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Jacobites: Bonnie Prince Charlie

NPG 5517; Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie was born on the 31st December 1720 to James III of Scotland, in Rome, amidst great rejoicing, for Jacobites throughout Western Europe who looked to him to win back the throne for the Stuarts.

Europe became increasingly restless when Emperor Charles VI died in 1740. And tension mounted between Protestant England and Catholic Jacobean 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 the 25th 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.

Much against the Prince’s will, his supporters turned back at Derby.  Pursued by government forces, they won a victory at Falkirk but were finally crushed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Charles was forced to spend the next five months as a hunted man.

Charles escaped from the field and after months of being hunted through the Western Highlands, managed to escape to France, spending the rest of his life in exile, sinking ever deeper into depression and alcoholism.  His late marriage in 1772 to the German Louise of Stalberg was childless, and she eventually left him.

After his father’s death, he styled himself in the image of Charles III, but by then all hope of a Jacobite restoration was lost.  He died on the 31st January 1788.

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