Jacobean, Jacobites, and Jacobins…

OK! I’ve had one too many messages from people who are confusing these terms, so I thought it’s time to clear these things up! It’s easy to get confused as each of these words begins with Jacob, but they are very, very different things. So, it’s Seventeenth Century Lady to the rescue!

JACOBEAN:

King James I of England and VI of Scotland after John De Critz the Elder. © National Portrait Gallery, London

King James I of England and VI of Scotland after John De Critz the Elder. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Of, or pertaining to, the reign of James VI of Scotland/I of England and refers to a period of time from 1603-1625. Usually used as “Jacobean playwright, Jacobean theatre, etc.”

You want a dictionary explanation? OK:

Jacobean:

1. of James I’s reign of England (1603-1625). 2. a style in the arts, particularly in architecture and furniture, during the reign of James I. Following the general lines of Elizabethan design, but using classical features more widely, it adopted many motifs from Italian Renaissance design.

After Queen Elizabeth I’s death, the direct Tudor line came to an end; and King James of Scotland (descended from Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor) was named heir to Elizabeth’s throne. Elizabeth, you may know, had James’s mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

Now, the Jacobean era had several significant aspects, mainly in the arts. Playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were creating fabulous plays. John Donne’s and Walter Raleigh’s poems were making people sigh, and philosopher Francis Bacon was thinking about some deep issues. And, perhaps equally important, The King James Bible was also published.

JACOBITES:

Followers of James VII/II, especially during and after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which James was ousted in favour of the Protestant Diarchy of William & Mary.

King James II by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1665-1670. © National Portrait Gallery, London

King James II
by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1665-1670. © National Portrait Gallery, London

James II and his second wife, the Italian Catholic Princess Mary of Modena had several children, only two survived childhood – one of these was, importantly, a boy: James Edward Francis Stuart was born in 1688. This proved to be the turning point for James and the Stuart succession. James had two daughters from his first marriage to Anne Hyde, and these were Mary, Princess of Orange, and Anne, Princess of Denmark.

NPG 976; Prince James Francis Edward Stuart; Princess Louisa Maria Theresa Stuart by Nicolas de Largilliere. © National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 976; Prince James Francis Edward Stuart; Princess Louisa Maria Theresa Stuart by Nicolas de Largilliere. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Now, these two had been brought up as Protestants, and so were supremely more favourable to the most influential persons in the country. Protestant queens were infinitely preferable to a line of Catholic kings. And even more appealing, Mary, the eldest, was married to one of the most popular Protestant princes in Europe – William III, Stadtholder-Prince of Orange-Nassau.

by Romeyn de Hooghe, published by Carel Allard. © National Portrait Gallery, London

by Romeyn de Hooghe, published by Carel Allard. © National Portrait Gallery, London

William had been constantly fighting against further French Catholic encroachment into his beloved Dutch Republic, and was seen by many at the time as a defender of Protestantism. How could a Dutchman possibly be allowed to the throne of England? Well, he was also a Stuart, as his mother Mary, was the eldest daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Thus, with all the right boxes ticked, William and Mary made a potent combination. James II and his young family got the boot and were exiled in France, where they had another child, Princess Louise, and William and Mary became the King and Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. James, and his male descendants, were each labelled “The King Across the Water.”

Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. studio of Alexis Simon Belle, circa 1712. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. studio of Alexis Simon Belle, circa 1712. © National Portrait Gallery, London

James’s son (King James II’s grandson) “Bonnie Prince Charlie” Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788) made a disastrous attempt to reclaim the throne from the Hanoverians. He is referred to as the Jacobite Pretender or The Young Pretender, son of The Old Pretender:

James II's grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie".

James II’s grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.

Even to this day, there is heated argument as to whether this was the right move, because due to Mary and Anne’s nightmarish gynaecological problems (Mary had at least two miscarriages, and Anne famously had between 16 to 18 pregnancies. Her eldest son lived only until age 11), the throne eventually passed to another Stuart family member – in Germany. Hello, Hanoverians…

Encyclopaedia version?

Jacobite:

an adherent of the deposed James II, or of his descendants, or of the Stuarts after the Revolution of 1688, in their claim to the British throne. The Jacobites included the Scottish Highlanders, who rose unsuccessfully in 1689; and those who rose in Scotland and Northern England under the leadership of James Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, in 1715, and followed his son, Charles Edward Stuart in an invasion of England that reached Derby in 1745-46. After the defeat at Culloden, Jacobitism disappeared as a political force.

JACOBINS:

We shouldn’t even talk about this, as it’s from the French Revolution in the 18th Century, but some people are getting confused, so it’s necessary. The term is for the very popular political organisation that met in the Rue de St. Jacques. The Latin form of Jacques is Jacobus – hence, les Jacobins.

© The Schiller Institute.

© The Schiller Institute.

They were known more fully as the Société des Jacobins, amis de la liberté et de l’égalité. The members in this organisation were radical, what we’d call far-left revolutionaries, and they were against the whole system of monarchy and class. And thus began the bloodbath of the French aristocrats, which is sad. Personally, I don’t like any group that advocates the genocide of a group of people. That’s just nasty – and the Jacobins were nasty.

Encyclopaedia version:

a member of the extremist republican club of the French Revolution founded at Versailles in 1789. Helped by Danton’s speeches, they proclaimed the French republic, had the king executed, and overthrew the moderate Girondins 1792-93. Through the Committee of Public Safety, they began the Reign of Terror, led by Robespierre. After his execution in 1794, the club was abandoned and the name “Jacobin” passed into general use for any left-wing extremist.

Well, my dear history lovers – I hope that has cleared things up! 🙂

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* I used Hutchinson’s Concise Encyclopedic Dictionary above.

 

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Hear ye! 10 thoughts — so far — on “Jacobean, Jacobites, and Jacobins…”:

  1. Erica

    Thank you for this post! After spending months in the “Outlander” novels/Jacobite rebellion, I am now making my way through the Poldark series and the term “Jacobin” came up. I was a bit confused as the time period didn’t match up. Thank you for the clarification!

    Reply
  2. Stephen

    thanks for that fwiw was fairly sure about Jacobean and Jacobite but never had been told of the origin of Jacobin in the rue de St.Jacques.

    Reply
  3. Elissa

    This is great! I’m currently watching Outlander, the story revolving around the Jacobite movement and I’m also reading the Poldark series at the moment, where Ross Poldark is accused of being a Jacobin for standing up for and helping the poor. I knew they were two different things but wanted to look into it more and came across your article! Thanks so much 🙂

    Reply
  4. Eleanor

    Thank you. This explanation was very helpful. I work as a tour guide and was asked if Jacobins were the same as Jacobites. I had to admit that, although I’d heard the term, I didn’t know what Jacobins were. However, I was pretty certain they were nothing to do with the Jacobites, about which I am fairly knowledgeable. Next time, I’ll know!

    Reply
  5. Martha Matthews

    Thank you 17th century lady! I’ve been confused by those terms for years. Very lucid and entertaining explanation!

    Reply

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