​The last battle to take place on English soil

British troops at the Battle of Preston in 1715
The last battle on English soil was fought at Preston, Lancashire, between 12 and 14 November in 1715, when the Government army of George I caught up with a Jacobite force that had marched unopposed from the Scottish Borders and through the North of England, in support of  the ‘Jacobite’ uncrowned James III.

George I was a Protestant who had come to the throne following the death of his second cousin, Queen Anne, in August 1714. 

Despite being a German prince from Hannover, George was next in line thanks to the Act of Settlement, created in 1701, to ensure that future sovereigns must come from the Protestant faith. 

This meant that Queen Anne's Catholic half-brother, James Stuart, was overlooked. 

Catholics in England and Scotland had suffered the loss of their King, James II (James VII in Scotland), when he was removed from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1688  in the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution' by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, with the backing of prominent Protestants.

James and his supporters had attempted a comeback in Ireland, which was defeated by William at the Boyne and Aughrim, confirming Protestant dominance across the kingdom. 

With the death of Queen Anne the Jacobite supporters saw their opportunity to reclaim the throne and the first Jacobite Rising began. 

The rebellion started in Scotland, where Catholic support was strongest. The Jacobites saw great success and were able to take much of the country. 

Supporters in England were emboldened and an English Jacobite army was created. They met with a small Scottish force of Highlanders and marched through Northern England unopposed, with their sights set on Manchester where they hoped to gain support. 

Government forces engaged them at Preston, where the two armies fought through the barricaded streets. 

The Jacobites saw the best of the first day and many government troops were killed during an unsuccessful advance and siege. 

However many of the English Jacobites recognised the hopelessness of their situation and deserted overnight. New Government troops arrived the following day and the tide was turned.

The Jacobites offered to surrender but the British refused until the Highlanders agreed to lay down their arms and assemble in the market square. In the aftermath of Preston, the ringleaders were executed and many of the captured troops were shipped to America.

At the same time as the defeat in England, a much larger Jacobite force in Scotland fought Government forces at Sheriffmuir. The Jacobite army was twice the size of their enemy but poor leadership meant they could not take advantage of their superior numbers and claim a decisive victory.

With these two setbacks the first Jacobite Risings fizzled out, and it would be another 30 years before Bonnie Prince Charlie would take up their cause again. 

Want to find out more? The period of British history from 1688 to 1745 saw many incredible changes including the dominance of Protestantism, the move from an absolute monarchy to government by Parliament, the end of the tribal clan system in Scotland, and the emergence of England as a world power.

Many of these events are covered in our expert-led small group tours:

Picture credit: Government forces clash with Highland Jacobites, by David Morier (1705?–1770), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons