Charles Edward Stuart

Charles Edward Stuart
Charles Edward Stuart
"Charles III"
Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
Jacobite pretender
Pretendence 1 January 1766 – 31 January 1788
Predecessor James III and VIII
Successor Henry IX
Spouse Louise of Stolberg-Gedern
Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany (illegitimate)
Full name
Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart[1]
Father James III
Mother Maria Klementyna Sobieska
Born 31 December 1720(1720-12-31)
Palazzo Muti, Rome
Died 31 January 1788(1788-01-31) (aged 67)
Palazzo Muti, Rome
Burial St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Religion Roman Catholic

Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788) commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender was the second Jacobite pretender to the thrones of Great Britain (England and Scotland), and Ireland. This claim was as the eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart, and grandson of James II and VII. Charles is perhaps best known as the instigator of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising of 1745, in which he led an insurrection which ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden that effectively ended the Jacobite cause. Charles's flight from Scotland after the uprising has rendered him a romantic figure of heroic failure in later representations.[2][3] In 1759 he was involved in a French plan to invade the British Isles which was abandoned following British naval victories.[4]


Early life

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Prince Charles was born in Rome, Italy, on 31 December 1720, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI. He spent almost all his childhood in Rome and Bologna. He was the son of the Old Pretender, Prince James, son of exiled Stuart King, James II & VII and his wife Maria Clementina Sobieska and great-grandson of John III Sobieski, most famous for the victory over the Turks in the 1683 Battle of Vienna.

His childhood in Rome was one of privilege, being brought up Catholic in a loving but argumentative family. Being the last legitimate heirs of the House of Stuart, his family lived with a sense of pride and staunchly believed in the Divine Right of Kings. The talk of regaining the thrones of England and Scotland for the Stuarts was a constant topic of conversation in the household, principally reflected in his father's often morose and combative moods.[5]

His grandfather, James II of England and VII of Scotland, had ruled the country from 1685 to 1689, at which time he was deposed by the Dutch Protestant, William of Orange, in the Revolution of 1688. James II had aimed to bring England back into the Catholic fold and, in the process, had irritated and alarmed the powerful statesmen of the day. Since the exile of James II, the 'Jacobite Cause' had striven to return the Stuarts to the thrones of England and Scotland, in 1707 united as Great Britain. Prince Charles Edward was to play a major part in the pursuit of this ultimate goal.

The young Prince was trained in the military arts from an early age. In 1734, he observed the French and Spanish siege of Gaeta, his first exposure to the art of war. His father managed to obtain the renewed support of the French government in 1744; and Charles Edward travelled to France with the sole purpose of commanding a French army, which he would lead in an invasion of England. The invasion never materialised, because the invasion fleet was scattered by a storm. By the time the fleet had regrouped, the British fleet had realised the diversion that had deceived them and had retaken their position in the Channel.[6] Undeterred, Charles Edward was determined to carry on in his quest for the restoration of the Stuarts.

The 'Forty-Five'

Prince Charles Edward in the traditional Scottish attire

In December 1743, Charles's father named him Prince Regent, giving him authority to act in his name. Eighteen months later, he led a rising to restore his father to his thrones. Charles raised funds to fit out two ships: the Elisabeth, an old man-of-war of 66 guns, and the Doutelle (le Du Teillay) a small frigate of 16 guns, which successfully landed him and seven companions at Eriskay on 23 July 1745. Charles had hoped for support from a French fleet, but it was badly damaged by storms, and he was left to raise an army in Scotland.

"Bonnie Prince Charlie" by John Pettie, (1898)
The Bonnie Prince public house in Chellaston, Derby — near Swarkestone Bridge where Charles's army decided to turn back and return to Scotland

The Jacobite cause was still supported by many Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant. Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain, and the Highland clans indeed provided him with a warm welcome. Charles raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan and gathered a force large enough to enable him to march on Edinburgh. The city, under the control of the Lord Provost Archibald Stewart, quickly surrendered. On 21 September 1745, he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans. The government army was led by General John Cope, and their disastrous defence against the Jacobites is immortalised in the song 'Johnnie Cope'. By November, Charles was marching south at the head of approximately 6,000 men. Having taken Carlisle, Charles's army progressed as far as Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire. Here, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was made by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of rumours of a large government force being amassed. The Jacobites marched north once more, winning several more battles. The reports of a government army turned out to have been false, but Charles's retreat gave the English time to muster an actual army. The Jacobites were pursued by King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with them at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.

Battle of Culloden between the Jacobites and the 'Redcoats'

Ignoring the advice of his best commander, Lord George Murray, Charles chose to fight on flat, open, marshy ground where his forces would be exposed to superior government firepower. Charles commanded his army from a position behind his lines, where he could not see what was happening. Hoping Cumberland's army would attack first, he had his men stand exposed to Hanoverian artillery. Seeing the error in this, he quickly ordered an attack, but the messenger was killed before the order could be delivered. The Jacobite attack, charging into the teeth of musket fire and grapeshot fired from the cannons, was uncoordinated and met with little success.

The Jacobites broke through the bayonets of the redcoats in one place, but they were shot down by a second line of soldiers, and the survivors fled. Cumberland's troops committed numerous atrocities as they hunted for the defeated Jacobite soldiers, earning him the title "the Butcher" from the Highlanders. Murray managed to lead a group of Jacobites to Ruthven, intending to continue the fight. However Charles, believing himself betrayed, had decided to abandon the Jacobite cause. James, the Chevalier de Johnstone, acted as Murray's Aide de Camp during the campaign and, for a brief spell, the Young Pretender's. He gives a first-hand account of these events in his "Memoir of the Rebellion 1745–1746".

Charles's subsequent flight has become the stuff of legend and is commemorated in the popular folk song "The Skye Boat Song" (lyrics 1884, tune traditional) and also the old Irish song Mo Ghile Mear by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill. Hiding in the moors of Scotland, he travelled about, always barely ahead of the government forces. Though many Highlanders saw Charles, and indeed aided him, none of them betrayed him for the £30,000 reward[7] offered. Assisted by such loyal supporters as Flora MacDonald, who helped him escape pursuers on the Isle of Skye by taking him in a small boat disguised as her Irish maid, "Betty Burke,"[8][9] he evaded capture and left the country aboard the French frigate L'Heureux, arriving back in France in September. The cause of the Stuarts now lost, the remainder of his life was — with a brief exception — spent in exile.


Prince Charles Edward as the Jacobite Leader
Charles Edward Stuart as an old man
The Prince's estranged wife, Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern
Marie-Victoire, Princess de Rohan—Charles's secret granddaughter

While back in France, Charles had numerous affairs; the one with his first cousin Marie Louise de La Tour d'Auvergne, wife of Jules, Prince of Guéméné, resulted in a short-lived son Charles (1748–1749). In 1748 Charles was expelled from France under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which brought the war between Britain and France to an end.[10]

Charles lived for several years in exile with his Scottish mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw, whom he met, and may have begun a relationship with, during the 1745 rebellion. In 1753, the couple had a daughter, Charlotte. Charles's inability to cope with the collapse of the cause led to his problem with drink, and mother and daughter left Charles with James's connivance. Charlotte went on to have three illegitimate children with Ferdinand, an ecclesiastical member of the Rohan family. Their only son was Charles Edward Stuart, Count Roehenstart. Charlotte was suspected by many of Charles's supporters of being a spy planted by the Hanoverian government of Great Britain.[11]

After his defeat, Charles indicated to the remaining supporters of the Jacobite cause in England that, accepting the impossibility of his recovering the English and Scots crowns while he remained a Roman Catholic, he was willing to commit himself to reigning as a Protestant[citation needed]. Accordingly, he visited London incognito in 1750 and conformed to the Protestant faith by receiving Anglican communion, likely at one of the remaining non-juring chapels. Bishop Robert Gordon, a staunch Jacobite whose house in Theobald's Row was one of Charles's safe-houses for the visit is the most likely to have performed the communion, and a chapel in Gray's Inn was suggested as the venue as early as 1788 [Gentleman's Magazine, 1788]. This refuted David Hume's suggestion that it was a church in the Strand.[12] Unusually, the news of this conversion was not advertised widely, and Charles had seemingly returned to the Roman Catholic faith by the time of his marriage.

In 1759, at the height of the Seven Years War, Charles was summoned to a meeting in Paris with the French foreign minister, the Duc De Choiseul.[13] Charles failed to make a good impression, being argumentative and idealistic in his expectations. Choiseul was planning a full-scale invasion of England, involving upwards of 100,000 men[14]—to which he hoped to add a number of Jacobites led by Charles. However, he was so little impressed with Charles, he dismissed the prospect of Jacobite assistance.[15] The French invasion, which was Charles's last realistic chance to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty, was ultimately thwarted by naval defeats at Quiberon Bay and Lagos.

A miniature of the Young Pretender
Bonnie Prince Charlie Statue in Derby commemorating the prince's visit in December 1745.

In 1766, Charles's father died. Pope Clement XIII had recognised James as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland as "James III and VIII" but did not give Charles the same recognition.

In 1772, Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They lived first in Rome but, in 1774, moved to Florence where Charles began to use the title "Count of Albany" as an alias. This title is frequently used for him in European publications; his wife Louise is almost always called "Countess of Albany".

In 1780, Louise left Charles. She claimed that Charles had physically abused her; this claim was generally believed by contemporaries even though Louise was already involved in an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet, Count Vittorio Alfieri.[citation needed]

The claims by two 19th century charlatans—Charles and John Allen alias John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart—that their father, Thomas Allen, was a legitimate son of Charles and Louise are without foundation.[citation needed]

In 1783, Charles signed an act of legitimation for his illegitimate daughter Charlotte, born in 1753 to Clementina Walkinshaw (later known as Countess von Alberstrof). Charles also gave Charlotte the title "Duchess of Albany" in the peerage of Scotland and the style "Her Royal Highness", but these honours did not give Charlotte any right of succession to the throne. Charlotte lived with her father in Florence and Rome for the next five years.[citation needed]

Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788. He was first buried in the Cathedral of Frascati, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop. At Henry's death in 1807, Charles's remains were moved to the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and his father. His mother is also buried in Saint Peter's Basilica.

When the body of Charles Stuart was transferred to Saint Peter's Basilica, his "praecordia" were left in Frascati Cathedral: a small urn encloses the heart of Charles, placed beneath the floor below the funerary monument.


During his pretence as Prince of Wales, Charles claimed a coat of arms consisting of those of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points.[16]


In popular culture

  • Peter Watkins' 1964 Culloden, with Olivier Espitalier-Noel as the Prince, presents the battle through the eyes of a documentary crew as though they were actually present. The film utilises a number of other dramatic devices to create a tense realistic interpretation of the event. Similarly, the 1994 film Chasing the Deer depicts the 1745 Jacobite rebellion from the point of view of the commoners caught in the struggle. The Prince, played by Dominique Carrara, makes a brief appearance in the movie and is never actually seen by any of the commoners fighting for his cause.
  • A 1970 drama-documentary about the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, Upon this Rock, featured Dirk Bogarde as the older Prince.
  • Scottish author Sir Walter Scott featured Charles and the 1745 Jacobite uprising in his popular 1814 novel Waverley.
  • D.K. Broster's Jacobite Trilogy, beginning with The Flight of the Heron (1920), also depicts the uprising.
  • The television series Highlander features two episodes with the series' main protagonist, Duncan MacLeod, aiding the Bonnie Prince's campaigns. "Take Back The Night" depicts the Prince's escape into exile, and "Through a Glass Darkly" depicts him in the aftermath of the failed campaigns, a broken, often drunken man.
  • The German metal band Grave Digger released Tunes of War in 1997, a concept album about the history of Scotland. On the album Bonnie Prince Charles is mentioned by name in the song "Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)".
  • Scottish vocal duo, The Corries popularised the folk song, "The Skye Boat Song", which told of The Bonnie Prince's escape from the Scottish Highlands after the Battle of Culloden.
  • Lillian de la Torre wrote two stories in her Samuel Johnson series featuring meetings between Johnson and "The Young Pretender." In "Prince Charlie's Ruby," written in the 1940s and set in 1773, she has the two meeting in the Hebrides and Johnson helping the prince find a lost gem, with Johnson thrilled about meeting the prince and Flora MacDonald. But with "Coronation Story," written in the 1970s, she also has Johnson and the prince meeting in 1761 when Charles Stuart secretly attends the coronation of George III, violating her own continuity.

See also


  1. ^ Additional Manuscripts, British Library, 30,090, quoted in Frank McLynn, Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts (London: Routledge, 1988), 8.
  2. ^ Anglo-Scottish Kings
  3. ^ Charles Edward Stuart: a tragedy in many acts by Frank McLynn
  4. ^ McLynn Charles Edward Stuart p.449-454
  5. ^ "Who was Bonnie Prince Charlie?". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Longmate p.149
  7. ^ Michael Hook and Walter Ross, The 'Forty-Five. The Last Jacobite Rebellion (Edinburgh: HMSO, The National Library of Scotland, 1995), p27
  8. ^ "Charles Edward Stewart: The Young Pretender". The Scotsman. UK. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Queen Anne and the 1707 Act of Union ALBA — The Escape of the Young Pretender
  10. ^ McLynn. The Jacobites p.35
  11. ^ McLynn (1759) p.78
  12. ^ Royal Stuart Journal Number 1, 2009
  13. ^ McLynn (1759) p.82
  14. ^ McLynn (1759) p.81
  15. ^ McLynn (1759) p.84
  16. ^ Francois R. Velde. "Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  • Chidsey, Donald Barr. Bonnie Prince Charlie. London: Williams & Norgate, 1928.
  • Daiches, David. Charles Edward Stuart: The Life and Times of Bonnie Prince Charlie. London: Thames & Hudson, 1973.
  • Douglas, Hugh. Charles Edward Stuart. London: Hale, 1975.
  • Kybett, Susan M. Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography of Charles Edward Stuart. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1988.
  • McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. London: Pimlico, 2005
  • McLynn, Frank. Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts. London: Routledge, 1988.
  • McLynn, Frank. The Jacobites. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.

External links

Charles Edward Stuart
Born: 31 December 1720 Died: 31 January 1788
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
James VIII and III
Jacobite succession
Succeeded by
Henry IX and I

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