Is the Earl of Poynton Based on an Actual Jacobite?

In Disney+’s British historical series ‘Renegade Nell,’ Robert Hennessey AKA the Earl of Poynton is a Jacobite who tries his best to see James Francis Edward Stuart on the throne of Great Britain. As a member of Anne’s Privy Council, he harms the queen from the inside, especially by turning Lord Godolphin to authorities by creating a fake connection between him and the Jacobites. He also uses “dark arts” to hunt down Nell Jackson by teaming up with Sofia Wilmot, who wants to safeguard her brother Thomas and the estate Broadwater Hall. Even though Anne was a real ruler, that isn’t the case with Poynton!

The Inspirations Behind the Earl of Poynton

The Earl of Poynton is a fictional character conceived by Sally Wainwright and her team of writers. Between 1705 and 1707, an earl from Poynton wasn’t a member of Queen Anne’s Privy Council. In 1705, the year in which Nell Jackson returns to her family in Tottenham, the late majesty’s counselors were the Duke of Newcastle, Earl of Peterborough, Lord Cholmondeley, Thomas Erle, and William Cowper. None of them kidnapped the queen and tried to help James Francis Edward Stuart assent to the throne of Great Britain. Furthermore, there aren’t any reports available to prove that a member of Anne’s court was proficient in “dark arts.”

Although Anne was really a queen and the threat of Jacobites she faced is based on actual events, Sally relied on fiction to create Poynton. These fictional characters and storylines make the series more engaging and entertaining as the same stop the narrative from becoming another tale about the British monarchs. “The nice thing about this world is I feel like it’s a new world we’ve created, and apart from a throughline of historical accuracy, we can kind of do whatever we want. Sally, I think, is rewriting history a little bit, and that’s something lovely about the show,” Louisa Harland, who plays Nell, told Radio Times about the combination of facts and fiction in the show.

Still, Poynton can be paralleled with a couple of notable figures from the lifetime of Queen Anne. While the Jacobites were maintaining a prominent presence in the 17th and 18th centuries, the British monarchs were concerned about individuals who possibly had alliances with the former group. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who secured popularity and fortune during the reign of Anne, was accused of being a part of Jacobitism. The charges against him even led to his temporary imprisonment in the Tower of London. Like the Earl of Poynton, Churchill cherished the trust of Anne. Several historians even consider him as the “favorite” of the monarch.

Another similar figure is John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl. In the series, Poynton receives favor or promotion from Anne, just like Murray did in real life. Anne made him a Privy Councillor, the same post of Poynton, in 1702, and in the next year, he became the Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland. The title of the Duke of Atholl was created in 1703 for Murray as well. He was eventually implicated in a Jacobite plot against Queen Anne, only for him to lose his office. The series of events made him a strong critic of the government, Hanoverian succession, and the Union. Three of his children ended up becoming Jacobites who took part in the rising of 1715, an attempt by James Edward Stuart to gain the throne. Regardless of the accusations against Churchill and Murray, there isn’t any concrete evidence to conclusively state that they were Jacobites.

Read More: Disney+’s Renegade Nell: Is the Adventure Show Fiction or Reality?