Stolen Moments ~ Welcome to my blog

Historical Note, To Catch a Falling Star

To catch a falling star, by Anna Belfrage, cover

Historical note, To Catch a Falling Star

When Matthew Graham decided to return to Scotland in 1688, he picked a really, really bad year for a nostalgic trip back home.

In 1685, Charles II died – an awful, lingering death during which the poor man was subjected to a series of horrific medical treatments – leaving the kingdom in the hands of his brother, the Duke of York, soon to be James II.

Charles had more than a handful of children, several of which were sons, but unfortunately, none of these children were born in wedlock. Charles’ queen, Catherine of Braganza, brought England an interesting dowry and was instrumental in introducing that most English of beverages, tea, to the country, but she was incapable of producing a royal heir.

Seeing as Charles had a brother, this could be considered to be a minor issue – if it hadn’t been for the horrifying fact that James was a Catholic. Not, to us modern people, a major issue, but in 17th century England papists were viewed with mistrust. Ever since the first decades of the century, legislation had successively been put in place to ensure only good, trustworthy Protestants wielded any real power, and in the 1670’s things came to  a head, very much due to the inflammatory lies a certain Titus Oates spread about various Catholic grandees. (If you want to know more, read the Historical Note to Serpents in the Garden)

Some people believed there were alternatives to the Duke of York. One such alternative was King Charles’ eldest bastard son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. Brave and handsome, the young duke had a large following among his countrymen, and so convinced was this young man of his popularity that in 1685 he led a rebellion against his uncle. It failed, and James II was heavy-handed when it came to punishing the rebels – as described in the previous book in The Graham Saga, Whither Thou Goest.

James’s grip on his crown was never secure. His attempts at establishing some sort of religious neutrality by granting Indulgences that effectively allowed people to worship as they pleased – as long as they held to the laws of the land – were considered suspicious by the die-hard Anglicans. Add to this James’s attempts to reform taxation and bureaucracy in general, and maybe it’s no wonder people grumbled. By 1688, there was a growing opposition, but as long as James’s second wife did not produce a male heir, it seemed people were prepared to let things run their course – after all, James’ eldest daughter, Mary, was a staunch Protestant and married to the equally staunchly Protestant William of Orange.

The birth of a son in June of 1688, left James in a state of euphoria. A son – a Stuart male to carry on the line. A Catholic prince, the Protestant Grandees muttered, and already in June these gentlemen offered the crown – discreetly – to William and Mary.

And at this point, more or less, Matthew and Alex land in Scotland…

In November of 1688, William of Orange came over to claim his promised crown. James, who had no desire to plunge his kingdom into yet another disastrous civil war – or meet his son-in-law on the battlefield – held off from an open confrontation, despite his superior numbers. Ultimately, this would cost him – and his son – the throne. In December, James was captured, but a fortnight later, he escaped – well, was allowed to escape – to France. Seems William wasn’t entirely comfortable holding his wife’s father captive…

Things could have ended there, but not everyone was enamoured of Dutch William, and in certain parts of the realm – or realms, as at this point in time England, Scotland and Ireland were still considered separate kingdoms – armed men rose in defence of their king. One such man was Viscount Dundee, or John Graham of Claverhouse.

There is something tragically romantic about a man who dies for his liege, even more so when the man in question dies while leading his side to victory. I suppose that is why John Graham has been immortalised in songs and poems, maybe foremost Walter Scott’s Bonnie Dundee. Not that James Graham was an uncontroversial character. Among the die-hard Covenanters that lived in Lowland Scotland, he was hated for pursuing the royal policy of persecuting Presbyterians. In his defence, he did try to be fair and minimise unnecessary violence, but a man does not earn the nickname Bluidy Clavers for nothing.

When William of Orange landed in England in 1688, John Graham rode to his king’s aid. After James II fled to France, John remained the king’s man, doing his best to convince the Scottish Parliament not to side with the usurping Dutchman. That did not work, and John was denounced as a traitor and took to the hills. In Dundee, he raised the banner of James II and called all men loyal to the king to arms, and when the Highland Camerons under Ewen Cameron joined, Graham suddenly had an army at his disposal, effectively becoming the leader of the first Jacobite rebellion.

Who knows how things would have played out if John Graham had not died at Killiecrankie. Choosing his ground with care, Graham’s forces routed Mackay’s troops, and the River Garry clogged with soldiers attempting to flee from the fury of the Highlanders. While cheering his men on, John Graham was shot by a musket ball, and died. With him died any hope of a permanent victory, and at the Battle of Dunkeld a month or so later, the Jacobite army was more or less destroyed, thereby ending the first of the Jacobite rebellions.

All of this religious upheaval in the mother country did not go unnoticed in the colonies. In the Colony of Maryland, Matthew’s and Alex’s home since twenty years, the tolerant government led by Catholic Lord Calvert was under threat, vociferous protestants demanding that they be freed of the yoke of papist rulers. Things came to a head during the first half of 1689, when the Protestant militia under the rather inflammatory John Coode, led an attack on St Mary’s City, demanding the resignation of the governor. To save lives, the governor complied, and the victorious Protestants were quick to implement laws forbidding Catholics to practise their faith – at least in public. So died the world’s first attempt at creating an environment of religious toleration, as expressed by that ground-breaking piece of legislation named the Act of Toleration which was implemented in Maryland in 1649. Not until the American Revolution, would people yet again be allowed to worship as they pleased.

I remain as stubborn as in my previous books when it comes to present day Annapolis, which I call Providence, its original name. While Providence’s formal name at the time was Anne Arundel’s Towne, I remain convinced the inhabitants would frown at calling their town by the name of a Catholic lady, and so they persisted in using Providence. In 1694, Providence was formally renamed Annapolis.