BL16 - Page 35



LIVING HISTORY
THE
REBELLION
THAT
WASN’T
T H E P IC T UR E A RT C O L L EC T IO N /A L A MY ; A N TO N IA R EE V E; S COT T MAR SHALL
H
istory is written backwards
but lived forwards. We all
know what happened, but
those who were obliged to
live through uncertainty
had a different perspective. Good
historians constantly remind us of this,
for it makes the narrative more exciting.
Take an event whose anniversary falls
this year: the Jacobite Rising of 1719,
which involved fascinating characters
operating on a European canvas. It
failed and passed into insignificance
but should not be forgotten.
British history from 1603–1746 is
a fascinating study, because everything
was in play. We now know the eventual
outcome. Religion ceased to make or
break dynasties. Outside Ireland, men
gradually learned to tolerate those
of different faith. The country settled
down under the Hanoverians. None
of the Kings was exciting; they were all
called George – a dull and stolid name
that promised – and provided – stability.
Bonny Prince Charlie had offered a brief
stellar alternative until it expired as a
shooting star. “Will ye no’ come back
again?”, the Scots poem asks. No, and
just as well. Once Kings no longer tried
to be absolute monarchs but turned into
non-executive chairmen, the chronic
constitutional strife of the 17th century
subsided. Then, one King lost his head
and another was driven into exile.
Political conflict led to a civil war, an
uprising, an invasion, and a busy
scaffold. Now, it centred on Parliament.
It could all have been so different.
Personalities played a crucial role. The
Three centuries ago, an alliance between
a Spanish cardinal and Swedish king brought
about an attempted uprising in Scotland.
The Jacobites would rise once more and,
Bruce Anderson argues, the ill-fated events
of 1719 should not be forgotten
last three male Stuart monarchs all had
qualities. Charles I would have made a
superb Director of the National Gallery.
(Cromwell might then have been
Secretary of State for Ireland.) As for
Charles II, no more complex character
ever occupied the throne. There were
only two consistent threads in his career.
The first was a determination to hang on
to his crown. One could argue as to what
extent his vacillations, dishonesties and
betrayals facilitated or jeopardised that.
The second was libertinism. Nineteen
recorded bastards but no legitimate heir:
He could make merry in any bed as long
as it was an illicit one. But he was a
closet Catholic as well as a closet lover,
and died reconciled to the Church.
Charles’s brother, James II, a sound
sea captain, was unsuited to higher
office. A cruel man with a coarse,
limited mind, he had none of Charles’s
political skills and saw his Catholicism
as more important than politics. Charles
produced no heirs from the right side
of the blanket, but James managed three,
the third of whom ended his reign. Until
the boy, another James – who became
known as the Old Pretender – was born
in 1688, James’s successor would have
been his eldest daughter Mary, the most
likeable of all the Stuart monarchs as
well as the most sensible – and an
Anglican. She was also married to
William of Orange, the General who had
led the magnificent Dutch resistance to
Louis XIV, and was a hero throughout
Protestant Europe. So despite the
regular provocations that James II
inflicted on his non-Catholic subjects,
KEY PLAYERS
Top: James Stuart,
“the Old Pretender”,
by Francesco Trevisani.
He was recognised by
France, Spain, the Papal
States, and Modena
as King James III of
England, Ireland and
VIII of Scotland.
Centre: Cardinal Giulio
Alberoni masterminded
the 1719 Rebellion.
Bottom: James Stuart’s
elder son, Charles
Edward Louis John
Casimir Sylvester
Severino Maria Stuart,
popularly known as
“Bonnie Prince Charlie”
35
BOISDALELIFE .COM
SUMMER 2019
ISSUE 16





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