I listen to a lot of Celtic folk music and, thanks to Pandora, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of singers, songwriters, and bands I’d otherwise never hear. One of the things I’ve found fascinating is how a number of songs out of Scotland can be divided into two categories: a) Jacobite music or b) Anti-Jacobite music.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the term “Jacobite” refers to the political movement in Great Britain, Scotland, and parts of Ireland that sought to return the Catholic line of Stuarts to the throne (namely James II and his heirs). There were many battles and uprisings by the Jacobites during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Arguably, the most famous of these is “The Forty-Five.” Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender), who had spent most of his life in exile on the Continent in France, came home to Scotland to lead his people to freedom and to retake his throne. Those dreams died during the infamous battle of Culloden. In the aftermath of Culloden, the English swept through the highlands and sought to eradicate the clans. The wearing of tartans and playing of bagpipes were banned, among other culturally specific items.
I’m not going to delve into further historical detail and talk about how I think Charlie was an inept leader who misused his resources and knew nothing of the people he was supposed to lead. Instead, I’m going to just say that it’s intriguing that modern Scottish bands still sing of their people’s hopes or their own disillusionment with the would-be king. When I took a Scottish history class many moons ago, my professor (a Lowland Scot) talked about how some Scots still await their “king over the water.” So, it’s still a very pervasive cultural idea that comes out through their music.
It’s like how many Irish bands still reference the Easter Uprising in their music (“It’s the same old thing since 1916. In your head, in your head.” – The Cranberries, “Zombie.”). That, however, is another story for another time. I may touch on that someday.