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The Jacobites

The ‘Jacobites’ were supporters of the Stuart dynasty, taking their name from the Latin for James – Jacobus.


King James II of England, VII of Scotland was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain due to his aims of re-establishing Catholicism as the official faith of the British Isles. When James produced a Catholic heir, many influential political and religious leaders turned to James’ Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange, for help. In 1688, in what became known as ‘The Glorious Revolution’, William led a successful invasion of England and replaced James as King.


However, James and his heirs still had supporters, particularly in the Highlands of Scotland, where there remained significant Catholic strongholds. After the Union of Parliament and the formation of the United Kingdom in 1707, the Jacobite cause gathered momentum and became a magnet for anyone dissatisfied with the government.


The first major uprising came in 1715, when James Francis Edward Stuart – son of King James VII and nicknamed the ‘Old Pretender’ – attempted to regain the throne for the House of Stuart. After the death of Queen Anne (James VII’s daughter) in 1714, the throne had been passed to the nearest Protestant relative of the Stuart line, George I of Hanover, rather than to the Catholic James Stuart – the rightful heir. The uprising ultimately failed, though not before Jacobite supporters succeeded in taking control of most of Scotland north of Edinburgh.  

The ‘45

Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James VII, was born in exile in Europe and raised to believe that he was the rightful heir to the British throne. In 1745, he sailed to Scotland and raised the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan, and thus the ’45 rebellion was begun. Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army quickly took control of the whole of Scotland, but were forced into retreat when they attempted to march on England. Fleeing north, the Jacobites made their last stand at Culloden. Exhausted from marching all night and forced to give battle on boggy terrain wholly unsuitable for their trademark ‘Highland Charge’, the Jacobites were slaughtered by government troops and the ‘Young Pretender’ fled.


Keen to prevent further rebellion, the British government conducted a savage repression in the north of Scotland, with the aim of crushing the clan systems. Among other things, weapons were confiscated and Highland dress was banned, with severe punishments threatened for anyone who transgressed. The Jacobite cause was over, confined to romantic legend.

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Our Jacobite collection covers a period of over fifty years, spanning from the massacre of the MacDonalds of Glencoe in 1692 to the fierce repression of Highland culture after the Jacobite’s doomed last stand at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The collection contains fascinating and unique items, including intricately carved glassware, weapons discovered hidden in the thatched roofs of local cottages, a chair belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie himself, pistols from battlefields, a bible passed down through the MacDonald clan, and a riding boot once worn by Robert Campbell, the man deemed responsible for the infamous Massacre of Glencoe.

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