Charles Edward Stuart

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Charles Edward Stuart
"Charles III"
Lost Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart.jpg
Charles Edward Stuart by Allan Ramsay, painted at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, late autumn 1745; found in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss, Gosford House, now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Jacobite Pretender
Pretendence1 January 1766 – 30 January 1788
Predecessor"James III and VIII"
Successor"Henry IX and I"
Born(1720-12-20)20 December 1720
Palazzo Muti, Rome, Papal States
Died30 January 1788(1788-01-30) (aged 67)
Palazzo Muti, Rome, Papal States
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
(m. 1772; separated 1780)
IssueCharlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany (illegitimate)
Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart[1]
FatherJames Francis Edward Stuart
MotherMaria Clementina Sobieska
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (20 December 1720 – 30 January 1788) was the elder son of James Francis Edward Stuart, grandson of James II and VII, and the Stuart claimant to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland after 1766 as Charles III. During his lifetime, he was also known as "the Young Pretender" and "the Young Chevalier"; in popular memory, he is known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He is best remembered for his role in the 1745 rising; his defeat at Culloden in April 1746 effectively ended the Stuart cause, and subsequent attempts failed to materialise, such as a planned French invasion in 1759.[2] His escape from Scotland after the uprising led to his portrayal as a romantic figure of heroic failure.[3]

Early life[edit]

Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Eldest son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart (painted by William Mosman, around 1750)

Charles was born in Palazzo Muti, Rome, Italy, on 20 December 1720,[4] 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, James Francis Edward Stuart, son of the exiled Stuart King James II and VII, and Maria Clementina Sobieska, the granddaughter of John III Sobieski, most famous for the victory over the Ottoman Turks in the 1683 Battle of Vienna.[5]

Charles Edward had a privileged childhood in Rome, where he was brought up Catholic in a loving but argumentative family. As the legitimate heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland—according to the Jacobite succession—his family lived with a sense of pride, and staunchly believed in the divine right of kings.[5] Charles Edward's governor was James Murray, Jacobite Earl of Dunbar, and among his tutors were the Chevalier Ramsay, Sir Thomas Sheridan and the abbé Légoux. He quickly became conversant in English, French and Italian.[6]

Charles Edward's grandfather, James II of England and Ireland and VII of Scotland, ruled the countries from 1685 to 1688.[4] He was deposed when the English Parliament invited the Dutch Protestant William III and his wife, Princess Mary, King James's eldest daughter, to replace him in the Revolution of 1688. Many Protestants, including a number of prominent parliamentarians, had been worried that King James aimed to return England to the Catholic fold. Since the exile of James, the "Jacobite Cause" had striven to return the Stuarts to the thrones of England and Scotland, which had been united in 1603 under James VI and I, with the parliaments joined by the Acts of Union in 1707 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Charles Edward played a major part in the pursuit of this goal.[citation needed]

In 1734 his cousin, the Duke of Liria, who was proceeding to join Don Carlos in his struggle for the crown of Naples, passed through Rome. He offered to take Charles on his expedition, and the boy of thirteen, having been appointed general of artillery by Don Carlos, observed the French and Spanish siege of Gaeta, his first exposure to war.

His father managed to obtain the renewed support of the French government in 1744, whereupon Charles Edward travelled to France with the sole purpose of commanding a French army that he would lead in an invasion of England. The invasion never materialised, as the invasion fleet was scattered by a storm. By the time the fleet regrouped, the British fleet realised the diversion that had deceived them and resumed their position in the Channel.[7]

Back in Rome, Charles Edward was introduced by his father and the pope to Italian society. In 1737 James sent his son on a tour through the main Italian cities, to complete his education as a prince and man of the world. The distinction with which he was received on his journey showed how respected the exiled house was by the Catholic powers of Europe, as well as explaining Britain's concerns in regard to its fortunes. His father planned to rely on foreign aid in his attempts to restore himself to the British and Irish thrones, and the idea of rebellion unassisted by invasion or by support of any kind from abroad was one which was pursued by Charles Edward.[6]

1745 uprising[edit]

Charles Edward as the Jacobite leader
Prince Charles in the battlefield

In December 1743, Charles's father named him Prince Regent, giving him authority to act in his name. In Rome and Paris he had seen many supporters of the Stuart cause, and he was aware that in every European court the Jacobites were represented. He had now taken a considerable share in correspondence and other actual work connected with the promotion of his own and his father's interests.[8] Eighteen months later, he led a French-backed rebellion intending to place his father on the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland. He raised funds to fit out the Elisabeth, an old man-of-war of 66 guns, and the Du Teillay (sometimes called Doutelle), a 16-gun privateer which successfully landed him and seven companions at Eriskay on 23 July 1745. However, receiving a cool reception from the clan leaders there, he set sail again and arrived at the bay of Loch nan Uamh.[8] He 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.[9]

Many Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant, still supported the Jacobite cause, and Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain. Although many clan chiefs initially discouraged him, he gained the support of Donald Cameron of Lochiel and thereafter enough support for a serious rebellion. On 19 August he raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan and gathered a force large enough to enable him to march towards Edinburgh. His progress was helped by the action of the British leader, General Sir John Cope, who had marched to Inverness, leaving the south country undefended.[8] Lord Provost Archibald Stewart controlled the city, which quickly surrendered. Allan Ramsay painted a portrait of Charles while he was in Edinburgh,[10] which survived in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss at Gosford House and, as of 2016, was on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.[11]

Meanwhile, Sir John Cope had brought his forces by sea to Dunbar. On 21 September 1745, Charles defeated his army, the only government army in Scotland, at the Battle of Prestonpans,[8] 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, his army progressed as far as Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire. Here, despite Charles's objections, his council decided to return to Scotland, given the lack of English and French support and rumours that large government forces were being amassed. The Jacobites marched north once more, winning the Battle of Falkirk Muir and resting at Inverness,[8] but they were later pursued by George II's son Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with them at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.[12]

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

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 allegedly committed a number of 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. Charles thought that he was betrayed, however, and decided to abandon the Jacobite cause. James, the Chevalier de Johnstone, acted as aide-de-camp for Murray during the campaign and briefly for Charles himself, and he provided a first-hand account of these events in his "Memoir of the Rebellion 1745–1746".[citation needed]

Charles's subsequent flight is commemorated in "The Skye Boat Song" by the English author Sir Harold Edwin Boulton, and the Irish song "Mo Ghile Mear" by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill. Charles hid in the moors of Scotland, always barely ahead of the government forces. Many Highlanders aided him, and none of them betrayed him for the £30,000 reward.[13] Charles was assisted by supporters such as pilot Donald Macleod of Galtrigill, Captain Con O'Neill who took him to Benbecula,[14] and Flora MacDonald who helped him escape to the Isle of Skye by taking him in a boat disguised as her maid "Betty Burke".[15][16] He ultimately evaded capture and left the country aboard the French frigate L'Heureux, arriving in France in September. The Prince's Cairn marks the traditional spot on the shores of Loch nan Uamh in Lochaber from which he made his final departure from Scotland.

With the Jacobite cause lost, Charles spent the remainder of his life on the continent, except for one secret visit to London.[17] He was warmly welcomed by king Louis XV of France.[citation needed] So far as political assistance was concerned, his efforts proved fruitless, but he became at once the popular hero and idol of the people of Paris. So enraged was he with his brother Henry’s acceptance of a cardinal’s hat in July 1747, that he deliberately broke off communication with his father in Rome (who had approved the step), nor did he ever see him again.

Later life[edit]

Charles Edward Stuart in his later years (painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, c. 1785)

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, he was expelled from France under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended the War of the Austrian Succession.[18]

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 alcohol, and mother and daughter left Charles with his father 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. Clementina was suspected by many of Charles's supporters of being a spy planted by the Hanoverian government of Great Britain.[19]

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.[20] 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 celebrated the communion, and a chapel in Gray's Inn was suggested as the venue as early as 1788 [Gentleman's Magazine, 1788]. This rebutted David Hume's suggestion that it was a church in the Strand.[21]

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.[22] 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[23]—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.[24] 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.


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. However on 23 January, Charles moved into the Palazzo Muti which his father had lived in for over 40 years.[25]

In 1772 Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They lived first in Rome and in 1774 moved to Florence, where in 1777 he purchased for his residence the Palazzo di San Clemente, now known also in his memory as the Palazzo del Pretendente. In Florence he 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.[26] At the time Louise was already involved in an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet Count Vittorio Alfieri.[26]

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.[27] Charlotte lived with her father in Florence and Rome for the next five years. Eventually she survived her father by less than two years, dying unmarried at Bologna in November 1789.[28]

John Hay Allen and Charles Manning Allen, later known as John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, claimed, without any foundation, that their father, Thomas Allen, was a legitimate son of Charles and Louise.[29]

Death and burial[edit]

Charles died in Rome of a stroke on 30 January 1788, aged 67. The cardinals stated that he died on the morning of 31 January, as it was deemed unlucky to have him declared dead on the same date as his great-grandfather, King Charles I, met his end on the scaffold at Whitehall Palace.[30] He was first buried in Frascati Cathedral near Rome, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop. At Henry's death in 1807, Charles's remains (except his heart) were moved to the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and his father and below the spot where the monument to the Royal Stuarts would later be erected.[31] His mother is also buried in St. Peter's Basilica. His heart remained in Frascati Cathedral, where it is contained in a small urn beneath the floor under a monument.


Coat of arms of The Young Pretender (Royal Arms of England) in the Palazzo di San Clemente in Florence

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.[32]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Additional Manuscripts, British Library, 30,090, quoted in Frank McLynn, Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts (London: Routledge, 1988), 8.
  2. ^ McLynn Charles Edward Stuart pp. 449–454
  3. ^ McLynn, Frank. Charles Edward Stuart: a tragedy in many acts
  4. ^ a b "Charles Edward Stuart – Jacobites, Enlightenment and the Clearances – Scotland's History". Archived from the original on 10 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Bonnie Prince Charlie - the Jacobite Trail".
  6. ^ a b Vaughan 1911, p. 940.
  7. ^ Longmate p. 149
  8. ^ a b c d e Vaughan 1911, p. 941.
  9. ^ Oestman, Olivia (19 April 2019). "The Second Jacobite Rebellion of 1745: Triumph and Tragedy for Scotland" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Lost Bonnie Prince Charlie portrait found in Scotland". BBC News. 22 February 2014. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  11. ^ Ferguson, Brian (30 March 2016). "Unique Bonnie Prince Charlie painting secured for Scotland". Edinburgh News. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Battle of Culloden (showing Duke of Cumberland)". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  13. ^ Michael Hook and Walter Ross, The 'Forty-Five. The Last Jacobite Rebellion (Edinburgh: HMSO, The National Library of Scotland, 1995), p27
  14. ^ Burke, Sir Bernard. A Selection of Arms Authorised by the Laws of Heraldry. p. 113.
  15. ^ "Charles Edward Stewart: The Young Pretender". The Scotsman. UK. Archived from the original on 25 November 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  16. ^ Queen Anne and the 1707 Act of Union Archived 14 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine ALBA—The Escape of the Young Pretender
  17. ^ Aronson 1979, p. 305.
  18. ^ McLynn, Frank (1986). The Jacobites. Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 35.
  19. ^ McLynn (1759) p. 78
  20. ^ Aronson 1979, p. 307.
  21. ^ Royal Stuart Journal Number 1, 2009
  22. ^ McLynn (1759) p. 82
  23. ^ McLynn (1759) p. 81
  24. ^ McLynn (1759) p. 84
  25. ^ Aronson 1979, p. 406.
  26. ^ a b Mayne, Ethel Colburn (6 May 1909). Enchanters of Men (Second ed.). London: Methuen & Co. p. 206. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  27. ^ Aronson 1979, p. 353.
  28. ^ Vaughan 1911, p. 942.
  29. ^ Nicholson, Robin (2002). Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Making of a Myth: A Study in Portraiture, 1720–1892. Bucknell University Press. ISBN 9780838754955. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  30. ^ Aronson 1979, p. 361.
  31. ^ "Monument to the Stuarts". St Peter's Basilica. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  32. ^ Francois R. Velde. "Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family". Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2010.


  • Aronson, Theo (1979). Kings over the water : the saga of the Stuart pretenders. London: Cassell. ISBN 978-0304303243.
  • 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, ISBN 0-500-25034-0.
  • 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.
  • Longmate, Norman. Island Fortress: The Defence of Great Britain, 1603–1945. Harper Collins, 1993.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainVaughan, Herbert Millingchamp (1911). "Charles Edward". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 940–942.

External links[edit]

Charles Edward Stuart
Born: 31 December 1720 Died: 31 January 1788
Titles in pretence
Preceded byas James III and VIII — TITULAR —
King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland
Jacobite succession
Reason for succession failure:
Grandfather deposed in 1688
Succeeded byas Henry IX and I