#FLJacobites: an object lesson

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a nice concise three weeks from 18 September, from the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, who have an exhibition on the go. See also the Jacobite Trail.

What makes our course distinctive is its focus on material culture. That is, on the objects, clothes, images and items used or seen by those living in the period that is sometimes called the Jacobite century, from 1688 to 1788.

Now I don’t want to brag, but I won a school history prize for a BPC project, including a relief map of the Jacobite advance and retreat and transcriptions of some Jacobite songs (the hand of my father in both). I’ve also been to Culloden twice and have my own object, a BPC shortbread tin now used for storing sugar.

This MOOC is not my first nostalgia trip – see #FLRobertBurns. Both are ‘not my period’, but somehow it’s rather different when it’s _your_ heritage. Interestingly, my aunt, exiled in England, was rather more into her ‘heritage’ than my mother, living in Scotland.

What is material culture?

Material culture is a way of talking about objects – talking about them, but also their study. It brings together two otherwise quite different things – material implies something base, perhaps something earthy, whereas culture is much more abstract, lofty, intellectual, maybe. Bringing these terms together produces a sort of creative friction, enabling us to access the past in concrete, tangible ways through the objects that have survived. The past as a richly furnished landscape of objects – an objectscape.

Material culture can mean different things to different specialists, but at its heart it is about the study of objects, usually from the past. We can use these objects to access the past, even if they are behind glass – we can see is how people in the past interacted with them.

Viccy Coltman’s pictogram with the four key themes around an object:

One comment: “I have really enjoyed linking the objects to the history to bring the history alive…material culture is a great way of getting my pupils involved…anchoring the concrete to the abstract”.

For more see the Tangible Things MOOC (again). And just spotted in CPH:

According to Kathryn Hughes, objects have become the dominant way of understanding and interpreting the past. She gives A history of the world in 100 objects as an example – objects make better stories than timelines. Its sister programme, Germany: memories of a nation, Neil MacGregor’s peerless series and exhibition (ten objects), certainly worked for me.

More objects linkage: The Brontë cabinet: three lives in nine objects | People’s History Museum’s Object of the Month | teaching & object-based learning | Prime Ministers’ props | Living with the gods, Neil MacGregor’s new 30! part series | Sharing Stories. Speaking Objects (Weltmuseum Wien)

I noted my first objects exhibition at Gdansk’s Solidarity Centre, the End of War in 45 artefacts, emphatically not in any set order, an “inspiration incentive to reflect on the complexity of historic events…and the ambiguity of their outcomes”. Museums in Poland have certainly embraced the objects approach – the Museum of Warsaw’s new core exhibition is The Things of Warsaw.

But has it all gone too far? See this shot from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, a room crammed with stuff which people shuffled round without showing much interest:

Locally, 99xVSTGN similarly felt just too enthusiastically random. See Heritage Futures’ Profusion theme for more on this, and clutter generally. Instant update: just spotted, Edinburgh Alphabet, more than 300 objects grouped around a letter of the alphabet (with B for Burns), and Edinburgh’s 101 objects.

BPC in bullets: what I learned (or had forgotten I knew)

Pre-BPC:

  • the Stuarts had ruled the Kingdom of Scotland since 1371; France, and several other countries, continued to support them as claimants to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland after (Catholic) James VII & II was deposed
  • James VII established a 1000-strong court in exile at a château close to Versailles; Louis XIV, James’ cousin, was determined to do all he could to secure James’ restoration
  • not all Jacobites were Catholic, in fact the majority were Episcopalian; most Jacobite courtiers were English, but the court also included Scots, Irish, French and Italians
  • in 1701 the 13 year old James Francis Edward (aka The Old Pretender) was recognised by both Louis XIV and the Pope as James VIII & III of Scotland, England and Ireland
  • James VIII eventually settled in Rome, where his sons Charles (BPC) and Henry were born, and mounted three campaigns taking advantage of political discontent in Britain, all of which fizzled out:
    • 1708: the 1707 Act of Union proved unpopular in Scotland, where it was perceived as an unhappy marriage of unequal partners
    • 1715: on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the throne passed to the unpopular George, the Protestant Elector of Hanover; the Unionist Earl of Mar threw in his lot with the Jacobites in an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne
    • 1719: James VIII had had to leave France as a condition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and with the death of Louis XIV in September 1715 he lost the support of the French; the Jacobite court in exile had no permanent home until James was offered the Palazzo del Rei in Rome by Pope Clement XI in 1719 – support for the exiled Stuarts shifted from France to Italy and Spain

BPC:

  • born in December 1720, an event commemorated in the medallic record as the great hope for the continuation of the Jacobite cause and the longed-for Stuart restoration
  • in the late 1730s and early 1740s the Jacobite court in exile became a brilliant social centre, optimistic that BPC would finally recover the thrones of his father and grandfather
  • James VIII knew that a restoration attempt would need French military assistance; with war between France and Hanoverian Britain renewed in 1743 and BPC coming of age, James named him Prince Regent, with authority to act in his name
  • BPC obtained the support of Louis XV, who supported a botched campaign in 1744
  • BPC landed on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 5 July 1745; thousands of Jacobites rallied to the cause
  • BPC raised the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan, near Fort William, on 19 August; since 1815 the Glenfinnan Monument has provided a poignant reminder
  • the Jacobite army marched south unopposed and by 17 September was in control of Edinburgh; at noon James VIII was proclaimed King, with BPC confirmed as Prince Regent
  • on 21 September BPC led the Jacobites to victory in the first major battle of the campaign, the Battle of Prestonpans; Sir John Cope, leading the government forces at this time, was forced to retreat to Berwick on Tweed, as immortalised in song
  • for the next six months BPC rode or marched with his supporters from Scotland through England, taking Carlisle and Manchester, reaching as far south as Derby
  • the Jacobite forces numbered just under 6000 men and included French and Irish troops; four French ships had been despatched with weapons and supplies, although the expected support from English Jacobites and promised French reinforcements failed to materialise
  • the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II, and like BPC just 24, was recalled from the war in Flanders to take command of the Hanoverian forces at Lichfield, just south of Derby, forming a three-way threat with General Wade approaching from the north and an army gathering on Finchley Common to defend London
  • on Friday, 6 December, a day known to Jacobites as Black Friday, BPC’s commanders advised him to retreat north
  • at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 January a Hanoverian force commanded by General Henry Hawley was subjected to the Highland charge, previously successful at the battle of Prestonpans – the last Jacobite victory
  • by 14 April the Jacobite army was camped at Culloden, outside Inverness; their numbers were depleted, in part by dispirited and hungry men returning to their homes in the Highlands
  • the moor was flat and open, good for the Duke of Cumberland’s forces with their regular cavalry and artillery and very different from Prestonpans, where the Jacobites had been able to use their swords and targes for up-close, one-to-one armed combat…it didn’t end well

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Maps above from the MOOC. See also Escape Penrith, who includes the escape from Culloden. All very handy, although a relief map in plaster of Paris can do the job too.

After BPC:

  • after Culloden BPC spent five months evading capture in the Highlands before sailing to the safety of France; enter (briefly) Flora MacDonald, a dominant part of the Jacobite legend
  • the British army pursued the Jacobites who had been scattered after Culloden with little mercy, the beginning of a campaign of reprisals intended to ensure that the Highlands would never again provide military support for the Jacobite cause
  • a series of measures was designed to attack the power structures and martial culture of the Highland clans, with the carrying of weapons and the wearing of highland dress in Scotland banned and clan chiefs stripped of their powers of justice; the Highlands was brought under the full control of the Hanoverian state
  • BPC finally returned to France in September 1746; he continued to be driven by his dynastic ambitions for a Stuart restoration but over the next three decades faced a series of setbacks and disappointments
  • France recognised the Hanoverian succession, and by the end of 1748 BPC was exiled to Avignon
  • James VIII died in 1766 in Rome; BPC ‘inherited’ the right to become Charles III, but without recognition from the Pope and Europe’s Catholic monarchs this claim had no authority
  • in 1747 BPC’s brother Henry became a cardinal and was ordained as a priest (in that order)
  • BPC died in 1788 leaving no legitimate offspring; hence Henry became Henry I and IX, changing his arms to have them surmounted with a crown representing his royal status, but not pressing his claim (although there are still some keepers of the flame)
  • as a popular Bishop of Frascati Henry rose to some of the highest positions in the Vatican, dying in 1807

Romanticising Jacobitism

Some of the most iconic images and songs associated with BPC are posthumous. He particularly flourished in the creative imaginations of 19th century authors, painters, poets and musicians, but his story continues to inspire. The 19th century romantic imagery of BPC has also been re-used countless times as a marketing tool, printed on souvenirs and absorbed into the iconography of Bonnie Scotland.

The BBC has a handy debunking post.

my shortbread tin, showing BPC aged 16

Allan Ramsay (1713-84) painted both BPC and Flora MacDonald from life; his ‘lost’ portrait, painted in late October 1745 at Holyrood Palace, was found in 2014 and saved for the nation in 2016. Which was handy, as a portrait in a suit of armour was shown to be of Henry, rather than his older brother, in 2009.

The Ramsay portrait shows BPC wearing court dress and a wig, ie as a member of the European social and political élite. Mainly though BPC adopted Highland dress during this period to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry and display his allegiance to the clans. Note to self: check the image on the aforementioned shortbread tin.

In the early 19th century, after Henry’s death ended the Jacobite claim to the throne and emotions were less raw, the romantic Jacobite legend really kicked in. Walter Scott (1771–1832; Abbotsford) wrote three novels drawing on the Jacobite campaigns; Waverley (1814), Rob Roy (1817) and Redgauntlet (1824). He also amassed a diverse and quirky collection of associated objects and organised the visit of George IV to Scotland in August 1822, the first reigning British monarch to visit Scotland in nearly two centuries. Ample tartan pageantry was included, elevating the kilt (not literally) to a key component in Scotland’s national identity.

Of the songs, both Will Ye No’ Come Back Again, attributed to Lady Nairne, Carolina Oliphant (1766-1845), and Burns’ Charlie Is My Darling date from the 1790s. The Skye Boat Song, perhaps the most popular song associated with BPC, was first published almost 150 years after the events, in 1884, with lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton. An 1892 poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone, has been set to the same music, and was recently adapted (ahem) as the theme tune for Outlander.

The Outlander series of novels and associated television series by Diana Gabaldon (blog) is the latest reinterpretation of the period, generating huge interest; I’ll stick with DK Broster, thanks.

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