Monday, 4 January 2016

'Old Pretender, Peterhead Tricentenary' by Stephen Calder

James Francis Edward Stuart (King James VIII) landed at Peterhead late on the night of 22nd December 1715, suffering from seasickness and fevers after having travelled seven days by sea from Dunkirk in a well-armed vessel laden with a cargo of brandy. He arrived with six others including James Francis Fitzjames Stuart (1696-1738), grandson of King James VII, and Lieutenant Allan Cameron, who was sent to Perth with the news of their arrival.

The Old Pretender was twenty-seven years old; this was the first time he had set foot in Britain since his father was driven into exile in 1688 when James was six months old. He had lived at the Scots Court at Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris under the protection of the French King Louis XIV. 

At first the small boat crept along the shore and attempted to enter the River Ugie, presumably to get as near as possible to Inverugie Castle, but “the night was wet and late the tide” so they instead landed at the old pier of Port Henry Haven. The unexpected visitors were graciously received at the harbour by the Earl Marischal’s representative – the Baron Bailie Thomas Arbuthnot. By all accounts they were “habited like sea-officers and passed for Friends of the Pretender, going to Perth for his Service”. The vessel was dispatched back to France with the news of James’s safe arrival.

They stayed the night at what is now Park Lane, near the Longate – at the house of the Baron Bailie’s brother-in-law, Captain James Park, merchant and ship owner. Some sources suggest Captain Park was the son-in-law of the Baron Bailie, who was 34 at this time. This seems unlikely. James Park married Janet Arbuthnot, sister of the Baron Bailie in 1714. According to an anecdote, the mother of Dr William Bruce, an old naval surgeon, who was related to the Arbuthnots and a staunch Jacobite, was devoured with a desire to see the King. She put on a servant’s mob-cap and apron, carried into the parlour a cup of chocolate, and saw James “standing with his cocked hat pulled over his eyes in deep despondency before the fire”. It must have seemed quite a contrast to his usual comforts at the Scots Court at St Germain in Paris. James barely had time to write a short letter dated “Peterhead, December 22nd 1715”, to say “I am, at last, thank God, in my own ancient kingdom as the bearer will tell you with all the particulars of my passage. I am weary and won’t delay a moment the bearer.”

A local song which commemorated the landing of the King at Peterhead was sung for many years after this event. 
“King James is land’t at Peterhead, an honour great to us indeed.
The night was wet and late the tide, he couldna unto Ugie ride.
He slept a night in our good town, upon a good saft bed o’ down.
In the morning when he raise, the Marischal’s bailie brushed his claithes.
He’s come to set auld Scotland free from cursed Hanover tyranny.”
Old Pretender Tricentenary community page on Facebook
1692 Glencoe Massacre; Game of Crowns; decode secret messages; songs; interactive timeline; key events; explore Jacobite-related items - National Library of Scotland

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