On 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.
On the 25 July 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II and Mary of Modena arrived in Scotland. By September Edinburgh was his and by November he’d arrived in Carlisle. On the 22nd he set off South stopping at Kendal on the 23rd before marching via Lancaster and Preston to Derby. The country was in turmoil but the Jacobites hadn’t received the support they’d expected so on the 5th of December they turned north once more leaving the House of Hanover to unpack their crown jewels and heave a huge sigh of relief.
The Jacobites arrived back in Kendal. Bonnie Prince Charlie settled down for the night in a house belonging to a local JP on Strickland Gate little knowing that the following night the Duke of Cumberland would rest his weary head in exactly the same bed (lets hope there was a change of bed-linen!).
Prince Charlie may have been exhausted from his journey, including an assignation attempt at Preston, but his slumbers will hardly have been restful since the folk of Kendal didn’t give him a warm welcome. The local militia greeted his arrival with a volley of shots and in the ensuring skirmish it is said that a Jacobite and a local farmer were shot. At least that’s what the Kendal Civic Society plaque proclaims.
Enter an angel…there used to be an inn in Kendal called The Angel. Apparently the inhabitants of the inn didn’t much like the sound of the approaching Jacobite army so hid themselves out of sight – such was their hurry that they neglected to hide their child – Findler’s Legends of Lakeland makes no reference to the age or gender of the aforementioned child- it simply states that the child was left playing in the parlour while the rest of the family skiddaldled. Apparently the Scots arrived and were about to grab hold of the child when an angel turned up, did what angels do in those circumstances, and drove the startled rabble from the house. Okay, so its not history but I do like the way legends evolve from events.
Perhaps it was one of the highlanders who’d had a nasty shock to his sensibilities who lost his purse as he fled Kendal the following morning. It can now be seen in Kendal’s Museum as can assorted coinage left lying around by Romans, Vikings, Tudors and Eighteenth Century types hoping to hide their savings from the soldiery – of either army.
St Cuthbert’s Church in Carlisle has had a chequered history. These days its easy to miss tucked away as it is down a side lane between the House of Fraser and the Crown and Mitre. St Cuthbert preached in Carlisle but it didn’t stop the Vikings destroying the church that stood on the spot. It was William Rufus who ordered that the church should be rebuilt and it escaped the worst of the great fire of 1292 as well as the attentions of assorted besieging Scots. In 1644 when the Parliamentarians closed the cathedral and the parish church of St Mary’s which lays inside the cathedral the mayor made St Cuthbert’s the city’s Civic Church. It remains so to this day.
However, in 1777 it was decided that the church should be rebuilt, though the opening of the new church was delayed by a particularly bad storm in 1778 it took only two years to raise the money for the building and fitting out of the new church. Nothing remains of the medieval church apart from some fragments of glass.
The churchyard is an oasis of green in a city environment. Headstones have been placed against the churchyard walls so there is no indication of the spot where executed felons and Jacobites were laid to rest. There’s a further link to Carlisle’s troubled past as the last town besieged in England inside the church in the form of the royal coat of arms which were placed there in the aftermath of 1745 to remind the citizens of Carlisle where their loyalty lay.
Back outside, the graveyard is the final resting place for members of the Royalist garrison who died during the siege of 1644. The guide-book also makes reference to a highwayman and if that weren’t lively enough in December 1823 the body snatchers came calling in Carlisle. Graves were tampered with, two bodies went missing and one was discovered parcelled up ready for transportation.
Who would have thought there was so much history lurking in such a peaceful spot?