Prince Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart

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Prince Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart

Prince Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart (1720-1788), called the Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie, was the last member of the Stuart line to prosecute actively the Stuart claim to the English and Scottish thrones.

Charles Edward Stuart was born in Rome on Dec. 31, 1720, the eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart, commonly styled the Old Pretender. His mother was Princess Clementina. As a result of disagreements between his parents, Charles received a desultory education at the hands of Jesuit priests, Protestants, and Jacobite soldiers. However, he developed a taste for music and the other fine arts and was an intelligent conversationalist.

Charles served with credit under the Duke of Liria at the siege of Gaeta (1734), and as he grew up—charming, magnanimous, and brave—he increasingly became the focus of the waning Jacobite cause. In July 1745, encouraged by promises of French aid and Scottish sympathy, he sailed for Scotland with two ships, landing in the Hebrides on August 2. The Scots advised him to return to France. "I am come home," he replied, "and I will not return to France, for I am persuaded that my faithful Highlanders will stand by me." Most of the Highland clans joined Charles, and on August 19 the royal standard was unfurled and Charles began his march south. At the battle of Prestonpans the Jacobites defeated an English force sent against them, and for the first time they posed a serious threat to the English government.

Charles and his army then crossed into England. On November 27 they reached Preston, having avoided the government army under Marshal George Wade. News of the capitulation of Derby horrified London, where all business was suspended. The Jacobites, however, were already contemplating retreat because expected English sympathizers had not joined them and the French had sent no reinforcements. On December 6 the Highland army began to retreat. It defeated Wade's force at Falkirk, but a second government army under the Duke of Cumberland completely routed the Highlanders at the battle of Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746.

Culloden marked the end of Charles's hopes. For 5 months he wandered, a fugitive, in western Scotland, before escaping to the Continent with the help of Flora Macdonald aboard a French ship. The king of France continued to extend moral support to the Jacobite cause until 1748, when, in accordance with the Treaty of Aixla-Chapelle, Charles was expelled from France. His movements during the next few years remain uncertain. He lived for some time in Paris with his mistress, Mrs. Wilkenshaw, and several times during the 1750s he visited London in unsuccessful attempts to revive his cause.

By this time Charles had become an inveterate drunkard and an increasingly pathetic figure. After his father's death in 1766, Charles lived in Rome as the self-styled Duke of Albany. In 1772 he married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They separated in 1780, and Charles, neglected and alone, lived chiefly in Florence. He returned to Rome a few months before his death on Jan. 31, 1788. Bonnie Prince Charlie's romantic career has been celebrated in a large body of Scottish and English poetry.

Further Reading

Among the mass of popular literature spawned by Stuart's romantic career, there is no adequate biography. Perhaps the most reliable is James C. Hadden, Prince Charles Edward (1913). Basil Williams, The Whig Supremacy, 1714-1760 (1959; rev. ed. 1962), provides an adequate background to the rebellion of 1745. □