The 'Forty Five' was the last Jacobite rebellion in a series of revolts that had occurred since 1688 in favour of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Following a failed attempt at invasion in 1744 and the retraction of Louis XV's support, 'The Young Pretender' Prince Charles Edward Stuart set sail from France on 22 June 1745, landing on mainland Scotland at Loch nan Uamh on 25 July. Mustering support amongst clansmen was difficult as there was little faith that the rebellion would succeed. Despite this, with a force of approximately 1200 men, the Jacobite standard was raised on Monday 19 August at Glenfinnan and Charles marched to Edinburgh, taking Perth on the way virtually unopposed. Meanwhile a government force under General Cope had marched north and on 21 September 1745 met the Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans. Charles's army forced the government troops to flee and temporarily he was master of Scotland.
His invasion of England was the turning point of the rebellion and sealed the fate of the Jacobite cause. Major Scottish figures were reluctant to support him and volunteers were scarce but despite this, Charles managed to muster a force of about 5,000 men. However, once he crossed the boarder English support for his cause was less than he had supposed and his force got all the way to Derby without any more than about 200 Englishmen joining him. He continued towards London but was forced by British and foreign armies to retreat to Scotland. The march back began on 6 December 1745 and they were gradually pushed further north into the Highlands. The final and most infamous battle was on Wednesday 16 April 1746 at Drummossie Moor near Inverness. The Jacobites were outnumbered, on poor terrain and with insufficient artillery and in less than hour they were defeated by the government forces led by the Duke of Cumberland. Charles fled the field before the battle was over and spent months in hiding in the Highlands before escaping to France. He lived the rest of his life in exile and died in Rome.
With the crushing of 'The Forty-Five' the political significance of the Jacobite movement ended but it became a popular theme in romantic painting and literature. The present work shows a Jacobite supporter captured in England, most probably in a village north of Derby having been left behind as Charles's forces fled back to Scotland. Little mercy was shown to Jacobite prisoners by their captors and this is a poignant scene as the prisoner awaits his fate watched by a small group of unsympathetic villagers.