age where we see clan tartans born. In Jacobite times there were no specific clan tartans, patterns were often regional based on available materials. But in the 1800’s each clan could have their own design and wear it with pride. So in Victorian times as the Scottish Highlands become more accessible and the idea of clans and tartans become popular it is not too hard to see how the Jacobites become another symbol of Scotland and are morphed into characters that might not quite match the reality.
The Jacobites have become to some an image of a brave and loyal Scottish warrior even though the truth can be much more bitter. Firstly, Jacobites were not all Scottish, there were men from England, Wales, France and more supporting the Jacobite cause. Not only that but many men did not choose to be a Jacobite. Men were forced out of their homes to fight and if they refused they would have faced terrible penalties. Secondly, whilst they could certainly be classed as brave they could be as brutal as any other army in their acts against their enemies. When discussing history today it is important we are not swept up in an idealised situation and recognise the truth of people actions and their outcomes.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart has been viewed as selfish, arrogant and unworthy and it is important we portray these interpretations of the man as well as the image of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ who was brave, heroic and loyal.
We hope you enjoyed our wee insight into the world of romanticised history. There are many stories to tell which we couldn’t possibly cover in one go. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and keep coming back for more.
All the best, K & D