history of scotland

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Chapter 1: Celtic Scotland
There is evidence of human settlement in parts of present day Scotland that dates back to 6,000 BC. The inhabitants were hunters and fishermen. About two thousand years later, a second group arrived — the Neolithic people. Some of their stone houses remain in Orkney; the well-preserved stone-built village, Skara Brae, attests to the wealth and stability of its builders. On the mainland, chambered tombs also show the sophisticated engineering of a settled, cooperative community. Then came the Beaker folk, named after the shape of their pottery. It is to these people that we owe the mysterious groups of huge stone circles and standing stones dotted hither and yon across the landscape.
The Bronze Age, or rather, the early and late Bronze Ages, from about 2,000 to 600 BC, introduced swords, knives, chisels, buckles, cauldrons and buckets, all evidence of a high level of civilization and creature comfort that was enhanced by the metal craft learned in the so-called subsequent Iron Age. Such objects were used by the indigenous Picts, who lived in the region north of the Firth of Forth, and the Celts, who had come to live in regions of Britain and Ireland further south.
It is to the invading Romans that we owe our written history of Britain; before their arrival, it simply wasn’t the Celtic custom to entrust their history to anyone but the holy men and it was not to be written. The Romans, however, were always anxious to set down their military triumphs in writing, and from their historians a picture of Britain and its inhabitants began to emerge. In the fourth century, a Latin poem describes the people of Tartessos on the Atlantic coast of Iberia trading with the inhabitants of two large islands, Ierne and Albion (Ireland and Scotland), people who spoke a Celtic language.
Ptolemy’s geography (written about 150 AD includes a group of five islands lying between Scotland and Ireland. On them was built, a new structural form, the broch (a fortified dwelling), an immense round stone tower. The best preserved is found on Mousa in Shetland. Because they are perched on hills and headlands, the brochs seem to have been built by resident lords to protect their settlements from sea-borne raiders.
In 55 and 54 BC following his success in subduing most of Gaul, Caesar turned his attention to the islands of Britain. However, for a few years afterwards, the Roman armies were fully occupied in suppressing the revolt of the Gauls on the continent under Vercingetorix, and so Britain was more-or-less left on its own, apart from its trading links with the Continent.
Under the Emperor Claudius, Rome again began to look westwards to the misty lands over the sea, to a land full of legendary mineral wealth as well as good grain-growing pastures. Overcoming what amounted to only token resistance in the southeast, the Romans set up the frontier, the Fosse Way, running from Lincoln in the north to Essex in the southwest. Their prosperous villas attest to settled, peaceful conditions in the agricultural lands to the southeast. It was in the more mountainous areas west of the line, however, that the much sought-after minerals lay. And it was there that resistance was fiercest.
The accounts given by Tacitus (written approximately half a century after those of Ptolemy) are particularly important, for his father-in-law was Agricola, appointed Governor of the Roman province of Britain. Agricola invaded what is now southern Scotland in 81 A.D. Before that, Roman garrisons had been established at Caerwent (near present-day Chepstow) in the south and Deva (Chester) in the north to keep a close eye on the Celtic tribesmen to the west, where the Romans found it necessary to destroy the Druid center of Wales on the Menai Straits.

Farther north, under Agricola, the Roman armies vanquished one tribe after another until a final, decisive battle against Calgacus “the swordsman” at Mons Graupius in 84 A.D. This ended effective resistance (the Western Isles and the Highlands were left alone and up until the Clearances of the 18th century remained very much Celtic countries in language and culture). Though Agricola may have wished to add Ireland to his conquests, no Roman expedition was ever taken across the Celtic Sea to that large, relatively unknown western island.

The Romans gave the country north of present-day Stirlingshire the name Caledonia. Much of the terrain is rugged and mountainous. In fact, three fifths of Scotland are mountain, hill and wind-swept moorland, unsuitable for agriculture and therefore not interesting to the Romans. In the Welsh language, widely spoken throughout the area when the Romans arrived, it was known as Coed Celyddon (the Caledonian Forest), inhabited by spectres and madmen, including Myrddyn Wyllt (Mad Merlin). Tacitus refers to the inhabitants of the region as britanni.

It was not only the nature of the terrain that caused the Romans to abandon their attempts at conquest but the unimagined terrors of this Celtic world. After the Roman armies had been recalled to Rome, following Mons Graupius, their strategy towards Scotland was mainly a defensive one. In 121 AD, upon a visit to Britain, the Emperor Hadrian had this still-impressive wall built from Solway in the West Coast to Tyne in the east.

Twenty years later, the turf-built Antonine Wall, stretching from the Clyde to the Forth, followed its more famous stone predecessor. The Caledonians quickly learned to master the art of guerrilla warfare against a scattered, and no-doubt homesick Roman legion in the North, including those led by their aging and frustrated commander Severus. It wasn’t long before the Antonine Wall was abandoned, and the troops of Rome withdrew south to the well known and much longer, stronger defensive barrier built by Hadrian. Trouble at home meant that by the end of the fourth century, the remaining Roman outposts in Scotland were abandoned. Any civilized benefits of Roman rule enjoyed by southern Britain were thus denied to their northern neighbors who were having troubles of their own.

At the time of the withdrawal, Scotland (Alba or Alban) was divided between four different races. The Picts of Celtic, perhaps of Scythian stock, predominated lived from Caithness in the north to the Forth in the south. The Britons of Strathclyde stretched from the Clyde to the Solway and further south into Cumbria. The late arriving Teutonic Anglo-Saxons, held the lands to the east south of the Forth into Northumbria and the kingdom of Dalriada, to the west, including present-day Argyll, (the land of the Gael). The Scots, from Northern Ireland occupied Kintyre and the neighboring islands in the third and fourth centuries. In perhaps typical Celtic fashion, the Picts and Scots spent more time fighting against each other than against their common enemies.

Chapter 2: The Kingdom of Scotland

By the end of the seventh century, the four kingdoms of Alban were united in the Christian faith, but not much else. As in Wales, the clergy retained some of the traditions of the early Celtic Church, which put them out of touch with Rome. Thus, the ever-prejudiced English Churchman Bede condemned them. We may be sure that “The Celtic Church gave love; the Roman Church gave law” was not one of his favorite sayings. Even the constant raids of the Norsemen, beginning in the eighth century and culminating in the conquest of Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, (where, in many areas, the non-Celtic Pictish tongue was replaced by the Scandinavian Norn), could not bring the four kingdoms together in a common cause.

Picts and Scots, with their own separate languages, were still enemies; and the Welsh-speaking Britons of Strathclyde were desperately trying to hold on to their culture in the face of ever-increasing hostility from the Angles of Lothian and Northumbria. They were only kept from further conquest by a defeat by the Picts at the Battle of Nectansmere in 685. Even before this battle, however, the incursions of the Northumbrians had separated the Celts of Strathclyde from their kinfolk in Wales.

A semblance of unity among the warring societies of the Picts, Scots, Britons and Angles did eventually arrive, however, by the year 843, thanks to the determined efforts of Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots of Dalriada, who claimed the throne of the Picts after he had defeated them in battle. He created his capital at Forteviot, in Pictish territory; moved his religious center to Dunkeld, on the River Tay, in present-day Perthshire, where he transferred the remains of St. Columba from Iona.

According to the Huntingdon Chronicle, MacAlpin “was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania, which is now called Scotia.” From that time on, the Picts, the tattooed or painted people, have remained a shadowy, poorly documented race. It is a pity that no Pictish literature has survived. All we have are the sculptured stones with their remarkable designs incised that show warriors, huntsmen and churchmen.

At roughly the same time that the people of Wales were separated from the invading Saxons by the artificial boundary of Offa’s Dyke, MacAlpin was creating a kingdom of Scotland. His successes in part were due to the threat coming from the raids of the Vikings, many of whom became settlers. The seizure of control over all Norway in 872 by Harold Fairhair caused many of the previously independent Jarls to look for new lands to establish themselves. One result of the coming of the Norsemen and Danes with their command of the sea was that Scotland became surrounded and isolated. The old link with Ireland was broken; the country was now cut off from southern England and the Continent. Thus, the kingdom of Alba established by MacAlpin was thrown in upon itself and united against a common foe.

In 1018, under MacAlpin’s descendant Malcolm II, the Angles were finally defeated in this northerly part of Britain and Lothian came under Scottish rule. In the same year, the British (Celtic) King of Strathclyde died leaving no heir; his throne went to Malcolm’s grandson Duncan. In 1034, Duncan became King of a much-expanded Scotland that included Pict-land, Scotland, Lothian, Cumbria and Strathclyde. It excluded large tracts in the north, the Shetlands, Orkneys and the Western Isles, which were held by the Scandinavians. There was still no established boundary between Scotland and England.

Duncan met his fate at the hands of Macbeth in 1040; himself slain by Malcolm (Ceann Mor or Bighead) who became King Malcolm III. Malcolm married his second wife the English Princess Margaret, who had fled to Scotland at the coming of the Normans. She introduced many English fashions and customs to Scotland and established a refined court life. Margaret also imposed English religious practices on the Scottish clergy and her husband moved the cultural center of his kingdom to Lothian, away from the Celtic north.

Unfortunately for the stability of Malcolm and Margaret’s kingdom, however, the Scottish king’s constant excursions into Northern England brought him the enmity of the Norman William who forced him to pay homage at Abernethy in 1071. On one of his attacks on Northumberland in 1093, Malcolm was killed, his sainted wife following him in death a few days later. Margaret was later canonized for her benefactions to the Church including the rebuilding of the monastery at Iona.

Chapter 3: An Independent Scotland

Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce was born at Turnberry Castle, Ayrshire, in 1274, of both Norman and Celtic ancestry. Two years before his birth, Edward Plantagenet had become King Edward I of England. The ruthlessness of Edward, who earned the title “the Hammer of the Scots,” brought forth the greatness of Bruce. Bruce’s astonishing victory at Bannockburn in 1314 over the much larger and better-equipped forces of Edward II ensured Scottish freedom from the hated English.

This new struggle for control of Scotland began when Alexander III died in 1286. Alexander’s heir was his grandchild Margaret, the infant daughter of the king of Norway. English King Edward, with his eye on the complete subjugation of his northern neighbors, suggested that Margaret should marry his son, a desire consummated at a treaty signed and sealed at Birgham. Under the terms, Scotland was to remain a separate and independent kingdom, though Edward wished to keep English garrisons in a number of Scottish castles. On her way to Scotland, somewhere in the Orkney, the young Norwegian princess died, unable to enjoy the consignment of sweetmeats and raisins sent by the English King. The succession was now open to many claimants, the strongest of whom were John Balliol and Robert Bruce.

For those brought up to revere Robert Bruce as one of the great Scottish heroes, it was something of a mystery to watch his portrayal in the Hollywood movie “Braveheart” which gave all the heroics to his compatriot William Wallace. The movie portrayed Bruce as nothing more than a self-serving opportunist. Yet it was the patience and cunning of Bruce that Scotland needed, not the impetuousness of Wallace, especially facing such formidable enemies as Edward I and then his son and heir Edward II. Bruce bided his time; he first had to establish his authority as king of Scotland.

King Edward supported John Balliol, who he believed was weaker and more compliant to the two Scottish claimants. At a meeting of 104 auditors, with Edward as judge, the decision went in favor of Balliol, who was declared the rightful king in November 1292. The English king’s plans for a peaceful relationship with his northern neighbor now took a different turn. In exchange for his support, Edward demanded that he should have feudal superiority over Scotland, including homage from Balliol. He also demanded judicial authority over the Scottish king in any disputes brought against him by his own subjects and defrayment of costs for the defense of England as well as active support in the war against France.

Even the pathetic Balliol could not stomach these outrageous demands. Showing a hitherto unknown courage, he declared in front of the English king that he was the King of Scotland and should answer only to his own people. He refused to supply military service to Edward. Overestimating his strength, he then concluded a treaty with France prior to planning an invasion of England.

Edward was ready. He went north to receive homage from a great number of Scottish nobles, as their feudal lord, among them none other than Robert Bruce, who owned estates in England. Balliol immediately punished this treachery by seizing Bruce’s lands in Scotland and giving them to his own brother-in-law, John Comyn. However, within a few months, the Scottish king was to disappear from the scene. His army was defeated by Edward at Dunbar in April 1296. Soon after at Brechin, on 10 July, he surrendered his Scottish throne to the English king, who took the stone of Scone, “the coronation stone” of the Scottish kings. At a parliament, which he summoned at Berwick, the English king received homage and the oath of fealty from over 2,000 Scots. He seemed secure in Scotland.

But, flushed with this success, Edward had gone too far. The rising tide of nationalist fervor in the face of the arrival of the English armies north of the border created the need for new Scottish leaders. With the killing of an English sheriff following a brawl with English soldiers in the market place at Lanark, a young Scottish knight, William Wallace found himself at the head of a fast-spreading movement of national resistance. At Stirling Bridge, a Scottish force, led by Wallace, won an astonishing victory. He then completely annihilated a large, lavishly equipped English army under the command of Surrey, Edward I Viceroy.

We can imagine the shock of the over confident Edward and the extent to which he sought his revenge. Yet, Wallace’s great victory, successful because English cavalry were unable to maneuver on the marshy ground and because their supporting troops had been trapped on a narrow bridge, proved to be a Pyrrhic one. Bringing a large army north in 1298, and goading Wallace to forgo his successful guerrilla campaign into fighting a second pitched battle, the English king’s forces were more successful. At Falkirk, they crushed the over-confident Scottish followers of Wallace. This time the English cavalry was more successful and the archers (many of whom had been recruited in Wales following that country’s virtual annexation by the Statute of Rhuddlan less than 20 years before) inflicted heavy damage on the massed ranks of the Scots. Following the battle, a campaign began to ruthlessly suppress all attempts at reasserting Scottish independence.

Falkirk was a grievous loss for Wallace who never again commanded a large body of troops. After hiding out for a number of years, he was finally captured in 1305 and brought to London to die a traitor’s death similar to that meted out a few years earlier by King Edward to prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd, Welsh leader of yet another fight for independence from England. With the execution of Wallace, it was time for Robert Bruce to free himself from his fealty to Edward and to lead the fight for Scotland.

At a meeting in Greyfriar’s Kirk at Dumfries between the two surviving claimants for the Scottish throne, the perfidious but crafty Robert Bruce murdered John Comyn, thus earning the enmity of the many powerful supporters of the Comyn family. He was also excommunicated from the Church. His answer was to strike out boldly, raising the Royal Standard at Scone and, on March 27, 1306, he declared himself King of Scots. Edward’s reply was predictable; he sent a large army north, defeated Bruce at the battle of Methven, executed many of his supporters and forced the Scottish king to become a hunted outlaw.

Again, the indefatigable Scottish leader bided his time. After a year of demoralization and widespread English terror, during which two of his brothers were killed, Bruce came out of hiding. Aided mightily by his chief lieutenant, Sir James Douglas, “The Black Douglas,” he won a first victory on Palm Sunday, 1307. From all over Scotland, the clans answered the call and Bruce’s forces gathered in strength to fight the English invaders, winning many encounters against cavalry with his spearmen.

Chapter 4: Turmoil After The Bruce

The outstanding military success of Robert Bruce was followed by his Scottish kingdom’s diplomatic overtures. After an appeal from the Scottish nobility, the new Pope of Rome lifted Bruce’s. May 1328 brought about a peace treaty signed at Northampton by the weary, helpless English king that recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Robert Bruce as king. The Declaration of Independence signed at Arbroath was the culmination of Bruce’s career. All his dreams fulfilled, he died one year later. One who for years had been an Anglo-Norman vassal of the King of England had made himself into a truly national Scottish hero.

Robert Bruce’s daughter had married Walter FitzAlan, the Hereditary High Steward of Scotland, also known as Walter the Steward, the later form of which became Stuart. Thrown from a horse, Marjorie was killed, but surgeons managed to deliver a son, Robert, cut from her body (in 1371, when he was 54 years old, the crippled boy became Robert II, the first of the royal line of Stuarts). Robert Bruce had then married Elizabeth de Burgh; their five-year old son, David, ascended to the throne as David II, with the Earl of Moray acting as Regent. In the meantime, in England, following the ignominious career and frightful death of Edward II, his son became King Edward III in 1327. The new king planned to intervene in the affairs of Scotland by enlisting the support of many disaffected nobles whose lands had been forfeited in their earlier fight against Bruce.

The rival Scottish army marched on Scotland and defeated the troops of the Earl of Mar, who had succeeded Moray as military commander and crowned John Balliol’s son Edward as King of Scotland at Scone. This was a grievous error; Balliol was immediately sent packing by former supporters of Bruce. King Edward III’s response was typical, and once again an English army was on the move in Scotland.

There was to be no Bannockburn this time. King Edward’s armies captured Berwick, dispersed a French fleet that had come to aid the Scots and won a strategic battle at Halidon Hill. Worse, however, for Scotland’s newly won independence was the defection of large numbers of Scottish nobles and clergy to the winning side, with the result that the Lowlands were quickly overrun and garrisoned by the English. As on the borders of Wales, these garrison towns then quickly filled up with English settlers, merchants and clergy, completely transformed the social structure (and the language). It was up to Bruce’s grandson, Robert Stewart to restore the political situation.

With England now finding itself heavily engaged in the Hundred Years War with France, Stewart seized his opportunity. With French help, he drove the English out of Bute, captured Perth and cleared Scotland of invaders north of the Forth. In 1341, he brought his young Uncle David back from voluntary exile in France to reclaim his Scottish throne. Things looked promising for a while, but then disaster struck once more.

After the French army had been soundly thrashed at Crecy (where Welsh archers in the service of the English Crown had been very prominent), the King of France desperately needed Scottish intervention to relieve his forces. Accordingly, as a diversion, David II unwisely sent an army to England. His soldiers were defeated at Neville’s Cross and David was captured. He spent the next 12 years of his life as a prisoner at the court of Edward III. Here the young Scot became thoroughly anglicized, preferring to live the easier life of an English court hanger-on than to endure the burdens of Scottish kingship. In the interim, Scotland was ruled once again by Robert Stewart, a much stronger, forceful leader than David.

Under Stewart, the English were defeated in a second diversionary attack by a Scottish army under Williams Douglas. Even Edward III, commanding his troops, was sent back south of the border humiliated. This time Edward signed a 10-year truce and received an enormous ransom for the weak, vacillating David. He then sat back to await developments. He did not have to wait long. English successes continued in France and many Scots had no stomach for further debilitating warfare. After all, it was their land that was continually being devastated by English armies and David went back to live his former life of comparative ease in England.

The Scots did not wish to see David’s son succeed to their throne, despite an agreement he had made with King Edward. In 1371, the Scottish Parliament gave the throne to Robert Stewart, who became Robert II, the first Stuart King. However, the unfortunate country’s initial hopes of restored greatness were soon dashed — a strong and brave leader in opposition, he proved to be anything but that as King. In addition, his Norman background did not possess the authority and prestige of eight centuries of Scottish kingship. Thus, was set in motion what became the country’s curse for centuries to come — the conflict between the nobility and the Crown.
Chapter 5: The Two Crowns

James VI of Scotland had plans to become King of England upon the death of Elizabeth. In order to carry out his intentions, it was in his best interests to stay a Protestant and to remain on good terms with the English Crown. This alliance was so strong, in fact, that when his mother, Mary, was executed by Elizabeth in 1587, after nineteen years of captivity, James brought forth only a formal protest. Instead of listening to the bad advice of many of his rash Scottish nobles, ever eager to go to war with the hated English, James preferred to bide his time. Better advice came from the powerful Welshman, Robert Cecil, who had become the Queen’s chief minister. Accordingly, in 1589, James married a Protestant princess, Ann of Denmark.

In the long and protracted quarrel, which now ensued with the Scottish Kirk, James was determined to have his own way. Though Protestant, he was no Presbyterian. He wished to restore the position of the Bishops and to reduce Church interference in matters of state. He was opposed by the General Assembly, at that time under the influence of Knox’s successor Andrew Melville. Melville was even more radical than Knox, who had died in 1572 was. He insisted that the Church direct the affairs of state, putting divine authority before civil jurisdiction.

Though James tried to reassert the power of his Bishops and forbade convocation of ministers except by his permission, he was defeated, being forced to allow Presbyters, Synods and General Assemblies to meet without his leave. Extreme Calvinism, with its intense opposition to episcopacy, seemed to be winning the day. Archbishop Spottiswoode supported the King’s side. This conflict between two uncompromising factions was to strongly influence this whole period of Scottish history.

There were other matters of great importance taking place. Elizabeth’s reign finally ended. The mighty Queen was laid to rest in March 1603 with James of Scotland declared as rightful heir. James journeyed to London to claim what he had longed for all his life — the throne of England. He returned only once to Scotland. He greatly favored a union of the two kingdoms and the new national flag, the Union Jack, bore the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George. Although the Estates passed an Act of Union in 1607, it took 100 years before a treaty was signed.

It was English prejudice against a people they considered uncivilized and warlike that probably prevented the early union. After the Elizabeth’s glorious successes, they had no wish to merge their identity with what they considered to be an inferior nation, let alone one that had been allied with Spain and France for such long periods in its history.

In retrospect, we can only puzzle at this “English” attitude. After all, following the accession of Henry VII to the English throne in 1485, it was Scotland who led the way in the literary renaissance that accompanied the reigns of the early Tudors. The most vigorous English poetry of the time was written by Scotsmen, with William Dunbar’s Chaucerian works giving him pride of place as a virtual poet laureate. His freshness and animated dealings with nature both human and nonhuman anticipated the later Robert Burns in so many ways. Gavin Douglas known as “Beel-the-cat” produced other works of high literary merit. His translation of the “Aeneid” is a landmark in British literary history. Lastly, the works of Sir David Lindsey who addressed much of his poetry to the young king James V complemented the small group of Scottish poets.

Whatever the English thought of their northern neighbors, the Scottish king had taken the throne of England without rancor. James VI was perfectly happy in the seat of power at Whitehall. His troubles with the Scottish Presbyterians, however, were nowhere near the end. One of the chief obstacles to his plans for Scotland was the intractable Melville. On a pretext, James summoned him to England along with a group of his followers, had him imprisoned and forbid him to return to Scotland. The King then increased the powers and numbers of Scottish bishops. In 1617, he journeyed north to further implement his religious policy.

This was a grievous error. The King should have known better. The Scots were in no mood for episcopacy, which they regarded as little better than papacy. James’s attempt to impose the Five Articles, dealing with matters of worship and religious observances, was met with strong opposition. He went ahead anyway and pushed through his reforms at a General Assembly at Perth in 1618. They were systematically ignored throughout Scotland.

Chapter 6: The Stuart Cause

The events that led up to the 1745 disaster at Culloden had been triggered in 1688. The inevitable invasion against the rule of James took place, led by Charles’s illegitimate (and Protestant) son, James, Duke of Monmouth. He proclaimed himself king at Taunton, but was defeated in the crucial battle of Sedgemoor. His chief Scottish supporter, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, was executed for his part in the rebellion. King James, however, continued to make himself unpopular; in particular, his support for Catholic initiatives challenged existing privileges and property rights; it especially challenged that strong coalition that had built up between the Crown and the Anglican establishment. Charles II had done his best to keep this alliance alive; it had ensured that his last years were peaceful ones.

James, on the other hand, was too anxious to incite change and he did not take into account the anti-Catholic sentiments of much of the British nation. Constant wars with continental powers, (i.e. Catholic) had built a strong, nationalistic British (and Protestant) state. James’s plans for equal civil and religious rights for Catholics were out of the question; his efforts to win widespread support for his policies were totally unsuccessful.

On the continent, the Protestant ruler, the Dutch King William III of Orange was engaged in a duel with the French King Louis XIV for military success and diplomatic influence in Western Europe. Charles of England had fought against the Dutch in a series of skirmishes for commercial hegemony, but a rapprochement followed the marriage of William and his first cousin Mary, James’s eldest daughter in 1677. William made his decision to intervene in England in early 1688, hoping to be seen as a liberator, not as a conqueror. However, his first invasion attempt in mid-October was easily defeated, mainly because of the English weather, which destroyed most of his supplies.

Yet, it was precisely this weather and the strong northeasterly wind that prevented the British fleet from intercepting the Dutch armies of William landing at Brixham on 5 November. King James, despite having numerical strength in soldiers was forced on the defensive. His weak resolve, poor judgment and ill health caused him to retreat to London, instead of attacking William’s vulnerable army.

In the meantime, a series of provincial uprisings did nothing to bolster the morale of James’s forces. Derby, Nottingham, York, Hull and Durham declared for William whose army marched towards London. Showing a complete failure of nerve, James fled to France in mid-December; his forces, twice the size of those of William, rapidly disintegrated. William and Mary, in a joint monarchy, became rulers of Britain. James II and his baby son were debarred from the succession, as were all Catholics. The events of 1688-9 were far from conclusive; they were simply the first stages in the War of the British Succession, a conflict that was soon to heavily involve Scotland.

It was quickly apparent that William’s success in England did nothing to ensure the compliance of Ireland and Scotland. The cause of the exiled Stuarts became known as Jacobitism, from the Latin for James, Jacobus. During the years 1689-91, James and his supporters controlled part of Britain including most of Ireland. In a series of strategically sound campaigns, William succeeded in having the Jacobites driven from Ireland and Scotland, thus forcing them to become reliant on foreign support. The campaigns against his rule in Ireland began a period of close cooperation with France, both militarily and politically that continued right up the ’45 rebellion.

In 1689, the first battle was fought against the new King William in Scotland. At Killiecrankie, a pass that controlled a vital route through the Highlands, the forces of the most active of James’s supporters, Viscount Dundee, defeated a much larger Royal Army led by General Mackay. Sadly, “Bonnie Dundee” was killed in the battle, but the Highlanders’ success led the hesitant clans to flock to James’s standard. This success that gave them false hopes; without Dundee in command, they failed to exploit the victory at Killiecrankie. A consequent series of losing skirmishes including Dunkeld, which was facilitated by offers of indemnity and healthy bribes, resulted in most of the Highland chiefs swearing allegiance to William in late 1691. Those who did not submit included the MacDonalds, whose fate at the hands of the dastardly Campbells at Glencoe led to a deep and abiding resentment of the Sassennach, the Saxon and his treacherous Lowland companions.

The decisive battles involving the Jacobite cause were not fought in Scotland, but in Ireland which was more accessible to French naval power, and thus troops and supplies. In March 1689, James II left France for Ireland in an attempt to regain his throne. His armies soon won most of the country, but a prolonged resistance was put up by the people of Derry, who were eventually relieved by an English fleet in July 1689, a day still celebrated with much pomp and pageantry in Northern Ireland. In August, mainly as a consequence of the resistance of Derry, William’s army, mostly Danish and Dutch mercenaries, occupied Belfast.

In June 1690 William marched on Dublin. His way was blocked by the Jacobite forces on the banks of the River Boyne which became the site of the battle so vividly remembered and celebrated by Ulster’s Protestant majority today. James’s outnumbered forces were cast aside; once more showing a failure of nerve, in time-honored fashion for a Scottish ruler, he fled to France, and William easily took Dublin. At Limerick, what was left of the Jacobite cause suffered another catastrophic defeat; all their forces in Ireland surrendered, with about 11,000 Irishmen, the so-called Wild Geese, going over to continue the fight for James in France.

James had not given up hope of regaining his kingdom, however. He still enjoyed the strong support of Louis XIV, and in June 1690, his hopes were raised when a large French force defeated an Anglo-Dutch fleet. As so often in the past, however, the Jacobite victory was not followed up. French control of the Channel was not exploited and the initiative was soon lost. When Louis finally decided to invade England in May 1692, it was too late; his fleet was sent packing.

In 1697, Louis, having had enough for the time being, made peace with William at Rijswijk. However, the period of peace between France and England, ended when Louis recognized the prince born in 1688 as the future King James III. Prospects for the Jacobites, however, were not helped by the War of the Spanish Succession which tied up Catholic forces in the Netherlands and forced France to withdraw to its own borders. In the meantime, the Union of England and Scotland took place in 1707.

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