Bonnie Prince Charlie


Bonnie Prince Charlie

Rome, Italy

One of European history's most romantic figures, at the heart of a tragic tale of loyalty and devotion. The Young Pretender led a futile quest to save the very soul of Scotland.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart was born on 31 December 1720, to to the exiled Stuart King James VII and II. Five years later Charles' brother, Henry Benedict, was born on 6 March 1725. Prince Charles' childhood was lively and full. By the age of six, he was fluent in reading English, French and Latin, was gaining a firm grasp of music, and he rode and shot with enthusiasm.

Europe became increasingly restless when Emperor Charles VI died in 1740, and tension mounted between Protestant England and Catholic/Jacobean communities in Scotland and France. Charles' ambition and desire for military success led him to plan an invasion of England, in order to capture the throne for his father, from George II.

After a brief period in France following a failed attempt to gain support, Prince Charles landed in Scotland on 25 July 1745. He quickly gained support from the Highlands and his army successfully fought General John Cape's men. After the victory at the Battle of Prestonpans, Charles and his army attempted to continue to London. They were forced to retreat back to Scotland, after receiving reports of overwhelming armies prepared to defend the city. Charles did not give up completely, and continued to lead his men into battles.

However, after the disastrous forty minute defeat at Culloden Moor, Charles was forced to spend the next five months as a hunted man. It is not completely clear how Charles spent these months, although it appears he disguised himself as a 'Mr Sinclair', a ship-wrecked merchant, and later on as a lady, 'Betty Burke'.

Eventually, Charles was rescued from Scotland by his brother, and shipped back to France who, although they were still not prepared to support Charles' bid for the throne, agreed to protect him - if only to continue their feud with England.

In 1748, the war between France and England ended and the English insisted the French exile Charles. He was forced to spend the rest of his life moving around Europe in a range of guises. He had a daughter, by his Mistress, Clementina Willeinshaw, in October 1753, but the relationship ended in 1760 - amid tales of jealousy and violence.

By the age of 45, Charles had few supporters and was excluded from his father's will. (Luckily his younger brother Henry, the main beneficiary, was honourable enough to give Charles all he deserved.)

He married a nineteen-year-old bride in 1772 but, after another break down, forced her into a Convent. From 1783, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' was ill and was nursed by his daughter until 1788, when he suffered and stroke and died on 31 January, aged 68.

His legend continues despite it being based on only one year’s adventure in Scotland.