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Imagine the ’45 succeeded


What might it have meant for the cause of Scottish nationalism? Will the Union survive? Do the male Stuarts make a better fist of ruling this time round? Are Catholics welcome? Is there a Highland and clan problem? Sarah Fraser, author of New York Times bestseller, The Last Highlander: Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel & Double Agent tries to find some answers. 

Union and Nationalism

There were many nationalists among the Jacobites. The state of the Union concerned them. Many wanted us to return to the 1603 Union of Crowns to create a genuine multi-kingdom monarchy. Then King James VIII & III would recall a Scottish Parliament, moving the wielding of power in Scotland back to Scotland.

Even that most outrageous, slippery Jacobite, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat of the ’45, was sincere in his Scottish nationalist anti-Unionism. He called it, ‘This infernal Union’, Cette Union Infernelle.

Thirty years after the ’45, Scottish bigwigs in the British establishment wondered what they created in 1707. One night Henry Dundas burst “into an invective against the English” saying he would “move for a repeal of the Union”.


As Charles III, Prince Charlie would be observed and advised continuously – by the British Parliament, churchmen, John Bulls, couthy Scots and Irish patriots.

A successful ’45 might have made Charles’ character as well as his fortune. His personality failed to cope with failure. Would he have coped better with success? In the event, Prince Charlie was abandoned to his own worst enemy – his personal character flaws.

The Highland problem and the Clans  

Demonising the clans in the same terms used to demonise the Jacobites degraded both as backward looking, superstitious, and yet still a threat. They needed ideological reorientation towards the Hanoverian state.

A Jacobite victory would save the Highlands from military occupation. Wherever the Highlands endured martial rule, and garrisoning, it created poverty, economic breakdown, hardship, rape, pillage.


A Catholic Stuart king would lift penal laws against Catholics. That might have prevented the equation of “Catholic” with “traitor” in British political discourse for the next century and more. Bonnie Prince Charlie seems to have been pretty indifferent to religion, although his father and brother were devout papists.

Was victory ever a possibility?

If we accept the levels of support which some historians estimate existed throughout Great Britain, and internationally in France and Italy, then I think it must be conceivable.

(image copyright Harper Collins)

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