Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prelude to the Glorious Revolution

"The Highland Charge" was interesting to watch. It was the custom of those brave lads to set aside their plaid kilts before battle, fire a volley, then run full tilt at the enemy with broadswords, wearing only their shirts. And a big smile, I suppose.

It would be hard to put an estimate on the number of email requests I have received from Americans, mostly from the Midwest, asking me - practically begging, actually - to make a series of posts that would, once and for all, finally explain the ins and outs of the Jacobite Risings which were semi-rife starting in the latter part of the 17th century in Great Britain and Ireland. Those in Iowa primarily were interested in the Orange William gentleman.

In response to this evident thirst for something to mentally chew on during the regular corn-growing season in breadbasketville, you are now reading the first of what will probably be a dozen or so posts on the fascinating subject. Boy, is it ever.

I am also going to try to pull this off without once mentioning the name Guy Fawkes (oops!) or using the words recusant or undercroft. (Dang!)

I suppose I should first mention that Jacobus is Latin for James. I don't know if that clears anything up or not, but I feel it is important. I am foggy as to whether Latin in Scotland at the time was important because James II (and VII) was Catholic, or whether it was just a carryover from ancient Roman occupation. Be that as it may...

The demise of the childless Elizabeth in 1603 pretty much bit it, historically speaking, for the Tudors. Well, bit it except for the fact that Henry VIII had an older sister, I guess. Thus did come forth the Stuarts upon the scene, descending from the north. Everyone loved them.

First, of course, you had your James I and VI, who was, lo, the great-grandson of the aforementioned esteemed elder Tudoress. This, in case you are keeping score already, was known as the Union of the Crowns. Thus did it come to pass in 1604 that the King of Scotland became also the King of England and Ireland. As was usual for British monarchs of the age, he also called himself King of France (though of course he wasn't) mostly just to anger the French in general and keep them agitated.

The above is only for historical review and really doesn't actually constitute any red meat with regards to the Jacobite Risings, yet seems almost necessary if you are to place James II and VII in proper historical context. I hate to admit it, but some Iowans OFTEN have that trouble. You know who you are. Oddly, they know instinctively, however, that Jacobean refers to James I and VI, while JacoBITES refers to James II and, ah, VII.

Well, sir, long story short, James I and VI, normally uninterested in women to the extreme, finally had it called to his attention that women were necessary if an heir was to be produced and so he married a 14-year-old Dane named Ann who got shiprwrecked in a storm on the way to Britain and ended up in Norway, whereupon her beloved James, whom she had not yet had the pleasure of meeting, came to collect her in person with 300 or so of his buddies. My God, but it was romantic.

To quote the Brothers Four and the lyrics to Eddystone Light, "From this union there came three, a porgy and a porpoise and the other was me." (Yo ho ho, etc.) Actually it WASN'T me but was, rather, he who was to become Charles I after the porgy and the porpoise died ahead of him. Well, to be absolutely honest, Charles I died as well, but not before becoming king and trying to rule without Parliament and bringing on the English Civil War wherein Charles REALLY lost his head. And that's a fact.

After the republicans had mucked about for a bit, kings were reinstalled and you had your Charles II (and XXVVII??) and James II. And VII. Sigh. THEN came the Jacobite (rhymes with "take a bite") Risings.

Please don't be angry that I make you wait until the next post before talking about Scottish clans. You may be sure it will be worth the wait. Not to tease you needlessly, but if there is time I will also tell of the War of Jenkins' Ear.


  1. Latin was regarded as vital learning for gentlemen. If you had any claim whatsoever to be a member of the nobility, a bit of latin would have been thrashed into you during your early years.
    Importantly, Latin was a universal international language, understood by everybody except the unlearned, peasants and churls.
    Any scientist, doctor, alchemist, engineer, published his work in Latin, not in his own localised language.
    Scotland, of course, was not greatly occupied by the Romans. They decided it was pretty worthless, the cost of occupying it far greater than any benefits it might offer to the empire, so they just built a wall across the top of england, a great wall with forts and camps and lookouts and garrisons.
    That was Hadrian's wall, parts of it survive today. A little later, they took a step further, and seized the scottish lowlands, building another wall, about sixty miler further north, at Scotland's narrowest point, between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, That one was the Antonine Wall. They still thought anywhere north of that was worthless barbarian country.
    In fact, the building of the Antonine wall gave them time to reaffirm that the lowlands of Scotland were of no use to the empire, so a few years later, the legions marched back to hadrian's wall and civilisation.

    Rome did, of course, at some point, lose an entire legion somewhere in Scotland, the Ninth. They never came back. Either chopped up and used as haggis-filler, or maybe they just all settled down and made a home with bonny scots lassies?

  2. You see?
    There's an example, right there!

  3. Oh My. The whole place is seething with churls. Quick, footman, throw them some turnips!

    (noises off): "hmmmmmm hmmmmm hurrrr!

    Run! They're not just churls out there, not simple highlanders raising bagpipes and haggises, they're.... ZOMBIES! Run, man, run for your life!

    Oh bad luck old fellow.

    "Position available. Footman to Mr Soubriquet, the successful applicant must be fleet of foot.

  4. @Soubriquet - I didn't know about Antonio's wall, I must admit. I seem to remember, though, that Latin was a language of the learned. Throughout history (and maybe even up to the present day) groups of people have thought it necessary to think up ways they are different (better) than the riff raff. Latin would do it for me. :)

    As for me, gimme a redneck Scottish lassie any day.

    Or Irish lass.

    I don't know any redneck Irish ladies, though.

  5. No, no redneck Scottish ladies, either.

  6. Subject I'm interested in. Perhaps too much, since I knew all this already. But there's still hope to learn more.

    Sally forth.



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