Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's Tae the King, Sir....

Today is White Rose Day, a holiday I had never heard of before yesterday. I owe the discovery of its existence to a small, pencilled notation in an antique Lives of the Saints, that I recently acquired in Scotland, and have been using daily as part of morning prayers. Beside the names of various saints for June 10th - St. Landry, St. Maurinus, St. Gertulius & Co. and, most fittingly, St. Margaret of Scotland - is the neat little addition: White Rose Day. I was intrigued, and the moment I had finished my prayers, I rushed to my handy computer to look it up.

To my delight, I discovered that it a Jacobite holiday. It commemorates the birth of James Francis Edward Stewart, born on this day in 1688. He was the legitimate, staunchly Catholic heir the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland and his birth is generally regarded as the beginning of the Jacobite cause. His father, James II and VII, had converted to Catholicism, and as a result had been forced to abdicate in favour of his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. It was not an ideal situation, so when James II and VII died, his son was offered the throne by the bitterly Protestant leaders of the country, on condition that he renounce his Faith, but he responded, "Nothing would induce me to abandon my religion, for it is the true one." He did, however, insist upon his right to the kingship, and his supporters raised an army to help him secure it. James in Latin is Jacobus, so his supporters were knows as Jacobites.

They put up a tremendous fight, the Jacobites! Two major uprising they had, one in 1715, led by James himself, and the better known one, in 1746, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. In between, there were all sorts of intrigues and smaller battles. If a man had a blue cap upon his head, you could be pretty sure that he was a supporter of "the king over the water", that is to say, James Stewart, for he had been forced to flee to France after the Jacobites were put down in 1715. Ladies wore white roses to show their own support. People met in secret to plan for the next move in the battle for their rightful king. The Jacobite cause was finally crushed once and for all, on April 16th, at Culloden in Scotland. Bonnie Prince Charlie and his gallant Scots were defeated, more by treachery and bad judgement, than by any force of arms.

However, the Jacobite tradition carried on. Those who were loyal to the Stewarts continued to drink toasts to the King over the Water, still continued to hope for the restoration of the true kings to the throne. Gradually, a whole, rich tradition of Jacobite songs, poetry and toasts grew up. They continued to wear the white rose - or the white cockade - which had long been the symbol of the Stewarts. And one of their traditions, was the celebration White Rose Day.

So, in commemoration of the day, of the Stewarts, and their Catholic faith, and of their brave supporters the Jacobites, here is a poem, written by Andrew Lang:


'Twas a day of faith and flowers,
Of honour that could not die,
Of Hope that counted the hours,
Of sorrowing Loyalty:
And the Blackbird sang in the closes,
The Blackbird piped in the spring,
For the day of the dawn of the Roses,
The dawn of the day of the King!

White roses over the heather,
And down by the Lowland lea,
And far in the faint blue weather,
A white sail guessed on the sea!
But the deep night gathers and closes,
Shall ever a morning bring
The lord of the leal white roses,
The face of the rightful King?

Incidentally, since I like to fancy myself a bit of a Jacobite, I intend to celebrate today by wearing a tartan skirt (luckily made of light-weight fabric, since spring has come upon us) pinning a white rose into my hair, (artificial - a concession to practicality) putting white roses on my table (real ones, of course) and cooking salmon, neeps and tatties for dinner (It being Friday, salmon is as Scottish as it gets). I also intend to have a bit of Scotch whisky, with which I shall offer the standard toast, "Here's tae the King, sir. Ye ken wha I mean, sir. And every honest man wha will dae it again!" and pass my whisky glass over my water glass, lest there be any doubt that I mean the King over the Water.


Teresa said...

Ooooooooooooh. Cool post. I think it's my favorite so far. I think I'll have to copy that poem into my special Poem Notebook and find a white rose somewhere abouts.

And it's just cool to think, "Hey...I was *at* Culloden Moor...Jacobites were amazing peoples!"

......and unfortunately, every time I hear the name William of Orange, I think, "ooh Stinky Billy!"

Mahri said...

Glad you like it! Culloden was rather amazing wasn't it? I still can't believe that wee stone house was hit my cannon-fire and suffered practically no harm at all!

Amy said...

Awesome post, Mahri! LOVED IT! "Here's tae the King, Sir!" *Quick, get me a shot of whisky and a glass of water!* :-)
I have sort of fallen in love with Scottish history. Scots are way cool.