The Jacobites and the 1715 Rising

The Jacobites were the supporters of the restoration of the Roman Catholic James II and his successors James Francis Edward Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie').  James Francis Edward and Charles Edward were regarded by their supporters as James III and Charles III respectively, though by defenders of the Hanoverian succession as the Old and Young Pretenders.  The Jacobites took their name from Jacobus, the Latin name for 'James'.

The principal characteristics of modern Britain (its constitution, politics, religion  and culture) were defined through the struggles in the 17th and 18th Centuries between competing visions of the future, of which Jacobitism was one. 

Until recently, Jacobitism was dismissed as a romantic, essentially Scottish and ultimately tragic anachronism, destroyed in a mere 68 minutes at Culloden. However, the evidence of the Shireburne Chapel complements other recent research and presents a very different picture. We now know that Jacobitism had a clear, coherent, justifiable constitutional basis commanding powerful English and Welsh as well as Scottish support. This support emanated principally (but not exclusively) from aristocratic and upper gentry Catholic families including the Shireburnes, who built, over generations, a tight inter-connecting web of trusted allies across northern England. 

From 1689 there was throughout the last decade of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century a series of plots, rebellions and threats of descents or invasion from the Continent, but all ended in failure and the Hanoverian succession was secured. The two most significant risings were those in 1715 and 1745-46, the latter led by the romantic and glamorous 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'It is clear now that the 1715 Rising, not the ’45, represented the high-water mark of Jacobitism. The picture is complex but essentially it was these families who provided the motive force for the 1715 Rising. By 1745 they had become a spent force and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s campaign never stood a realistic chance of success. 


These seismic events coincided almost precisely with the lives of Sir Richard Shireburne of Stonyhurst and his direct line of descent, from c. 1523 to 1754, and are reflected overtly and more subtly in the Shireburn Chapel. The Widdrington Memorial is rich in symbolism and a superb example of “Jacobite Culture”. Below it, in the vault, lie two of the most influential Jacobites of this critical period, Peregrine Widdrington, a leader of the ’15, and Mary Shireburne, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Their presence together in death and their relationship in life illustrate these crucially important but only recently understood Jacobite connections. 


The Fifteen Rising, less well known than that of 1745,  took place when the security of the new Hanoverian dynasty was far from assured.  It failed, however, because of lack of co-ordination, poor timing and the indecision as well as lack of military knowledge amongst its leaders.


On 6 September 1715 the Earl of Mar raised the Stuart standard at Braemar in the Scottish Highlands and by 6 October the Northumberland Jacobites led by Thomas Forster, M.P. for the county and the Earl of Derwentwater had taken up arms.  They were joined by Willian 4th Lord Widdrington and his two brothers (Charles and Peregrine). The Widdringtons were a wealthy, long established and illustrious family from Northumberland. 

For almost two weeks the Northumbrians marked time gathering recruits and awaiting in vain for the landing of Prince James Edward and French assistance.  Then, together with a force that had risen in the Borders, they moved north to Kelso, where they rallied with a substantial group of Highlanders.  Following some argument, they crossed back into England, heading for Lancashire, but on 14 November they surrendered to government forces after a bitter fight in Preston.  Between 1,500 and 1,600 Jacobites were taken prisoner, including Lord Widdrington and his brothers.

It was Lord Widdrington who advocated the advance of the Jacobite forces into Lancashire, where he had significant family connections and, he claimed, the promise of support from the Roman Catholics in the county. Sir Nicholas Shireburne was one of the supporters. However he was too old and informed to participate actively in "the Fifteen" but a supper party of thirty Jacobites was held at Stonyhurst on the eve of the Battle of Preston. They spent the night casting bullets and the party rode off the next morning with seven or eight guess, a blunderbuss, a sackful of pistols and four coach horses. 

With the failure of the Rising, Lord Widdrington was tried for treason and condemned to death; he was pardoned as to his life within hours of the planned execution but he lost his lands and peerage.  

Peregrine Widdrington was imprisoned and suffered ill-health as a result of this. However he did no lose all his fortune and received a pardon in 1736 (details below). He died in 1743 and, as stated above, is buried in the Shireburne Chapel. This was on the instruction of Mary, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and the daughter of Sir Nicholas Shireburne. Mary inherited the Stonyhurst estates from her father and there is speculation that she married Peregrine Widdrington after the death of her husband, The 8th Duke of Norfolk, but there is no record of a marriage.

Below is the Petition for a Pardon of Peregrine  Widdrington. This was granted by Letters Patent under the Great Seal, dated July 1736. 

To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty

The humble petition of Peregrine Widdrington, youngest    Brother to William late Lord Widdrington

Humbly Sheweth

               - That in the year 1715 when the Rebellion broke out in the North your Petitioner lived with his Elder Brother William (late Lord) Widdrington who being prevailed upon to join the Rebellion then in Arms your Petitioner had the misfortune to involve himself in the same Guilt by going along with his said Elder Brother

                - That your Petitioner was afterwards tried for the said Treason and pleading Guilty to his Indictment had Sentence passed upon him as usual in cases of High Treason

                - That after a long Confinement in Newgate your Petitioner was by an Act of Grace passed in the third year of his late Majesty’s Reign Pardon’d  as to his life and Liberty only but still remains under all the Incapacitys and Disabilitys consequential to his Attainder [Treason]

                 - That the maintenance provided for your Petitioner by his late Father and Charged upon his said late Elder Brothers Estate being forfeited your Petitioner has ever since the year 1715 been destitute of all manner of Subsistance accept what he has received from the Kindness of his Friends and Relations and his Case is rendred (sic) more deplorable by the  Incapacitys and disabilitys which he lies under either of acquiring by his owne Industry or taking by Will or otherwise any Gift of Legacy which in compassion to his unhappy Circumstances might be given him by any Friend or Relation

         Your Petitioner therefore most humbly Prays that your Majesty will out of your great Clemency & goodness be Graciously pleased to grant him a Pardon – whereby he may be relieved from the Incapacitys & disabilitys  which he lies under by his Attainder and be put for the Time to come upon an equal Footing with the meanest of your Majestys free Subjects

And your Petitioner will ever pray &c..