The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 (sometimes referred to as “The Fifteen” or the Earl of Mar”s Uprising) was an attempt by James Francis Edward Stuart (known as the “Old Pretender”) to regain the British throne for the exiled Stuart dynasty.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 resulted in the flight of the Catholic Stuart king, James II of England-James VII of Scotland, who found exile in France under the protection of Louis XIV. James” daughter and her husband, who was also James” nephew, ascended the British throne as joint rulers, under the names of William III and Mary II. In 1690, Presbyterianism was declared the state religion in Scotland. The Act of Settlement of 1701 designated the Protestant House of Hanover as the successor to the English throne. The Act of Union of 1707 extended the Act of Settlement to Scotland. When Queen Anne died in 1714, the Elector of Hanover, George I, succeeded her to the British throne. George I”s accession to the throne led to Whig supremacy, leaving the Tories without political power. The new Whig government sought to prosecute members of the Tory administration of 1710-1714 for financial irregularities; Robert Harley was imprisoned in the Tower of London and the viscount of Bolingbroke fled to France before being arrested. Bolingbroke later became a minister of the Pretender and was offered the title of viscount by him.
On March 14, 1715, the Pretender asked Pope Clement XI for help in carrying out a Jacobite uprising: “It is not so much a dutiful son, oppressed by the injustices of his enemies, as a persecuted Church threatened with destruction, which implores the protection and aid of its honourable Pontiff. On August 19, Bolingbroke wrote to the Pretender: “We are coming to a point where either you, Sir, at the head of the Tories, will save the Church and the Constitution of England, or both will be irretrievably lost forever. The Pretender believed that the Duke of Marlborough would join him when he landed in Scotland, and wrote to James Fitz-James on August 23: “I believe it is now more than ever now or never.
Although he did not receive orders from James to start the uprising, the Earl of Mar sailed from London to Scotland and held the first council of war on August 27 at Braemar. On September 6, still in Braemar, the Earl of Mar raised the standard of “James VIII of Scotland and III of England”, accompanied by 600 supporters.
In response, the British Parliament suspended habeas corpus and passed a law granting tenant farmers who refused to support the Jacobites the land of their landlord if the latter was a Jacobite. Some of the Earl of Mar”s tenant farmers went to Edinburgh to prove their loyalty and acquire title.
The Jacobites were victorious in central Scotland. They took Inverness, Gordon”s Castle, Aberdeen and Dundee, although they failed to capture Fort William. At Edinburgh Castle were weapons for more than 10,000 men, as well as £100,000 given to Scotland when it entered the Union with England. Lord Drummond, with 80 Jacobites at his side, attempted to take the castle under cover of night, but the governor of the castle got wind of their plans and managed to defend it.
By October, the Earl of Mar”s forces (nearly 20,000 men) had taken control of all of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth, except for Stirling Castle. However, the Earl of Mar was hesitant and the capture of Perth and the movement south of 2,000 men were probably decided by subordinates. The Earl of Mar”s indecision gave the Hanoverian forces under the Duke of Argyll time to reinforce themselves.
On October 22, the Earl of Mar was given the title of commander of the Jacobite army by James. The Jacobite troops outnumbered those of the Duke of Argyll three to one and the Earl of Mar decided to capture Stirling Castle. On November 13 the two armies clashed at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. The battle was close, but when it was almost over, 4,000 men remained on the Jacobite side and only 1,000 under the Duke of Argyll. The Earl of Mar”s army began to close in on the Duke of Argyll”s troops, who were struggling to defend themselves, but the Earl of Mar did not order them to advance, no doubt believing that he had already won the battle (the Duke of Argyll had lost 660 men, three times as many as the Earl of Mar). The Earl of Mar then withdrew to Perth. On the same day as the battle of Sherrifmuir, Inverness surrendered to Hanoverian troops, and a smaller Jacobite squadron led by Mackintosh of Borlum was defeated at the battle of Preston.
Among the instigators of a Jacobite conspiracy for insurrection in the west of England were three peers and six members of Parliament. On the night of October 2, the government arrested the ringleaders and easily obtained parliamentary consent for the arrests the next day. The leader of the English Jacobites, Sir William Wyndham, was among those arrested. The government sent reinforcements to Bristol, Southampton and Plymouth to ensure that these cities would not fall into the hands of the Jacobites. Oxford was a notoriously monarchist city and the government considered it to be sympathetic to the Pretender, so on October 17 General Pepper and his dragoons entered the city and arrested prominent Jacobites without encountering resistance.
An English uprising did take place in 1715. Another uprising was planned in Northumberland County as a diversion to accompany the main uprising in the west. Although the planned western uprising was scuttled by the government”s quick response, the Northumberland uprising did take place on October 6, 1715. Prominent figures took part in this English uprising, including two peers of the realm, James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater and William Widdrington, 4th Baron Widdrington, as well as a future peer, Charles Radclyffe, who later became the 5th Earl of Derwentwater de jure. Another future English peer, Edward Howard, who later became the 9th Duke of Norfolk, joined the uprising a little later in Lancashire, as did other important figures, including Robert Cotton, one of the most powerful lords of Huntingdonshire.
The English Jacobites joined a Jacobite troop from the Scottish Borders led by William Gordon, 6th Viscount Kenmure, and this small army was joined by Mackintosh”s contingent. They entered England as far as Preston, where they were overtaken by government forces. This resulted in the Battle of Preston, November 12-14. In fact, the Jacobites won the first day of the battle, killing many of the government forces. However, government reinforcements arrived the next day and the Jacobites eventually surrendered.
On December 22 the Pretender landed on Scottish soil at Peterhead, but by the time he reached Perth on January 9, 1716, the Jacobite army numbered less than 5,000 men. Argyll”s forces, however, had heavy artillery and were advancing rapidly. Mar decided to burn a number of villages between Perth and Stirling to prevent Argyll”s army from getting supplies. On 30 January Mar marched the Jacobite army north out of Perth and on 4 February the Pretender wrote a farewell letter to Scotland and sailed to Montrose the following day.
Many of the Jacobites who had been taken prisoner were tried for treason and sentenced to death. Nevertheless, in July 1717, the Indemnity Act had the effect of pardoning all those who had taken part in the uprising, except the MacGregor clan, who were expressly denied the benefits of the act. Rob Roy MacGregor was one of those who were not pardoned.
James” son, Charles Edward Stuart, attempted to take the throne for his father in 1745 during a second Jacobite uprising, but failed. James died in 1766.