Jacobite Plots

In 1688, William of Orange invaded England and successfully overthrew James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland. The following year, William and his wife Mary were crowned joint sovereigns. The deposition of James lead to the formation of the Jacobite cause (Jacobus being Latin for James). In the 1690s, the Jacobites’ frustration presented itself in the form of several plots to get William off the throne and James, who to them had always been the rightful King, back on it. There were three main plots: the Ailesbury plot, the Fenwick plot and the Assassination plot of 1696.

The Ailesbury plot was planned over the winter of 1691-2. Those involved were mostly peers and gentlemen based in the south of England. The Earl of Ailesbury was an active participant, but the idea itself came from James’s Secretary of State: the Earl of Melfort. The plan was for a French fleet to deliver an army, led by James, to England; the conspirators would raise their tenants to join James and the French to fight to overthrow William and Mary.

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William and Mary

However, the Government soon got word of this plan and sent out people to round up the main plotters whilst arranging ships along the English coast in anticipation of the French. Bad weather kept the French from crossing the Channel, and in May the Anglo-Dutch fleet defeated the French in Normandy at the Battles of Barfleur and La Hogue. The plot was ended before it had truly begun but questions over who had been involved and how far they could have got aroused paranoia and panic on the British Isles.

In 1694 Mary, who had a better claim to the throne than her husband, died childless. The Jacobites still felt anger that William sat on the throne while James and his son lived in exile. The massacre at Glencoe had increased people’s distrust of William, for it was unclear how much involvement he had had in the brutal event.

The following year John Fenwick, the head of a number of Jacobites, led the Fenwick plot. He aimed to secure a port on the south coast of England so that a French army could arrive safely and march with him and his associates to London so they could capture William. It was a dangerous venture, and soon the plan was at a standstill; Fenwick did not want to risk seizing the port until the French had set sail, and the French did not want to set sail until they were sure had Fenwick had secured the port for them. They were stuck in a stalemate.

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James VII & II

All was not lost though as from the Fenwick plot sprang the Assassination plot of 1696.  This plan, organised by Sir George Barclay, was to attack William while he was out in his coach. Once again though word got out of Jacobites meeting and the plot was foiled when one of the men, Thomas Prendergast, revealed everything to the Government. The conspirators of both the Fenwick plot and the Assassination plot were searched for. Later, when questioned, the Jacobites caught insisted that they had only intended to kidnap William, but informers declared that murder had been central in their plan. They met varied ends, with some being executed or imprisoned, and some managing to escape. Of the two men conspirators Barclay managed to escape to France, while Fenwick was eventually executed.

These plots, rather than helping to achieve the ultimate goal actually hurt the Jacobite cause. Many who had before felt apathetic about the situation now felt sympathy towards William. Several of the most prominent Jacobites were now dead, in hiding or intimidated into inactivity.

We hope you enjoyed this post. As always please like, share, comment and tweet.

All the best, The Culloden Team

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The Atterbury Plot

Between the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and 1745 lies the Atterbury Plot. Here in 1722 many prominent men joined forces to try and instigate a Jacobite Rising that would restore the Stuarts to the throne.

The plot is named after Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, who acted as James III & VIII’s representative in England. His reasons for joining the Jacobites are intriguing, as he was not considered a supporter during the 1715 Rising, yet, a year later he was a key component in another planned rising. It appears that the changing politics in England are the main reason for his change in position. In 1714 the Tory ministry collapse and the Whigs too over, leaving the Tories excluded from high office. As a prominent High Church bishop, Atterbury feared the Tories would never be able to regain enough power to restore the church to, what he felt, was its rightful place.  Thus, we start to see a collection of Tory supporters coming together to support the Jacobites.

Atterbury is the man named in the plot but he was not necessarily considered the leader of the plot. There are many big names associated with the plan. Lord North, the Earl of Arran, General Dillon, the Earl of Mar and the Duke of Ormond all supported the plan.

The collapse of the South Sea Company in 1720 led to economic crisis and political scandals in Britain and the growing tensions held an opportunity for the Jacobites to exploit. It is suggested that the plan was to capture London and the city of Westminster and then begin multiple rising across the country. They had plans to sail men to Cornwall to begin a rising in the west and a separate group would head for Scotland and raise support to the north. The group had formed a list of all the counties where they felt they could gain support as well as those they knew would oppose the men. There was a general election scheduled in 1722 and it is believed that they planned their rising to coincide with this event.

Before the plans could take place though they were discovered. In April 1722 the Earl of Sunderland passed away and upon his death the Regent of France supposedly informed government men that the Jacobites had asked him to supply three thousand men for an attempted coup which was to take place the following month.  Sunderland papers were confiscated and amongst them was apparently a letter of thanks from James III & VIII. Despite very little evidence arrests began upon the main suspects. Atterbury himself was betrayed by the Earl of Mar and was arrested in August and confined to the Tower of London. Following his trial he was exiled and joined up with James III & VIII and became his Secretary of State.

We hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about the Atterbury Plot. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and follow us as we try and uncover more interesting tales for your to enjoy.

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