A Jacobite is someone who upholds the lawful succession of the senior legitimate descendents of Charles I. The legitimate succession of the senior branch of the House of Stuart ended with the death of Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart (King Henry IX) in 1807, when it passed to the next most senior line, the descendents of Henrietta Anne, youngest daughter of Charles I, in the royal house of Savoy. The present direct descendent of this house is the head of the royal house of Bavaria, Franz von Wittelsbach, although he advances no active claim to his English, Scottish and Irish titles. Franz von Wittelsbach is the de jure King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland according to Jacobite doctrine.
Jacobites reject the constitutional changes that the British Isles have undergone since 1688 and regard them as illegal. They reject the Acts of Settlement (1700) and Succession (1713) that prevent a Roman Catholic succeeding to the English throne. They reject the Act of Union with Scotland (1707) and regard England and Scotland as separate kingdoms and independent states. They reject the Act of Union with Ireland (1801) and therefore oppose the British occupation of the north of Ireland. Jacobites reject the notion that Parliament has the right to offer the crown to whomever it chooses; they assert the divine right of the House of Stuart and its legitimate descendents to rule, as set out in the political works of James I and VI and Sir Robert Filmer, and they believe in the authority of the Royal Prerogative to overrule Parliament in some circumstances. Jacobites believe in religious toleration and freedom of worship, and have historically come from all religious backgrounds although Catholics and Episcopalians have predominated amongst them.
Various attempts were made by the House of Stuart to regain its rights, mostly in Scotland, with Jacobite risings in 1708, 1715, 1719 and, most famously, 1745. In that year the Prince of Wales, Charles Edward Stuart, was appointed Regent of Scotland and England by his father King James III and successfully liberated southern Scotland and much of northwest England before turning his army back at Derby; he was defeated at Culloden Moor near Inverness on 16th April 1746, the darkest day in Jacobite history. Although he returned to England once more, in 1753, Charles effectively gave up on regaining the throne and ended his life as an alcoholic in Florence.
It is also worthy of note that the Jacobite royal succession represents the legitimate continuation of the House of Wessex that first ruled the unified Kingdom of England in the 10th century. King Edmund Ironside’s grandson Edgar, born in Hungary in 1040, was the last male member of the House of Wessex (if one discounts speculation about his son, Gerald ‘Longstride’); consequently the succession passed to the line of Edgar’s eldest sister, Margaret of Scotland, whose son was David I of Scotland. The Scottish House of Dunkeld was the ancestor of the House of Stuart that took the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1603. Thus Franz von Wittelsbach is the senior legitimate descendent of both King Alfred the Great and Kenneth McAlpin, the first King of Scotland.
Although the Jacobite succession is no longer a live political issue in England and Scotland, many constitutional matters that were of concern to 18th century Jacobites are still very much alive today. Scottish independence and the constitutional status of the north of Ireland, the role of Scottish and Irish MPs in the Westminster Parliament and the injustice of the Act of Settlement with respect to Catholics (to name but a few) are issues that linger on from the 17th and 18th centuries and are still in the news. In this blog I attempt to comment on both current and historical events from a Jacobite perspective.
You can read more about Jacobitism here.