Category Archives: Anglo-Scottish history

Jacobite symbols – decoding treachery or loyalty…

bonnie prince charlieI’m having a wander in my own direction this afternoon  back into the realms of the Jacobites. In this instance symbolism. These days if we think of anything associated with the Stuarts other than the emblematic Scottish thistle we tend to identify the white Jacobite rose and the white cockade that Jacobites wore on their blue bonnets. However, as you might expect it is not that straightforward. The rose for example should possibly have six petals and either one or two buds. If one bud it references Bonnie Prince Charlie, if two buds then it’s a reference to Charlie and his younger brother Henry. The whole white rose thing is relatively straight forward. The Old Pretender or James III depending on your frame of mind was born on June 10th which is white rose day.  It also helps that the rosa alba is the white rose associated with Scotland which, if you are of a romantic disposition is the kind of rose that the Young Pretender plucked from a bush as he passed it shortly after arriving in Scotland in 1745.


It is not quite so simple as ABC – which naturally stands for A Blessed Change or how about QRS which stands for Quickly Return Stuart.  Here in no particular order as some of the symbols associated with the Jacobite cause:

Butterflies and moths: a symbol of rebirth and renewal or in the phrase of the time, “the return of the soul.”

Sunflowers: it’s an image associated with loyalty because the sunflower turns its head to track the progress of the sun.

Bees: another symbol for loyalty as well as being representative of new life out of decay. If that isn’t enough insects for you then there are also dragonflies and beetles.

Acorn and oak leaves: a Stuart symbol dating from the Restoration. It references Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester when he hid up the oak tree at Boscobel House. It became a symbol of rebirth once Charles wore oak leaves in his hat in 1660 when he returned to England. And it turns out trees are rather more complex than you could even begin to imagine. In 1689 a medal was struck to celebrate the coronation of William and Mary – it bore an oak tree with an orange growing out of it just to remind people that Mary was a Stuart. Green trees and shoots are also about fertility. This clearly has the obvious connotation of plentiful heirs but it was also used in the context of a withered tree when an unjust king was on the throne making the nation wither. We can also move into the realms ofireligious symbolism.  Oak trees are wood. The cross upon which Christ was crucified was made of wood. The oak and the cross are made of the same thing there fore the oak tree is like the Cross. The Stuarts across the sea represent the Arisen Christ – so the rightful monarchs by Divine Right and we might also want to consider martyrdom which takes us back to Charles I. Clearly this was a group of extremely well educated people with nothing better to do than drink wine from exquisitely engraved treasonous  glassware and come up with increasingly complex images to demonstrate their allegiance.

A six pointed star which simply represents royalty. A compass in the form of a starburst as with the star.  Even better for the compass to have a flour de lis pointer. Remember that the french kings offered their support to the Jacobites.

Birds – especially the Jay – yes that’s right, King James III’s initial letter is a J. Ravens could also be used to symbolise Jacobite allegiance given their heraldic links to Scottish kings in the past and there’s also a poem that uses the metaphor of a blackbird to represent James.

If as a Jacobite you wanted your coded loyalty to have a more classical bent then Medusa’s head – Bonnie Prince Charlie being the Perseus sent to rescue the British people from the nasty Hanoverians and Medusa translates as guardian which brings us neatly to the true guardianship of the nation…the Stuarts.

Daffodils symbolise spring and are therefore about hope – so they must naturally be a reference to returning Stuart monarchs. Even a carnation can be seen as symbolic of the Stuart cause because it represents a “coronation.” Forget-me-nots reference the obvious fact that the Stuarts should not be forgotten.

Many of these symbols can be found on beautiful examples of eighteenth century glassware. There are about five hundred examples of Jacobite glassware in existence today. The guidebook from Fairfax House in York observes that this indicates that originally there must have been thousands, so that whilst in theory many people were prepared to raise their glasses in a toast to the “king over the water” fewer were prepared to put their money or themselves where their mouths were.

Aside from the various images there were also opportunities to demonstrate loyalty to the Stuarts through mottoes such as Fiat which translates as “Let it be” as in Let it be a Stuart restoration. Redeat meaning it returns.  Even saying Amen could have a Jacobite context especially if your toasting glass was decorated with the Jacobite National Anthem, a crown and a portrait of James III or his initials:


God save the King, I pray,

God bless the King, I pray,

God save the King.

Send him victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Soon to reign over us,


God save the King.

God bless the Prince of Wales,

The true-born Prince of Wales,

Sent us by Thee.

Grant us one favour more,

The King for to restore,

As Thou hast done before

The familie.


God save the Church, I pray,

God bless the Church, I pray,

Pure to remain Against all heresie,

And Whig’S Hipocrasie,

Who strive maliciouslie

Her to defame.


God bless the subjects all,

And save both great and small

In every station.
That will bring home the King;

Who hath best right to reign,

It is the only thing

Can save the Nation.-Amen.


Other toasts included “to the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat,” which was a reference to William of Orange falling from his horse to his death when the horse allegedly tripped over a mole hill causing him to break his collar bone from which pneumonia was a secondary illness. There is even a Gaelic toast which plays on words to reference Bonnie Prince Charlie escaping to Skye dressed as a woman. And let’s not forget the importance of passing the glass over a bowl of water even if you couldn’t toast “The King across the water” out loud.

There is such as thing as having too many symbols and the Jacobites seem to have gone for coded loyalty big time from traditional royal symbols via mythical and allegorical signs to the downright obscure.  And I haven’t even ventured into the realms of Jacobite commemorative paraphernalia which make modern royal coronation and wedding chinaware seem positively low key. For example you could get a piece of china depicting a handsome knight or shepherd and you were actually demonstrating your loyalty to the Pretender. There were Jacobite medals, fans, trinket boxes and miniatures.

I think I can also safely say that I have enough material to make a Jacobite cross stitch sampler.


Guthrie, Neil (2013) The Material Culture of the Jacobites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press




Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eighteenth Century, Jacobites, The Stuarts

Elizabeth I’s favourites – Sir Thomas Heneage

thomas-heneage-300x280.jpg1565 was a trying year for Elizabeth I.  She was all to aware of the dangers of having an heir to the throne waiting in the background – after all she had been in that position seven years previously.  Now as queen she was determined not to name her successor despite the fact that there had already been a succession crisis during the seven days when her privy councillors had feared for her life in 1561 when she had small pox.  At that time Cecil had favoured Henry VIII’s will which would have seen the crown handed to Lady Katherine Grey the sister of Lady Jane Grey.  There had been a couple of voices in favour of Margaret, Lady Lennox who was the grand-daughter of Henry VII by Margaret Tudor’s second marriage to Archibald Douglas, the earl of Angus. Other men mentioned Henry Hastings the Earl of Huntingdon.  He was descended from the Duke of Clarence – so Plantagenet but most important of all he was male! Elizabeth herself had unexpectedly regained consciousness and given the regency into the hands of Robert Dudley.

Now in 1565 Elizabeth was still fending prospective suitors off or dangling her kingdom and her royal personage like a carrot on the political stage but there was also the matter of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots who remained a potential threat to Elizabeth’s security if she married Don Carlos the mentally unstable son of Philip II.  There was also the underlying factor that whilst Elizabeth had no children her dynasty was insecure and that Mary was a potential claimant to the throne – albeit a Catholic one.

From 1563 onwards Elizabeth had sought to control Anglo-Scottish relations by offering Robert Dudley as a potential husband to Mary with the carefully worded caveat that if Mary took Dudley as her husband that she would be named as Elizabeth’s heir.  There was still the difficulty of the fact that Elizabeth was expected to marry and produce children at this time in her reign but it appears to have been a gamble that Mary was prepared to take so long as Elizabeth was prepared to put in writing without any equivocation that Mary was her heir.  On March 16th 1565 it finally became clear that Elizabeth would not do this.  Mary immediately abandoned Dudley’s proposal even though he’d been given a title, Kenilworth Castle and many lands.

Elizabeth, perhaps eager to remind Dudley that he wasn’t as important as all that started to pay a great deal of attention to  married courtier -Thomas Heneage – so no possible thoughts of matrimony there. In fact unlike Dudley or her next favourite Sir Christopher Hatton there were never any rumours of romance between the two of them.  At the same time as Thomas became a gentleman of the Privy Chamber Elizabeth began to flirt with him. Perhaps it helped that Thomas’s first wife had been a friend of Elizabeth’s. It had the effect of making Robert Dudley jealous.

Dudley challenged the queen and she was apparently “much annoyed.” Dudley took himself off in high dudgeon, locked himself in his room for four days and then quarrelled with the queen further who was “cold with him.”

Dudley retaliated by flirting with Elizabeth’s cousin Lettice Knollys who was pregnant with her son Robert at the time.  Cecil noted in his diary that the queen was “offended.”  Pregnant or not, Lettice was one of the most beautiful women in Elizabeth’s court and it was clear at this stage of the game of courtly love that whilst Elizabeth could have many favourites, they in their turn should look only to Elizabeth.

Philip II took it as evidence that the queen loved Robert Dudley. She had revealed as much when she thought she was dying of small pox.

By Christmas 1565 Dudley was back at court but he couldn’t resist sniping at Heneage or threatening to beat him with a stick.  Elizabeth was not amused and told Dudley that just as she had raised him, she could equally as well lower him.

But by 1571 the two men had set their differences aside.  They forwarded one another’s suits and somewhat bizarrely under the circumstances it was Thomas who acted as a go between with Elizabeth when Christopher Hatton and then later Sir Walter Raleigh fell out of favour with their demanding monarch.

As with her other favourites Heneage’s personal relationship with the queen led to his appointment to office.  In his case he was the queen’s treasurer for many years ands extended family benefited from his patronage.

Gender politics was well and truly on the map and would stay there through the rest of Elizabeth’s reign both at home and abroad.


Whitelock, Anna (2013) Elizabeth’s Bedfellows. London: Bloomsbury


Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

margaret-douglas-countess-2Margaret Douglas is an important link in the Tudor family tree and its later prospective claimants to the English throne.  Unsurprisingly given that the Tudors are involved there are some dodgy family trees involved and not a little tragedy.


Margaret’s mother was the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York.  She was born in November 1489 and at the time when she married James IV of Scotland she was just thirteen.  In 1512 she gave birth to a son James (other children died in infancy) but then the following year her husband died at the Battle of Flodden.

archiboldouglas.jpgJames V was king but an infant.  There followed the usual power struggle.  The key families were the Stewarts, Douglases and Hamiltons. on 6 August 1514 without consulting her council or her brother Margaret married the pro-English Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.   This effectively caused the Douglas faction to advance up a large ladder in the courtly game of snakes and ladders.  A civil war resulted and Margaret was replaced as regent by John Stewart Earl of Albany – who was anti-English.  Margaret having been queen and regent now slid down several rungs of importance and life became very difficult not least when Margaret lost custody of the young king and of his brother called Alexander who had been born after the Battle of Flodden. Margaret, fearing for her safety and the safety of her unborn child by the earl of Angus made plans to escape Scotland.

Her first step was to go to Linlithgow from there she escaped into England and little Margaret Douglas made her way into the world on 8 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland by the end of January news arrived from Scotland that the infant Alexander was dead.  Margaret Douglas born of an English mother in an English castle was treated as English rather than Scottish throughout her life and in terms of the English succession. Margaret Tudor’s husband the earl of Angus now deserted his wife and made his peace with the earl of Albany…and his other wife.

Angus had been married to Mary Hepburn but he had been widowed.  What Margaret Tudor didn’t know was that he had entered into a relationship with Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair before marrying her. They were ether engaged or married.  In either event Angus was contracted to another woman making his marriage to Margaret Tudor effectively bigamous. Angus wanted the return of his family lands which Albany had confiscated and in the meantime he took up residence with Lady Janet in one of Margaret’s properties.  As with Mary and Elizabeth Tudor the small fact of her father’s complicated love life must bring into question the legitimacy of Margaret Douglas and therefore her claim to the English throne by right of descent from Margaret Tudor.

Henry VIII did not send for his sister until 1516 and ultimately Margaret Tudor did return to Scotland when Albany went to France in 1517.  This meant that Margaret Douglas also went to Scotland and became the centre of a struggle between her parents when he also returned.  The earl of Angus snatched the infant Margaret from her mother’s arms.  Her existence gave the earl of Angus power.  She was in line to the English throne after all.  Ultimately Margaret Douglas found some degree of sanctuary in the care of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey who arranged for her to be housed in Berwick.

If that weren’t complicated enough Margaret Tudor divorced the earl of Angus and married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.  It was a match that didn’t work particularly well.  Methven ultimately moved in with a mistress and Margaret Tudor tried to move back in with the earl of Angus.  James V regarded Methven as a trusted advisor and refused to permit the divorce. Margaret Tudor bowed to her son’s wishes but died in 1541.

But back to Margaret Douglas’s story. After Wolsey’s fall from power and death in 1530 she found home in the household of Princess Mary at Beaulieu where she had been living since 1528.   When she reached adulthood she was appointed as Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn which must have been difficult as she was a lifelong friend of her cousin Princess Mary.  During Mary’s reign she was considered as a possible heir to the throne.  It helped not only that she was close to Mary but that she was Catholic in her sympathies.

Meanwhile, back in the early 1530s at court Margaret  had grown into a beautiful and creative woman who wrote poetry.  She met and fell in love with Lord Thomas Howard.  He was one of Anne Boleyn’s uncles (a young brother of the duke of Norfolk).  The pair became engaged.  They had not sought royal approval. In July 1536 Henry VIII discovered the engagement and was not a happy man.  By that time Anne Boleyn had fallen from favour and both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor had been declared illegitimate.  This meant that Margaret Douglas was quite high up on the list of possible heirs to the throne.  She was a very marriageable commodity. Margaret broke off the engagement but by then both she and Lord Thomas had been thrown into the Tower and charged with treason.  He died of natural causes on 31 October 1537. Margaret had been released from custody a few days previously.

Unsurprisingly given her mother’s complicated love life and Henry’s eye popping disapproval of his sister Margaret Douglas now found herself declared illegitimate by Act of Parliament.

In 1539 Margaret is on the list of Anne of Cleve’s ladies in waiting.

In 1540 she was back in hot water when she had an affair with Sir Charles Howard.  It probably didn’t help that he was closely related to Katherine Howard.  She was sent to Syon House but moved from there when Katherine Howard was also sent to Syon in disgrace.  She might have remained in obscurity if the earl of Angus hadn’t popped back up to cause trouble in Scotland.

In 1543 Margaret Douglas was one of Katherine Parr’s bridesmaids.

matthew stuart.jpgMargaret finally married in 1544. He was a Scottish exile and his name was Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The pair lived at Temple Newsam near Leeds, a gift from Henry VIII to his niece upon her wedding.  They had two sons – Henry Stuart Lord Darnley who would marry Mary Queen of Scots and end up murdered in an orchard in Kirk o Fields in 1567 and Charles Stuart who would fall in love with and marry Elizabeth Cavendish – Margaret Douglas’s grand-daughter was Lady Arbella Stuart.  Neither Henry Stewart nor Charles nor even Arbella would have been considered a legitimate claimant to the throne by Henry VIII who excluded Margaret Lennox from the succession through his will because she made no secret of her Catholicism.




Margaret Douglas  even lost her claim to the earldom of Angus because of her husband’s part in the Rough Wooing. Margaret was Angus’s only legitimate child but he left everything to his nephew. Margaret never stopped contesting the fact that her father had broken the entail that should have seen her inherit an earldom.

Matthew Stewart, Lord Lennox  was shot in the back and died in 1571 whilst fighting in Stirling. The marriage between the pair had probably been political but if the Lennox Jewel is anything to go by Margaret and her husband had fallen in love with one another.

lennox jewel.jpg


Whilst Mary Tudor was on the throne Margaret Douglas was at the centre of the royal court but once Protestant Elizabeth ascended the throne Margaret’s life became difficult not only because she insisted that Mary Tudor had said she ought to be queen but because of her Catholicism. Mathew Stuart found himself in the Tower and Margaret spent time under house arrest at Sheen.

margaret douglas hilliardHaving lost her own claims to the English crown Margaret then worked on her eldest son’s claims.  Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was she claimed a contender for both the English and the Scottish crowns. Margaret was careful to send Henry to visit Mary Queen of Scots in France on several occasions.  Her scheming would ultimately result in Darnley becoming Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband and effectively doubling their claim to the English throne.

Inevitably the match between Margaret’s second son (Charles) with his claim to the throne and Elizabeth Cavendish in November 1574 en route between London and Temple Newsam did not go down very well with Elizabeth I who suspected her cousin of Catholic plotting in Yorkshire.  Lady Arbella Stuart would pay a heavy price for her royal blood.

Arbella Stuart

Margaret was summoned back to London and sent to the Tower for her part in arranging the match between her son and Elizabeth Cavendish.  Elizabeth Cavendish’s mother escaped the Tower but Bess of Hardwick gave Elizabeth a blue satin cloak lined with velvet that Christmas suggesting that she knew that she was on a bit of a sticky wicket!

After the death of Margaret’s son Charles she concentrated her efforts on Arbella to whom she left her casket of jewellery when she died:

All the rest of my jewels goods chattels movable and unmovable, my funerals and legacies performed and my due debts paid I give and bequeath to the Lady Arbell Daughter of my son Charles deceased. Provided always and I will that where the one of my said Executors Thomas Fowler hath for sundry and divers bargains made for me and to my use by my appointment, authority and request entered into sundry bonds and covenants of warranties in sundry sorts and kinds that by law he may be challenged and constrained to answer and make good the same he the said Thomas Fowler my said executors shall out of my said goods, chattels movables plate and jewels whatsoever be answered allowed satisfied recompensed and kept harmless from any loss recovery forfeiture actions suits demands whatsoever may be and shall be of and from him my said executor lawfully recovered and obtained by any person or persons at any time or times after my decease. And provided also and I will that the rest and portion of my jewels, goods or movables whatsoever shall fall out to be shall remain in the hands, custody and keeping of my said executor Thomas Fowler until the said Lady Arbell be married or come to the age of fourteen years, to be then safely delivered to her if God shall send her then and so long to be living.

After her death on 9th March 1578 Elizabeth paid for her cousin to be buried in Westminster Abbey.  It is perhaps not surprising given the tumultuous life that she led that there is even a conspiracy theory around her death.  She dined with the earl of Leicester a few days before she died and that gave rise to the rumour that she was poisoned.


Weir, Alison.(2015) The Lost Tudor Princess. London:Vintage


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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century

Westminster Hall


It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous.  The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink.  On the plus side I have finished some writing today.  On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory.  All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.

Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice.  And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so.  Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think.  Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170.  There was a second coronation in Winchester.


It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place.  Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.

The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall.  Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association.  Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial.  Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly”  and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.

William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March.  This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood.  Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled.  Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534.  He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.

Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale.  Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace.  His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.

 William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time  accessed from

Westminster Hall 1097


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Michael de la Pole – Earl of Suffolk, Chancellor, traitor and retainer

john of gauntMichael De La Pole ( born circa 1331) was created Earl of Suffolk in 1385. It was a meteroric rise to power given that his father was a Hull wool merchant. Of course, there was money involved.  Edward III needed a financier and William de la Pole was the man for the job. Unsurprisingly, Michael benefitted from his father’s wealth and influence at the court of Edward III.

He can be found amongst the retinues of the Black Prince and later John of Gaunt. It appears that when he first took arms in 1359 he served in the retinue of Henry of Grosmont a.k.a. the first duke of Lancaster. In 1366 he served under the banner of John of Gaunt and continued in the duke’s service in successive campaigns. This suggests that joining with the Black Prince was something that all men wanted to do irrelevant of where their loyalty would normally lay – don’t forget the Black Prince was the military commander who led the English to their early victories during the Hundred Years War.

It was as a consequence of his affiliation with Lancaster that de la Pole began to rise in position. In 1376 he was made admiral of the fleet north of the Thames (Roscell: 129). He was reappointed to the post when Richard II became king in 1377.  Pole was also appointed to be one of Richard II’s advisers. He worked alongside the earl of Arundel who would go on to become Pole’s arch rival and Richard’s bitter enemy.

In 1378 de la Pole was back in France with a commission to take over the castle at Brest – at the behest of Gaunt. During his years as a soldier de la Pole was made a prisoner of war at least once on the second occasion he was part of an embassy negotiating with Wenzel for the hand of Anne of Bohemia. Quite how John of Gaunt must have felt when his former captain managed to get himself captured by brigands in Germany having gone off to negotiate a bride for Richard II can only be imagined. Gaunt agreed to pay 7,000 florins in January 1380 for the return of the embassy that included de la Pole. The ransom would come up at de la Pole’s trial – apparently the ransom constituted rather a waste of money and it hadn’t helped that on his return to England the exchequer was ordered to pay de la Pole his salary as well, inclusive of the time when he was twiddling his fingers in a cell in Germany. As is the way of these things the penpushers dragged their heels and it was only when de la Pole became chancellor that he got his back pay, which ultimately was turned, into a charge of embezzlement.

Richard II made de la Pole chancellor in 1385 but his role as Richard’s man made him a target for an increasingly hostile parliament who regarded Richard’s wish for peace as the result of poor advice. So whose man was de la Pole at this point? He was the king’s friend and adviser  and the king wanted peace.  It looks like Pole leaned in that direction as well.  However Gaunt was for a continuation of the continental conflict – so was Pole still gaunt’s man or not? Possibly not but it was probably just as well that popular opinion had placed Pole in a league of his own because  the Hundred Years War took a turn for the worse and even the Scots seemed to have the upper hand. Once again it was the king’s advisers who were to blame – and who better to blame than the jumped-up son of a merchant? In October 1386, just a year after being made an earl the Commons charged him with the crimes of embezzlement and negligence. This did not deter nineteen-year-old Richard who was forced to accept the impeachment of his adviser and friend. De la Pole continued to maintain his place at Richard’s side but Richard’s loyalty to his friend would ultimately see him removed from power. Consequentially, the following year Michael found himself on the wrong side of the Lords Appellants in November 1387. Pole had the sense to flee England in the aftermath of the Appellants’ victory at the Battle of Radcot Bridge so avoided the punishments meted out by the Merciless Parliament. Sentenced for treason he was stripped of his titles.   He died in Paris the following year but at least avoided the fates of Robert Tresilian (chief justice, Richard Bembre (former mayor of London) and Sir Simon Burley (Richard’s tutor) who amongst others were executed on the orders of the so-called Merciless Parliament. Richard remained powerless whilst John of Gaunt was overseas trying to secure the throne of Castile. It was only on Gaunt’s return in 1389 that Richard was able to regain the ascendency.


Froissart is not one of de la Pole’s fans. He described him as a man who gave bad advice and who caused trouble for John of Gaunt by making Richard II increasingly suspicious of his uncle. This is usually the evidence that is used to identify the fact that de la Pole was no longer of the Lancastrian Affinity.

And yet, it is clear that once upon a time de la Pole was very much part of Gaunt’s retinue and he is often used as an example of the way in which the Lancaster Affinity found itself in some very important places – which might well account for the duke of Gloucester’s antipathy to his brother and certainly Gaunt benefited from having retainers in high places. In October 1383, by which time de la Pole was chancellor, Michael spoke about the Anglo-Scottish situation in a way favourable to Gaunt who according to Goodman (p98) wanted to go to war in France rather than on England’s northern borders. By the following year Richard’s hostility to his uncle would taint their relationship (again) and the politics of the realm not to mention the way in which Scottish campaigning would be conducted. However, it was the last time that Michael de la Pole took to the field. When the English army marched into Scotland de la Pole arrived with one hundred and forty men and took his place as a retainer to John of Gaunt demonstrating de la Pole’s loyalty to the duke of Lancaster. During the campaign there were accusations of plots and disloyalty which Froissart interpreted as being de la Pole’s fault – a typical example of blaming the poor decisions of a monarch on his bad advisors. There is some  circumstantial evidence that suggests that de la Pole maintained some loyalty to the duke of Lancaster throughout his life. When the earl of Oxford, one of Richard’s favourites, plotted to rid the political scene of John of Gaunt’s influence in February 1385 it is possible that it was de la Pole who warned the duke of the plot which would have seen him arrested at a council meeting in Walham.


And as you might expect the more closely that you look at the extended families of Gaunt’s retinue the more it becomes apparent that there was a web of relationships building on Lancastrian links. Blanche de la Pole, Michael’s sister was married to a son of Lord Scrope – another of Gaunt’s prominent retainers. Michael’s other sister, Margaret, was married to Sir Robert Neville of Hornby. Sir William de la Pole – the Hull merchant had successfully married all his children into some of the north’s leading families – and they all happened to have some loyalty to the duchy of Lancaster. It’ll come as no surprise to know that Michael’s brother Edmund was also in the retinue of John of Gaunt – Edmund was also one of the people who was called upon to pay Michael’s ransom.



Armitage-Smith, Sydney. (1876) John of Gaunt: King of Castile and Leon, Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster

Goodman, Anthony. (1992) John of Gaunt: The Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe. London: Longman

Roskell, John Smith. (1984)The Impeachment of Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk in 1386: In the Context of the Reign of Richard II. Manchester: Manchester University Press



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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fourteenth Century, The Plantagenets

The end of Carlisle’s Jacobites

archibald primrose.jpgIn the aftermath of the 1745 uprising many Jacobite prisoners found themselves in Carlisle once more. Legend tells that “the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lommand” was composed by a man destined for the gallows at this time.  The castle cells were so full that prisoners were kept in the Cathedral; troops were billeted. Court officials arrived. Friends and families arrived to try and save the lives of their loved ones. There were so many prisoners that it was decided that it was an impossible task to try them all. The Jacobites were made to draw lots. Nineteen out of twenty men were to be transported to the colonies. The twentieth man was to be put on trial for treason which usually meant execution. A Special Commission of Goal Delivery was held. The Grand Jury convened in August 1746 with the trials beginning on Tuesday, 9th September the same year. To have worn the white cockade was enough to confirm a man’s guilt.

One hundred and thirty people were taken forward for trial. Two men were too sick to stand trial and one man, Lord Mordington, pleaded his peerage so could not legally be tried by the judges in Carlisle as they were not his equals. Of the remaining defendants forty-two pleaded guilty and a further forty-nine were found guilty at their trials including Sir Archibald Primrose, the nephew of the Earl of Rosebery. Thirty-three of the convicted Jacobites were executed while one man died in prison.

Sir Archibald Primrose  of Dunipace having first been imprisoned in Aberdeen was moved to Carlisle for trial and went to his death on Harraby Hill leaving only a letter for his sister in Edinburgh which he handed over to a friend at the foot of the scaffold.  In it he assured her that he was meeting his death as a Christian. He had hoped for a pardon having pleaded guilty and thrown himself on the mercy of the court believing that this was the course that would preserve his life. No messenger arrived in time to save him. There is a story that reprieve arrived half an hour after Sir Archibald’s execution. He is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard along with many of the other executed Jacobites in an unmarked grave. Mourners at the funerals of the executed men would not recognize the St Cuthbert’s Church today as the current building was erected in 1779. Primrose’s family must have been horrified by his decision to join with the Jacobites, although it would have to be said that keeping track of the Primrose family’s loyalties isn’t always straight forward.  They’d shifted from loyalty to James II to William of Orange and risen through Scottish society by telling tales on Jacobites. Primrose’s near ancestor  was a commissioner for the 1707 Act of Union – an event that didn’t go down terribly well in Scotland at the time – having risen to the rank of earl on 1703 on the strength of his political affiliations – so quite why our Archibald had opted to affiliate himself to his princeliness is a matter for some speculation and one which he only hints at in his final letter.

Archibald’s letter reveals the extent to which Hanoverian prosecutors were determined to make an example of the Jacobites. He says that William Gray one of his prosecutors “suborned witnesses” and “threatened some.”  He went on to say that one man was to be hanged alongside him who had been offered his life on the proviso that he incriminate Primrose.  The man had refused:

I have endeavoured to take some small time, from a much more immediate concern, to offer you a few lines, and to let you know that this day I am to suffer, I think,
for my religion, my prince, and my country. For each of these I wish I had a thousand lives to spend. The shortness of the intimation will not allow me much time to write to you so fully in my vindication for what I did that I know concerns you. But I heartily repent of the bad advice I got even from men of judgment and sense. And what I did by their advice in my own opinion was no more than acknowledging I bore arms
against the present government, for my lawful, undoubted prince, my religion, and country; and I thought by my plea to procure some time longer life only to do service to my poor family, not doubting but yet in a short time that glorious cause will succeed, which God of His infinite mercy grant.

I repent most heartily for what I did, and I merit this death as my punishment, and I trust in the Almighty for mercy for my poor soul. As I am very soon to leave this world, I pray God to forgive all my enemies, particularly Mr. Gray, he who did me all the injury he could by suborning witnesses, and threatening some which was my terror. Particularly there is one poor man is to suffer with me that had an offer of his life tobe an evidence against me, which he rejccted.

Much more I could say, but as my time is short, I now bid my last adieu to my dear mother and you, my dear sister, and I intreat you’ll be kind to my dear wife and children; and may all the blessings of Heaven attend you all. Live together comfortably and you may expect God’s favour. My grateful acknowledgments for all your favours done and designed.

Remember me kindly to my Lady Caithness, Sauchie, and his sisters, and all my friends and acquaintances. May the Almighty grant you all happiness here, and eternal bliss hereafter, to which bliss, I trust, in His mcrcy soon to retire; and am for ever, dear sistcr, your affectionate brothcr, A.P.
PS:–My blessing for your dear boy, my son. 

Transcript of letter from The Lyon in Mourning which may be accessed from

Twenty Guineas and the usual hangman’s prerequisites of clothes and personal belongings convinced William Stout of Hexham that he was the man to execute the Jacobites for their treason. It was not a pleasant job. Thirty-three men had to be hung, cut down, revived, cut open and disemboweled. The executioner was supposed to be sufficiently adept at knotting off vital tubes and arteries so that the dying man could see their bowels being burned in front of them. The last step in the process was to chop the condemned man’s head off and put an end to any lingering misery.

The first nine rebels were hung on Harraby Hill on Saturday 18th October 1746 amongst their number was the gallant highlander who’d presented his white cockade to a new born baby at Rose Castle as a guarantee of safety less than a year previously.  Executions continued throughout October in Brampton and Penrith and concluded on Saturday 15th November with a final batch of condemned men being executed on Harraby Hill.

An entry in the Carlisle Patriot of 10 October 1829 recalls the memories of John Graham who had “gone upon Harraby Hill to witness the melancholy ceremony.” In the years that followed he came into the ownership of the land where the gallows had once stood and it was he who unearthed its remains and the pile of ash that burned the entrails of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men.

Executed on Saturday 18 October 1746 at Harraby Hill

James Brand

Francis Buchanan

Hugh Cameron

Thomas Coppoch (the so-called Jacobite Bishop of Carlisle)

John Henderson

Donald Macdonald of Teirnardreish

Donald Macdonald of Kinloch Moidart

John Macnaughton


Executed on Saturday, 15 November 1746 at Harraby Hill

Molineaux Eaton

Charles Gordon

Thomas Hayes

Patrick Keir

Barnambus Matthew

James Mitchell

Patrick Murray

Sir Archibald Primrose

Robert Reid

Alexander Stevenson

John Wallace


Hickey, Julia (2014) High Road to Harraby Hill.  Carlisle:Bookcase



Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts

General Wade – Jacobites, walls and Yorkshire.

Fleece Inn Image sml.jpgI first heard of General George Wade as the man who built the Military Road from Newcastle to Carlisle by using some conveniently placed worked stone – Hadrian’s Wall.  It didn’t endear him to me.  Across on the Continent he’d served in the Nine Years War and the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In 1724 Wade was sent off to inspect Scotland having done a stint as an MP for Bath and having foiled various Jacobite plots in the SouthWest in 1719.  It was he who orchestrated barracks, bridges, roads and fortifications by which the north and Scotland could be controlled – he was made a field marshall for his pains. But it wasn’t until 1746 that he vandalised Hadrian’s Wall. His Military Road is the B6318.  It used masonry from the wall and near Brampton simply ploughs along its path.

Marshall Wade was in Newcastle in October 1745. Essentially he hung around in Newcastle in case his Princeliness and his Jacobites followed after Sir John Cope to Berwick and then down the east coast.  Meanwhile the east coast all the way down to Norfolk prepared to repel invading French-persons – unfortunately Louis XV hadn’t got his act together at that point.  There was supposed to have been a Jacobite uprising with shiploads of French the previous year – and it hadn’t happened due to a February storm that had scattered the French invasion fleet- in addition to which it wasn’t because Louis felt strongly about supporting the house of Stuart it was more to do with the War of Austrian Succession that saw Britain and France squaring off without actually declaring war.  The Jacobites were a handy method of disrupting the English.  Anyway, in 1745 Louis waited to see what would happen and left concrete support far too late but hindsight is a wonderful thing and in the autumn of 1745 everyone on the east coast was feeling decidedly nervous.

Meanwhile the inhabitants of the Cumbria and Lancashire were remembering that in 1715 the Jacobites had headed in their direction.  Letters were exchanged. Wade waited to see what the Jacobites would do.  George Murray was a canny lad and kept Wade guessing about which direction the Jacobites would choose. When it was finally clear which direction Charlie-boy and his cohorts were heading in it was too late for Wade’s forces to deploy in time. Wade discovered that bad weather and bad roads would prevent him from heading the Jacobites off before they made too much progress into England.

He and his men headed south after the Jacobites – using what we know as the A1 and what they thought of as the Great North Road. Meanwhile the duke of Cumberland was summoned from playing soldiers in Europe.  He and his men were based in Lichfield. A third army was hurriedly assembled to defend London although there were rumours that the Scottish contingent of the London based army would defect to the Jacobites if they got within twenty miles.  Realistically, Lord George Murray had every reason to be concerned about being out manoeuvred when Prince Charles held his meeting in Exeter House in Derby on the 5th December.

Wade and his troops had arrived in Ferrybridge on the 8th December. They made it to Wakefield by the 10th December.  Cumberland had sent a letter demanding that Wade’s men cut off the prince’s retreat. Wade realising that his men weren’t going to get to Preston or Manchester in time to cut off the Jacobites sent his cavalry commanded by Olgethorpe, on the 11th, to do what they could.  They hurried from Wakefield to Elland via Westgate where they stopped so that Lady Oglethorpe could admire the view. According to the tenant of the Fleece Inn, George Readyhough, provided ale for three thousand troops.


Wade, meanwhile turned his men around and head back to Newcastle. Oglethorpe arrived in Preston more or less at the same time as Cumberland – the 13th December.


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Bonnie Prince Charlie demands new shoes.

bonnie prince charlieHaving waved farewell to Colonel Francis Townley the Mancunian newly made Governor of Carlisle and the 380/390 men who remained with him Bonnie Prince Charlie exited Carlisle via Scotch Gate and crossed the bridge over the River Eden. Lord George Murray’s men awaited him at Stanwix.

From there the Jacobites marched eight miles to the Scottish border – into what had been the Debatable Lands.  At Longtown they needed to cross the River Esk.  It should have been a shallow crossing place.  As it was the river was if not in full spate very close to it.  Cavalry were sent down river to rescue anyone that got swept away and then the soldiers formed up into lines of twelve, locked arms and made their way across with suitable gaps between the parties of twelve men.  Apparently they all made it, although Hanoverian press claimed that several camp followers and jacobite women drowned as they  made the attempt – this it appears was propaganda.

Once the army had made dry land the pipers struck up and the whole army danced – from joy at being back on home soil and more practically because they needed to dry out.

This event spawned yet another heroic ballad entitled The Hundred Pipers.  It was written by Lady Nairn and she seems to have become slightly confused about the chronology  as in the ballad the Scots danced their way into England rather than out of it.

The army now split into two columns.  One led by Lord George Murray headed in the direction of Ecclefechan whilst the other containing his princeliness headed off in the direction of Dumfries via Annan.  This was perhaps to make it seem as though there was a bigger army than there actually was.

The people of Annandale weren’t terribly happy to see the Jacobites not least because they’d stolen from them when the army was heading south. In Dumfries Charlie levied a fine of £2000 and demanded 1,000 pairs of shoes within twenty-four hours.  Highlanders were actually stopping people in the streets and taking their shoes from them.  To make matters worse there weren’t 1,000 pairs of shoes in the district.  The best they could manage having raided all the cobblers in the area was 255 pairs. Andrew Crosbie of Holm and Walter Riddell of Glenriddell were carried away the next morning as hostages to ensure that the full £2000 was paid.  It was only when the Jacobites reached Glasgow – anther place that wasn’t overly pleased to see them- that the money was forthcoming and they were allowed to go home.


Johnson Beattie, David. (1928) Prince Charlie and the Borderland. Carlisle: Charles Thurnam and Sons


Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, The Stuarts

The Jacobite defence of Carlisle

castleIt would have to be said that the Jacobites were not as gentlemanly on their way home as they had been on their journey south and the prince was starting to look a bit grim round the edges.  They’d left Carlisle confident that Stuart supporters would flock to their cause but Lancashire with its pro-Jacobite sympathies hadn’t yielded the manpower that Charles’ Scottish generals had hoped for.  Lord George Murray had only agreed to continue to Derby to test the waters.

Prince Charles reached Carlisle on the 19th of December.  He bedded down for the night in Mr Highmore’s house – it’s long gone, replaced by marks and Spencer. He and his army marched back into Scotland on the 21st December. He left behind him a garrison of some three hundred and eighty men.  Many of them were from the Manchester Regiment as the prospect of entering Scotland was not one which some found appealing.  Colonel Townley commanded those men whilst Captain Hamilton was made governor of the city. This had the unlooked for effect of dividing command.

The rationale for leaving Carlisle in Jacobite hands was two-fold.  It would slow Cumberland’s pursuit and it would send the message that Charles intended to return and raise the siege which would no doubt follow.

Sure enough Cumberland arrived and found the city gates locked against him.  Carlisle was besieged once again – the last time in its long history: in fact the last time any English town was besieged. It was Cumberland who said that the castle was no better than an old hen coop.  He had a point. A messenger was sent to Whitehaven to demand canon.  IN order to break the walls the duke needed artillery.

A battery was set up on Primrose Bank whilst the Scots took pot shots from the castle.  It’s said that the duke only narrowly missed a bullet.Things started to deteriorate from the Scottish point of view when Dutch troops under the command of General Wade arrived and set up their own batteries at Stanwix.  The Scots fired their own artillery.  They don’t seem to have been particularly good shots.

As soon as the guns arrived from Whitehaven and were mounted on the batteries the siege was over. It took two days.  The Scots surrounded on the 29th of December. As the walls started to topple Hamilton asked for his men to be treated as prisoners of war.  His request was rejected.  The Jacobites found themselves incarcerated for a time in Carlisle Cathedral where they carved their names into the woodwork before they were eventually moved, tried and then many were returned to Carlisle to be executed; their leaders for treason, the ordinary jacobites for having the misfortune to have their names drawn by lot irrelevant of their role in proceedings.  Those who weren’t executed or didn’t die due to poor treatment could look forward to being transported to the Americas…more of that anon.

They weren’t the only ones for the high jump.  The Hanoverians had been scared by the fact that the Jacobites had got so far as Derby and now set about making an example of their foes and those who were deemed to be accomplices.  Carlisle’s mayor and town clerk found themselves under arrest along with eight other citizens of Carlisle.

Mr Highmore’s house now became home to the duke of Cumberland whilst he remained in Carlisle.


Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts

Bonnie Prince Charlie – retreat.

000106_hartington_exterior_001.jpgThe Jacobites left Derby on the 6th December but William Augustus (the duke of Cumberland) didn’t get the information until the next day.  He set off in hot pursuit hoping to catch Charles on English soil.  Meanwhile the Jacobites headed back the way that they came with brief interludes for making local legends.  For reasons best known to himself and the original story teller Bonnie Prince Charlie  allegedly diverted off the main road at Ashbourne for a quick jaunt around the White Peak – he also allegedly stayed in Hartington where he took a mistress – one night stand might be a more apt description- who died presumably from love and who continues to haunt Hartington Hall waiting for her prince to return, pictured above.  Far more likely is the tale of the landlord of the Royal Oak by the River Dove who failed to part with his horse when the Jacobites demanded it and was shot for his pains.

Anyway, as Cumberland pursued the Jacobites north, General Wade who’d made it all the way to Yorkshire headed towards Lancashire in a bid to cut the Jacobite army off – clearly not a resounding success. Cumberland also wrote a sternly worded note to the local magistrates of Cheshire telling them it was their duty to slow the Jacobites down so that he could catch up with them.  It would appear that many magistrates nailed their letterboxes shut or suddenly found they had pressing engagements elsewhere not least because in the aftermath of the Jacobite army heading south many of the local militias had been disbanded having been palpably useless during the Jacobite advance. Oates makes the point that there wasn’t a Cheshire militia because the focus had been on building Chester’s defensive strength. By the 16th December Cumberland was in Preston and not amused by the fact that the citizens of the North West of England had failed to intercept the Jacobites.

There were the occasional skirmishes.  In Macclesfield one Jacobite was shot dead and in Manchester loyalists threw clods of earth at the retreating army but swiftly ran away themselves when the rear guard took exception to their treatment.

By the time the Jacobites arrived in Westmorland and Cumbria (to avoid confusion with the duke) the situation had changed.  The retreating army was less chivalrous than it had been on its march south.  The men who made up its parts were now looting and pillaging – they were becoming steadily more desperate. The regular army was catching up – as Bonnie Prince Charlie got up in the morning and rode off his hosts barely had time to change the bed sheets (if indeed they did) before the duke of Cumberland arrived looking for a bed for the night!

The advance party of Jacobites arrived in Kendal on the 14th December.  It was market day.  There were scuffles. A Jacobite was killed and in the exchange of gunfire that followed so was a Kendal cobbler.  In total four men died that day. The Jacobite advance party headed for Penrith via Shap and Orton.  The country was alight as it had been in the days of the border reivers with beacons being lit to warn of the Jacobite approach and skirmishes between the Scots and rural Cumbrians.

By now Cumberland was writing to those in authority demanding that they tear up roads and fell trees to stop the Jacobites in their tracks. The road from Kendal to Shap was broken.  With this information and the speed of the retreat its no wonder that horses fell in their traces on the pull up the hills over Shap. On the  16th December, the main  part of the army was at Shap. However, the rear guard commanded by Lord George Murray was delayed because of the difficulty of moving the wagons and what artillery they did have.  Many of the wagons broke or were simply too heavy to haul up the road.  Smaller carts had to be requisitioned and the contents of the wagons redistributed. The remnants of a cart and a horse skeleton would be found in a ravine demonstrating the difficulties of transport in the eighteenth century.  Every delay saw Cumberland drawing closer.

DSC_0077-54.jpgclifton war grave49.jpg It was at Clifton,outside Penrith that Cumberland’s advance party clashed with the Jacobite rearguard who had been ordered to conceal themselves behind two hedges.  It was the 18 December and was to be the last battle on English soil.  As the sunset the two sides met and both sides claimed victory – whilst the Redcoats retained the field the Scots could very justifiably argue that their retreat had not been impeded. The St Cuthbert’s Church, Clifton contains a memorial to the men of Bland’s regiment who fell during the skirmish and there is a roadside memorial to the battle.  Cumberland stayed the night at Townend Cottage.

A site known as the Rebel’s Tree in Clifton was where 15 Jacobites were thought to have been buried but an archeological dig preluding a housing development failed to uncover their grave although it did yield rather a lot of musket balls.  The archeological report noted that the railway embankment could have destroyed the graves or that the bodies lay within the restricted 20m zone around the tree which is protected not only because of its links with the battle but because it was also the local hanging tree.

On the morning of the 19th December the Jacobites were back in Carlisle and the recruits of the Manchester Regiment were having to decide whether to continue with the army or disperse and go home.  Cumberland would arrive outside Carlisle’s gates on the 21st December. Carlisle found itself under siege but this time, unlike so many in the past – the Scots were inside the city gates rather than outside.

Oates, Jonathan D. (2006) The Jacobite Invasion of 1745 in North West England. Lancaster: Lancaster University


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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts