Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who wanted James II or his descendants to rule Britain after he was removed from power in 1688

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun and adjective Jacobite were first used in English in the early 15th century. The first instances of the political meaning, used to refer to a supporter of James II or his descendants, date from the late 17th century. All meanings are derived from the name Jacob (‘Jacobus’ in Latin) which is the origin of the English name James.


274 years ago this week, on 19 August 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, properly known as Charles Edward Stuart, raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands. He was attempting to claim the crown on behalf of his father James Francis Edward Stuart, the son of the deposed king James II and his second wife. James was known as the Old Pretender (and Bonnie Prince Charlie is sometimes called the Young Pretender). After James II died in exile and both his daughters died without heirs, the crown had been offered to  members of the House of Hanover whose descendants sit on the throne to this day. The uprising failed and less than a year later Bonnie Prince Charlie was forced to flee back to France, never setting foot in Scotland again. Supporters of the Stuart cause, including those who followed Bonnie Prince Charlie in his attempt to reclaim the throne, were called Jacobites because Jacobus is the Latin form of James. There is a monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie at Glenfinnan and these days it attracts huge numbers of tourists. Many of them come not to pay homage to the lost Stuart kings but to watch the steam train used in the Harry Potter films as it crosses the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (also seen in the films) on its round trip from Fort William to Mallaig. Appropriately enough the train is called the Jacobite.


“Ye Jacobites by name,
Your fautes [faults] I will proclaim,
Your doctrines I maun [must] blame, you shall hear, you shall hear.”
(Traditional and Robert Burns)

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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