Oaths of Allegiance: Bow, 1723

By Rita Balado, Carole Herbert and Trish Rodbourne


George I required his subjects to sign the oath of allegiance as a public display of loyalty to their sovereign. Implicit in this was the public belief in the legitimacy of the monarch. For some elements of society the Hanoverian George, born at Osnabruck, Hanover, was not the rightful king. James 'the third' had the dynastic right to the English throne being the half brother of the late Queen Anne (1665-1714, Queen 1702-1714). James' dynastic right was, however, clouded by the fact of his Catholicism. The 1701 Act of Settlement compelled and assured that future monarchs had to be Protestant, hence the German, but protestant George I (1660-17127, King 1714-1727) who inherited the throne through his mother Sophia, granddaughter of James I. George was a progressive and intelligent monarch, popular enough to be seen in the streets, theatres and churches of London with little formality.

The following two verses are from the Protestant Mercury Saturday Nights Post (an Exeter newspaper) 3 December 1715:

The Traytors Knell or The Rebellious Jacobites Downfall

Britain once more hold up thy head,
Fear not, nor be in Pain,
For why, King George's foes are fled,
Some taken others slain:
The Rebel Rout are fired out
Of Preston Town, we know,
Who to the Gallows face about,
Where hey Boys up they go.

May Brunswicks Race forever wear
The Crown of this our Land.
May Rebels who themselves forswear
Fall by their Conquering Hand:
May good King George, our Faith's Defender,
Triumph o'er every Foe;
The Gallows take the young Pretender
Up hey Boys let him go.
The Following advertisement was also published in the Protestant Mercury -
Just published. The Perjury and Folly of the late Rebellion display: in a SERMON, preached in EXON June 7th 1716, being the day appointed for the Publick Thanksgiving, for the success of his majesty's. By John Withard. Sold by the Booksellers of Exon. Price 4d.
Since the Stuart Rebellion in Scotland 1715, which was supported by English Tories Bolingbroke and Ormonde, the Tories had become synonymous with Jacobites, henceforth mixed Whigs and Tory ministries were impracticable.

The Atterbury Plot named after the High Anglican Bishop of Rochester was discovered in 1722 and attested to the ongoing power struggle between the Hanoverians and the Jacobites/Tories. Recent study has suggested that although Jacobites were supporters of the Catholic James, not all Jacobites were Catholic. In reality the power struggle was between the Whigs (Hanoverians) and the conservative Tories.

Tory Bishop Atterbury was James' agent in England and the Atterbury plot revolves around 'The List' which was a list of the staunch Jacobite supporters, staunch Hanoverian supporters and the unsure grey area of leading public figures in the middle.

These times were not democratic, nor was the distribution of MPs widespread. The majority of towns and villages which had the right to return MPs were to be found in the south and south west. One quarter of the House of Commons was returned by 5 counties, Cornwall 44, Devon 26, Dorset 20. Somerset 18, Wiltshire 34.

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