George I.—The Story of the Earl of Mar's Hunting-Party
Q UEEN ANNE was the last of the Stuarts, and her husband and all her children died before she did. She had no near relatives except her brother, who was called the Pretender. He was a Roman Catholic and, therefore, could not succeed to the throne; for, in the time of William and Mary, a law had been made that no Roman Catholic should ever again wear the crown. The people had foreseen that after Queen Anne died, there might be quarrels as to who should reign next, so that, too, had been settled by law in the time of William and Mary.
James I. of England had a daughter called Elizabeth, who married the King of Bohemia, and her grandson, George, Elector, or King of Hanover, was the nearest Protestant heir to the throne. He was the great-grandson of James VI.
So, as soon as Queen Anne died, George was proclaimed King in England, Scotland, and Ireland, without any fighting or quarrelling. But although his grandmother had been British, George himself was as German as could be, and he could not even speak a word of English. He was fifty-five years old when he came to the throne, and was too old ever to learn the English language or English ways and manners.
The Jacobites had never lost hope of having once more a Stuart King. Now they felt was the time to try. The new King was a German, and the people, they thought, would surely rather have a man of their own country than an old German to reign over them.
The Earl of Mar, making believe that he was going to have a great hunting-party, asked a number of the Highland lords to his house. They came, but soon it was seen that it was not deer they meant to hunt, and a large army gathered round Lord Mar and the standard of James VIII., which was the title the Pretender took. In their caps they wore his badge of white cockade or rosette.
The Pretender's standard was of blue silk, having on one side the arms of Scotland worked in gold, and on the other the Scottish thistle, with the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, which means, "those who touch me will suffer for it." It had also two streamers of white ribbon, on one of which were the words, "For our wronged King and oppressed country," and on the other, "For our lives and liberties." There was great rejoicing when the standard was unfurled, but scarcely had it been done when the golden ball fell from the top of the staff. That made the Highlanders very sad, for they were superstitious and thought it meant bad luck.
In the north of England, Lord Derwentwater and another gentleman gathered an army of Jacobites and proclaimed James King. But neither Lord Mar nor Lord Derwentwater were good generals. Having got their soldiers together, they did not seem to know what to do with them. So when King George's army met Lord Derwentwater's army, the Jacobites yielded almost without a struggle.
In Scotland, the Jacobites under Lord Mar, and the King's soldiers, under the Duke of Argyle, met at a place called Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane. Lord Mar called a council of war and asked his captains, "Shall we fight or shall we go back?"
And all the captains called out, "Fight! fight!"
Lord Mar agreed, and they all went to their places. No sooner did the Highlanders know they were to fight than a great cheer went through the army, every man tossing his cap in the air. Every Scotchman there was glad at the opportunity of fighting his old enemies the English.
With broadswords drawn, colours flying, and bagpipes playing, they rushed to battle. But brave and fierce though the Highlanders were, they lacked a clever leader. So it happened that one half of Mar's soldiers beat one half of Argyle's, but the other half of Argyle's beat the other half of Mar's, so each side claimed the victory.
"If we have not gained a victory," said one Jacobite general, "we ought to fight Argyle once a week until we make it one." But Mar did nothing, and James, who had promised to come from France, did not arrive. So, disappointed and discontented, many of the chieftains and their followers went home again.
But at last James landed. He was greeted with great joy, and rode into Dundee with three hundred gentlemen behind him. "Now," thought the Jacobites, "we have a King. Now we will be led to battle and victory."
But they were again disappointed. James was no soldier. He was pale, grave, and quiet; he never smiled and he hardly ever spoke. The men soon began to despise him, and to ask if he could fight or even speak.
Day after day passed and nothing happened.
"What did you call us to arms for?" asked the angry Highlanders, "was it to run away?"
"What did the King come for? Was it to see his people butchered by hangmen, and not strike one blow for their lives?"
"Let us die like men, and not like dogs."
"If our King is willing to die like a King, there are ten thousand gentlemen who are not afraid to die with him."
But it was of no use. Nothing was done. The Pretender, taking the Earl of Mar with him, slunk back to France, a beaten man for want of courage to strike a blow. And, sad and angry, the Jacobite army melted away. Some of the leaders escaped to foreign lands, others were taken prisoner to the Tower and afterwards beheaded. Among those was Lord Derwentwater.
This rebellion is known as "The Fifteen" because it took place in 1715 A.D.