Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What if Bonnie Prince Charlie had won?

The people of Cheadle were overjoyed according to the Derby Mercury to hear of the defeat of the Scots Rebels under the command of Charles Edward Stuart at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. "Bonfires were lit and houses were illuminated in a handsome manner". The commander of the British army that inflicted such a crushing defeat on the Highlanders was the son of King George William, Duke of Cumberland. The previous winter the Scots and the Dukes Army had come close with the Scots passing through Leek and the loyalists camped at Stone. The Duke had spent the night at Cheadle and after the Rebels had began their retreat northwards he was received as a liberator by the people of Leek as he pursued the Scots.

But it was a close thing.

Bonnie Prince Charlie had nearly succeeded. As the rebel army journeyed south the Government in London was in a panic; King George was all set to flee. The majority of the British Army was out of the country fighting in Flanders. If only they had covered the last 150 miles to the capital the prize could have been won.
This poses the question what if? What would have happened if the rebels had won and Charles’s father had been crowned James III in the summer of 1746? It’s a good game speculation. Well I imagine that the whole shape of British history would have been changed. Given the French support to the Jacobite cause I imagine
it would have led to a period of co-operation between Britain and France. No ruinously expensive 18th century wars. We might have a French speaking Canada. An America that did not break with George III in 1776 and evolved into dominion status like Australia. Louis XVI might have been able to effect reforms that forestalled the need for the Revolution. No Robespierre and no Napoleon. A France not torn by war and revolution grows into the major power of 19th century Europe and is able to curb the development of Germany. No Bismarck, No Kaiser and no First World War. As for Britain the stubborn Stuart gene re-emerges under James IV who succeeded his father Charles III in 1796. His illiberalism does not fit well with the emerging middle class and the monarchy is overthrown in 1822. Britain becomes a republic with President Byron assuming the mantle of government