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First Chapters: The Year of The Prince

by George Kearton

Welcome to the latest in our series of first chapters showcasing our books. Today, we have The Year of the Prince, Part One of the House of Stuart Sequence, by George Kearton


“Here’s to The King”

“Here’s to The King sir!

Ye ken who I mean sir!

And ev’ry honest man that would do it all again.

Hear now the trumpets sound,

An’ tooty-taity on the drum.

Up wi’ your sword and down wi’ your gun!

Aye, and into the hills again….

Here’s to the King!”

An 18th century Jacobite toast

For over 50 years at the beginning of the eighteenth century, thousands of Britons would not drink to the health of their regnant Royal Family.

Instead, after passing an open hand surreptitiously over their glass, they would drink a toast to “The King over the Water”; a reference to the heirs of the exiled House of Stuart.

The final Stuart attempt to regain the throne failed in 1745.

But what if history had turned out differently?


An introduction by the author

I love reading alternative history. The challenges to the imagination of a road not taken are immense. Many authors have played with history; many of their works are inspiring, exciting and display wondrous imagination.

The genre is, or should be, characterised by an often very minor point of departure from our known past and, following this departure point, the fate of individuals, nations and continents will gradually change almost beyond recognition.

The possibilities are endless – wars may not happen, technological advance may happen at a different pace and in a different place. Politics may take very strange routes; individuals we know in our histories may still be born but their careers, their lives, their importance, their fate and their destinies may be the exact opposite of what we know from our own lives and heritage.

Some writers of alternative history sadly feel the need to use the ‘McGuffins’ of time travel, space-time warps or even interventions by aliens, vampires, werewolves, zombies and other fictional beings. Such types of alternative history can be, and often are, very enjoyable but my personal enjoyment of them is lessened by the ‘adventures’ of their very fictional heroes who can have but little real influence on the possibilities for large-scale change that alternative histories should be able to offer.

An exception to this is the wonderful book “For Want of a Nail” by Robert Sobel. His point of departure is the Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolution. In Sobel’s ‘world next door to ours’ the British win this battle and the American Revolution fails.

It is the consequences of that failure that divert Sobel’s world onto its new path and he takes his reader through 200 years of the ‘history’ of the Confederation of North America and the United States of Mexico.

And, recognizing the military, geographic and political significance of his new American states, Sobel also draws in potential futures for Europe and the rest of the world as well.

It must be made clear; Sobel’s book is not, stylistically, a novel. It is written as a text book. This approach has been criticised by some; to me it is the book’s greatest strength, as it is only this approach which allows the author to properly paint his grand global canvas.

I have thus, quite deliberately, tried to imitate Sobel’s style. This is not a novel; there is little, if any, dialogue, there is only one fictional character (whose identity is revealed at the end of the book) and the changes to ‘history’ are what, to my mind, would be the logical actions of those concerned when faced with changing circumstances.

The Year of the Prince” and its successor volume “The King Shall Have His Own Again” are thus my attempts to play “what if” around the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, which was the last military attempt by the exiled House of Stuart to reclaim the throne of Great Britain.

Volumes one and two take us to the year 1800 – but to an 1800 which has changed in many ways following the restoration of a Stuart king to the throne in 1746.

The books are dedicated to Sir Charles Petrie, whose short essay “If – A Jacobite Fantasy” (published in ‘The Weekly Westminster’ in January of 1926) set me to thinking.


[Editor's note: I have skipped over a "real world" background of the Stuarts, included by Mr Kearton in the full book to help set the scene]


France – June 1745

The two carriages were some twenty miles from Paris when the accident occurred. The roads had dried out with the warm summer weather and the numerous potholes had grown larger and deeper. It was the rear axle on O’Sullivan’s carriage which had cracked and given way, throwing its occupants into a confused heap on the carriage floor.

Thankfully, none of them were seriously hurt. The Prince’s tutor Sir Thomas Sheridan was badly bruised and Irish Minister George Kelly had sprained a wrist but Colonel O’Sullivan and his military companion Sir John MacDonald, a retired cavalry officer, were unhurt.

Prince Charles ordered his carriage to halt and a hurried meeting was held at the roadside. It was agreed that those in the damaged carriage would have to await repairs to their conveyance but that the remainder of the Prince’s party (Westmorland gentleman Francis Strickland, banker Aeneas MacDonald and William Murray, Marquess of Tullibardine) would proceed immediately to join the two ships which were waiting for them on the River Loire and which had been provided by prominent Irish merchants exiled in France.

It was further agreed that the Prince and his party would sail at once on the Du Teillay which was the faster and lighter of their two ships and which carried not only supplies of muskets and broadswords but also the Prince’s war chest of 4,000 louis d’or. The Prince also carried his father’s Commission of Regency.

Only a few months before, a major invasion force supported by the French Government had been turned away from Britain by adverse weather. The Prince would brook no further delays.

O’Sullivan (the Prince’s military adviser) and his companions would follow on the larger L’Elisabeth which as well as 1,500 muskets and 1,800 broadswords also carried 700 Franco-Irish volunteers from the Regiment de Clare of the French Army’s Irish Brigade.

Thus was launched the smallest invasion in the history of Great Britain. The French, once again, were supporting the Jacobite cause but, as on so many previous occasions, this support was to be sporadic and mainly dictated by how much distress it would cause Great Britain. Specifically, at this time, French support was determined by Great Britain’s involvement in a European conflict over the succession of Maria Theresa to the Imperial throne of Austria and a French defeat at Dettingen in 1743 where the British Army had been commanded by King George II in person.

The Du Teillay set sail from St Nazaire on the 23rd of June 1745. She was a sixteen-gun frigate and was commanded by Irishman Anthony Walsh. He was an officer in the French Navy and his grandfather had carried King James II to safety after the Battle of The Boyne in 1690.

L’Elisabeth was a former French Man-of-War with 64 (some say 66) guns and was commanded by French Captain D’Eau. She sailed from Belle Isle on the 30th of June as soon as O’Sullivan and his companions had arrived at the port.

The plan was for both ships to rendezvous off Arisaig on the West Coast of Scotland. To get there however they would have to run a gauntlet of British ships patrolling the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

Off The Lizard – July 1745

British ships were patrolling home waters after a French invasion fleet in support of the Jacobites had only failed in 1744 because of storms and adverse winds. In England these were referred to as “Protestant winds”.

On the 4th of July, HMS Lyon, commanded by Captain Brett, was patrolling off The Lizard when a sail was sighted.

It was the Du Teillay with the Prince and his companions on board.

Brett ordered an engagement but the Du Teillay (‘a good sailer’ according to Walsh) was lighter and faster than HMS Lyon. She made good her escape, pursued by Captain Brett.

For three days, Brett tried to bring the Du Teillay to battle but all his attempts were unsuccessful. This time, a ‘Stuart wind’ was blowing. Had Brett ceased his pursuit earlier he may well have intercepted L’Elisabeth and her cargo of weapons and volunteers now following on.

But Brett’s sense of timing was not good. Spotting HMS Lyon returning from her vain pursuit, L’Elisabeth changed course and headed for Ireland. The Jacobite cause had many supporters in the country and that weak carriage axle had dictated that it would be, in the main, the Irish companions of the Prince who had ended up on board L’Elisabeth.

With them, of course, were the volunteers of the Regiment de Clare and large quantities of arms. Both of these would be of great significance as the summer wore on.

Scotland – July and early August 1745

The Du Teillay anchored off the Hebridean island of Barra on the 22nd of July and Scots banker Aeneas MacDonald was taken ashore by longboat. He had many relatives among the Highland Clans and his first task was to meet with his brother-in-law Roderick, Clan Chief of the Barra MacNeils, and persuade him to raise the Clan in support of the Prince.

In this he was unsuccessful, as Roderick was away from Barra. News was however given to MacDonald that Sir Hector MacLean of Mull, a prominent Jacobite in the Hebrides, had been arrested in Edinburgh on the 5th of June.

By the 24th of July, the Du Teillay had sailed on to the island of Eriskay where the Prince came ashore to meet Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale who urged the Prince to return home. Charles’ eloquent reply was simply “I am come home”. Again, however, the news of French support was more persuasive and Macdonald declared his support for the Prince.

A mainland landfall came the following day at Arisaig and local groups of Highlanders gathered to meet their Prince. His arrival seemed well known and his disguise as an English clergyman did not fool many.

On the 30th of July, the Prince met with Donald Cameron of Lochiel who was the most important of the Clan Chiefs on the Western coast. The Prince would have to travel through Cameron lands to reach either Stirling or Edinburgh. Lochiel was very reluctant to offer his help to the Prince even though the British Government had raised a warrant for his arrest in June. He departed to think the matter over but was eventually persuaded to join the Prince by a guarantee of Royal indemnity against any losses he might suffer.

By the 11th of August, the Prince had moved on to Kinlochmoidart. The MacDonald chief there was a brother to Aeneas MacDonald as was Ranald MacDonald, heir of Clanranald. Both joined the Prince’s cause and plans were now made for a muster of the clans at Glenfinnan on Loch Shiel.

The young Ranald was influential in persuading McDonnell of Keppoch and the MacDonalds of Glencoe to commit to the Prince as well and their forces were also joined by the elderly John Gordon of Glenbucket who had previously fought for the Stuarts with Claverhouse (‘Bonnie Dundee’) in 1689 and at Sherrifmuir in 1715.

Glenbucket was the first of the chiefs from Eastern Scotland to declare for the Prince. Despite poor health he had been travelling across Scotland and into France in support of the Stuarts since 1737.

As the Prince and his followers made ready to move on to Glenfinnan, Captain Walsh set sail in the Du Teillay.

Having safely delivered the Prince and his followers to Scotland he was anxious to find out what had happened to L’Elisabeth and then to return to France where more French reinforcements might well be waiting.

Whilst passing the Isle of Skye he captured four merchant ships. Between them they carried over 400 tons of barley and oatmeal. Walsh put prize crews onto the ships, ordering them to take their precious cargo to the Prince. The provisions were gratefully received; the two years before 1745 had seen poor harvests in Scotland.

But the four ships didn’t just carry foodstuffs – they carried rumour as well.

The rumour was that a strange ship had landed foreign troops in red and yellow uniforms at Kinsale in the west of Ireland – and that these troops were raising recruits for Prince Charles and the Stuart cause.

Walsh sent the news on to the Prince (now on the move with some 400 MacDonalds for a gathering of the clans at Glenfinnan) and then set off to find out just how true the rumours might be, especially as the uniforms described matched those of the Regiment de Clare.

Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland – July 1745

Ireland had a long history of support for the Stuarts so it was hardly surprising that O’Sullivan should order L’Elisabeth to an Irish port following her evasion of HMS Lyon.

The port of Kinsale boasted a large and safe harbour and had been the place from which James II had embarked for France following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Arriving at Kinsale on the 12th of July (afterwards always referred to as “the glorious 12th”), O’Sullivan wasted little time. The French volunteers from the Regiment de Clare were landed and quickly seized the port and surrounding countryside. In this, they were aided by groups of smugglers and pirates based in Oysterhaven and Bullens Bay. These lawless individuals resented the increasing activities of British Excisemen and perceived a possible Stuart victory as bringing extra prosperity to Ireland and her ports at the expense of those on the mainland.

There were fewer than 10,000 British troops in the whole of Ireland so O’Sullivan’s 700 troops, quickly bolstered by hundreds of enthusiastic (but ill-trained) volunteers, made quick progress inland towards the garrison town of Clonmel which was the home depot of the Royal Irish Regiment.

There were no permanent barracks at Clonmel at this time so the Regiment were billeted in small numbers across a number of local farms and villages.

Billet by billet, the Royal Irish were captured. Many joined the Jacobites – they were, after all, fellow Catholics and fellow Irishmen. O’Sullivan had made his military reputation in irregular warfare in Corsica and on the Rhine and the new recruits from the Royal Irish were ideally suited to train his local volunteers. Arms, of course, had not been a problem; the muskets and broadswords from L’Elisabeth were quickly distributed and eagerly received by O’Sullivan’s force of 2,000 which now moved ‘quick and sudden in our own country’ and further into Ireland.

Immediately after the landing at Kinsale a special and dangerous assignment was given to Irish Protestant Minister George Kelly. He was to ride north and endeavour to persuade his co-religionists in Ulster to remain neutral until it was seen whether the wind would continue to blow in a Stuart direction. Sir John MacDonald travelled with him, hoping to take ship to Scotland and inform the Prince of the situation in Ireland.

Glenfinnan – the 19th of August 1745

The Prince, with around 400 MacDonalds and a few Gordons, made his way towards Glenfinnan with some trepidation. It was a move which had to be made in order to get nearer to Edinburgh and the Scottish Lowlands but it placed the Stuart forces at the edge of the Catholic Rough Bounds (the area between Loch Hourn and Loch Shiel). It was also a move into land controlled by the Camerons and Lochiel had, after an earlier meeting with the Prince, been very non-committal towards the cause.

Arriving at Glenfinnan, the Prince and his small force were greeted only by two Gaelic-speaking shepherds but more men arrived as the day wore on.

Lochiel brought in 800 of his men; for him the die was now cast and he had also persuaded Cluny MacPherson to raise Clan Chattan as well.

Among the Camerons was a contingent of some 200 from Glen Dessary who were led by the redoubtable Jenny Cameron. She was not, as has been asserted, the Prince’s mistress but she was to gain undying fame as one of “The Three Women Who Saved the Kingdom” following the Hanoverian invasion of 1751.

More men came in during the afternoon; a group of MacDonnells who brought with them two companies of British Redcoats they had captured near to Spean Bridge three days earlier. This capture was a major propaganda success for the Jacobites; the captives were members of the British Army’s senior Regiment of Foot, the Royal Scots (no matter that the men concerned were brand-new and untrained recruits who were easily persuaded to join the Jacobite cause). A British officer was also witness to events at Glenfinnan; Captain John Sweetenham of Guise’s Regiment (Regiments were, in the 18th century, named after their commanding Colonels) had been captured by the MacDonnells a few days before. He had been on a mission to inspect the fortifications at Fort William which was one of the government fortresses including Fort Augustus and Fort George at Inverness which made up “The Chain” of government outposts along the Great Glen intended to calm the Highlands. All three of these outposts were to surrender to the Jacobites within the first few weeks of the Rising. Sweetenham was later to be released under parole, promising to take no further part in hostilities for a year.

Finally, the ceremonial aspects of the day commenced as MacMaster of Glenaladale raised the Royal Standard. This large banner (twice the size of normal military Regimental colours) was in red brocade with a white square in the centre and been made by the ladies of Kinlochmoidart. A motto “Tandem Triumphans” (“triumphant at last”) was later to be sewn into the middle with golden thread and the Standard was blessed by Hugh MacDonald, Catholic Bishop and Vicar Apostolic for the Highlands, another brother of Aeneas MacDonald.

William Murray (recognised by the Stuarts as Duke of Atholl) was by far the senior Scots nobleman present so it fell to him to proclaim Prince Charles as Regent of the Kingdoms for his father James III.

As a MacPhee piper saluted the Standard, proceedings were interrupted by the arrival of Sir John MacDonald. With help from loyal Irish Jacobites his journey had been successful and sailing from Wicklow to Stranraer he had then ridden through the Lowlands of Scotland into the Highlands to bring his Prince welcome news of Jacobite progress in Ireland.

From Wicklow, Sir John had been accompanied by a small group of Irish Jacobites including tenant farmer John Norman Kinsella whose ancestry went back to the Kings of Leinster in the 8th century. The Kinsellas were staunch Jacobites; an ancestor, Bonaventure Kinselagh, had been an officer on the Stuart side in Colonel Charles Kavanagh’s Regiment in 1691. Kinsella would initially remain with the Prince and, together with Lancastrian John Daniel, was to play a vital role during the Jacobite advance into England.

Cheered by the news of events in Ireland, the Stuart forces set off to travel the 180 miles which separated them from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.


To read more, buy "The Year of the Prince"



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