From 1652 to 1660 Scotland was officially a part of ‘Northern England’ after it was incorporated into Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Commonwealth of England’ - it was a total fucking nightmare, you couldn’t get square sausage for shit, thousands went hungry after Scottish fivers weren’t even being accepted in Edinburgh. Cromwell run his Commonwealth like a kind of puritan Death Star, when he died in 1658 his son Richard took over the reins. Richard turned out to be more ‘Dr Evil’ than Darth Vader however, so the decision was taken to reinstate the monarchy.
In 1660 Charles II was reinstated as the monarch of Scotland, England and Ireland in a time known as the ‘Restoration’. Far from being a religious puritan Charles II was known as the ‘Jolly Monarch’ a nickname he earned not through any kind of generosity or joviality during the festive period although he certainly loved 'ho's' and was particularly adept at emptying his sack; Charles fathered 14 children making him responsible for more gene pools than currently exist in Fife. The Restoration saw a brief cultural renaissance after the bleak moralism of most of the 17th century and was was a precursor for the late 18th century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, an important period of intellectual enlightenment that led us to the realisation that you could deep-fry mars bars.
Top-shagger though he was when Charles II died in 1685 all 14 of his children were illegitimate – he is remembered in Scotland as the ‘Leigh Griffith’s King’ – and as such he died without leaving a direct heir to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. So, the crowns passed to Charles’s brother James who became James VII of Scotland and James II of England. During the Restoration James was the Lord High Commissioner of Scotland and had ruled as the Duke of Albany from 1682-85. James was a popular figure in Scotland, he installed a Royal Court at Holyrood Palace the likes of which had not been seen for over 100 years, and appointed the first Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University. Regardless however of how able a ruler James may or may not have been, his biggest problem when he inherited the throne in 1685 was that he was Catholic, which in 17th century Britain made him about as popular as a Mexican Muslim breastfeeding in Trump Tower.
The writing was on the wall for James – and still is on many a gabled house in Belfast – when his wife Mary of Modena gave birth to a son James Edward Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’, in 1688. With a male heir there was now the very real possibility of a succession of catholic monarchs. Thankfully, a helpful Dutch Prince by the name William of Orange offered to step in and stop this Catholic bogeyman like a kind of Protestant Thunder Cat.
William is a particularly popular King amongst a certain group of the Scottish population known as the ‘Orange Order’ who celebrate William’s victories and defence of the Protestant faith with a series of summertime marches known as ‘Orange Walks’. Orange walks are a curious thing. If it helps try and picture a man in a strange outfit blowing on a whistle, then imagine that when he blows on his whistle hundreds of identical wee orange people come out dressed in matching little suits and gloves, banging drums, and singing strange Oompa Loompa songs about how much they hate Catholics.
A real bunch of Willy Wonkers.
From a 21st Century perspective it probably seems quite implausible that a tiny - William was 5'6 - wig-wearing, orange, leader of a world power would would want to interfere in another nation's affairs and place unrealistic sanctions and restrictions on certain members of the population based purely on their religion, But William of Orange’s claim to the British thrones was semi-legitimate thanks to his wife Mary, who happened to James’s eldest daughter and presumably didn’t go to the old man’s for Sunday lunch all too frequently.
William’s army arrived in England in November 1688 and faced no resistance. James had such little support most of his men defected to the invading army and he was forced to flee. James was arrested and imprisoned leaving William with the ultimate married man’s fantasy, the opportunity to have his father-in-law beheaded. In the end he decided it probably wasn’t a good look for a future leader of the country to have his father-in-law and the rightful monarch executed. So, like Boris Johnson letting his old man go off and fuck about in the jungle eating possum cocks, he allowed James to escape to safety in France where they eat equally as weird and disgusting shit.
William didn’t have it all his own way however. James still had a lot of support in Scotland, most notably the powerful John Graham of Claverhouse the Viscount of Dundee, more commonly known as ‘Bonnie Dundee’. Bonnie Dundee is not to be mistaken for that mad Australian bam in the 80’s ‘Crocodile Dundee’, although there is one well known incident when Dundee confronted a knife wielding assailant by saying ‘that’s not a knife, this is a knife’ then proceeded to hold up a pint glass – his aggressor was unaware that for a man from Dundee a pint glass absolutely is a knife
In January 1689 an English Convention decreed that James, on fleeing the country, had abdicated his throne and as such they were free to proclaim William and Mary joint monarchs of England. When a Scottish Convention reached the same conclusion in April 1689 Claverhouse retreated into the Highlands to recruit an army of pint glass wielding maniacs to rebel against the reign of King William. It was the beginnings of the Jacobite movement to return James, and in later years his son James Edward Stuart the ‘Old Pretender’, to the thrones of Great Britain.
In July 1689 Bonnie Dundee launched a brilliant surprise attack on the Wiliamite army as they moved through the narrow pass of Killiecrankie in Perthshire. Dundee’s men rushed at the unexpecting troops and deployed for the first time the devastatingly effective Jacobean tactic the ‘Highland Charge’ which involved clansmen firing a single musket shot then charging at the enemy with their broadswords. Victory at Killiecrankie was the first great Jacobean victory, but like most of the Jacobite victories that would follow it came at a cost. Dundee the charismatic leader of the rebellion had been hit under the arm by a stray bullet and died from his wounds the day after the battle.
Colonel Alexander Cannon replaced him. Cannon was head of the Irish reinforcements at the Battle of Killiecrankie and his appointment angered the more powerful clan chiefs who felt they should have assumed control of the army. Men such as Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel who killed an English Officer by biting out his throat commenting, ‘it was the sweetest bite I ever took’ Nando’s having not been invented yet. Lacking the dashing and charismatic leadership of Dundee to unite the clans, and with an army full of manic Luis Suarez types, Cannon struggled to keep the Jacobite army together. With a depleted force the Jacobite army fought out a draw with the Government forces at the battle of Dunkeld in August 1689. The rebellion then slowly fizzled out and was dealt the final blow when James’s forces were soundly beaten at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in July 1690.
The Jacobite Rising of 1689 is one that never really got out of the group stages as far as rebellions go, which is I suppose fitting for a cause that was doomed for the most Scottish of all fates, that of glorious failure. It did however light the flame of Jacobite resistance and an obsession with tartan clad Jacobean culture that is now symbolic of Scotland, it put Killiecrankie on the map, and it gave us what has to surely be the finest oxymoron Scottish history has ever given us, ‘Bonnie Dundee’.