Bonnie Prince Charlie was born on the 31st of December 1720.
The christening of Prince Charles Edward Louis John (Philip) Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart took a wee while longer than most as the puir Priest had to read out all of the bairn’s names several times during the ceremony. Thankfully, later in life, he was known for short as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ or ‘The Young Pretender’. In Gaelic, he was ‘Teàrlach mhic Seumas mhic Seumas mhic Teàrlach’ (Charles son of James son of James son of Charles). Sadly enough for a Scottish ‘hero’, Charlie was born in Rome and sadder still, he died in Rome, but for an ambitious Catholic Prince, perhaps there’s no better place. Maybe his dad meant to name him after the Società Sportiva Alba (a predecessor of A.S. Roma) first eleven, but got bored after he got to seven-a-side and added the manager’s wife’s name for a laugh; nah, only kiddin’ – the team wasn’t founded until 1907. I’m not sure where the ‘Philip’ came from either as it appears in his opening paragraph in Wikipedia, but not in the next.
Charles spent a grand total of thirteen months on Scottish soil during his long life, but he packed enough into that temporary sojourn to justify his permanent, kilted appearance on shortbread tins and Drambuie bottles. Funnily enough, it’s probably the case that Charlie only ever wore the kilt during his short, social visit to Edinburgh in the late summer of 1745, prior to his setting off for the Jacobites’ abortive invasion of England. During his time in Edinburgh, he managed to impress the ladies with his charm, particularly Clementina Walkinshaw, so it’s probably fair to add ‘Prince Charming’ to his nicknames. By all accounts, he was less of a charmer in later life as he degenerated into a drunk and died relatively unheralded at the grand old age of sixty-eight. It’s also fair to say that those Scots who penned the likes of ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again?’ didnae ken him in his dotage. Here’s the first verse:
“Bonnie Charlie’s noo awa
Safely o’er the friendly main
Mony a heart will break in twa
Should he ne’er come back again.”
Charles Edward Louis John (Philip) Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart was born on the 31st of December, 1720, at the Palazzo Muti, which is now the Palazzo Balestra, in Rome. Charles Edward Louis John (Philip) Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart – now you see what the Priest had to put up with – was the elder son of ‘King’ James III & VIII, otherwise known as the ‘Old Pretender’ and of his tragic Polish wife, Princess Clementina Sobieska. From birth, Charles bore the titles of Prince of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland; Duke of Cornwall; Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles, and Great Steward of Scotland. At his birth he was also named Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, but most of his childhood was spent in Rome and in Bologna. Charles had ability in languages and was taught to speak English, Italian, French and Latin. He was also the ‘great white hope’ of the Jacobites.
Jacobites, from the Latin ‘Jacobus’ (James), was the name given to the supporters of the deposed Catholic King James II & VII, who had died in France in 1701. At the ‘[in]Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II & VII and her courageous Dutch husband, William of Orange, who became William III & II, appropriated the throne whilst the rightful King escaped in peril to exile in France. Albeit that a female Stuart sat comfily on the throne, the hitherto unbroken line of Stewart and Stuart Kings of Scots and latterly England and Ireland was broken, but as long as there was life, there was hope. The dynasty continued with the only surviving son of James II & VII, James Francis Edward Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’, and then with his elder son, Charles, a.k.a. the ‘Young Pretender’. Several attempts were made by the Jacobites to regain the throne; in 1689, 1708, 1715, 1719 and 1745, by which time the last ever Stuart ruler, Mary’s younger sister Anne, had given way to the Hanoverian dynasty of George I and, from 1727, George II. On a hereditary basis, the Royal Stuart’s claim was far superior to that of their Hanoverian cousins, but they were debarred from the throne by the 1701 ‘Act of Succession’, which forbade Catholics from succeeding.
Bonnie Prince Charlie had experienced warfare for the first time at the Siege of Gaeta in 1734 and by 1743, he was rarin’ tae go and hell bent for glory. In December that year, Charles’ father, who was styled King James III & VIII by the French and Italians, proclaimed his son Prince Regent so that Charles would have full authority to bring about a restoration. The following year, with the encouragement of Louis XV, who was at war with England, a diversionary Jacobite rebellion was planned, but Charles’ fleet was attacked off the coast of Torbay and he had to scarper back to France. Undeterred, he tried again and with his companions, the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’, he famously set foot on the mainland of Scotland, after some more naval adventures, on the 25th of July, 1745. With equal measure of charm, luck, sarcasm, persuasion and bribery, Charlie was able to secure the support of Cameron of Lochiel and other Clan Chiefs. Within a month, the standard of James III & VIII was raised by his son at Glenfinnan and the Government placed a price of £30,000 on Charlie’s heid.
Although he didn’t get universal support in the Highlands, Charlie achieved several military successes, culminating in a major victory at Prestonpans in September, 1745, which encouraged his invasion of the south. He entered England in November, got as far south as Derby, turned back in early December, won the Battle of Falkirk in January and was in turn defeated at Culloden in April, 1746. After wandering not quite as lonely as a cloud in the Highlands for six months, Charlie left Scotland on the 20th of September, 1746. He never came back, despite the song, but amazingly, he did visit London for a week, in 1750.
The latter years of Charles’ life were spent in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy, and during that time, he engaged in various relationships and fell from his pedestal as the dashing ‘Young Chevalier’. His first adulterous affair was with his first-cousin, Marie-Louise de La Tour d’Auvergne, a relationship that resulted in the birth of a son, Prince Charles de Rohan, who died an infant. His second adulterous relationship was with Princess Marie-Louise Jablonowska. After that, he took up with Clementina Walkinshaw with whom he had had a less than private affair in Edinburgh. They had a daughter, Charlotte, who became the Duchess of Albany in 1784, after Charles signed an ‘Act of Legitimation’. In the meantime, Clementina had had enough of Charles’ drinking and quarrelling and left. In 1773, a year after they were married by proxy, Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. Unfortunately, the younger Louise had a series of young admirers and when her flirtations became adulterous, the drunken Charles beat her up. By 1785, Charles the ‘unbonny’ was virtually a total invalid and cared for by his daughter. He died in Rome on the night of the 30th/31st of January, 1788. His remains were ultimately transferred to the Crypt of the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.