The Old Pretender

James Francis Edward Stuart was nicknamed ‘the Old Pretender’ after his father was deposed and the throne of Scotland and England was passed to William and Mary. Here we take a look at his life.

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James VIII & III

 

James was born on 10th June 1688 at St James’s Palace in London and his birth was controversial to say the least. James was the son of existing king James VII & II and his second wife, Mary of Modena. James would be a Catholic heir to the throne of Scotland and England and this was not something that was favourably look upon. Almost as soon as he was born rumours began to spread that James was an impostor. It was believed that the true child had been a stillborn and James was smuggled in in a warming pan to replace the sadly deceased baby. James’ father was forced to publish several eyewitness testimonies to put a stop to these rumours and assure everyone that James was indeed their son and heir.

Less than a year after James’ birth the Glorious Revolution began with William of Orange arriving from Holland to contest the throne. On 9th December 1688 James’ mother Mary, supposedly disguised as a laundress, escaped Britain taking James over to the relative safety of France. It was here that he was brought up with the French court regarding him and his family as the true monarchs.

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The Old Pretender

 

When James’ father died in 1701 King Louis XIV of France along with Spain and the Papal States recognised James as James VII of Scotland and III of England. However, as a result of accepting this title he was attainted for treason in London and all his English estates were forfeited. The next twenty years would see James make various attempts to retake the throne which he felt was rightfully his.

In 1708 his first attack was launched. Initially delayed because James had contracted measles he set out from France with almost 30 ships carrying some 5,000 men to reach Scotland. This would be the largest ever French expedition to come within striking distance of Britain in support for James. Unfortunately, as the fleet approached the Royal Navy were ready. James’ measles may have given them the time needed to prepare for James’ attack. The French ships were forced to flee under the strength of the Royal Navy and took flight along the north coast of Scotland, with many ships being destroyed along the rocky coastline. After this James joined the French army for a while before he was asked to leave France in 1713 as part of the conditions of Frances peace agreement with Britain.

In 1715, James tried again. This time he reached mainland and most people suggest that this was the uprising that should have worked. See our blog on 1715 for more info. Unfortunately, once again James was denied. Despite winning at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, and in Preston, James ultimately gave up the fight when he heard Government reinforcements were on the way. He fled Scotland and returned to the continent but his apparent abandonment of his men left a poor impression on many and his welcome back was not great.

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James VIII & III

 

After the failed 1715 invasion he eventually took up residence in Rome where the pope recognised him as the rightful king and gave him the Palazzo Muti to have as his home. James made one finally attempt on the British throne in 1719 with some Spanish support but this ultimately came to nothing. Then in May 1719 James married Maria Sobieska by proxy and later, in September, they renewed their vows in person. The following year they gave birth to their first son Charles Edward Stuart. This was followed five years later by another son Henry Benedict Stuart.

By 1745 it was Charles who was looking to take the British throne and it is said that James and Charles clashed many times over Charles plans to attempt his own rising. As we know the rising did not succeed and Charles returned to the continent. The relationship was further damaged when James helped his son Henry in his goal of becoming a cardinal. AS such Henry would have no legitimate children to carry on the Stuart line and Charles was said to be angry that the decision had been made without him being consulted.

James lived in Rome for the rest of his life where he was well treated. He died on 1st January 1766 in his home at the Palazzo Muti. Later he was buried in St Peters basilica in Vatican city and his tomb is marked by a monument to the Stuarts. After James’ death the Pope refused to recognise Charles as the rightful king and finally accepted the Hanoverian succession to the throne.

Interestingly James ‘reign’ had it been recognised would have lasted for 64 years, 3 months and 16 days longer than any other monarch until Queen Elizabeth passed this total in May this year.

We hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the life of James and as always please like, share, tweet, comment and keep coming back for more.

All the best, K & D

 

 

 

Rye House Plot

On 12th June 1683 The Rye House Plot, a plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother was discovered.

After Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 there was a certain degree of concern over his relationship with France and Louis XIV, as well as other Catholic powers in Europe. Some felt he was too close to these powers and, whilst he was publicly Anglican, he and his brother were both suspected of having Catholic sympathies in private.

To try and exclude Charles’ brother James from the line of succession the Exclusion Bill was introduced but King Charles II dissolved the parliament, thereby protecting his brothers inheritance. With tensions high there were a lot of conspirators around and many ideas on how to stop Charles and James and invoke a rebellion that would take them off the throne.

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Rye House in Herefordshire

 

There were several suggestions on how to proceed but the Rye House Plot was one of the most famous and was named after Rye House, about 18 miles from London, where a group of Protestant Whigs made their final plans. It was well known that the King regular travelled to Newmarket for the horse racing, so, a plot was formed to ambush him on his return. The assassins would wait by a narrow lane to attack and the death of Charles and James would help to instigate a rebellion.

Unfortunately, following a fire at Newmarket the races were cancelled and the King returned earlier then anticipated. The plan had to be abandoned. News of the plot however leaked out and suddenly the conspirators found themselves in trouble. The plot was used as an opportunity for the government to arrest several Whig leaders, including Lord William Russell and Algernon Sidney, despite there be little evidence they were involved in the plot. In total twelve people were executed, several fled for their lives and ten men were imprisoned.

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Elizabeth Gaunt

 

Among those executed were Russell and Sidney, as well as Elizabeth Gaunt, who helped one of the participants of the plot, James Burton, escape to Amsterdam. When Burton was captured he named her as an accomplice in exchange for a pardon. Elizabeth was sentenced to death for treason and was executed by burning. She was the last woman to be executed for a political crime in England.

Some question whether the plot was actually real and not just a manufactured tale that Charles used in order to get rid of some of his strongest opponents. Whether it was true or not the story certainly had an effect on the country and is worth sharing. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and stay away from too much plotting.

All the best, K & D

 

 

James VII & II

On 16th September 1701 James VII & II died of a stroke in exile, at the Chateau of St Germain-en-Laye in France. Aged 67 when he died James led a complicated life and within it lie some of the roots of Jacobitism.

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James II & VII by Sir Godfrey Kneller

 

James ruled England and Ireland as James II and Scotland as James VII from 1685 until 1688 when he was deposed. When he first took the throne, following his brother, Charles II’s, death there was little in the way of opposition to his coronation and he was generally welcomed warmly to the throne. However, only a month after his coronation there was a rebellion in England led by the Duke of Monmouth; as well as one in Scotland led by the Earl of Argyll. The Duke of Monmouth was James’ nephew and believed he was the rightful heir to the throne as he was the son of Charles II. He insisted his mother was married to Charles but there was no evidence of this and therefore he was illegitimate and did not qualify as a suitable heir. Fortunately the rebellion was not to last long and in the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July Monmouth was defeated and executed for treason just nine days later.

James was not to prove to be very lucky though and this rebellion would prove to be just the start of his trouble. After the rebellion ended he decided to ensure he was protected by forming a large army which alarmed many people. Then, James began to anger the parliament with his views on Catholicism. James was brought up a Protestant but later converted to the Catholic faith. In 1687 he issued a Declaration of Indulgence which allowed people to worship out with the Church of England and removed the need for people to take religious oaths before they could advance in civil or military roles. James ordered public clergy to read the Declaration in their churches but when seven bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, attempted to petition against this they were arrested.

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James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II & VII

 

Finally things reached the boiling point when, in 1688, James and his second wife gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stuart on 10th June. Now there was a new successor to the throne and he was a Catholic. When it had just been James’ Protestant daughters, from his first marriage, things weren’t so serious, but now, the threat of a Catholic succession had people scared. On 30th June a group of seven prominent men invited William of Orange, husband to James’ daughter Mary, to come over to England with the intention he would bring an army to fight for the throne.

William arrived in November 1688 and many key Protestants began to defect from James’ army and join Williams. James’ other daughter Anne also joined William and Mary in contesting the throne. James had the larger army on his side but for whatever reason decided not to fight the invasion. A month after William arrived James attempted to flee to France and even allegedly threw the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames on his way. Unfortunately he was caught but William allowed him to go free and he was received in France by his cousin, Louis XIV.

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William of Orange by Sir Godfrey Kneller

 

Following James’ departure the English parliament decided he had abdicated and therefore the throne was vacant. William and Mary were quickly offered the throne and declared joint sovereigns. Meanwhile in Scotland the parliament took a little longer but eventually decided the James had indeed forfeited the throne and they too offered it to William and Mary who accepted in May 1689.

Thus, the crown stayed with the Protestants and after William and Mary it moved on to their sister Anne. During their reigns they saw the Act of Union in 1707 and also the Act of Settlement in 1701 which removed Catholics from the line of succession. Therefore, when Anne passed away without any heirs the crown moved over to the Hanoverian line and King George I and not with James II & VII’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart. Unsurprisingly the Stuarts were not pleased and in 1715 we saw the first Jacobite Rising to try and take the throne from George I with the 1719 and 1745 Risings completing the Jacobite Rebellions.

James II & VII may only have been king for a short four years but it cannot be denied that he started a fight that lasted for much longer. Without him we would not have the Jacobite Risings and all the history they contain and who knows who would be ruling now.

We hope you enjoyed this little foray into James II & VII. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and check out more of our posts for tales of the Jacobites.

All the best, K & D