the old pretender

Have you seen a portrait of this man before? Depending on who is telling the story, this is either King James VIII or The Old Pretender, and his claim to the throne was as divisive in the eighteenth century as people like Donald Trump are today.

Ultimately, despite a number of attempts, he did not become the king in Britain, although he was descended from the Stuarts, who were the rulers. He did successfully invade Britain though, and I say successfully because not too many people can say they landed in Britain at all, although many have tried (the Spanish Armada, for instance).

His army did win some minor battles around Perth, Scotland, but to keep the enemy from advancing, it was deemed necessary to set on fire a little village in which the poor inhabitants probably didn’t care one way or another who the king was. It was wintertime, so destroying the houses meant certain death.

I’ve always thought that this man had kind eyes. When you read his letters, they display a sensitive person who felt so responsible for the risks that others were taking to help him, and the innocent people caught in the middle. Unlike the ruthless men in the army who without thought would obliterate anything that was in their way, he worried about the people who would be affected, even if they were commoners. I can’t help but think that he would have been rather a good king.

“It is crushing to me who would have thought myself to some degree content if I were alone in my misfortune but the death and misfortunes of others of which I am the innocent cause pierces my heart.”

— James Stuart

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