In “If Fortune be a woman, she’s a good wench,” chapter 14 of Martha’s Children, we get to meet the woman Sherlock Kammen trusts the most. Yes, she’s dead. No, this is not just some cynical joke of Kammen’s. Ivy McIlwraith is not your ordinary dead woman, not by a long shot.
Martha’s Children, if you don’t know, is a story about vampires and cops in 1969 Chicago. A new chapter comes out every Friday. If you’ve not been reading it before, you can start out here.
In chapter 14, Kammen mentions the ’45, which he says refers to 1745 and tells you to go look it up. Well, I am not so rude, and will explain to what he is referring. Bear with me: it’s a long story, and I’m going to have to simplify it along the way to keep it from getting too confusing. There are footnotes for those of you who want the gory details.
Back many centuries ago, England and Scotland were separate kingdoms. Really.[i] Completely and totally separate, except they existed on the same island, their royalty and nobility intermarried, and the lowland Scots eventually started speaking something resembling English.[ii] Thanks to the inability of the Tudor monarchs of England to reproduce after 1537,[iii] the Scottish House of Stewart (or Stuart)[iv] inherited the English throne in 1603 as the nearest heirs by blood. This didn’t mean England and Scotland combined into one. Both kingdoms still had their own laws, Parliaments, nobility, and such; they just happened to share a king. There were occasional disputes between the two kingdoms, but so long as they were under one king, those disputes would never lead to war.[v]
And then the sort-of-union between the two kingdoms ran into trouble. James VII (who was James II in England[vi]) was a Catholic, which put him into conflict with the Protestant state church in England and Scotland. Some nobles who were unhappy about James’s religion[vii] conspired to kick James out in 1688 and replace him with his Protestant daughters, Mary and Anne.[viii] To make sure he didn’t come back, the English passed a law, the Act of Settlement, that said all future monarchs had to be Protestants descended from the royal family. The problem was that the nearest Protestant heir, after James’s two daughters,[ix] was a German, George, the Elector (ruler) of Hanover[x] (so called because he helped elect the Holy Roman Emperor[xi]). The English didn’t mind so much: they’d been ruled by foreigners, Scots, for a century.[xii] The Scots, on the other hand, weren’t too keen on disinheriting their own royal family, and did not pass a similar law.
To the English, this situation was a disaster waiting to happen. Once Queen Anne died, the House of Hanover would take the English throne. But who would sit on the Scottish throne? James VII (II) was dead, but he left behind a Catholic son, who called himself James VIII (III), and who might use a base in Scotland to try to reclaim the English throne. To prevent that, through persuasion, threats, and bribery, the English got the Scots to agree to unify the two kingdoms, giving them one Parliament and, most importantly, one monarch, and that monarch designated by the Act of Settlement.[xiii] So when Queen Anne died in 1714, the Elector George became King George I of the Kingdom of Great Britain, as it was now called.[xiv] And that should have been that.
It wasn’t. Three things contrived to upset the new political order: the Stewarts themselves, European power politics, and discontent in Scotland. The so-called James VIII, known to history as the Old Pretender,[xv] naturally thought of Great Britain as his kingdom. The Pope was willing to back him, because he was Catholic. The King of France was willing to help him, because France and Great Britain were often at war with each other. And the people who lost out in the new political order in Scotland[xvi] were willing to support him, if he looked like he could win.
So the Old Pretender tried to invade Scotland several times to reclaim his throne. All the efforts were failures.[xvii] The last was in 1745. It was led not by the Old Pretender (who was getting on in years), but by his handsome, dashing, and amorous son Charles, the Young Pretender, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charles got off to a great start, thanks to good luck, but then turned it into a disaster, thanks to his limited abilities as a politician and general. After his army was smashed at Culloden in 1746, he had to flee the country. Many of his followers also had to flee. The British Army moved in to crush the Scottish Highland clans who had supported the Young Pretender. The Camerons had been one of the first clans to declare for the Young Pretender, so they suffered with the rest, their chief fleeing to France.[xviii] Never again would the Stewarts engineer a rebellion.[xix]
Generally, military disasters don’t become inspirations for subsequent generations. But just as the American South turned the disaster of the Confederacy into the legend of the “Lost Cause,” so the Scots turned “the ’45” into part of their national legend. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) deserves a lot of the credit for this. Before his time, the Lowland Scots, who were a majority of the population, despised the Highlanders as semi-naked savages, the uncivilized part of Scotland. In his novels, Scott recast the image of the Highlanders as romantic and chivalrous heroes, the best of Scotland. Then the “Sobieski Stuart” brothers came along. They claimed to be authorities on old Highland customs and costumes,[xx] and they did have some genuine scholarly knowledge, but they also freely made stuff up. The books they put out in the 1840s were shot through and through with their fabrications, but they came to define the popular image of how Highlanders dressed.
One hundred years, from 1745 to 1845, was all it took. The Highlanders went from being marginal figures, barbarians who had sided with a losing cause, to the essence of Scottish identity. Go to a Scottish heritage festival in America, and see everyone dressed up in a kilt with the clan tartan. Go to a Scottish music festival, and prepare to hear innumerable songs about the ’45, all of them favoring the Stewart cause. Probably the best known Scottish song is the Skye Boat Song, which is about the Young Pretender fleeing mainland Scotland after Culloden.[xxi] But why bother going to a festival? Everyone knows what Highlanders are like. Hollywood could call a movie Highlander, and everyone would know what to expect. Come to think of it, they did.
So how does this all connect to the new blog background? Let’s return to Martha’s Children. Sherlock Kammen’s paternal ancestors were Camerons who fled Scotland after taking part in the ’45. Being Catholic, they took refuge in a Catholic country, Bavaria, then an independent German state. They lived a century in Bavaria, marrying into the local German population. Along the way they adopted the Germans’ mispronunciation of their name as “Kammen,” but kept alive the memory of their Scottish forefathers. However, they did abandon their Catholicism for Protestant pietism, which meant they faced persecution in Bavaria on religious grounds. And then Sherlock’s great-grandfather compounded the family’s difficulties by coming out for the liberals in the Revolution of 1848. When the revolution was crushed all across Germany, he had to flee. And like so many other German refugees from that Revolution, he ended up in America, in Chicago. Three generations later, the family was still living in Chicago when Sherlock’s father was born. He found out about his family’s Scottish ancestry, and although he was much more German than Scots by blood,[xxii] he did all he could to recreate an authentic Scottish identity. That included adopting the Cameron clan tartan, which I’ve put up as the blog’s background.
The joke on Sherlock’s father? The source for the Cameron tartan is the 1842 book, Vestiarum Scoticum, written by those frauds, the Sobieski Stuarts. The odds are the Sobieski Stuarts invented the Cameron tartan out of their imagination.[xxiii] Sherlock’s father’s choice of costume was no more authentically Scottish than he was.
[i] The English sometimes claimed that Scotland was part of the English domains, and on occasion even overran much of the country. The movie Braveheart inaccurately depicts one such episode in the 1290s.
[ii] England was a richer, more populous, and more powerful kingdom than Scotland, which explains why the influences tended to run from England to Scotland, and not vice versa. The Lowland Scots developed a distinctive dialect of English sometimes called “Scots” or “Scottish,” which is the language of the poet Robert Burns. It is to be distinguished from the older Celtic language originally spoken by the Scots, a branch of the Irish Celtic language usually referred to as Scottish Gaelic.
[iii] Henry VIII had contracted syphilis and seems to have become sterile or impotent after fathering Edward VI. Edward VI died young and unmarried. Mary did not marry until she was 38, may have been menopausal, and had a husband who often left the country. Elizabeth never married.
[iv] It’s spelled both ways. The name originally referred to the occupation of steward, hence the “Stewart” spelling. The Scots had a long alliance with the French, who rendered “Stewart” into “Stuart,” and that form managed to work its way back to Scotland. I’ve used “Stewart” consistently for clarity, with one exception.
[v] Theoretically, this did happen during the English Civil War and its aftermath, around 1647-51, but that was a minor part of the war by English Puritans and Parliament to impose their rule over the whole island. The king’s role was a sideshow.
[vi] An ordinal number after a monarch’s (or pope’s) name indicates that he/she is the nth person of that name to rule that kingdom. James was the 7th king of Scotland named James, but only the 2nd king of England by that name, hence his designation as James VII and James II. Confusing? It gets worse. Thanks to the fact that the English have been more powerful than the Scots, the monarchs of the combined kingdoms are usually known by their English designation. Hence, this James is almost always called James II, even though in one of his kingdoms he was James VII. The current queen is commonly called Elizabeth II, because England already had a previous Queen Elizabeth, but Scotland never had, so there she is technically Elizabeth I.
[vii] The nobles were unhappy about many other things, too. They thought James was turning into some sort of tyrant. At least, that’s what they said later. While James could in fact be high-handed and arbitrary, one of the reasons he was overthrown was because he was going to allow Catholics and dissenting Protestants to worship freely. Tyranny is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
[viii] Mary, as the eldest daughter, ruled first in conjunction with her Dutch husband William, who was also crowned as king, and ruled for several years after Mary’s death. Only when he died did Anne become queen. And, no Anne’s husband did not become king. Why the difference? Mary’s husband was the ruler (stadtholder) of the Netherlands. The English needed his moral and military support to get Mary to come to England, and they wanted an Anglo-Dutch alliance. Making William king was part of the deal. Anne, in contrast, inherited the throne peacefully, and her husband was considered a lightweight, anyhow.
[ix] Neither of whom had any children who survived their mothers, though Anne heroically endured at least 18 pregnancies!
[x] Actually, it was his mother, Sophia, wife of the Elector of Hanover when the Act of Settlement was passed in 1701. But she died two months before Queen Anne died, so her claim passed on to her son.
[xi] Yes, there was a ruler called the Holy Roman Emperor, whose domain included much of central Europe, and he was officially elected by a collection of German princes, called electors. The details are another very long story, beyond the scope even of my footnotes for this blog post.
[xii] And the Welsh Tudor family before that, the French Plantagenet dynasty and its Lancastrian and Yorkist offshoots before that, and the Norman family of William the Conqueror before that. And English kings usually married foreigners, for political reasons. Let’s face it, the English have been ruled by foreigners since at least 1066. The Stewarts had foreign blood in them, too, but they started as a native Scottish dynasty.
[xiii] However, not everything became the same in the two kingdoms. The Scots still retained their customary law, which is why a Scottish jury can deliver a verdict of “not proven,” but English and American juries cannot. And when I visited Britain in 1993, Scottish one pound bank notes were officially not legal tender in England.
[xiv] When the thrones had been united in 1603, King James VI (I) had taken to calling himself the king of Great Britain. But that was not legally true. And these days, the kingdom is officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
[xv] A pretender is someone who claims a title, but does not actually hold power and is not recognized by the authorities as the title holder.
[xvi] Including, naturally, the Catholics, many of whom lived in the Highlands.
[xvii] There were attempts in 1689, 1708, 1715, and 1719. These are collectively known as the Jacobite rebellions and the Old Pretender’s supporters as Jacobites, “Jacobus” being a Latinization of “James.”
[xviii] He died there. His predecessor in 1715 had also supported the Stewarts, and had also fled to France.
[xix] By the time the Old Pretender died, in 1766, the Stewart cause was so weak that even the Pope didn’t bother to recognize the Young Pretender as the British king. The Young Pretender died in 1788, without any legitimate heirs, so his claim was inherited by his brother Henry. Henry lost what was left of the family fortune in the 1790s. By this time, he was more a pathetic figure than a danger to the British crown, so the Hanoverian King George III of Great Britain felt it safe to grant Henry a pension in 1800. Henry died in 1807. A Catholic cardinal, he had no legitimate descendants. And so the main line of the Stewarts died out.
[xx] They also claimed to be descended from the Polish royal family, hence the name “Sobieski,” and from the Scottish royal family, hence the name “Stuart.” In fact, they were descended from neither.
[xxi] My Scottish-born mother sang it to me as a child. Her ancestors were almost certainly on the side of the Hanoverians, not the Stewarts, in 1745.
[xxii] In fact he was 1/64th Scottish by ancestry.
[xxiii] There is evidence that some version of the pattern existed before 1842, but that doesn’t prove it was commonly used by members of the Clan Cameron as a tartan designating their clan.