On this day 1745: Panic on the streets of London as Jacobites edge closer

Terror struck the streets of London on December 5 1745 as word of the Jacobite capture of Derby, just 127 miles away, reached the capital. PIC: Creative Commons.
Terror struck the streets of London on December 5 1745 as word of the Jacobite capture of Derby, just 127 miles away, reached the capital. PIC: Creative Commons.
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Londoners formed queues at banks, packed up their valuables and fled to the country on this day in 1745 with King George II having his yachts prepared in case of the need of fast escape.

As one observer noted, 'terror struck in the minds' of those in the metropolis on hearing that the Jacobite army had captured Derby, just 127 miles away.

Prince Charles' men were in the highest of spirits in Derby, with bells ringing out, bonfires blazing and men jovially queuing to get their swords sharpened.

READ MORE: The Jacobites who fought on after Culloden
Derby was theirs with the British Army under the Duke of Cumberland's command were a day's march away in Lichfield. Another force, led by General Wade, was approaching from the North.

As news of the advance of the Jacobite march reached London, panic prevailed.

"Many of the inhabitants fled to the country, carrying along with them their most valuable effects, and that all the shops were shut, that there was a prodigious run upon the banks, which only escaped bankruptcy by stratagem," according to Browne's 1852 History of the Highlands.

READ MORE: What if the Jacobites had won Culloden?
"King George had ordered his yachts, on board of which he had put all his most previous effects, to remain at the Tower stairs in readiness to sail at a moments warning. The Duke of Newcastle, secretary of state for the war department, had shut himself up in his house a whole day, deliberating with himself upon the part it would be most prudent for him to take , doubtful even whether he should not immediately declare for his prince," Browne wrote.

In preparation for the approaching rebels, an army began to gather on Finchley Common to defend London.

But, the Jacobite threat was already weakening, with talk among leaders of a retreat now circling. The march south had been met with a flattering response in many towns but the expected recruitment of new soldiers from the north of England had not delivered. Weapons and supplies sent from France had not arrived.

Lord George Murray, the senior Jacobite commander, urged a retreat. With troops now at between 5,000 to 6,000 men he felt the advance had reached it capabilities. Men would be lost to Cumberland's men as they headed south, leaving a weakened force to tackle the defenders of the capital which may have amounted to some 30,000 soldiers.

Prince Charles, however, was adamant that the advance must continue although resistance was met from all quarters of his Council of War.

Browne wrote: "The fate of the empire and his own destiny may be said to have now depended on the next resolution which Charles was to take.

"He had, after a most triumphant career, approached within 127 miles of London, and there seemed to be only another step necessary to complete the chivalrous character of his adventure, and to bring his enterprise to a successful termination,

"This was, to have instantly adopted the bold and decisive measure of marching upon and endeavouring to seize the capital.

"The possession of the metropolis, where Charles had a considerable part, would have at once paralysed the government."

Charles met with his Council of War twice to convince them to advance, but the arguments for retreat to the Highlands to build forces were unanimously won.

Charles was 'exceedingly dejected' by the failure to win the backing of his men.

Soldiers were sent back on the march, unaware they were on retreat until some realised they were retracing their own steps. When the strategy dawned on them, many were enraged. They grudgingly marched on, with their steps ultimately leading them to Culloden four months later.