James Stuart (the Old Pretender) attempts to invade Scotland


James Stuart (the Old Pretender) attempts to invade Scotland

South Queensferry, Edinburgh and the Lothians The 23rd of March 1708 AD

It was the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart in 1688 that precipitated The Glorious Revolution . Suddenly the ageing James II had an heir to continue his line, and the Catholic succession to the monarchy. And it was as the supposed James III that he headed the most serious attempt to regain the throne since his father had been driven from England in 1689.
Though the 1708 attempt is now something of a footnote to British history, it was not without hope. France, Spain, and naturally the Papal States all recognized James as rightful king of Scotland and England. And with the union of those two states on May 12 1707 there was further cause for James to hope, as many Scots then as now were fervently against such a combined political entity - support for James in Scotland came from Protestants just as much as Catholics.
The invasion force provided by Louis XIV was significant if not potentially overwhelming: almost 30 naval vessels carrying between 5,000 and 6,000 French soldiers, plus various loyal attendants to James. It was the aim of James and Louis to spark a popular rising and with the core of French soldiers within a rebel force to drive Anne , herself not the most beloved of monarchs either side of the border, from the throne.
But The Old Pretender as he came to be known was not blessed with good luck. The fleet was delayed in sailing from Dunkirk until March 6, giving plenty of time for the Royal Navy to prepare, the cause of the delay a rather banal one – measles.
When the invasion fleet approached the Firth of Forth on March 23 1708 Admiral Byng and his ships appeared to drive the would-be king and his men away from their position within sight of James’s ancestral homeland. The French vessels were forced to escape like the Armada before them around the North Coast of Scotland, with similar results, many of the ships destroyed on the rocky coastline in bad weather, the majority of the French soldiers lost in the disastrous adventure.

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