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Guest Post: Jacobite history as inspiration for The Reluctant Rebel / Barbara Henderson

The Reluctant Rebel is a brand new historical adventure from Young Quills winner Barbara Henderson, set in Scotland in 1746.

Meticulously researched and based on the well-documented 18th-century Jacobite Rebellion known as ‘the ’45’, this new novel tells the story of a young stable boy, Archie. He feels ambivalent about the Jacobite rebellion – unlike his feisty cousin Meg. Can he overcome his grief and bitterness? After all, the Prince Charles Edward Stuart is just another man on the run, and it is in the children’s power to help…

The Reluctant Rebelis a story of bravery amid storms of seismic historical forces which toss both rich and poor into turmoil. Will the children succeed in this deadly game of hide-and-seek?

Read on for a guest post in which author and teacher Barbara Henderson explains how she saw a gap in the market for a book set in Jacobite times and how her loyalty to keeping children at the centre of the tale led the path of the story…

Guest Post: History and Story – The historical inspiration for The Reluctant Rebel

by Barbara Henderson, author of The Reluctant Rebel

Any child growing up in Scotland is likely to hear about the Jacobites at some stage of primary school, despite the fact that Jacobite history extends far, far beyond Scotland’s borders.

A bit of background: Essentially, the Jacobites were the people who wanted to see the Stuart royal family on the throne. The last Stuart king, the Catholic King James VII of Scotland and II of England, was very unpopular. Nobles invited his son-in-law, the protestant William of Orange, to invade – which he did. Defenders of James (Jacobus in Latin) began the first Jacobite rebellion to reinstate him, won in Killiecrankie, but lost at the battle of the Boyne. New risings followed, particularly when the Elector of Hanover, George I was crowned, despite more than fifty others ahead of him in the traditional succession line. In 1745, with war in Europe, French support made a new rebellion viable and the Stuart prince, son of the exiled King, landed in Scotland to claim the throne for his father: Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The inspiration for The Reluctant Rebel: I wanted to write a book about the Jacobite rebellion known as the ’45, I really did. As a teacher, I knew that there was a gap in the market for such a book. I visited Culloden Battlefield, a short drive along the road for me. But the more I read, the more I became fascinated by the aftermath of the rebellion. After Culloden, 16th of April 1746, the Prince fled. But it would take until 20th September before he would finally set sail for France, a deadly game of hide-and-seek with many near misses.

At first, I thought of inventing a child companion for the Prince. But no, that wouldn’t work. The well-documented flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie included no children. Back to the drawing board. Until it struck me. Wait, was there a place where the Prince passed through at all? Perhaps the home of some particularly staunch supporters?


And Bingo! Borrodale in Lochaber was exactly what I was hoping for. The family there saw the Jacobite heir to the throne pass through on several occasions: before raising the standard at Glenfinnan at the beginning of the Rising, immediately after the defeat at Culloden, and then again twice more on his flight, finally leaving from the nearby Loch nan Uamh for France. By placing my protagonist, stable boy Archie, at Borrodale, my readers could observe the Prince’s comings and goings. Archie is a reluctant Jacobite, so I chose to contrast him with his less cynical cousin Meg – and the basis for the book was there. But wait, it gets better! Even when the Prince is not around, things definitely happened at Borrodale: a skirmish with one of the most notoriously cruel government avengers, Captain Fergusson. The burning down of the house in retribution. The last sea battle in British waters, the Battle of Loch nan Uamh.

My poor protagonists have got a lot to contend with. As children, they have little hope of influencing the great political events of their time – but the flipside is this: despite being at the mercy of events, children largely go under the radar. They are often not recorded, noticed or suspected, which means they are excellent spies and unsuspected guides. A brilliant basis for an adventure novel, don’t you agree?

And what of the major turning points of the ’45 rising? Surely, if the book is to be read in schools, they need to be included?

Easy! The Battle of Culloden is the opening chapter, but flashbacks to other key points of the rebellion serve that very purpose. Archie may not be there in person, but messengers, letters and overheard conversations cover that particular territory much more authentically anyway.

This is why I love historical fiction. The events, as we know them, are like pegs on a washing line. They keep a soggy story in shape. Soon, the wind of the imagination can bring the story to life as the bright sun makes the colours sing. The highest of stakes, in a life-or-death game of hide-and-seek. What more could I ask of a story?


Order The Reluctant Rebel onlinefrom Amazonor Bookshop.

Many thanks to Barbara Henderson for visiting our blog. Follow along with the other stops on the blog tour for more about the book.


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