Sunday, February 27, 2011

English Jacobites

Loaded by Jen Black

It is often forgotten that there were Englishmen amongst the Jacobite supporters who rose in rebellion in 1715. If one name is remembered, it is usually that of James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, a Northumbrian and an illegitimate grandson of Charles II on his mother's side. (Anya Seton's novel Devil Water may have brought him a little fame.) He owned huge estates in Northumberland and Cumberland, and his loyalty to the Stuarts was undisputed.

He and his brother Francis went to Saint-Germain in 1702 as companions to James Francis Edward Stuart and became ardent Catholics. His first attempt to help restore James Stuart to the throne occurred during the failed invasion of 1708, when he was unlucky enough to be captured in a French ship.

In 1709 he settled on his estates in Dilston, Northumberland, and very quickly developed a wide range of friendships among the Catholic and High Anglican gentry of Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Lancashire. He worked constantly to promote James Stuart’s cause and married a Catholic heiress, Anna Maria Webb, who was a devoted supporter of the exiled Stuarts.

Another key local Jacobite was William, 4th Baron Widdrington who had spent much of his youth at Saint-Germain. He lived at Stella on the Tyne, had extensive mining interests and was well known among the region's Catholic community. Both Derwentwater and Widdrington had large extended families of co-religionists across Northumberland and Durham. Other important Catholic Jacobite families were the Haggerstons, the Swinburnes of Capheaton and the Erringtons of Beaufront, near Hexham.

The Catholic families of Northumberland and Durham represented a wealthy and powerful force with considerable influence, and all favoured the cause of James Stuart.
Two local MPs, William Blackett of Newcastle and Thomas Forster of Bamburgh, though not Catholic, were deeply involved in Jacobite plots. Thomas Forster was High Anglican and Tory, and he believed that many Tories could be persuaded to come over to the Jacobite side once a rebellion had begun.

William Blackett was a successful Newcastle merchant who had bought Wallington from another Jacobite family, the Fenwicks. He was a Tory and was also a secret Jacobite. Being a successful member of the mercantile community, it was hoped he would be able to bring over the political establishment of Newcastle. These men were the ring leaders of Jacobite activities in Northumberland and Durham and were to be key players in the failed Rising of 1715.

Lords Derwentwater, Widdrington, Nithsdale, Carnwath, Wintoun, Kenmure and Nairn were impeached for high treason. Forster, John Clavering, Thomas Errington, William Shafto and eight Lancastrians were also impeached for conspiring against church and state, inciting the people and raising rebellion in Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Lancashire.

On 19 January all but Wintoun admitted their guilt before the Commons. Lord Chancellor Cowper asked each of the Lords if they had anything to say before sentence was passed. Derwentwater gave a strong assurance of his future loyalty and appealed to Cowper to consider his wife and children. Widdrington, Kenmure and Nairn made similar pleas.

Cowper was unmoved. All seven lords were immediately sentenced to death. The Countess of Derwentwater, together with several family members and influential friends, gained audience with the King and begged for clemency. Her heart-rending pleas were in vain, though a reprieve was offered on condition that the Earl renounced his religion and conformed to the Established Church.

Derwentwater turned the offer down down on grounds of honour and conscience. Nairn, Widdrington and Carnwath were more fortunate, being reprieved shortly before their execution. Nithsdale and Wintoun managed to escape from the Tower.
Derwentwater was led out to Tower Hill and just after midday 24th February 1716 had his head severed from his body by the axe-man. Kenmure followed him to the scaffold.

Meanwhile, in Liverpool on 12 January trials had been prepared against thirty-six Scots and thirty-eight English. Four were Northumbrians. Thirty-four of them were executed in various towns in Lancashire. They included John Hunter and George Collingwood. Collingwood's wife desperately tried to win a reprieve for him, but in spite of Lord Lonsdale's involvement, he was hung, drawn and quartered on 25 February.


Emery Lee said...

Excellent post!
I write Georgian era Romantic Historical Fiction. It's impossible to capture the essence of this era without including some Jacobite Intrigue.

For those interested, I have some further reading suggestions.

Northern Lights: The story of Lord Derwentwater by Ralph Arnold

Devil Water by Anya Seton

Dorothy Forster by Sir Walter Besant (a very prolific contemporary of Dickens). Dorothy was sister to MP Thomas Forster (mentioned in your post) and helped him escape from prison.
Besant considered this one of his best works. The Earl of Dertwentwater is also featured.

I look forward to following your blog!

Warmest regards,
Emery Lee
THE HIGHEST STAKES, Sourcebooks 2010
FORTUNE'S SON, Sourcebooks 2011

Jen Black said...

Thanks Emery. These people are often forgotten, so its nice to know someone appreciates them.

AnneMarie Brear said...

Good post, Jen!

Diane Scott Lewis said...

Good post, Jen. I reviewed 'Devil Water' for the HNS Society and it is full of interesting details about this era.

Cathie Dunn said...

Intriguing post, Jen. General history often forgets such individuals.

Jen Black said...

We went to Matfen Hall for a meal the other night, and the fact that the Blackett family still live there took on new significance. Well, they used to live there, and still own it, but I'm not sure if the family still lives there. Somethign else to find out on a dull day!