The struggle between the Stuarts and Hanoverians for the English throne was not simply about dynastic rivalry. They involved radically different views of the role of the monarch, of the constitution, of foreign policy, and of the future of the British Isles. The issues that were finally resolved in 1746 had first appeared in British politics in the 1630s, and by 1689 had already caused three civil wars and a decade of Republican Government under Cromwell.
To truly understand the theoretical issues which underpinned Jacobitism, it is necessary to go back to the English Reformation carried out by Henry VIII and Elizabeth. By 1580, their efforts had created a national English church which retained the ceremony of the Catholics while introducing the theology of Protestantism. The Church was intended to be broad-based and inclusive, but a small minority remained true to the old faith, particularly in Lancashire, Durham and Northumberland. Constitutionally, the monarch was now the Head of the Church and the State. Because England's Catholics retained spiritual loyalty to the Pope, they were viewed with deep suspicion by the majority of their countrymen, and were often portrayed as the enemy within. And because European power politics was essentially sectarian in this period, England was generally at war with, or at least in opposition to, Catholic powers in Europe.
Charles I tried to change this in the 1630s, showing more tolerance to Catholics at home and abroad while building up his personal control of taxation, the courts and the apparatus of state without consulting his subjects. These attempts to create a stronger, more autocratic monarchy were wrecked by the Civil War and Charles's execution.