The term loyalty has widely been misinterpreted through the ages especially at the present times. By derivation, loyalty means fidelity to law but to a king. It is not difficult to see how this change of meaning was brought about. In old times, before the growth of republican ideas had begun to oppose the doctrine of divine right, the sovereign was regarded as the embodiment of law, and devotion to him was therefore called loyalty. But as time went on and new political opinions spread among the nations of the earth, it became apparent that there might be a conflict between devotion to the kind and devotion to the laws. This was conspicuously the case in England at the time of the Great Rebellion, when those who rebelled against the king were moved to, do so by regard for the law of England, which, as they thought, had been violated by Charles I. Many of the loyalists on the contrary, cared little for the law and constitution, and were animated by personal devotion to their kings, for whom they were willing to sacrifice their liberty and life.
One of the earliest of the Stuart kings of Scotland, after making noble efforts to establish peace and justice in his native country, was attacked by a party of assassins who resented his innovations. He was taken at a disadvantage while sitting unarmed with his wife and her ladies-in-waiting, and, when the noise of the approaching conspirators was heard, it was found that the bolts and bars had been removed from the room, in which the family party were quietly conversing, apprehensive of no evil. Thus the king would have been immediately at the mercy of the assassins, had not a lady of the noble house of Douglas thrust her arm as a bolt in the staple of her door, and so delayed the murderers until they burst open the door and broke her delicate arm. It is added to relate that her splendid act of devotion did not save the life of the doomed king.
A similar spirit of devotion to the Stuart kings was displayed for more than three centuries until the time when the noblest blood of Scotland was poured out like water in the gallant but hopeless attempt to place Charles Edward on the throne of his fathers. The pages of history are full of such incidents.
The spirit of love has a universal appeal. It may not be confined to one particular region or area or country but it must not be supposed that the spirit of loyalty is confined to one country or continent. Striking examples of it may be found in England and Scotland and the sub-continent.
Loyalty reflects credit on human nature that many such stories illuminate the pages of ancient and modern history. The word loyalty is not confined to the feeling of a faithful subject to a king; for we can speak of a loyal friend, a loyal servant, a loyal partner, and even a loyal dog. We can also be loyal to abstract ideas, such as principles, religion and our native land; for loyalty means sincere and faithful attachment to anything and does not mean blind faith or vulgar and uncalled-for support of a ruler.