May 29 1712: birthday of Charles II and anniversary of his restoration to the throne
In a field near Edinburgh there was music, merriment, a “diversity of liquors” and people celebrating a royal anniversary round a bonfire. On a tall standard flew a banner with a “very artfully drawn” picture of the “royal oak”, the tree in which “his sacred Majesty” King Charles II hid from his enemies, reported a city newspaper. 1
Charles Jackson, a wealthy Edinburgh merchant, organised these festivities. He used a “public advertisement” to invite all “true loyalists” to join him, and supplied music, drink and then an after-party at his home in town. The gathering drank toasts to the monarch of the time, Queen Anne, but the event had been arranged to honour an earlier monarch: a king with controversial associations.
Jacobite or just jolly?
An “ingenious piece of masked Jacobitism” was a Victorian writer’s opinion of the celebration. When Robert Chambers said this 2, he was presumably thinking of King Charles’ Catholic brother James and his Jacobite supporters who met in secret. Yet Charles Jackson himself was not at all secretive. He was happy to express his respect for the current monarch at the same time as proclaiming his regard for Charles II, even though this touched on various troublesome political issues. He made his loyalties clear in print.
A generation earlier, in 1689, May 29th was definitely a pro-Jacobite day, with events in Edinburgh reported on disapprovingly in an anonymous London newsletter. 3 Besieged in the castle, the Jacobite Duke of Gordon celebrated the day “very heartily” with guns, a bonfire and much “drinking of healths”. Meanwhile, in the town “one or two bonfires were made in the streets here, where several disaffected persons gathered who had the impudence to drink the healths of King James, the Duke of Gordon….[etc.]”. This ended with some of the “rabble” being put in prison.
Back to 1712:
The night concluded with mirth; and the standard being brought back to Mr Jackson’s lodgings, was carried by a loyal gentleman barehead, and followed by several others with trumpets, hautboys, violins and bagpipes playing before them, where they were kindly entertained. 4
A field in the Grange
The celebrations took place in “Charles’s Field”, one mile south of the city, said the Edinburgh Evening Courant. Not long after the party, Thomas Dick of Grange feued out eight acres of land in the “east park of Grainge” to Charles Jackson, and it is likely that this plot was the so-called Charles’s Field, even though the legal work was not complete until after the festivities. 5
There is a good case for saying “Charles’s Field” was the one immediately to the east of Grange House, even though neither the newspaper nor the legal documents give the precise location clearly. The legal record describes an eight acre plot of an irregular four-sided shape in the “east park of Grainge”. The only field that matches these details on maps had a “bleaching green” within it, and this fits with the Courant’s report in 1712 that Jackson had “erected a very useful bleaching-field” on the land where the party took place.
The field was enclosed with walls and “dykes already digged”. Presumably Jackson had taken possession and started his bleaching enterprise before the feu charter was signed and sealed? Assuming it was this particular patch, its southern edge on Grange Loan is marked today by the eastern wyvern pillar at one end and the boundary between houses nos. 80 and 82 at the other. For more detail, check the footnotes. 6
The field in the Grange
The legal description:
…that piece or portion of land lying in the east park of Grainge with the dykes and ditches surrounding the samen bounded as follows viz.- beginning from the north east point of the dyke or wall of the said park and from thence proceeding along and within the said wall westward forty one falls and two and a half ells and from thence turning southwards along and including the dykes already digged twenty seven falls and from thence running eastward along and including the dykes also digged thirty seven falls and five ells and from thence turning northward along and within the east dyke and wall of the said park forty one falls and two and a half ells extending the area of the said piece or portion of land to eight acres ane rood and thirty three falls lying within the parish of St Cuthberts and sheriffdom of Edinburgh... 7
William Dick and his wife, Anna Seton, are thought to have had Jacobite sympathies. Could that have any relevance to their business dealings with Jackson?
- Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Courant in: Reliquiae Scoticae, Scotish [sic] remains, in prose and verse, from original MSS. and scarce tracts, ed. James Maidment and Robert Pitcairn, 1828
- Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.
- Domestic Annals of Scotland, Chambers, 1861
- Kirkwood’s 1817 map is on the NLS website.
- Miller and Grainger’s 1825 map was included in The Grange of St. Giles by Jane Stewart Smith, Constable 1898.
Pictures from Wikimedia.
- Quotes from Reliquiae Scoticae’s extract from a report in the Edinburgh Evening Courant. They say the Royal Oak was the name of a ship in which Charles escaped to continental Europe, but this does not seem to be historically accurate. ↩
- Domestic Annals of Scotland, 1861 ↩
- An Account from Scotland and Londonderry of the proceedings against the Duke of Gordon in the castle of Edinburgh, printed by George Groom June 1689, included in Siege of the Castle of Edinburgh: MDCLXXXIX, presented by Robert Bell to the Bannatyne Club, 1828 ↩
- Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Courant in: Reliquiae Scoticae, Scotish [sic] remains, in prose and verse, from original MSS. and scarce tracts, ed. James Maidment and Robert Pitcairn, 1828] ↩
- Thomas Dick’s marriage agreement slowed things down as he had to get his wife’s formal agreement to the transaction, finalised in March 1713. This meant legally valid approval from men designated as her “friends”: local bigwigs Sir James Dick of Prestonfield, Sir William Cunningham of Caprington and Master Patrick Leith of Craighall. ↩
- Using an 1817 map (Kirkwood) and an 1825 map (Miller and Grainger), the only field of roughly the right shape and size is the one outlined in blue on both maps. There are trees along some of the boundaries, suggesting a well-established field. Admittedly, the lengths of the sides don’t look like a perfect match, but there may be a mistake in the legal description anyway. How likely is that both the northern and the eastern side were exactly “forty one falls and two and a half ells” long? In the SW of this field was a bleaching ground (outlined in red), explicitly labelled as ‘Bleaching Green’ on the 1825 map. There do not appear to be any competing bleachfields in the area. These two maps, together with some details on the first OS map, suggest the bleachfield was walled with buildings along the southern edge. The green outline shows the boundaries of the grounds of Grange House. Using georeferenced maps, with old layered over new, shows how the old boundaries match up with today’s layout. ↩
- Feu Charter by William Dick of Grange, with consent of Anna Seton, his spouse, to Charles Jackson, merchant in Edinburgh, March 1713 ↩