Bonnie Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie features in my historical romance, ‘A Kiss for a Highlander’, but who was he?
“Bonnie Charlie’s now awa’, Safely o’er the friendly main;
Many a heart will break in twa,
Should he ne’er come back again.”
Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart was born on December 31, 1720 in Rome. Throughout his lifetime he would be known by many names, The Young Pretender, Tearlach (the Scottish form of Charles), Carluso by his mother, Carluccio by his father, but, for most, he was Bonnie Prince Charlie. His birth was surrounded by pomp and circumstance. Believed by many to be the true heir to the English throne, he was given the title Prince of Wales and nobles waited in line to kiss his tiny hand while cardinals said blessings over his wee head. On the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the crown passed to the Elector of Hanover, who became George I. From a very early age Charles was encouraged to think of King George as a usurper and himself as the true heir to the Scottish and English thrones.
When Charles landed in the north of Scotland, to win back the throne of his fathers, he met with a hearty welcome from the Highlanders. The handsome young prince, with his charming manner was popular and soon several thousand men were marching behind him to Edinburgh, wearing his badge – the white cockade.
He entered the city, and occupied the old palace of Holyrood but in a few days he was forced to march out and fight the army of King George II, which was led by Sir John Cope. A wild rush of the Highlanders soon put to flight the king’s troops; in fact, the battle was over in about ten minutes.
The prince was soon joined by more men, and he began the march south to claim London. The border was crossed, and, in a short time, the town of Derby a little more than a hundred miles from London was reached.
Prince Charles expected many of the English to join him, but very few did so. As his army passed through the country, people came out to marvel at the strange sight, but that was all.
So, when his advisers said his army was not strong enough to go forward, and that the king’s men were marching to meet him, the prince reluctantly gave the order to retreat.
After many weary weeks of marching and several skirmishes with the king’s redcoat army, he drew up his troops on Drumossie and Culloden Moor, near Inverness in the far north of Scotland. Soon, the army of King George, led by Charles’ own cousin, the Duke of Cumberland, was in pursuit.
Hugh Rose of Kilravock entertained both Charles Edward Stuart and the Duke of Cumberland respectively on 14 and 15 April 1746, before the Battle of Culloden. Charles’ manners and deportment were described by his host as most engaging. Having walked out with Mr. Rose, before sitting down he watched trees being planted. The prince remarked, “How happy, Sir, you must feel, to be thus peaceably employed in adorning your mansion, whilst all the country round is in such commotion.” The next day, the Duke of Cumberland called at the castle gate, and when Kilravock went to receive him, he bluffly observed, “So you had my cousin Charles here yesterday.” Kilravock replied, “What am I to do, I am Scots”, to which Cumberland replied, “You did perfectly right.”
Prince Charles’ Jacobite followers were tired and hungry, but, in spite of this, when the battle began, they fought bravely. They broke through the front rank of the Duke’s army, only to find another rank drawn up, waiting for them with loaded guns.
The fire from these killed hundreds of the Highlanders, and the battle was soon over. The Duke of Cumberland’s army were ordered to give ‘no quarter’ to their fleeing foes. Wounded men were killed where they lay; and a barn, where a number of rebels had taken shelter, was burned to the ground.
For weeks afterwards, the duke’s men went about, burning houses and castles, and turning the country into a desert. Men were shot like wild beasts, while women and children were turned out to starve.
During this time, Prince Charles was hiding as best he could. The enormous sum of £30,000 was offered to anyone who would give him up to the king’s men; but the Highlanders were so loyal to the prince that no one claimed the money.
For months, he wandered about among the hills and glens, sometimes spending the night in a poor hut, sometimes on the bleak moors. At one time, he was hiding on a small island off the west coast of Scotland, and, when the king’s soldiers heard this, orders were given that no one was to leave the island.
A brave young Jacobite, Flora Macdonald, the daughter of a chieftain, came to his help. She dressed the prince as a maid servant, and called him ‘Betty Burke’. She then boldly asked the king’s men for safe passage for herself, her manservant and ‘Betty’ and crossed over in safety to her home in the island of Skye.
For a few weeks, he lived in a cave with some outlaws. They got the prince some clothes, and two of them acted as his guides. At last, five months after the battle of Culloden, his friends found a ship to take him safely across to France.
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. Bonnie Prince Charlie never returned to Scotland’s shores and he died forty years later, a broken, bitter alcoholic who blamed his Scots supporters for his defeat. He was no longer recognisable as the ‘King of Highland Hearts’.
“Rally in the name of God. Pray, gentleman, return. Pray, stand with me, your Prince, but a moment- otherwise you ruin me, your country and yourselves; and God forgive you.”
Prince Charles Edward Stuart at the Battle of Culloden, 16 April 1746
My Pinterest board about the Jacobites is here: