Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Decision at Derby

It was on December 5th 1745, 270 years ago, that during the Jacobite Rising the Council of War at Derby presided over by Prince Charles Edward, nominal Prince of Wales and Prince Regent for his father King James III, decided, very much against the Prince's wishes, to withdraw back into Scotland.

Lost Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart.jpg

Prince Charles Edward, by Allan Ramsay, painted at Holyrood Palace, late autumn 1745. 
Collection of the Earl of Wemyss, Gosford House.


There is an extensive account of the discussions that day in the online article on the Rising at Jacobite rising of 1745, and there is a history of the building where the council was held at  Exeter House.
As that explains the house itself was regrettably demolished in 1854, but some of the paneling survives in Derby Museum.

Exeter House in 1853


The interest of the meeting is not just as an incident in the Rising but raises the ultimately   unanswerable question - but still intriguing one - as to just how realistic were the possibilities for the Jacobites in 1745. What if the Prince had pressed on? Would the English Jacobites risen? Was there, as is sometimes claimed panic in London, or was there, as the online account suggests a more measured reaction by the Court and government? How much support would there have been for a Stuart Restoration? The online article suggests the dynasty could still count on considerable support. If the threat was not so serious why was the government so repressive afterwards? If the Jacobites had taken their march forward would the country have fallen into full scale civil war?

It remains a debate about which there is debate, and leaves a great number of "What ifs" hanging in the air.

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