Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie

When James II of Britain (VII of Scotland) was deposed in 1688 a movement sprang up to return the Stuart line to the throne, supporters of this movement were known as Jacobites. Charles Edward Stuart was the grandson of James II, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie and he led an uprising in 1745 with the support of a number of Highland clans which attempted to regain the throne.

Charlie was born in exile in Rome in 1720. His father had tried and failed to reclaim the throne and in 1743 the mantle fell to Charlie when his father named him Prince Regent and gave him full authority to act in his name. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on the small island of Eriskay and gathered the loyal clan chiefs together before marching on Edinburgh.

Initially the 1745 uprising was successful, the Jacobite army quickly took Edinburgh and cleverly defeated a government army at Prestonpans by sneaking across a marsh under cover of mist and launching a surprise attack. The Highlanders were keen to stop there but Charlie insisted they press on to take England as well and assured them a Jacobite army was waiting in the south ready to swell their ranks.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

In actual fact the English Jacobites had decided not to join the fight and as the army pressed onwards they were soon surrounded by three opposing forces. They reached as far south as Derby before discovering Charlie had been lying to them and beating a hasty retreat, with Charlie drinking and moaning all the way, they were finally cornered at Culloden and slaughtered.

Charlie made good his escape while his loyal men were hunted down and killed. The tale of this spoiled aristocrat who led many men to their deaths for his own personal ambitions has been romanticised over the years and is bizarrely held up as a nationalist symbol. In actual fact Charlie was not really interested in Scotland he merely exploited the misplaced loyalties of the Highland clans to further his aim of reclaiming the British throne.

It is important to remember that Scots fought on both sides at Culloden and although Charlie was a charismatic and romantic figure he was far from universally supported. The Stuart line believed in the "divine right of kings", they thought the king was chosen by God and should have absolute authority. They were also Catholic which was no longer the religion of most British citizens.

Charlie escaped to France and eventually converted to Protestantism in an attempt to win the support of English Jacobites but his ploy failed and he died in exile in Rome in 1788.

Related Links

Battle of Culloden
The Jacobites
Flora MacDonald