The Jacobites Return

It is 3,016 miles — literally as the crow flies — from the battlefield of Culloden where the Jacobite cause went down to defeat in 1746, to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Strange to say, the open field in Scotland, still redolent in mood with tragedy over two and a half centuries later, is intimately connected with one of the most pleasant and enjoyable legacies left us from the gilded age. That peculiar paradox is explored in full in Michael Connolly’s new book, Jacobitism in Britain and the United States, 1880–1910. To many with only a passing knowledge of the Jacobite struggles from 1688 to 1746 — and perhaps with a passing knowledge that the last Royal Stuart died a Cardinal in 1807 — the title might seem like an alternate reality novel. But the story Dr. Connolly tells is not only factual, it is an extremely important chapter of history for those grappling to-day with matters of Church, Culture and State — to say nothing of Integralism, Post-Liberalism, and kindred topics.

The Neo-Jacobite Revival of which Dr. Connolly writes was the fruit of many things. Victorian England’s heavily industrialised cities with their poverty-struck proletariat doing repetitive and soul killing labour in terrible conditions and living in even worse squalour provided a horrific contrast to the “green and pleasant land” of the countryside. Religion appeared to be retreating before scientism, and especially Darwinism. In so many ways, by the 1880s, many saw not just Great Britain but the United States too (whose urban centres offered many of the same odious features) as headed for some sort of terrible dystopia. But for many in the establishment, all of this was a sign of progress: British history was, for them, an upward tale of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms uniting, then conquering their Celtic neighbours one by one, going on to establish the largest Empire the world had ever seen, and the greatest force for civilisation in the world. Similarly, Britain’s religious history was an ennobling ascent from Catholic superstition to Protestant fundamentalism, to enlightened agnosticism.

But there had been several reactions to these developments — religious, political, literary, artistic, and even agricultural. All had the basic idea that England and by extension the Anglosphere had somewhere or somewhen jumped the tracks. If society could only retrace its steps, then perhaps a way out of the mess could be found. It was from the atmosphere generated by these that the Neo-Jacobite Revival would eventually arise.

If one had to look at one character as ultimately responsible, it would be Sir Walter Scott. It was not just that his writings made Jacobitism semi-respectable again; they contributed hugely to making the Middle Ages and Catholicism appear reasonable. From this atmosphere arose Kenelm Digby, Ambrose Phillipps DeLisle, and the other Cambridge converts, who came directly into the Church. But Oxford was also affected; John Henry Newman, John Keble, and Edward Pusey were the leaders of what came to be called the Oxford Movement. Newman came into the Church, while Keble and Pusey attempted to “Catholicise” the Anglican Communion. The result was Anglo-Catholicism, which if it failed in its founders’ hopes, was the ultimate progenitor of to-day’s Anglican Ordinariates in the Catholic Church. The Oxford movement would affect far more than just religion, however. Frederick William Faber, who would eventually enter the Church himself and found the Oratory (so we may say that both Brompton and Birmingham Oratories are also products of the Oxford Movement), was, while an Anglican cleric, the spiritual mentor of the Honourable George Smythe and Lord John Manners, who with Disraeli formed the core of Young England.

Scott’s influence in general and the Oxford Movement in particular had a great part in generating the Neo-Gothic Revival in architecture and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in painting, and so Pugin, Ruskin, and William Morris; the latter two in turn were the fathers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This in turn would come to the United States and elsewhere, and act as a foundation for the world-wide phenomenon of Art Nouveau. The Medievalism of the era in general gave rise to oddities such as the Eglinton Tournament, and more lastingly the idea of the “Gentleman” — a sort of revival of Chivalry for the modern man. Out of this mix too came the movements of Merrie England and the Celtic Revival.

At the same time, on the Continent, similar religious, political, and cultural concerns served as the background to French Legitimism, Portuguese Miguelism, and Spanish Carlism, with their disdain of liberal Monarchies and republics alike, and their desire to return to Monarchy based upon Altar, Throne, Subsidiarity, and Solidarity — an updated version of the Medieval model. The Conservative sides in these conflicts — and especially the Carlists — won British admirers, who saw the parallels between what had triumphed in their own country and was fighting for supremacy across the channel. One of these admirers was Lord John Manners, and another was a Catholic convert, Bertram Ashburnham, 5th Earl of Ashburnham, who became the Carlist agent in Great Britain. Another development at the same time was the revival among Anglo-Catholics of the cultus of Charles I, which would lead to the founding of the Society of King Charles the Martyr.

It was thinking of how the principles of Carlism might be applied to his own country, as well as the approach of the centennial of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s death in 1888, that led Lord Ashburnham to rediscover, as it were, the Cavaliers and Jacobites, whose own struggle had been in defence of the same ideals — ideals which were all the more important in view of the conditions we have looked at. This led him to found the Order of the White Rose, and so kicks off the history which Dr. Connolly so carefully and entertainingly explores. He takes us on a tour of its ins and outs, the split between the artistically and sentimentally oriented members of the OWR and the more politically-minded who formed the Legitmist Jacobite League. He explores also its coming to America, the prominent Northeasterners who joined it (including Ralph Adams Cram and Isabella Stewart Gardner, who hosted it at her chapel in what became the museum which bears her name), and the difficulties inherent in their attempt to apply Jacobite ideals to the American scene — and the result thereof.

That sort of Jacobitism was put on hiatus by World War I, due to the Bavarian-German nationality of the Stuart heirs. But in the 1920s, the Royal Stuart Society was begun as a sort of successor to the prewar Jacobite Societies. Dr. Connolly asks and answers the question as to why such a seemingly marginal and unimportant group should interest us. He gives us three answers: 1) the prominence of the individuals involved, both in the realm of arts and letters and in the revival of Celtic Nationalism; 2) the deep understanding they had of the importance of recapturing the historical narrative, and returning it to the service of truth; and 3) the importance of the American members as representing a strand of American Toryism that stretches from Fisher Ames to Henry Adams (and which he has explored in an online series of fine essays) — in a word, he reminds us that there have been alternatives to the Liberalism which has been allowed to define America. This last, in a time when the country is floundering between the dying of American Exceptionalism and the eruption of Wokery, is an absolutely essential consideration.

Of course, there were other such traditions — both French and Anglo-Canadian, Southern American, Midwestern German Catholic, and so on. But the one he describes is perhaps the most accessible to most literate Americans to-day. The problems they faced in applying their principles to the then-current American scene remain the same today for any who wish to bring either or both Catholic Social teaching and High Toryism to our country. Hence the struggles and sniping with and between those called Integralists and Post-Liberals.

We might also remember that Belloc’s and Chesterton’s historical analysis of Britain and so the birth of Distributism — as well as that of their friend and collaborator Arthur Penty and his Guild Socialism — owed much to the Neo-Jacobites. Even Ralph Adams Cram, 50 years after conceding the difficulty of applying Jacobite insights to America, decided it could be done after all. This, of course, does put a break between Jacobite analysis and that of the great Russell Kirk, who was forced into the position of having to claim that 1776 and so 1688 upon which it so closely depended were really “Conservative” revolutions.

Above all of these, however, there is a still higher consideration. The Church of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street, London, was originally the Royal Bavarian Chapel — one of three Embassy Chapels (now all parish churches) in the capital where Catholics could legally attend Mass during Penal Times. Because Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria was inheritor of the Stuart claims, when he died in 1955, the Royal Stuart Society erected a memorial in his honour, as “Head of the Royal Houses of Wittelsbach, of Cerdicing, of Plantagenet, of Tudor, and of Stuart.” For many years it has been THE church for the Society, and the site of the annual Requiem Mass on White Rose Day (June 10) for the deceased members of the House of Stuart. But it is now as well the Principal Church of the Ordinariate in Great Britain. I cannot think of a more appropriate symbol.