Tag Archives: James II

9th December 1688 The Battle of Reading

This was the main military event of William of Orange’s Dutch invasion.

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Britain, we are often told, has never been successfully invaded in a thousand years. Napoleon and Hitler both gave it serious thought but apparently realised the futility of the idea. And since William’s Norman knights destroyed the Shield Wall of Harold’s Saxons at Hastings in 1066, it has never been successfully attempted.

This, like so many other notions handed down to schoolchildren over the years, is in fact false.

In the dying months of 1688, as James II, the last incumbent of the House of Stuart struggled to hold on to the legacy which had been faithfully handed down continuously over three centuries, a hostile Armada sailed from Holland, intent on removing said monarch from his throne and seizing the kingdom by naked force of arms.

King James II

King James II

Ever since James had ascended the throne following the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685, his calamitous and cack-handed rule had emphasised the divisions within his three kingdoms and given strength to the various bodies of self-interest who were opposed to his Catholicism on the grounds of their own narrow religious inclinations.

On 10th June 1688 James’ wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a male heir and the concerns of many of these bodies now crystallised and plotting for a military overthrow of the British Kingdom which had been on-going since April now burgeoned into action.

James' wife, Mary of Modena

James’ wife, Mary of Modena

 

Chief amongst these holders of vested interest was the Dutch Parliament, the States-General. The smouldering embers of the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78 now re-ignited as this august body, envisaging a formal Catholic Alliance between the British and French thrones with the consequent damage to Dutch interests, moved to direct military intervention.

The Dutch States General in 1688. The principal instigators of the successful invasion of the United Kingdom.

The Dutch States General in 1688. The principal instigators of the successful invasion of the United Kingdom.

William’s fleet of some 500 ships, probably four times greater than the legendary Spanish Armada of 1588, set sail after on 1st November and made landfall at Torbay in Devon 4 days later. 21, 000 hostile and, mostly foreign troops stepped ashore with the Dutch Parliament’s front man, prepared to conquer the kingdom by force of arms.

William lands at Torbay

William lands at Torbay

Amongst their number walked that intrepid military opportunist Hugh MacKay. Under whose generalship  William’s now British Army would be destroyed at Killiecrankie the following summer.

Concern about the threat of a Dutch invasion had been clear for many months. In September King James had written to the Scots Privy Council with instructions that Scotland’s entire standing army, with the exception of the garrisons of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton Castle should forthwith heads south, initially to Carlisle and thence to Chester.

 

It has been argued cogently that these forces could do nothing to stem the progress of William’s invasion force and that had they remained then Dundee would have had considerably greater resources to hand when the decisive Scottish encounter was fought at Killiecrankie ten months later. But this is to surrender to the vicissitudes of hindsight.

 

One week after William’s forces landed, James raised the faithful Claverhouse to the Scottish peerage, conferring upon him the title Viscount of Dundee.

 

Meantime William’s army sat inactive at Exeter. King James’ forces took up station at Salisbury to block the route to London. And on 17th November the King left the capitol to take up personal command of the army.

James’ timorous nature and clumsy handling of his regal responsibilities now began to bear fruit as many of his senior commanders, more mindful of their personal interests than of their proper, sworn loyalty to their rightful monarch, now began to melt away.

 

Given this encouragement, William began to advance from Exeter and as they reached Wincanton, the increasingly irresolute James withdrew the army to Reading.

 

The newly ennobled Bonnie Dundee had watched James’ futile efforts at warfare and the treachery which had done much to make it so, with increasing dismay. Maintaining the Scottish cavalry as a single coherent body he marched it to Reading.

At this point he then endeavoured to present to his monarch the three realistic options which he now believed to face him: to give battle to William, to meet with him personally and negotiate a position or to “make his way to Scotland, upon the coldness he observed in the English army and nation”.

Viscount Dundee

Viscount Dundee

 

The accounts of the battle itself are brief and depressingly similar with the suspicion of convenient re-interpretation inevitably hanging heavily in the air. A contingent of Dutch troops, some 250 in number, against the town. They engaged a portion of James’ army, mostly Irish, and within a short period of time had mastered them. Much is made of the apparent efforts of Reading citizens to our hostile fire from their windows into the ranks of the home army but it stretches credibility somewhat.

 

Nonetheless, the outcome is beyond dispute and any realistic military opposition in England to the hostile Dutch invasion had come to an end.

 

The dismal consequences of this require no repetition: William and his spouse were installed first as joint rulers of England then at a disastrous Convention in Edinburgh in March, the decision was taken to confer the Scottish Crown upon them. Dundee’s subsequent military campaign to restore King James to his throne effectively ended at the Battle if Killiecrankie where Dundee fell at the moment of victory.

 

The unhappy litany of disaster then continues with such notable events as the Massacre of Glencoe and the signing of the Act of Union in 1707.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30th January: The Executions of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell

On Tuesday 30th January 1649, Charles Stuart, 11th monarch of the House of Stuart, 2nd incumbent of the unified throne was marched from St James’ Palace to Whitehall to be publicly beheaded. His forbears had sat on the throne of Scotland for 261 years and now it was to end. In the snow, in a foreign land, in front of a silent mob.

Charles I heads for his execution

Charles I heads for his execution

Twelve years later, on Wednesday 30th January 1661, the disinterred body of Oliver Cromwell, which had lain in its grave for over two years, was taken from the Red Lion Inn in Holborn along with that of Henry Ireton, another of the regicides, to Tyburn where it was publicly hanged in chains. No public pronouncement of death being deemed necessary as the corpse had been such for some time.

After hanging there for some hours his body was taken down and the head struck unceremoniously from the rest of it whence it was placed high on a wooden stake for all to see.

Cromwell's corpse is hanged (with his fellow regicides Bradshaw and Ireton)

Cromwell’s corpse is hanged (with his fellow regicides Bradshaw and Ireton)

Cromwell: a man who had come close to being crowned himself and who was deemed then and since to represent the quintessentialness of British values to have his body treated in a manner so contemptuous that even now, three and a half centuries later we have no idea, and less concern, as to the location of said head.

Cromwell's severed head, as pictured in 1700. It's present whereabouts are unknown

Cromwell’s severed head, as pictured in 1700. It’s present whereabouts are unknown

As Cromwell’s corpse swung in the winter breeze, there was to be no dwelling on the manner in which events had unfolded. When he had died, the first time, he was at the height of his powers as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of the Three Kingdoms. His position backed up by his New Model Army, an extremely effective military force of his own creation. Nonetheless, it was remarkable the extent to which the fortunes of his interests had deteriorated so much in such a short space of time.

For Charles Stuart, however, there was plenty of time for him to consider the vicissitudes of his life. By January 1649 he had been held prisoner for nearly three years. First by the Scots Covenanting Army in Newcastle, upon whose mercy he had thrown himself when he had exhausted all other options following the defeat of his army in the Civil War. And then when the Scots handed him over to the vengeful Parliamentarians he was held under house arrest in a number of different locations whilst said Parliamentarians made up their mind as to what to do with him.

During this time his prospects were not entirely grim with the Scots rising in arms once more, this time to seek his freedom. But these hopes were to be dashed as Cromwell and his New Model destroyed this army at the Battle of Preston. And as negotiations wound tediously on over the months it was only near the end when Parliament sought to indict him for treason that he would have had some idea that matters might end with his death.

Charles I at his trial. Parliament had sacked his barber and he would let no-one near him with a razor.

Charles I at his trial. Parliament had sacked his barber and he would let no-one near him with a razor.

Like the citizenry of England, the Scots were not averse to brutally assassinating their anointed monarch when the need arose. As when James I was done to death in the basement of Blackfriars Monastery in 1437. Or when James III died at the hands of a mysterious assassin in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488.

Edward II of England’s grizzly end by means of a hot poker testifies to the enthusiasm with which such matters were conducted south of the border, albeit this happened after his abdication. However, we have the cases of Henry VI and the Princes in the Tower as eloquent evidence of due process in that part of the world.

However, in the long and colourful history of the Kingdom of Scotland there had never been efforts made to prosecute then execute a monarch. In England, however, not only was there a proud tradition of executing reigning monarchs, such as Lady Jane Grey in 1554. They had also taken it upon themselves to execute other peoples’ monarchs. The utterly reprehensible fashion in which Her Grace, Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for some nineteen years before a shameless show trial found her guilty of treason against a monarch of whom she was not a subject and condemned her to death, stands in clear testimony to the barbaric manner in which such matters have been conducted there over the centuries.

Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution in 1587.

Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution in 1587.

In January 1649, the first effort of the Rump Commons to raise the treason indictment against King Charles was immediately thrown out as unlawful by the three Chief Justices of the Common Law Courts of England. And so, in the high-handed manner in which this august body conducts its business, the Rump Commons unconstitutionally declared itself capable of legislating alone.

It then created a bill for the King’s trial and passed it as an act without royal assent. By this stage even the incorrigible optimism of Charles Stuart would have begun to give way to a more realistic assessment of the way the wind was blowing.

Charles had a firm and unaltered view of his God-anointed position. It was largely this firmness of purpose expressed as a wholesale refusal to compromise with any and all which had brought him into conflict with his Parliaments and his citizenry and which, arguably, had brought about the ruinous collapse in the fortunes of himself and those of the noble House of whom he was but the latest progeny.

So we can be reasonably sure that he did not entertain himself in his final hours with thoughts of what might have been done, by himself or by others, in the years gone by, to avoid this disastrous outcome.

Perhaps he might have handled his dealings regarding religious worship less high-handedly. The manner in which the he imposed his chosen form of worship on the people of Scotland led directly to the Signing of the National Covenant and thus to years of needless bloodshed which would continue long after his death.

The National Covenant is signed in 1638. The bloodshed of the Covenant Wars would soon follow.

The National Covenant is signed in 1638. The bloodshed of the Covenant Wars would soon follow.

Perhaps, he might have recognized the fundamental split that had occurred with his English Parliament and returned to the land of his fathers to re-establish the separate Kingdom of Scotland. Perhaps, in 1603, his father before him, James VI/I, might have given more thoughtful consideration to the offer of the joint crown in the first place. And instead of haring across the border at the first opportunity never once to return on the twenty-two years of his remaining life, he might have considered the possible downside of the arrangement. He might have pondered how a political arrangement with a single monarch presiding over two nations with separate sovereign Parliaments and with clear and historically proven diverse interests could ever possibly work.

No such thoughts occurred to either man. Nor indeed to those who came after. Charles’ son, Charles II, restored to the throne when the whole Cromwellian nonsense crumbled to dust after the man’s death, had too many other distractions to entertain him than taking action to provide long-term political stability.

And his brother, James II, had little enough time during his reckless reign to consider what could be done before jumping into the boat and heading for France, despite the entreaties of those who had the interests of him, his Ancient House and the people of Scotland at heart.

It was James’ reckless abandonment of his responsibilities that directly gave rise to another 57 years of bloodshed and sacrifice in the Jacobite Risings.

So perhaps there was a clear inevitability about the manner of his death. The mistakes, however, were not all his.

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25 September 1703, the Death of the 1st Duke of Argyll

On this day, 25 September 1703 died Archibald Campbell, the 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll……..which Argyll was this one then…?

Our Archibald, 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll

Our Archibald, 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll

This Archibald, hereinafter to be referred to as Our Archibald, was the latest in a long line of ennobled Archibald Campbells who held title over Argyll in the centuries after Colin Campbell was first raised to the peerage as the 1st Earl of Argyll by James II, in 1457.
A contemporary of Claverhouse, born in 1658, he played as much a part on the grand stage of Scottish Affairs as any of his forefathers. Which is why he features in this blogpost.

 

It can be difficult for even the enthusiastic student of Scottish History to keep track of the various Earls, Dukes and Marquesses who ruled the House of Argyll through the centuries. Suffice to know that most of these were christened Archibald and the vast majority were heinous criminals. Men fueled by towering ambition both for themselves and their noble house and, since the advent of the Reformation in the 16th century, the bitter, cheerless gall of hard core Presbyterianism layered a further patina of unpleasantness on them and their actions.

 

As the 10th Earl, Our Archibald was the son of Archibald, the 9th Earl who was executed in 1685 for his involvement in the Monmouth Rebellion.

Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. Our Archibald's father

Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. Our Archibald’s father

This was naked attempt to overthrow the incumbent of the British throne, James II & VII and place the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s illegitimate offspring, there in his stead.

Much has been written of Monmouth’s part of the rebellion but there is comparatively little commentary on Argyll’s efforts with the Scottish aspect of the rebellion.

Monmouth, having landed at Lyme Regis in June 1685 with less than 100 men, was quickly reinforced by local volunteers to the tune of 1000 troops. Over the next 4 weeks his army fought a serious of indecisive skirmishes against royalist troops before he was brought to a definitive set-piece battle at Sedgemoor a month after landing where his poorly trained and disorganized force was utterly routed by the regulars of the King’army. Monmouth was duly executed for high treason.

Monmouth docks at Lyme Regis to start his abortive Rebellion (June 1685)

Monmouth docks at Lyme Regis to start his abortive Rebellion (June 1685)

If Monmouth’s end of the rebellion was comical, Argyll’s efforts north of the border degenerated swiftly to the farcical. Arriving in Orkney a month before Monmouth docked at Lyme Regis, Archibald spent 4 weeks sailing around the west coast attempting to round up supporters for his cause. Bedevilled by lack of support and mutiny amongst those who did rally to his colours, he finally found himself at Dumbarton with only his son and 3 friends by his side. Subsequently captured by Government troops Argyll was executed in Edinburgh fully one week prior to Monmouth’s denouement at Sedgemoor.
This Archibald, the 9th Earl, features in the Claverhouse story as much as Our Archibald, the 10th Earl. To his credit he fought for his king and Scotland against the depredations of Cromwell and took part in both military disasters of the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and then the Battle of Worcester the following year. He survived through the interregnum, keeping one foot on both Stuart and Cromwellian camps, trusted by neither and viewed with high suspicion by both. And his father, Archibald the 8th Earl was executed on Charles II command in the immediate aftermath of the restoration in 1660.

 

In the complicated political atmosphere post the Restoration, Archibald the 9th Earl, sought to navigate the difficult waters but was confounded by the passing of the Test Act in 1681. This required all the nobility to take an oath which required a profession of the Protestant religion AND an affirmation of royal supremacy in all matters spiritual and temporal. This created too much of a compromise for Archibald who refused to take the oath and was, consequently, tried before his peers in December 1681, with one John Graham of Claverhouse present on the jury, he was sentenced to death. But prior to his execution he managed to escape from Edinburgh Castle, in disguise, and abetted by his step daughter Lady Sophie Lindsay. He was eventually executed, as outlined above, following the failure of Monmouth’s Rebellion.

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Our Archibald’s grandfather was the 8th Earl, also christened Archibald, and it was he who felt the eventual wrath of Charles II, when the Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660 following that disastrous period of miserableness known to history as the Cromwellian interregnum. It was he who set himself against the Great Montrose and although bested by this outstanding hero of Scottish history both on the military and political stage, he was the man peering through the blinds of his Edinburgh home on 20th May 1650 when Montrose was put to death at the order of the misguided covenanting Government.

Our Archibald's grandfather, also Archibald. 8th Earl and 1st Marquess of Argyll. In black-cowled Geneva Minister manifestation

Our Archibald’s grandfather, also Archibald. 8th Earl and 1st Marquess of Argyll. In black-cowled Geneva Minister manifestation

 

Anyway, let’s get back to Our Archibald, the 10th Earl. He had much to live up to, given the extensive record of his father and grandfather, both of whom had been executed for high treason, and he applied himself enthusiastically to his task. Following King James’ accession to the throne in 1685, after the death of Charles II, Archibald enthusiastically lobbied for the restoration of his father’s attainder. And when his entreaties were treated with the contempt of which they were thoroughly deserving, Archibald took himself off to The Hague and the Court of the Prince of Orange where he joined the motley crew of ambitious, exiled men who were minded to persuade the young Prince to seek his father-in-law’s throne for himself.

William of Orange, once more thrown from a horse

William of Orange, once more thrown from a horse

With the usurpation of King James from the throne in December 1688, Archibald continued in his personal support of the new monarchs, William and Mary. A devotion which in turn led to the restoration of his father’s land and holdings. When Dundee raised King James’ Standard on Dundee Law in April 1689, and initiated the first Jacobite Rising which was intended to restore James to said throne, Our Archibald proceeded to raise an armed force in King William’s name to protect the Hanoverian Crown. Although, this was done in such a slow and haphazard fashion that the decisive action of that campaign had been fought at Killiecrankie ere an armed Campbell marched forth from Argyll.

The Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689. Fought without contribution from Archibald or his Campbell's

The Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689. Fought without contribution from Archibald or his Campbell’s

With the eventual end of Dundee’s campaign it was clear to many that with a monarch of satisfactory protestant heritage ensconced on the throne, and an ambitious and capable one at that, the deposed Stuart monarch and his court exiled in France and the shifting political sands of the last ninety years now beginning to solidify into set cement, the requirement for caution of loyalty, often manifested as outright duplicity, was now gone. And it was now possible for a noble lord to throw himself wholeheartedly behind the monarch in order to best profit one’s standing and the resultant inheritance to be handed down. It was in this climate of enthusiastic loyalty that Our Archibald found himself. He became William’s principal advisor on Scottish affairs and was made a Privy Councillor. On the military side he was made Colonel-in-Chief of the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot. This was the body of men who were entrusted by William’s Scottish advisors to carry out that action of political repression known to us all as the Massacre of Glencoe, in 1692. Although, to be fair to Our Archibald, he was far and distant from the aforementioned Glen when the slaughter of the women and children was taking place.

The Massacre of Glencoe, February 1692. Carried out by The Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot of which Our Archibald was Colonel-in-Chief.

The Massacre of Glencoe, February 1692. Carried out by The Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot of which Our Archibald was Colonel-in-Chief.

Elevated to 1st Duke of Argyll in 1701 by a grateful monarch he died on 25th September 1703 at Cherton House, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His son, John, not Archibald, continued to serve the Hanoverian house in the same loyal fashion and indeed commanded the detachment of the British Army which, at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, confounded the Earl of Mar’s attempts to move south during the 1715 Jacobite Rising. An afternoon’s action which effectively ended the Rising.

Our Archibald's son, John. The first head of the House of Argyll in 4 generations not christened Archibald.

Our Archibald’s son, John. The first head of the House of Argyll in 4 generations not christened Archibald.

The English Convention Parliament (1689) – King James’ Usurpation Legitimised.

James II succeeded to the throne of the three kingdoms in 1685 following the death of his brother Charles II. The three years of his reign were an unhappy time for all as the king’s Catholicism left him unprepared to compromise even a little with the growing religious demands of his mostly Protestant subjects, particularly in Scotland.

James II                                                                   King James II

Dissatisfaction led to intrigue and conspiracy as William of Orange’s ambition for the crown coincided with the desire of many of the men of influence at the Royal Court to replace James with a suitably protestant successor.

Amid much scheming in both Dutch and English courts, towards the end of 1688, a plan was hatched to usurp James. And so, on 5th November William of Orange landed at Brixham at the head of an uninvited army of some 40,000 men, twice the size of the Spanish Armada,

Landing of William of Orange

William of Orange lands at Torbay

On the 9th November William’s forces seized Exeter after the magistrates had fled. And on 18th November Plymouth surrendered to the Dutch. There was a brief skirmish at Wincanton where a small force of James’ English army defeated a small party of Dutch scouts before retreating.

However, as the days went on there were widespread political and military defections to William as James was abandoned by subjects, friends and family.

As the Dutch army marched towards London, James, with characteristic indecision, first fled the capital only to return on being discovered in flight.

However, by 17th December with William and his forces on the verge of entering London there could be no other recourse than the king abandoning his throne and leaving for exile. On this day James was attended by Bonnie Dundee and Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres, the last 2 nobles of his court who remained loyal to the Stuarts.

(c) Traquair Charitable Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres

The three of them walked for a while in the Mall. James briefed Balcarres to attend to the civil affairs of Scotland and told Dundee he would receive a commission to command his army. And he left them trudging disconsolately off into exile.

So James was gone and William had arrived, without any major fighting much to the satisfaction of the miscreants involved. However, such a usurpation was unprecedented and had no easy resolution from the constitutional viewpoint.

William refused to simply take the crown as de facto king, preferring that the whole arrangement be properly documented and he gave instructions for an assembly of peers to be called. This gathering, on 22 January 1689, has become known as the Convention Parliament. Its purpose was to justify the overthrow of the properly anointed monarch and as such it had no legal standing.

For three weeks month arguments were heard as to the various proposals for monarchical arrangements going forward. Should William rule alone, or his wife, Mary who was James’s sister? Should, in fact, the throne pass to James and Mary’s sister Anne, who was satisfyingly protestant and who did, in the fullness of time, inherit the throne. Arguments were also put forward for a republic and the small voices of the loyal bishops proposed that James should be conditionally restored to the throne of his fathers.

De Hooghe's image of William III addressing the convention 'Parliament'

William of Orange addresses the Convention Parliament

It was, however, duly determined that since England was a protestant kingdom only a protestant could rule. The Commons agreed that the throne had become vacant due to the king’s abdication but the Lords rejected this as abdication was then a term of no legal standing. And furthermore that if the throne had become vacant then it should pass to the next in line which would be Mary.

Eventually, amidst the tawdry postulating over how best to tie up the loose ends of the whole debased affair, the Lords proposed that William and Mary should rule jointly, and the Commons agreed on the basis that William alone would hold the regal power.

William IIIs coronation

Coronation of William III and II and Mary II

On 13th February William and Mary were duly proclaimed joint monarchs of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. And on 23rd February, with the same deft touch, the new King William retrospectively converted the Convention into a legitimate Parliament by dissolving it and summoning it again to pass the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689.

He further ordered that a similar assembly be called in Edinburgh in order that he might be properly anointed monarch there. And it was this Convention of the Three Estates which opened on 14 March 1689 from which Bonnie Dundee withdrew and left to eventually raise the standard for the King and commence the campaign which ended at Killiecrankie.

And so a key turning point was reached in the History of Scotland. Within 20 years we would witness such events as the Massacre of Glencoe, the Darien disaster and finally and fatally, Parliamentary union with all that has come to pass from there.

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