Kintyre Macalisters support James VII

On this date in 1688, a number of what Dr Paul Hopkins calls the ‘non-Campbell’ clans of Kintyre signed an address of loyalty to King James (VII of Scotland, II of England and Ireland); included among them were Alexander MacAlister of Loup and Archibald of Tarbert.[1]

William of Orange had landed in England the day before, having been offered the throne by several prominent Englishmen by right of his wife, Mary, who was James VII’s daughter. This invitation had been written in June in response to the birth of a son to the king’s second wife – a male heir reviving fears of a Catholic succession. It seems unlikely that news of William’s arrival on the 5th would already have reached Kintyre by the 6th, although his invasion had been expected. But even if they’d known, most of the Western clans were no longer Catholic themselves – arguably, they had as much reason as the English Protestants to be concerned about a Catholic succession.

As is so often the case in Highland history, local politics appear to have been the deciding factor in Kintyre. Hopkins sees the early Jacobitism of the Kintyre lairds as arising primarily out of fear that if James were ousted, the Campbell family of Argyll would stage yet another of its semi-miraculous comebacks and have their forfeited estates and enormous power reinstated. This was not a groundless fear: Although the execution of the 9th Earl of Argyll had cost his family their lands, the earl’s son had been actively working to bring William of Orange to the throne, specifically in hopes of restoration.

It is not surprising to find Alexander of Loup signing this declaration of loyalty – he had already shown where he stood in 1685, when instead of answering Argyll’s invitation to join in the rebellion, he turned the letter over to the Privy Council. In May of 1689, he would be one of the first to join Viscount Dundee in the first Jacobite rising. He fought at the Battle of Loup Hill, at Killiecrankie, Dunkeld and Cromdale, and reputedly at the Boyne in 1690.[2]

Rather more surprising, perhaps, is the inclusion on this list of the head of the Tarbert family, which in later years opposed the Jacobites. But Archibald of Tarbert was in fact an avid Jacobite, and he took part with his chief and other clan leaders in the early states of Dundee’s rebellion. The fact that Tarbert signed this address of loyalty lends weight to Hopkins’s claim: It appears that while the Argyll family were still without power in Kintyre, the Tarbert Macalisters supported James VII; it is only after they were once again Argyll’s tenants that their loyalties changed.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2011

[1] Paul Hopkins, ‘Loup Hill, 16th May 1689: The First ‘Battle’ of Dundee’s Jacobite War’, Kintyre Magazine (issue 29, spring 1991); Lamont of Knockdow, ed., Inventory of Lamont Papers, p. 332, item 1132.
This according to family tradition and just about every secondary source in existence. However, I must agree with Hopkins that it seems very unlikely. Alexander of Loup took the Oath of Allegiance (to William and Mary) in Edinburgh at the end of June, only weeks before he supposedly fought for James in Ireland.


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