The 1715 rebellion

In the next few years, discontent with the Union rankled at all levels of Scottish society. Mainly because of its adverse political and economic effects on Scotland.

Although Jacobitism was never a national movement, the unpopularity of the Union meant that Jacobites across Scotland were able to present themselves as defenders of Scottish liberties, pledged to repealing the Union and restoring Scotland's parliament.

The outbreak of rebellion in 1715 saw the largest-ever massing of Scottish Jacobite forces against the government.

Earl of Mar

Queen Anne's death in August 1714 was followed by the peaceful succession of the Elector of Hanover as King George I of Great Britain.

English Jacobites, who were thought to be planning an uprising in Wales, Devon and Cornwall were promptly rounded up, but in Scotland more ambitious plans were drawn up by John Erskine, Earl of Mar.

Within weeks Mar succeeded in mobilising a military force of 16,000 men, two-thirds of whom were from some 26 Highland clans and the staunchly Episcopalian areas of north-east of Scotland.

Mar soon controlled much of the Highlands. It was a rising of almost national proportions and showed much dissatisfaction with the Union.

Sheriffmuir: the rebellion disintegrates

But though the government forces led by the Duke of Argyll were outnumbered by three to one, Mar was an incompetent commander, and wasted his advantage, when the two sides met at the battle of Sheriffmuir on 13 November.

The fighting was confused and inconclusive, but Mar withdrew his troops to his base at Perth, thinking he had won, rather than finishing off Argyll's much depleted force. Instead, Argyll gained time to regroup his forces.

Belatedly, the Old Pretender landed at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, in December, but by then the initiative was lost and further military operations achieved nothing. Early in February 1716 the Old Pretender, accompanied by Mar, fled back to France.

Securing the British state

Punishment was confined only to leaders of the rebellion, a few of whom were executed or deprived of their estates.

Legislation to subdue the Highlands peacefully was largely ineffectual. It was not until the unrest and economic hardship of the mid 1720s that the government took firmer action, fearing the possibility of a new Jacobite rising.

Related information

Jacobites

Supporters of the claim to the throne of James II, who abdicated in 1688, and his Stuart descendants, the ‘Old Pretender’ (his son) James Edward Stuart and the ‘Young Pretender’ (his grandson) Bonnie Prince Charlie. ‘Jacobus’ is Latin for James.