7 thoughts on “John Buchan’s Jacobites

  1. “The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Scotland had been inherited by James II and VII from his elder brother Charles II, in 1688. ”

    England and Scotland were two separate states with two separate governments in 1688. Although they shared a monarch, they’d still been at war with one another in the 17th century. They didn’t become the United Kingdom until 1707.
    Two novels by a Scottish contemporary of Buchan who took a more critical view of the Jacobites and Jacobitism are John Splendid, and The New Road by Neil Munro.


  2. As a Derbyshire lad, I feel I must point out that Derbyshire is roughly in the middle of England, not Britain. If you are looking at the island of Britain, then northern England – Northumberland or Cumberland would be more accurate. Which only goes to show how large Scotland really is and why English chauvinists should not dismiss it. Have you read Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet? It was clearly an influence on Buchan, not least because one of the characters wears a green cloak and is referred to as Lady Greenmantle. The novel tells of a plot, some 25 years after 1745, to foment rebellion and attempt to place Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne. It contains the famous “Wandering Willie’s Tale” which, when placed in context in the novel, is far more satisfying. Formally, it is also an adventurous work, in that the novel is told from two different points of view. Scott could write some rubbish but when he was on top form, as here, he really is superb.


    1. Whoops, geography failure: sorry. I have read Redgauntlet, and I think I say something about it in my World’s Classics edition of Buchan’s Greenmantle.


  3. I share your concerns about the glamourising of The Jacobite rebellion. I visited Culloden for the second time last year. First time there was the battlefield, a little cottage, and not much else, it was enough, we all sympathised with the romantic Jacobites. The new visitors centre, and the way the Scottish national trust chose to tell the story ended up really annoying me, comments on trip advisor (real anger from dozens of people commenting on a small cross that the Trust speculated may have been dropped by a fleeing highlander – the opinion was that no highlander would ever have retreated, that this was a terrible slur, and should not be allowed) made me think it wouldn’t be sensible to share my view there.

    There’s no doubt that the governments treatment of the clans after Culloden was terrible, but there’s very little attempt at Culloden to explain why this might have been. Earlier uprisings are all but ignored, the divisions within Scotland at the time are ignored, the basic lack of support for the Jacobites underplayed, the religious issues underplayed, and the representation of the wider European situation at the time questionable. The whole place essentially felt like a piece of nationalist propaganda designed to bolster resentment against the English which was disturbing.


    1. Yes, I’m with you on that. I avoid Scottish heritagey places if I can because I get enough Scotland-is-the-centre-of-the-universe rubbish from my own family. The Scottish NT have to go for the most lucrative marketing angle, to be fair, but I agree that they take the easiest option, with relentlessly nationalist narratives that don’t rely enough on historical fact.


      1. I find the Scottish National Portrait Gallery really interesting, almost subversive, by comparison. They certainly give a much more balanced and nuanced view of the Stuart court in exile. Culloden really shocked me, and I thought I had quite a high tolerance for that kind of thing.

        Meanwhile you’re making me feel I really need to read some of the Buchan’s I’ve collected, and just a little bit bad that I haven’t done it already.


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