King James III lands

Prince_James_Edward_Stuart,_the_Old_PretenderOn the 23rd March 1708 King James III of England landed at the Firth of Forth.   History knows the king rather better as James Edward Stuart, the so-called Old-Pretender or the ‘baby in the bedpan.’

Charles II had balanced the political and religious beliefs of his subjects with all the acumen of an accomplished juggler.  Yes he’d relied heavily on the financial largesse of his cousin the French king.  Yes, he’d promised to convert to Catholicism at some point in the future (he was actually received into the Catholic church on his deathbed) and yes his queen Catherine of Braganza was Catholic but he didn’t alienate his people.  By contrast brother James managed to irritate most of the population irrelevant of their religious beliefs mainly because he failed to learn from his father’s errors and tried to turn the clock back to a time when people did what the king told them to do.  The final straw came in 1688 when James’s young bride Mary of Modena gave birth to a baby boy.

Rumours swiftly spread that Mary had given birth to a stillborn child and that a healthy baby had been smuggled into the palace in a bedpan.  Now – I don’t know about you but it would have to have been one heck of a bedpan or a very small baby for no one to spot the deception.  In any event the arrival of baby James prompted the new arrival’s more mature brother-in-law, William of Orange, to kick James Senior off the throne. It’s always nice to encounter a close and loving family.

Little James  grew up in France at the chateau of St-Germain-en-Laye. He was declared King James III of England and VIII of Scotland on his father’s death in 1701.  His title was acclaimed by the Pope as well as Catholic Spain and France.  Unfortunately Protestant England refused to play ball and even when King William died the country preferred James’ big sister Anne who was safely protestant though undesirably female – as we all know kings are better than queens except when they’re catholic or when they’re called Elizabeth Tudor.

In 1708 James attempted to claim his kingdom.  He decided the best bet was to invade Scotland where he would have been King James VIII (just in case you weren’t already confused enough). It was not a rip roaring success.

James returned to Scotland for a second time following the Jacobite uprising in 1715 – a rebellion against the new king (George I) who was German, a little on the podgy side and who didn’t speak a word of English.  His main qualification – you’ve got it- was the the fact that he was protestant.  James had actually turned down the opportunity of getting the crown by invitation when he’d refused overtures which came with the proviso of converting to C of E.

By February 1716 James had left the country once again never to return.  Sentimental types took to toasting the ‘king over the water’ – which sounds vaguely like some kind of Tolkienesque elf but that’s because my reading habits are far too eclectic.


5 thoughts on “King James III lands

  1. Hi Julia, William of Orange was married to James II’s daughter Mary making him his son-in-law, not brother-in-law. Interesting that James III turned down the throne. He had his chance!

    • Hi Susan, It’s my writing style I think – William was James Edward Stuart’s brother-in-law, Mary and Anne being his half sisters – but thanks for the correction as I always worry about not getting something right. And yes, isn’t it interesting that James had an option on the throne, not something that crops up in popular histories of the Jacobite uprisings.

  2. I love history and last month I visited the Royal Dutch gardens of Hett Loo that belonged to Mary Stuart who married William of Orange. Absolutely magnificent and made just as they English throne was offered to Mary asa good protestant English girl. When young myself, I and a few college mates home from school in Shropshire discovered a cannon ball in the long grass on the side of Kendal Fell. Today even it sits on my pile of papers as the property of General George Murray who led the advance over the fell on the 18th October 1745. Deep snow had made the crossing hard and two wagons had been recorded as lost in a ravine. We later discovered lots of broken oak planks and the brass hub of a cart wheel in that area. Since then the other wagon has been found just sixteen yards from where we found the cannon ball. We researched the skirmish that was the rear guard of Boney Prince Charlies army that clashed with the Dragoons of the King at a place outside Penrith called Clifton Dykes.Once gave Border Television the script of my book Window on Westmorland and then a man I hate made a full program of that battle on the back of what Eric Wallace had of my book. I have all the photographic plates of what six weeks of poking around in that sunken lane produced of that fight down to broken claymore blade and rounds of lead shot. It was my show really but I was cut out of the loop. Later I gave a a ten minute interview to BBC radio on that mound that Ormside Church is built on. The will of Edward the Black Prince is stuffed in a coffer in that singular chapel. John De Grote was the vicar once and he was also at the bedside of the Prince as his Chaplin at Crecy and years later at his death. The will is the real one and no one can say just why. To be truthful I was show only a copy of the will so there we are.?


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