I keep coming back to the Bonnie Prince probably because there is so much printed material available one way and another not to mention rather beautiful tableware and tall tales. In the past it was assumed that regional newspapers of the period reflected a Londoncentric viewpoint. This was what people wanted to read – with a side interest in the local crime rates, corresponding descriptions of executions and the occasional hideous accident.
In 1745 the press presented a very anti-Jacobite stance. There were headlines like “No Popery” and “No Pretender.” The London Gazette helpfully announced Bonnie Prince Charlie’s landing in Scotland with a £30,00 reward for his capture whilst the Newcastle Courant, one of the oldest regional papers (I think) provided a sketch map of the Battle of Colloden. The papers were so wholeheartedly Hanoverian that anything Scottish came almost to be regarded as a political and social threat to order and safety. This was a viewpoint that would last for some time afterwards. Harris’s article on Jacobitism identifies the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 as a news event of the kind with which we are all too familiar today – the papers ceased to report events they actively sort out scoops and battled one another to be first with a new angle or event.
Satirists made the point that the Jacobites were in league with the pope and being manipulated by the French. This particular example is in the hands of the British Museum. Another cartoon entitled The Highland Visitors depicts the Scots indulging in a spot of light plundering. To be fair the satirists were more than happy to point a finger at General Cope when he arrived in Berwick with the news of his defeat following Prestonpans and in the aftermath “Butcher Cumberland” was not presented in a warm or friendly light as this cartoon shows with Britannia weighing mercy and butchery:
The figures involved were presented in tabloid dimensions. This stereotyping was something that had grown out of the broadsheets and ballads of earlier centuries. There is even an article on anti-Scottishness in political prints of the period and the use of prints to depict stereotypical Scots including the blue bonnet which the Young Pretender can be seen wearing at the start of this post. Even more interestingly it was only in 1745 that tartan became synonymous with Scottishness as, I am sad to say, did being unwashed and eating oats. Having said that the counter balance was the concept of Highland savagery – making the gentrified Hanoverians look somewhat sissy in contrast. Bonnie Prince Charlie might have been the representative of popery, tyranny and chaos but he was also the brave “highland laddie” that grew from his extended tour of the Scottish Highlands.
But back to the papers of the day – The Northampton Mercury, as averse to the Derby Mercury, took the unprecedented steps of hiring couriers so that they could beat the London papers in reporting Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreat from Derby. It also arranged for the London Papers to be couriered to its offices by using four staging posts for speed. The modern age of newspapers had arrived.
As some of you are aware I teach some courses for the WEA – the Workers Educational Association. I shall be delivering a very short course at the beginning of September (Tuesday morning 4th and 11th) on the topic of the Jacobite Prince in Derby. The course reference is C2340279.
If you would like to attend please book via the WEA website or phone their office.
Barker, Hannah. (1999) Newspapers and English Society 1695-1855
Clarke, Bob. (2004) From Grub Street to Fleet Street: An Illustrated History of English Newspapers to 1899.
Harris, Bob. (1995) England’s Provincial Newspapers and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46. History 80. 5-21
Pentland, G 2011, ‘“We Speak for the Ready”: Images of Scots in Political Prints, 1707-1832’ Scottish Historical Review, vol 90, no. 1, pp. 64-95. DOI: 10.3366/shr.2011.0004