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Prince Charles Edward Stuart (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788) was the exiled Jacobite claimant to the thrones of Great Britainmarker and Ireland. He is commonly known to the English and the Scottish as Bonnie Prince Charlie. In Scots Gaelic, his name was Teàrlach Eideard Stiùbhairt, while the Irish form is Séarlas Éadbhard Stiúbhart.

Charles was the son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart who was in turn the son of King James II and VII, who had been deposed in the Revolution of 1688. The Jacobite movement tried to restore the family to the throne. Charles's mother was James's Polishmarker wife Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702–1735, granddaughter of the Polishmarker King, John III Sobieski). After his father's death, Charles was recognised as Charles III by his supporters; his opponents referred to him as The Young Pretender.

Early life

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart was born in Romemarker, Italymarker, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI. He spent almost all his childhood in Romemarker and Bolognamarker. In 1734, he participated in the Frenchmarker and Spanishmarker siege of Gaetamarker; his first exposure to a military battle.

The 'Forty-Five'

Main article: Jacobite rising of 1745
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 sixty-six guns, and a small frigate of sixteen guns named the Doutelle (le Du Teillay) which successfully landed him and seven companions at Eriskaymarker on 23 July 1745. Charles had hoped for support from a French fleet, but this was badly damaged by storms, and he was left to raise an army in Scotland.

The Jacobite cause was still supported by many Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant, and Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain, but there was no immediate response. Charles raised his father's standard at Glenfinnanmarker and raised a large enough force to enable him to march on Edinburghmarker, which quickly surrendered. On 21 September 1745, he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpansmarker, and by November, was marching south at the head of around 6,000 men. Having taken Carlislemarker, Charles's army progressed as far as Swarkestone Bridgemarker in Derbyshiremarker. Here, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was made by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of the almost complete lack of support from English Jacobites that Charles had promised. By now, he was pursued by King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with him at the Battle of Cullodenmarker on 16 April 1746.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Statue in Derby commemorating the prince's visit in December 1745.
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 for twenty minutes before finally ordering an attack. The Jacobite attack, charging into the teeth of musket fire and grapeshot fired from the cannons, was uncoordinated and met little success. The Jacobites broke through the bayonets of the redcoats in one place but 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. He gives a first hand account of these events in his "Memoir of the Rebellion 1745-1746".

Bonnie Prince Charlie'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. Assisted by loyal supporters such as Flora MacDonald who helped him escape pursuers on the Isle of Skyemarker by taking him in a small boat disguised as her Irish maid, "Betty Burke," 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 Stuart
Marie-Victoire, Princess de Rohan—Charles's secret granddaughter

While back in France, Charles had numerous affairs; the one with his first cousin Louise, wife of the Duke of Montbazon, resulted in a short-lived son Charles (1748–1749). He lived for several years in exile with his Scottish mistress, or common-law wife, Clementina Walkinshaw (1720-1802), whom he met, and may have begun a relationship with, while on the '45 campaign. In 1753 the couple had a daughter, Charlotte. Charles's inability to cope with the collapse of the cause led to his heavy drinking and mother and daughter left Charles with James' connivance. Charlotte went on to have three illegitimate children with Ferdinand, an ecclesiastical member of the Rohan family. She was suspected by many of Charles' supporters of being a spy, planted by the Hanoverian government of Britain.

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 . Accordingly he visited London incognito in 1750 and conformed to the Protestant faith by receiving Anglican communion at the Church of St Mary-le-Strandmarker, a noted centre of Anglican Jacobitism. On Charles's return to France he reverted to Catholic observance.

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. Charles turned up to the meeting drunk, and proved to be irascible. Choisel was planning a full-scale invasion of England, involving upwards of 100,000 men - to which he hoped to add a number of Jacobites, led by Charles. However he was so unimpressed with Charles, he dismissed the prospect of Jacobite assistance. The French invasion, which was the last realistic chance of Charles to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty, was ultimately thwarted by naval defeats at Quiberon Baymarker and Lagos.

In 1766 Charles' father died. Until his death James had been recognised as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland by the Pope, as "James III and VIII". But Clement XIII decided not to give the same recognition to Charles.

In 1772 Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They lived first in Rome, but in 1774 moved to Florencemarker where Charles first 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 in spite of the fact that Louise was already involved in an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet, Count Vittorio Alfieri, before she left Charles.

The claims by two nineteenth 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.

In 1783 Charles signed an act of legitimation for his illegitimate daughter Charlotte, his child 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 to the succession to the throne. Charlotte lived with her father in Florence and Rome for the next five years.

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 Basilicamarker in the Vaticanmarker where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and father. His mother is also buried in Saint Peter's Basilica.

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

Titles, styles, honours and arms


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.

Popular culture

Bonnie Prince Charlie has had two films made telling his life. In 1923 a British silent film Bonnie Prince Charlie was made with Ivor Novello in the title role. In 1948 another film Bonnie Prince Charlie was made with David Niven playing the role.

Peter Watkins 1964 Culloden 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.

The 1994 film Chasing the Deer depicts the 1745 Jacobite rebellion with historical accuracy from the point of view of the commoners caught in the struggle. The Bonnie 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.

British author Sir Walter Scott featured Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 Jacobite uprising in his popular 1814 novel, Waverly[9106]. Author Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series depicts the Bonnie Prince in three of her six novels. (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber & Voyager). D K Broster's Jacobite Trilogy, beginning with The Flight of the Heron (1920) tells the story of the '45 and features the Prince.

The Maiden, Volume 8 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, covers this period of history, seen through the eyes of the fictional Morland family

Musician Will Oldham, who has recorded some albums under the name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, cites Bonnie Prince Charlie as one of multiple sources for this moniker: "Bonnie Prince Charlie has such a beautiful ring to it, and I was very conscious of appropriating that mellifluous sound."

See also

Charles Edward Stuart in his older years



  • 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.
  • Kybett, Susan M. Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography of Charles Edward Stuart. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1988.
  • Douglas, Hugh. Charles Edward Stuart. London: Hale, 1975.
  • Daiches, David. Charles Edward Stuart: The Life and Ttimes of Bonnie Prince Charlie. London: Thames & Hudson, 1973.
  • Chidsey, Donald Barr. Bonnie Prince Charlie. London: Williams & Norgate, 1928.

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