10 – Jacobite Rising, 1745
The Monmouth Rebellion – and more specifically the Battle of Sedgemoor – are often cited as the last proper, pitched battles ever to take place on English soil, but there is one major addendum to that: the Jacobite Rising.
It might be improper to talk of one singular Jacobite Rising, as there were rebellions in Scotland along similar lines dating from Argyll’s Rising, contemporaneous with the Monmouth Rebellion, through others in 1689, 1709, 1715 and 1719 until we reach the last major conflict to take place on British soil in 1745. The 45, as it became known, was the work of Charles Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the last of the Stuart dynasty. The Stuarts had included his great-grandfather, Charles I – executed in the English Civil War – and his grandfather, James II, who was deposed by William of Orange in 1688 when the Bonnie Prince’s father was just a baby.
Charles was born in exile in Italy and raised as a Catholic. He was well aware that the English and Scottish thrones were his birthright and was determined to return the Stuarts to what he saw as their rightful place. When he was in his 20s, a conflict over succession arose in Austria – this was hardly just a British problem – and the various alliances that had held between the major powers began to crack. The Stuarts were able to secure French backing for an invasion of Scotland and landed on the Outer Hebrides in July 1745.
The Highland clans gathered to his banner and the Jacobite forces, as they were known, marched and took Edinburgh. The only government forces in Scotland were routed at the end of the summer and by the autumn, Bonnie Prince Charlie had continued down into England with 6,000 men at his back. They went as far as Derbyshire in the English Midlands but later returned to Scotland, having not received the support from the French and dissenting English that they had banked upon.
The Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, gave chase and eventually engaged Charles Stuart at Culloden in April 1746. The Bonnie Prince made some major tactical errors in the battle and his army was massacred by the English. Charles escaped and was hounded through the Highlands by Cumberland’s men, relying on his decreasing number of loyal friends for protection. He fled the country in September of 1746 and would never return to Scotland. His followers were not as lucky: thousands of Jacobites were arrested with the leaders executed and many more transported to the colonies for their part in the uprising.
It would be the last time that a major rebellion would challenge the British monarchy: the then King, George II, had been born in Germany, but would be the last monarch to be raised outside of the British Isles. His great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter is the current Queen Elizabeth II, with his House of Hanover only losing prominence due to the succession of a woman, Queen Victoria, and thus the ascension of the house of her husband, Prince Albert of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the throne.