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In Brief History
The Watertons - a brief history
Chronology
Origins in Lincolnshire
Life as Roman Catholics
Tudor Queens
Thomas More
Hanoverian Rats
From Stuart to Hanoverian

James II

King William III Queen Mary II Queen Anne
George Louis, Elector of Hanover, George I of Great Britain
George I (detail from a painting in the Royal Collection)

Charles Waterton and the Hanoverian Rat
Charles Waterton had a great dislike for "prog" the Hanoverian rat, which he always associated with the Hanoverian dynasty. He was of the opinion that the brown (the colour could also be grey) rat came across with George 1 who succeeded to the Throne after the death of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch. This rat, also called the Norwegian (Rattus norvegicus)(2), or Hanoverian rat, came to England "according to local tradition" in the very same ship that carried the new dynasty. This was, of course, at variance with the facts, but Waterton found it suited his view of the dastardly overthrow of the Catholic monarchs by the Protestant usurpers, and the ill- treatment of his particular sect at the hands of a rival sect, the Protestants.

The Hanoverian rat overwhelmed the native British rat to such an extent that Waterton said that he had seen only one specimen. "It was sent, some years ago, to Nostell Priory in a cage from Bristol; and I received an invitation from Mr Arthur Strickland, who was on a visit there, to go and see it. Whilst I was looking at the little native in its cage, I could not help exclaiming, - "Poor injured Briton! hard, indeed, has been the fate of thy family! in another generation, at farthest, it will probably sink down to the dust for ever!"(1)

The Norway RatRattus norvegicus, the dreaded Hanoverian Rat, also known as the Hanover rat, brown rat, common rat, sewer rat, Norway rat, Brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, grey rat, and wharf rat. Lots of names to describe this unloved rodent. This particular one was a mixture of grey and brown.

"It so chanced that, not long after the accession of the house of Hanover, some of the brown, that is the German or Norway, rats, were first brought over to this country (in some timber as is said); and being much stronger than the black, or, till then, the common, rats(*), they in many places quite extirpated the latter. The word (both the noun and the verb to rat) was first, as we have seen, leveled at the converts to the government of George the First, but has by degrees obtained a wider meaning, and come to be applied to any sudden and mercenary change in politics." -- Lord Mahon. [1913 Webster]

(* Rattus rattus - the Black Rat, other names include ship rat, roof rat, house rat, Alexandrine rat, and old English rat.)

Kunstverein HannoverHanover or Hannover, on the River Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) in Germany and was once the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain.

Find out more about modern Hannover, click here.


In England, the arrival of William III and the overthrow of the Catholic King James II in 1688-89 was hailed as the Glorious Revolution. William III (1650 - 1702) and Mary II (1662 - 1694) became joint sovereigns in 1689 after the defeat of James II.

Mary II (Mary Stuart) was the Protestant daughter of the Catholic James II. She was a monarch in her own right, not just a consort. She married William of Orange in 1677.

William of Orange was Stadtholder of the Netherlands and became a leading figure in the resistance to French aggression under Louis XIV. William was invited by leading political figures in England to intervene in the struggle with James II.

The Bill of Rights in 1689 marked the ascendancy of Parliament over the "divine right" claimed by the Stuarts.

The Battle of the Boyne. In 1690, James II's hopes of recovering the British throne were dashed at the Battle of the Boyne. William III ('King Billy') personally led the forces that defeated the army of James II; because he deserted his Irish supporters, James became known in Ireland as Séamus an Chaca or 'James the be-shitten'.

The River Boyne rises in County Kildare and flows into the Irish Sea; the Battle itself is still remembered down the centuries by Catholics and Protestants in Ulster, but from somewhat different viewpoints. The deposed king died in 1701, the claim to the Throne was kept alive by his son James Francis Edward (The Old Pretender) and, in turn, his son Charles Edward (The Young Pretender).

Queen Anne. When William III died, Anne - also the daughter of James II and a Protestant, became Queen. She was the last of the Stuart monarchs she died in 1714. (The last of the Royal House of Stuart was Henry, the Cardinal of York, who died in 1807.)

Under the Act of Settlement, 1701, George Louis, the Elector of Hanover, succeed to the British throne in 1714 as George I. His descendants ruled both Hanover and Great Britain until the separation of the two thrones on the acession of Queen Victoria in 1837. In 1901 the House of Hanover (also referred to as Brunswick - in German "Braunschweig") changed its name to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on the acession of Edward VII.

Divine Pretenders
The Stuarts wanted to restore the divine right of the monarchy
James Francis Edward Stuart
The Old Pretender was James Francis Edward (d. 1766), son of the deposed James II (d. 1701).
Charles Edward Stuart
The Young Pretender, Charles Edward (d. 1788) and his rebels were defeated by forces loyal to the Government at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

 

The Battle of Culloden, 1746.
Various attempts by the Pretenders to seize control were made, but at Culloden in 1746, those loyal to the Crown defeated the Jacobite rebels of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward - "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Often portrayed simply as a battle between the English and the Scottish, it was in reality a battle between loyal forces and rebels seeking to overthrow the British Government and George II, and, in their place, re-install the "divine right of monarchs" wing of the Stuarts.

~~~

"My grandfather had the honour of being sent prisoner to York, a short time before the battle of Culloden, on account of his well-known attachment to the hereditary rights of kings, in the person of poor Charley Stuart, who was declared a pretender! On my grandfather's release, he found that his horses had been sent to Wakefield, there to be kept at his own expense. But the magistrates very graciously allowed him to purchase a horse for his own riding, providing the price of it was under five pounds." An Act of Parliament passed in the reign of William III prohibited a Roman Catholic from keeping a horse worth more than £5. The object was to deprive the Roman Catholics of chargers that could have been used for military purposes in an uprising. (1)

~~~

1. "Essays on Natural History", Charles Waterton, edited, with a Life of the Author by Norman Moore, London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1871.
2. A Ratty Footnote - No Rats Here
Not connected with the Watertons, but with those cunning rats....
In Hilsea in Portsmouth, there was once a military establishment called Hilsea Depot with Rat Lane leading to it. When the Ministry of Defence closed the depot and the land was sold off for development, the name Rat Lane was presumably thought not to be a very nice name for the road. It was changed to Norway Road, thus retaining its rat connection.

 



Hanoverian Rats
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