Essential Wessex: Jacobitism in Wessex

The Jacobite rebellions are more commonly associated with Scotland, but Jacobitism was a potent political force in Wessex as well, strongly correlating to areas that had been Royalist strongholds during the English civil wars.

Jacobites called for the restoration of the Stuart dynasty, and centred on a belief in the divine right of kings. It was a reaction against newfangled Enlightenment ideas about the sovereign being subject to the will of parliament that had been introduced with the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Jacobitism was strongly linked to the Tory party, which was, and remains to this day, the dominant political force in Wessex. However, loyalty to the Church of England was a key part of Tory ideology, so Stuart Catholicism proved something of a stumbling block, But Tories also believed in unconditional support for a reigning monarch, and were implacably opposed to usurpations and rebellions. Later Restoration Day (29th May) celebrations managed to allay tensions between supporters and opponents of Catholic toleration by uniting them in a shared hatred of Methodists and other Nonconformists, leading to attacks on chapels in Tory-dominated towns such as Bristol and Oxford.

There was a romantic revival of Jacobitism around the turn of the last century. However, it was largely killed off during the First World War when Prince Rupprecht, promoted as the legitimate heir to the throne by Neo-Jacobites, came out in support of the Kaiser. This made Neo-Jacobitism toxic to the general public, and the various societies promoting it quickly shut down.

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