Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Spy Who Changed the Course of British History

Prince Charles Edward Stuart
From Nancy Bilyeau:
The year: 1745. London? In a panic. The long-exiled Stuart family driven out in 1688 were threatening to retake the throne of England. Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his largely Scottish army of 6,000 men had made it to Derby, just over 120 miles from the capital.

Since landing at Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on July 23, 1745, with not even a dozen men, the charismatic prince, grandson of the deposed James II, had recruited influential Highlands leaders, easily taken Edinburgh, and defeated an army led by Hanoverian supporters of the present King at the battle of Prestonpans. Then he turned south, crossing into England.

A horde of "crazed Highlands thieves" was on the move!  There was a run on the Bank of England! George II, who, like his father, had not troubled to hide the fact that he preferred living in Hanover to England, loaded up a ship with personal valuables, in case he needed to flee the vengeful Jacobites and turn the Continent into his permanent home. These were the sorts of wild rumors that swirled 'round the city.

Yet in Derby, the temporary headquarters of the invading army, the mood was far from confident. Prince Charles' advisers had taken note of the lack of English Jacobite support. Few were rallying to their cause. Neither was it at all certain that the French would show up to reinforce the Scottish invasion, a cornerstone of the Stuart strategy. Most worryingly, a well-trained army, most likely led by King George II's son the Duke of Cumberland, must surely be coming to meet them. Who knew how large it would be? (Read more.)

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