Jacobite me! Why I don’t much care for the Stuarts

You don’t have to like the historical figures you write about. But it helps. I had a bit of a man-crush on Richard the Lionheart, after doing my research, and ending up giving him a larger than necessary role in my Robin Hood books. Yet James II (and VII) appears in all three of my Blood novels, and I didn’t like him at all.

Neither, in fact, did many of his followers. After the Battle of Boyne, which is the centrepiece of my novel Blood’s Campaign (below), the Irish rudely nicknamed their leader Séamus a’ Chaca – which means James the Shit.

My father, a proud Scot, introduced me to the Stuarts when he took me to the battlefield of Culloden, just outside Inverness, on a family holiday in the 1970s. He showed me the stone marker where the Clan Donald, our folk, he called them, stood and received the murderous English cannon fire for hours and the ground on which they made their heroic, and sadly doomed, Highland charge against Butcher Cumberland’s disciplined redcoats.

It had a profound affect on me, that long-ago visit to a battlefield in the rain. It began a life-long love of military history, which my father shared. It also made me hate Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie (pictured below), because he raised the clans in rebellion to fight for him in 1745, and through gross ineptitude got himself roundly defeated and hundreds of our folk slaughtered. Then he fled Scotland never to return. Worse still were the brutal reprisals the English inflicted on the Highlands after the battle, which caused untold misery then, and are still a source of discontent today.

BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE LEADS HIS MEN AT CULLODEN. Credit: North Scottish

Charles Edward Stuart was a chip off the old block. His grandfather James II also fled after losing a battle (the Boyne, 1690) and never returned. His father James Francis Edward Stuart raised the flag of rebellion in 1715, and ran away when things looked bad, abandoning his supporters to their fate.

The only member of the Stuart dynasty I have any time for – apart from Queen Anne, whom I confess don’t yet know much about – was Charles II. Known as the Merry Monarch, King Charles (below) was brought back from abroad the rule the Three Kingdoms (England, Scotland and Ireland) in 1660 after the collapse of the joyless interregnum of Cromwell and Son. He was massively in favour of fun. He had dozens of mistresses, loved fine clothes, horses and parties, was tolerant of even his rudest critics and allowed the people of his kingdoms to kick up their heels and enjoy life.

I rather like Charles II, even though my distant relative Colonel Thomas Blood (my second cousin, eight times removed) tried to shoot him with a pistol, and made an attempt to steal his Crown Jewels (as told in Blood’s Game). But it could be argued that he only played nice because his father, Charles I, had his head cut off for pissing off the populace in the Civil Wars.

Anyway, there you have them. The Stuarts, a bad lot, I think, on the whole, except for the good old Merry Monarch. I probably won’t be writing about them again – except maybe, Queen Anne, if I ever get my artilleryman hero Holcroft Blood to the Battle of Blenheim with the Duke of Marlborough – and, even so, I won’t be banging on about them on this blog any time soon.

But I’d like to say one last thing, before I leave this dynasty in peace: my novel Blood’s Campaign, which covers the Battle of the Boyne, and James II’s flight from Ireland afterwards, is out in paperback in a few weeks (October 1, 2020) and you can, if you like, order a copy of that stirring yarn here.

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