The story happens in Scotland in 1745. Let's set the stage because it's just a little complicated.
We start with a king - James II and VII. Yep, complicated right at the get-go. The two numbers reflect the fact that he was James II of England and Ireland, and James VII of Scotland. All we care about for the purposes of this blog post is that James Stuart, king of Scotland, was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. And the Scots never got over it. Thereby hangs the rest of this tail.
William of Orange came to the throne in James's place and reigned with his wife Mary. (If you've heard of William and Mary College in Virginia, this is who it's named after.) William was Protestant, whereas the Stuarts were Catholic. The Brits were concerned not only about the James's Catholic leanings but also his ties with Catholic France (Britain's historic enemy). So after William's ascension, they ruled that only Protestants could hold the throne.
Now if you know anything about Europe's kings and queens, you know they are all related! Mary (wife of William) and her sister Anne, were both Stuarts - daughters of King James (the II and the VII). So when William and Mary died, Anne became queen, placing a Stuart on the throne once again. She was, in fact, the first official monarch of the united Great Britain.
She was destined to be the last Stuart on the British throne.
At her death, the law ruled out about fifty Catholic contenders for the throne, instead placing Protestant and foreigner German King George on the throne.
The Scots had finally had it with interlopers.
So they decided to try to put a Stuart back on the throne. This movement became known as the Jacobite movement, based on the Latin form of James's name.
In order not to turn this blog into a historical treatise, let's skip ahead to where we started: 1745.
Bonnie Prince Charlie was the last Stuart to attempt to regain the British throne for his family. If "Charlie" sounds a little informal for a prince, you can always use his full name: Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart. As for me, I'll stick to Charlie. This is a picture of him... and please check out that lovely white cockade in his hat. (You knew cockades had something to do with this, right?)
The story goes that when Prince Charlie landed in Scotland, he picked a white rose to wear as a badge in his hat and thereafter his followers wore white cockades as their emblem. Robert Burns even wrote a song about The White Cockade of Charlie's followers.
In my research, I've come across some beautiful paintings of maidens sewing white cockades on their lovers' Scotch bonnets, or proudly admiring their laddies' emblems of defiance. Like this one.
When war broke out between the American colonies and Great Britain in 1775, many Scottish-born colonists simply continued the resistance they'd felt all along to the Hanoverian Kings George. In fact, tradition says that as the colonists marched to Concord bridge, where the first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought, the band played "The White Cockade."
A favorite phrase of the American colonists was "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." So it was only natural that the cockade which stood for resistance to tyrants in Scotland should still be favored as an emblem of patriotic resistance in America.
So if you love freedom, if you resist tyrants, if you have a little Scottish ancestry... wear a white cockade!