The Jacobites were followers of the Stuart royal family that had ruled Scotland for centuries and eventually ruled Britain. In 1688 James VII of Scotland and II of England, was king. He was a Roman Catholic and a firm believer in the divine right of Kings. Both stances made him unpopular in England where Catholicism was the religion of England’s traditional enemies, France and Spain, and was therefore regarded as unpatriotic in England which had its own religion. In 1688 he was deposed by Parliament who invited William of Orange and Mary to rule. Mary was James’ daughter by his first wife, a Protestant, which gave somewhat dubious legitimacy to the replacement of James. In the sixty years that followed there were five attempts to restore James and his descendants to the throne. The word Jacobite comes from the Latin for James – Jacobus.
The first rebellion took place in 1689 in a failed attempt to reinstate James VII as king. James VII died in 1701. James VIII became the legitimate king of Scotland in the eyes of the Jacobites. In 1705 James VIII set out from France to regain his Scottish kingdom but the French fleet was turned back by the English and he never landed. There was a failed uprising in 1715 which started in the Highlands. James VIII came to Scotland but ultimately conceded defeat and returned to France. There was another short-lived rebellion in 1719 aided by Spain.
The last rebellion, from 1745 to 1746, was led by Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart, son of James VIII). The rebel clansmen advanced to within 130 miles of London only to be forced to retreat. They were ultimately defeated on April 16, 1746 at the Battle of Culloden by the English forces led by by King George II’s son, the Duke or “Butcher” of Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to the Isle of Skye with the assistance of Flora MacDonald and from there fled to France. The English set about brutally suppressing the Highlands and destroying the culture by enslaving rebel Highlanders who were shipped to the West Indies, prohibiting the wearing of the kilt and prohibiting the use of the tartan on pain of death.
The English practiced religious intolerance, required attendance at Protestant religious services, and pursued a forced union between England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobites, in addition to believing in the divine right of the Stuarts to the throne, stood for liberty of conscience for all, liberty for all to worship in their own fashion or not at all, and for the national integrity of each individual kingdom – England, Scotland, and Ireland.