In arguably the most ambitious history project inside a Scottish newspaper in decades, The National today begins a five part series on the 100-year history of the Jacobites from 1688 until the death of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1788. Yes, some people continued to espouse Jacobitism after that year, and some still do, but the cause died with Bonnie Prince Charlie and no serious attempt to restart it has been made since his sad ending.

Probably no group of people in the entire history of Scotland is more misunderstood and mythologised than the Jacobites.

For a start, Latin scholars who know that the name Jacobite comes from the Latin for James might contend that we have been pronouncing the word wrongly for centuries – James VII and II was the original Jacobus, which is pronounced Yacobus. so shouldn’t it be ‘Yacobite’? He was also a Stuart but in Scots that is Stewart, though for convention’s sake we will refer to him and his descendants as Stuarts and render the name of his followers as Jacobites, with a capital J.

We also still have a problem with the nomenclature of the Jacobite Risings, the name given to them which supporters and students of Jacobite history usually use. Opponents, such as rampant Unionists, tend to call them the Jacobite Rebellions, and by any definition of the word rebellion – armed resistance to the government – that is what the risings were. Effectively, in a European context, they were the Wars of the British Succession, yet ‘rising’ is a more suitable word, for Jacobites always stated their first loyalty was to King James and his descendants, his son James and grandson Charles, and logically you can’t be in rebellion against a Government to which you owe no loyalty.

The problem is that many Jacobites, as we shall see next week, did swear loyalty to James’s successors William III – more correctly known as William II in Scotland – and Mary, so they were in ‘rebellion’. But ‘rising’ is a better description of what occurred in those confused times, not least because they were mostly spontaneous – if they had been rather better organised, the Jacobites might well have succeeded.

The other problem of that century 1688-1788 is that most people think there were three risings – 1689, 1715 and 1745. In fact if you include the abortive rising of 1708, there were five, with the 1719 rising nearly always forgotten though in one way it changed the face of Scotland. There was also an extraordinary assassination plot which we shall describe.

Throw in the Act of Union of 1707 and the failed attempt to reverse it in 1713 and you have the most turbulent period of British history apart from the Scottish Wars of Independence and the War of the Three Kingdoms (often miscalled the English Civil War).

It was the latter conflict that paved the way for the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. When that ‘republic’ ended after Cromwell’s death, Charles II was restored to the throne of England having already been crowned King of Scots at Scone in 1651.

His brother James, Duke of York, succeeded Charles in 1685 and his Roman Catholicism and marriage to a Catholic princess doomed his monarchy in a deeply Protestant England. The birth of their son, James Francis Edward, on June 10, 1688, was the final straw for the Protestant aristocracy who duly invited Prince William of Orange to ‘invade’ England, the excuse being that his wife Mary Stuart, daughter of James II, was a legitimate claimant to the throne if the infant James Francis Edward was ignored. King James and his family fled to France which allowed the English Parliament to say he had abdicated.

The Scottish ruling classes and the vast majority of the Scottish people were largely ignored in all of the events we now call the Glorious Revolution, but as the continuing presence of the House of Stuart, Mary in particular wanted the crown of the country her family had reigned over for 300 years.

The Convention of the Estates in Scotland argued over whether William and Mary should be given the Scottish crown but eventually disowned James for being “a papist” and gave the crown and loyal oaths to two people that many supporters of James saw as usurpers – Mary in particular became something of a hate figure for Jacobites because of her usurpation of here father’s throne.

Into the story now steps a quite remarkable individual, not least because John Graham, 7th Laird of Claverhouse, had two nicknames – Bluidy Clavers and Bonnie Dundee. He acquired the former because of his brutal suppression of the Covenanters in the late 1670s an early 1680s and the latter came from his leadership of the first Jacobite Rising in 1689.

Graham was an experienced and able soldier who had fought alongside William of Orange – he was reported to have saved his life on the battlefield – before returning to Scotland where he became the military leader of the country under James VII and II being made Viscount Dundee by a grateful king.

The National:

After the Glorious Revolution, Dundee saw his duty and loyalty as being to King James who began his war in Ireland on March 12, 1689. After that invasion, the almost entirely Presbyterian Convention promptly voted against his king, so John Graham famously rode away with 50 loyal dragoons and went north to Dundee raise the Royal Standard on Dundee Law on April 13, 1689, the Dundonian people being less than enthusiastic at this, the acknowledged beginning of the first Jacobite Rising.

With William and Mary given the Scottish crown, however, Dundee had much greater success in rallying the Highland chiefs and the north-eastern nobility for the cause of James. Loyalty to the House of Stuart was ingrained in many Scots despite James’s religion – it is estimated that less than 4% of the Scottish population were Catholic at that time, and much greater support came from the Episcopalians of the north-east.

The great clan chief Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel was already raising a Highland army for James who also sent over some of his Irish troops. Clansmen across the Highlands and islands responded to the rallying cry – a genuine rising in support of their deposed king.

Dundee rode north to Lochiel at Glenroy and as James’s appointed general he then led the Jacobite army in pursuit of the Williamite government army led by General Hugh Mackay who was also an experienced soldier who, like Dundee, had fought in the Scots Brigade of the Dutch army.

Mackay never gave battle and it looked as though the Rising might peter out, but the arrival of 300 troops from Ireland and the promise of the clans to join him led Dundee to make a typically bold march south. By the time his force reached the strategically important Pass of Killiecrankie on July 27, 1689, the Jacobite army had grown to around 2500 men including a small cavalry force led by Dundee.

Mackay decided that Killiecrankie had to be held as it barred the road to Perth. His army numbered around 5000 men and included veterans from three regiments of the Scots Brigade that had fought with him on the continent, other regiments were raw recruits and Dundee made them all sweat as he waited through a long day until launching his attack around 8pm in the gloaming.

Down the slope swept the Highland charge and though many of them were cut to pieces by disciplined fire from experienced soldiers, some of the newer elements of the Government army panicked and ran away without firing a shot. With Lochiel’s Camerons in the van, the Highlanders smashed through the centre of Mackay’s lines and began vicious hand-to-hand fighting that soon turned into a rout that was all over in 20-25 minutes. Mackay’s own brother James was killed and the general only narrowly escaped, taking up to 800 men south to Stirling.

Behind him he left as many as 2000 dead Government troops, many of them slaughtered as they ran. One redcoat escaped by leaping 18ft across the River Garry, a place known as Soldier’s Leap to this day.

Sadly for the Jacobites, one of their estimated 600 dead was Bonnie Dundee. No one has ever proven who killed him, though some rather foolishly claimed to have fired the fatal shot.

As he lay dying at the age of just 41, Dundee is supposed to have asked, “How goes the day?” to which a clansman replied, “Well for King James but I am sorry for your lordship.” Dundee is said to have replied: “If it goes well for him, it matters the less for me.”

It is often reported that the Rising ended with Dundee’s death, but that is not the case. Dundee’s body was taken for burial to the nearby church of St Bride, and he was not even interred before the Jacobite leaders argued among themselves as to who should lead the victorious, if somewhat depleted army on what would surely be a triumphant conquest of Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow and all points south with Jacobite supporters expected to flock to the cause.

Incredibly, it was decided that Colonel Alexander Cannon, commander of the Irish troops, would take control rather than Cameron of Lochiel who promptly went home though he left most of his men to fight.

The road to Perth seemed open even though General Mackay, in a brilliant feat of soldiering, was rallying the Government forces to march north and defend the city. The Scottish Privy Council, meanwhile, was preparing to flee south.

Mackay’s re-formed army was not necessary because in one of the most amazing battles in Scottish history, the Jacobites were stopped in their tracks at the Battle of Dunkeld. With Mackay still consolidating, the recently formed Earl of Douglas’s regiment of mainly Lanarkshire men marched into Dunkeld and waited on Cannon’s army of Highlanders and Irishmen. They became known as the Cameronians after the Cameron Guard of the famed Covenanting leader Richard Cameron. On August 21, 1689, the Cameronians stood their ground in Dunkeld as the Jacobites raced into the town on all four sides of it. True to their Covenanter heritage, each of the Cameronians was sworn to uphold the Presbyterian faith, and die for it if necessary.

With the Highlanders unable to launch their usual fierce charge, the Cameronians fought with almost insane courage and no little skill, even though their inspirational leader, Colonel William Cleland was shot and killed during the first hour _ shot in the liver and head, he crawled away so his men might not see him die. Alexander Cannon had no idea how to besiege the Cameronians other than setting fire to the town, which had no effect on Dunkeld Cathedral where the Cameronians gathered. Eventually the Highlanders tired of taking casualties and ceased fighting as dusk fell. They went home, but more than 300 of them were left behind dead in Dunkeld.

With Cannon recalled in disgrace, the following year James sent General Thomas Buchan, who had been fighting with the king in Ireland, to revive the Jacobite army in Scotland. He managed to do so but had only 800 men by the time he reached Cromdale near Grantown-on-Spey. There they were soundly beaten by Williamite forces under Sir Thomas Livingston.

The first Jacobite rising was over.