This Month in Celtic History
by Stephen Paul DeVillo

July 2001


30 July 1746:   David Thomas Morgan, Welsh Jacobite leader,
executed by the English.

Of all the curious characters who flocked to the Stuart banner during the campaign of “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” few were more curious than David Thomas Morgan, for with him lies the tale of one of the great non-events of Celtic history: the long-anticipated Welsh Jacobite uprising.

The date of his birth is uncertain, but David Thomas Morgan was born about 1695 near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, a place that less than a century later would become a place of great significance in Welsh history. Educated as a barrister, Morgan was one of those who found themselves at odds with the imported German Hanoverian dynasty that occupied the throne of the United Kingdom in place of the deposed Scottish Stuart dynasty. Called “Jacobites” in honor of the Stuart “pretender” to the throne, James III (James VIII to the Scots), or “Jacobus III Rex” in the royal formal Latin style, the Jacobites looked forward to the eventual restoration of the Stuart family to the royal throne in London. While practicing law in London, Morgan became a member of a pro-Jacobite political club called “the Independent Electors of Westminster.”

There were a lot of tough-talking self-styled Jacobites roaming around England in those days, about whom the Hanoverian authorities didn’t worry too much. But the north of Wales was long rumored to be a hotbed of Jacobite sympathizers ready to rise up under the leadership of such men as William Vaughn and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn.

When Charles Edward Stuart landed in Scotland in August 1745 and began gathering forces to revolt against the Hanoverians, Morgan believed his moment had come. He galloped northward and met Charles' army as it came south to invade England. As Charles' putative liason with the Welsh Jacobites, Morgan joined the Prince's staff, where he became known as “the King's Councillor.” Morgan also assisted with organizing a regiment of English Jacobites at Manchester, but he declined the Prince's offer of the regiment's command, preferring to go on supervising the collection of munitions and looking forward to the coming link-up with the Welsh Jacobites.

But that link-up never happened. As the Jacobite army advanced deeper into England, word came from Sir Watkin Williams Wynn that the Welsh would be glad to rise and join the Stuart cause -- once Charles had captured London, that is. It was perhaps with this message in mind that at the fateful council of war at Derby on 6 December 1745 Morgan forcefully argued for a continued advance straight for London, and advocated going by way of the old Royalist capitol of Oxford, where he said the students would join them.

The rest of Charles' staff, though, worried about getting themselves caught between converging Hanoverian forces, voted instead to beat a retreat back to Scotland. In the retreat Morgan got separated from the army and was captured by the Hanoverians.

A quarrelsome and irascible man, Morgan's absence was missed by few in the Jacobite army. After the Jacobite campaign expired at the battle of Culloden, the Hanoverians put Morgan on trial for treason, and he was sentenced to the traditional traitor's death by hanging, drawing and quartering. A full description of this is perhaps not necessary here, but the process will be familiar to viewers of the movie “Braveheart.”

David Thomas Morgan at least remained true to his personality right to the end. On the morning of his execution, while he and others waited to be tied to hurdles to be dragged to the scaffold through the streets of London, Morgan's only recorded comment was to complain that their breakfast coffee was cold.

The stories in This Month in Celtic History are drawn from over 1000 anniversaries of people and events from the histories of the six Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Mann in the 2002 Celtic Calendar, available from the Celtic League American Branch.

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