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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) was born in the Palazzo Muti, Rome on December 31, 1720. His father, Prince James Stuart the old pretender, had been given the residence by Pope Clement XI. Charles' grandfather was James II of England. His mother was the Polish Clementina Sobieska.

Prince Charles Edward Stuartby William Mosman

Charles' younger Brother Henry (1725-1807) was a celibate Roman Catholic Priest who later become a cardinal.

Bonnie Prince Charlie was extremely brainy. By the age of 6 he was speaking English, French, Italian and Latin.

In his younger days Prince Charles was a pale, slim, 6 ft tall, handsome man. In his later years he was bloated and gross.


The Jacobite rising of 1745 was the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart. Landing in Scotland with about a dozen fighting men, he raised his bulk standard at the head of Loch Shiel on August 19, 1745. Having captured Carlisle he pressed as far south as Derby, which he reached on December 4, 1845, by which time he'd ran out of food. It was the furthest point south Charles Stuart and his army reached during the Second Jacobite Rising.

After the Jacobite rising of 1745, a reward of 120,000 crowns (£30,000 then, £6 million today) was placed on the head of Bonnie Prince Charlie — but no one betrayed him.

The English Catholics failed to rise and the Jacobite army retreated into Scotland. At Culloden outside Inverness on April 16, 1746, within one hour the Scots had lost 1,500 men while the government troops lead by the Duke of Cumberland had lost a mere 50. When Bonnie Prince Charlie realized the battle was lost he gave the order "Every man for himself".

The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, David Morier, 1746.

According to one eyewitness at Culloden, Lord Elcho: "The Prince, as soon as he saw the left of his army yielding and in retreat lost his head, fled with the utmost speed, and without even trying to rally."

During the Battle of Culloden Bonnie Prince Charlie wore a tartan coat and trousers. After the battle many highland traditions were banned such as the wearing of kilts and the Highlands of Scotland were cleared of inhabitants.

Bonnie Prince Charles was fleeing for his life after the Battle of Culloden. Captain John Mackinnon befriended him. The prince was so grateful that he gave Mackinnon his personal recipe for his favourite concoction of Scotch whisky laced with heather, honey, herbs and spices. The Mackinnon family still safeguards the secret recipe. They mix the blend and send it to the plant for production. It is called drambuie which means “a drink that satisfies” in Gaelic.

By late 1746, Charles' flight from government soldiers had brought him to Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. The islands were thick with troops seeking his capture and flight to Skye was his only hope. Flora Macdonald, a Jacobite from Skye, was persuaded to disguise the prince as "Betty Burke", her Irish maidservant and smuggle him over the sea to Skye. He thought the scheme "fantastical", but it worked. The cottage where Flora sheltered her prince is now the annexe of a four star hotel. On his father’s death in 1766 Prince Charles returned to Italy where he remained for the rest of his life.

Bonnie Prince Charlie by John Pettie

The Scottish prince was a skilled boxer and crackshot and physically fit, he marched scores of miles each day alongside his men. Whilst living in Avignon, he taught the local people how to box.

The ageing Prince Charlie married Louisa Maximilienne Caroline Countess of Albany in 1772 in Florence. She ran away in 1780 and the marriage was dissolved in 1784. Her claim that Charles had physically abused her is probably accurate, but she had also previously started an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet Count Vittorio Alfieri.



Charles died in Rome on January 31, 1788 of a stroke aged 68. His six-bottles-of-wine-a-day habit had left him bloated and almost unrecognizable.

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 father.

Charles Edward Stuart as an old man
Henry Stuart, brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie died on July 13, 1807, ending the Stuart male line and Jacobites dynasty.

There are many Scottish folk songs about the exiled prince. Check out on Songfacts.com “Will Yae Ne'er Come Back Again” and "The Sky Boat Song."

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