The King Over the Water: A Complete History of the Jacobites

  • Birlinn (December 3, 2019)


There is no overall history for general readers of Britain's greatest lost cause, the restoration of our exiled royal family – the Stuarts. Recent research has transformed what we know about it, but has only been available in academic studies. This book fills the gap, telling the whole saga in England, Scotland and Ireland (through Jacobite eyes), from James II's flight in 1688 until his grandson Henry IX's death in 1807. Most people think of Jacobitism as purely Scottish. Yet a Stuart rising in England was far from impossible until the 1750s when one in four landowners and many working men were Jacobites. The Irish war of 1689-91, the most ferocious of all Jacobite conflicts has been neglected, as has the long loyalty of Irishmen to the Stuarts – even in the 1790s France planned to make Henry IX King of Ireland. There was also an American Jacobitism. Whether fighting at Killiecrankie, Prestonpans or Culloden, at Aughrim, Limerick or Fontenoy, or dying on the scaffold at Tyburn or the Tower of London, few men gave their lives for a cause with more conviction.

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Reviews of: The King Over the Water: A Complete History of the Jacobites

  • The King over the Water, though, is his best work because it plays to his gifts of being largely persuasive and consistently employing a briskness in pace, a clarity of style and a genius for capturing the character of those long dead, long-forgotten and, perhaps, never remembered.

  • Since we are not overburdened by popular histories on Jacobitism, Seward’s lively book is a welcome addition.

    BBC History Magazine
  • Seward's clear sighted examination of the Jacobite movement shows how close it came to succeeding

    Alan Massie, The Scotsman