George II.—The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie
G EORGE I. died in 1727 A.D., and was succeeded by his son, George II. Like his father he was very German, but he could speak a little English. He had a very clever wife called Queen Caroline, and she helped him to rule. He had also a very clever Prime Minister called Walpole.
Walpole had begun to be powerful under George I., and although George II. did not like him, he still remained in power. He was the first "peace minister" Britain ever had. Instead of urging the King and people to fight, he tried in every way he could to keep the peace.
He saw that the best thing for the country was to be at peace. He saw that it was best for the people to have time to sow and reap, to build ships, to make goods, and to trade with other countries, and that they could neither have time nor money to do this if they were always fighting. So he would not fight, and Britain grew prosperous.
But the people did not all think as Walpole did. A quarrel with Spain arose and, try how he might, Walpole could not keep the peace, and war was declared. Strange to say, the people rejoiced at the news. They decorated their houses, lit bonfires, and rang bells as if some great good fortune had befallen the country. "They may ring their bells now," said Walpole sadly, "but they will soon be wringing their hands." The peace which had lasted twenty years was broken, and Walpole was quite right when he said that the people would soon be wringing their hands, for the war with Spain was a miserable failure and brought much trouble and sorrow upon them.
This war was followed by another called the War of the Austrian Succession. The Emperor of Austria died leaving his kingdom to his daughter, Maria Theresa. But some of the kings of Europe thought that they would take her lands from her and make their own kingdoms greater. To prevent this the British fought for Maria Theresa against France and Spain, and George II. and his soldiers defeated the French in a battle called Dettingen. This is the last battle in which a British King led his soldiers himself. People began to see that kings could serve their countries in better ways than by fighting.
While this war was going on the Jacobites tried again to set James Stuart upon the throne. This time it was not James but his son Charles who landed in Scotland. He came with only seven followers, and at first the people were afraid and unwilling to follow him.
But Charles was very different from his father. He was gallant and brave, and handsome. He talked and smiled and won his way to the brave Highland hearts till he was at the head of fifteen hundred men, all willing and ready to die for their King and Prince.
"Go home," said one old chieftain to him, when he first landed, "there is no safety for you here."
"I have come home," replied Prince Charlie.
"Charles Stuart," he said to another chief, called Cameron of Lochiel, "has come to claim his own and win the crown of his ancestors, or die in the attempt. Lochiel, if he chooses, may stay at home and learn the fate of his Prince from the newspapers."
"No," replied Lochiel, "no, I will share the fate of my Prince, and so shall every man over whom I have power."
So in a dark Highland glen the standard of the Prince was raised. It was red silk, and on it were the proud words, Tandem Triumphans, which means "Triumphant at last." And as the red silk folds fluttered out on the mountain breeze it was greeted by the sounds of bagpipes and the shouts of the people.
After the raising of his standard Charles marched south till he reached Edinburgh, his army growing as he went. Lochiel and his followers marched into Edinburgh, and there, at the Market Cross, amid the cheering of some of the people and the sullen silence of others, James VIII. was once more proclaimed King of Scotland. A beautiful lady on horseback, with a drawn sword in her hand, gave the white cockade to those who crushed round her, impatient to enter the service of the Prince.
Later in the day, Charles himself rode into the town and the people crowded to meet him, cheering and weeping, eager to kiss his hand or touch his clothes, covering even his boots with tears and kisses.
The castle of Edinburgh was held by the soldiers of King George, and as the Prince reached Holyrood, the old palace of the Stuarts, a cannon from the castle thundered out, and a shot struck the wall of the palace not far from where Charles stood. But he was neither startled nor afraid and, turning, walked quietly into the palace.
That night the Prince gave a ball. The old palace, which had stood so long empty and silent, was gay with lights and flowers. The sounds of laughter and music were heard there, perhaps for the first time since the days of the beautiful Mary, Queen of Scots.
Lovely ladies and brave men crowded to see and do honour to their Bonnie Prince Charlie, and they went away happy if they had touched his hand or heard his voice.
But there were other things to do besides dancing. The army of King George, under Sir John Cope, had landed at Dunbar and was marching to Edinburgh. Charles decided to march out to meet him.
Early on the morning of the 20th September, the Highlanders rose and made ready for battle. Prince Charlie placed himself at their head and, drawing his sword, cried, "Gentlemen, I have thrown away the scabbard." By that he meant that there was no turning back, and that his sword would never again be sheathed until he conquered or died, and the men, hearing the words, shouted and cheered as they followed him.
Next day a battle was fought at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. Prince Charlie and his men were up so early that they were ready to attack before Sir John Cope and his soldiers were prepared. The Highlanders gave them no time to prepare, but charged so fiercely and quickly that in about five minutes the battle was over. The soldiers of King George ran away and Charles won a complete victory. Sir John ran away too, and was the first to bring the news of his own defeat to Berwick.
A few hours after the battle the Highlanders were back in Edinburgh marching up and down the streets playing, "The King shall enjoy his own again," on the bagpipes. All the Jacobites rejoiced and thought that they had really triumphed at last.