The 1688 Glorious Revolution replaced James II and VII with his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William, who ruled as joint monarchs of England, Ireland and Scotland. Neither Mary, who died in 1694, nor her sister Anne, had surviving children, which left their Catholic half-brother James Francis Edward as the closest natural heir. The 1701 Act of Settlement excluded Catholics from the succession and when Anne became queen in 1702, her heir was the distantly related but Protestant Electress Sophia of Hanover. Sophia died in June 1714 and when Anne followed two months later in August, Sophia's son succeeded as George I.
Louis XIV of France, the primary source of support for the exiled Stuarts, died in 1715 and his successors needed peace with Britain in order to rebuild their economy. The 1716 Anglo-French alliance forced James to leave France; he settled in Rome on a Papal pension, making him even less attractive to the Protestants who formed the vast majority of his British support. Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1719 both failed. The birth of his sons Charles and Henry helped maintain public interest in the Stuarts, but by 1737, James was "living tranquilly in Rome, having abandoned all hope of a restoration".
At the same time, by the late 1730s French statesmen viewed the post-1713 expansion in British trade as a threat to the European balance of power and the Stuarts became one of a number of potential options for reducing it. However, a low-level insurgency was far more cost-effective than an expensive restoration, especially since they were unlikely to be any more pro-French than the Hanoverians. The Scottish Highlands was an ideal location, due to the feudal nature of clan society, their remoteness and terrain; but as many Scots recognised, an uprising would also be devastating for the local populace.
Trade disputes between Spain and Britain led to the 1739 War of Jenkins' Ear, followed in 1740–41 by the War of the Austrian Succession. The long-serving British prime minister Robert Walpole was forced to resign in February 1742 by an alliance of Tories and anti-Walpole Patriot Whigs, who then excluded their partners from government. Furious Tories like the Duke of Beaufort asked for French help in restoring James to the British throne.