Bees in my Bonnet / Books / Stuarts / Uncategorized

Bank of England

The Bank of England was fifty one years old, not yet retiral age, when it was almost destroyed by the Scots. In 1745 the Scottish Highlanders under Bonnie Prince Charlie invaded England, got as far as Derby, and caused a run on the bank. People gathered to demand gold for their notes but the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street was up to the challenge.

Sir Walter Scott, quoting Johnstone, presumably Dr Samuel, tells that –

“People thronged to the bank to obtain payments of its notes; and only it escaped bankruptcy by a stratagem. Payment was not indeed refused: but ass those who came first were entitled to priority of payment, the bank took care to be continually surrounded by agents with notes, who were paid n sixpences in order to gain time. These agents went out of one door with the specie they had received, and brought it back by another, so that the bona fida holders of notes could not get near enough to present them; and the bank, by this artifice, preserved credit, and literally faced its creditors.”

Scott gives the reason for this as the growing idea that, because of Charlie’s success up to the point of the retreat from Derby, the impression had grown that he had access to substantial resources from France; resources which, in actual fact, came in sufficient doses to keep his campaign alive but not let it flourish.

There had been a plan for a French invasion but, like the Covid vaccinations, it had been so slow in implementation, that the (by now) British navy appeared, and the scheme was dropped.

For me, this Bank incident, like the Scots threatening to stop shipments of coal from Newcastle to London during the Civil War, give us something of the feel of the times and how the parts of the country were interlinked.