Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jacobitism in South Wales

"Bonnie Prince Charlie"
Charles Edward Stuart

This month’s speaker was Mr Steve David of Bryncoch, who has spoken to the Society on several occasions. Mr David took Jacobitism as his theme and began by asking the central question as to where “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, was born? Several answers were offered including Scotland and France. The correct answer, Rome, was the prelude for a very illuminating talk on the issue of Jacobitism which spread far further and deeper than the romanticism of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stephenson.

Richard Gwynne, President of the Society of Sea Sergeants which met until 1762.
Mr David gave a detailed explanation as to how Jacobitism arose owing to the combination of an untidy succession of Stuart monarchs leading to the joint reign of William and Mary following the “Glorious and Bloodless Revolution”, of 1688. The Act of Succession of 1701 ensured that there had to be a Protestant monarch. The deposed James the Second’s son, James Edward Stuart, lived in Rome as “the Prince across the Water”. He was acknowledged as the legitimate successor and Prince of Wales, by the Jacobites and as the “Old Pretender”, by the supporters of the Hanoverian Succession of 1714. Queen Anne was the last of the Stuarts and the solidly protestant German speaking Hanoverian , George the First, (despite being 17th in line to the throne) was invited to take the British throne. Therefore in essence Jacobitism  far from being a restoration of Roman Catholicism was more a battle between the old established order personified by the Tories and the new one identified by the Whigs. The issue of the Old and New pretenders, in James Edward Stuart and his son Charles Edward Stuart, would not subside until George the Third came to the throne as an English speaking and more importantly English born King in 1760.

Glamorgan today would be associated with nonconformity however in the 16th and 17th centuries there were few dissenting chapels, only six in Neath. Each chapel had to be sited at least three miles from a church. Attendance at Anglican services was mandatory and the traditional ruling Tory elite families: the Mansells, Kemeys, Stradling and  Evans amongst others held sway. However in Neath the Shropshire born Mackworth family came to the Gnoll Estate in 1696 when Sir Humphrey Mackworth married the heiress Mary Evans. The Mackworths were viewed as interlopers but the Gnoll estate had coal, copper and limestone and the shrewd use of leases gave the estate an income to rival the Mansells of £4,000 per annum. Historical records indicate that the Mackworth’s despite their wealth were rather shunned socially by the established families. Eventually, Humphrey Mackworth had the audacity to challenge the Mansells for the parliamentary seat of West Gamorgan for the Whigs in 1712. The Mansells plied the tiny electorate with drink for three days prior to the election and held the seat. However, the threat was there and the Tories were on the side of the “King across the water”.

For the following 40 years and the successive Jacobite rebellions, a secret Jacobite society existed in south Wales, “The Society of Sea Sergeants”. In the north of Wales, Watcyn Williams Wyn led a similar society, "the Society of the White Rose".The Sergeants  met on board a yacht four times a year, had a banquet of twelve courses and made Jacobite toasts over a glass of water symbolic of the "King across the water" . Clandestinely they surveyed the ports of the area for the use of an invasion force. Indeed, the recently renovated Llanelly House in Llanelli has the emblem of the Society emblazoned in the forms of letters S on its walls. However, they made sure that their secret plotting was not discovered, indeed few made the journey to England in order to join either pretenders when given the chance. In defiance, the industrialist William Morris (who gave his name to Morriston) raised a company of men to fight for the Protestant succession and to defend the ports in the area. 

Mr Trefor Jones, in the unfortunate absence of both Chairman and President gave the vote of thanks and stated how the present Brexit machinations and its vested interests mirrored much of the chicanery of the Jacobite period. He also thanked Mr David for an inspired talk on a little known subject.