Imagine the ’45 succeeded… that’s what we’ll do at Wigtown book Festival Saturday 23 Sept, 2017
What might a Jacobite victory have meant for the cause of Scottish Nationalism? Millions have watched the first episodes of Outlander Season 3. They dramatise vividly the failure of the ’45 and the consequences of defeat on Culloden Moor for the combatants and anyone unlucky enough to be see to be close to them.
But …. if Prince Charles had succeeded, what issues would he have to address? For example, will the Union survive? Do the male Stuarts make a better fist of ruling this time round? Are Catholics welcome? Is there a Highland and clan problem? At the Wigtown Book Festival next weekend, Jackie Riding and I are going to talk it over with Stuart Kelly.
There were many nationalists among the Jacobites. The state of the Union concerned them. Many wanted Britain to return to the 1603 Union of Crowns to create a genuine multi-kingdom monarchy. In 1603, only the Crowns were united. The state stayed separate. The machinery of state – parliaments, armed forces, religion, law – all those things governing and regulating life, would have remained independent. If so, then King James VIII & III would recall a Scottish Parliament in 1746-47, moving the wielding of power in Scotland back to Scotland.
Even that most outrageous, slippery Jacobite, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat of the ’45, was sincere in his Scottish Nationalist anti-Unionism. He called it, ‘This infernal Union’, Cette Union Infernelle.
Thirty years after the ’45, Scottish big wigs in the British establishment wondered if what they created in 1707 was working. One night Henry Dundas, Scotsman and British Secretary of State, burst ‘into an invective against the English’ claiming he was going to ‘move for a repeal of the Union.’ Another Scot, living south of the border thought that ‘if the English are to be treated as sons, but the Scots as step-sons … then let the Union be dissolved.’ Stepsons inherit nothing of the parents’ estate. He was talking in 1763, nearly 20 after Culloden.
Famously, Dr Samuel Johnson said ‘of England were fairly polled, the present king (George III) would be sent away tonight, and his adherents hanged tomorrow.’
No-one denied the Stuarts had the prime hereditary claim to the Crown. But Samuel Johnson thought that was no longer a priority for the people.
‘The state of the country is this: the people knowing on all hands that this king George has not the hereditary right to the Crown, and there being no hope that he who has it [ the Stuarts] can be restored , the people have grown cold and indifferent upon the subject of loyalty, and to have no warm attachment to any king.’
Nevertheless, if Prince Charles Edward Stuart had become Charles III from 1746, he would have been observed and advised continuously – by the British Parliament, the military, the churchmen,the John Bulls, the couthy Scots and Irish patriots. So, the Stuarts might not have made such a mess of ruling – third time lucky! But it’s not to be …
On a personal level, a successful ’45 might have made Charles’s character as well as his fortune. His personality failed to cope with failure. Would he have coped better with success? In the event, Prince Charlie was abandoned to his own worst enemy – his personal character flaws.
The Highland problem and the clans
After Culloden, the clans were demonised in the same terms used to demonise the Jacobites. The language degraded both clan and Jacobite as backward looking, superstitious, and yet still a threat. They needed ideological reorientation towards the Hanoverian state.
Charles Edward Stuart – Easty to deny at a distance, apparently
A Jacobite victory would have saved the Highlands from military occupation. Wherever the Highlands endured martial rule, and garrisoning, it created poverty, economic breakdown, hardship, rape, pillage.
A Catholic Stuart king would lift penal laws against Catholics. That might have prevented the equation of ‘Catholic’ with ‘traitor’ in British political discourse for the next century and more. Bonnie Prince Charlie seems to have been pretty indifferent to religion, although his father and brother were devout papists.
Was victory ever a possibility?
If we accept the levels of support which some historians estimate existed throughout Great Britain, and internationally in France and Italy, then I want to think it was conceivable. Just. Join me, Jackie Riding and Stuart Kelly to argue it out at The Wigtown Book Festival on Saturday 23 September at 10.30am.
‘Last of the Clan’, Sir David Wilkie