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Bonnie Prince Charlie

Updated on November 5, 2014

Bonnie Prince Charlie

He was called the young pretender, bonnie prince charlie, as he fought to re-instate the Stuart dynasty on the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland, and bring back Catholicism. William the third, a protestant Dutchman had forcibly removed James the second, a Stuart, and his own father-in-law, from the throne of England, starting the Protestant reign of William and Mary.

Bonnie Prince

Early Years

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788 was the son of Prince James Edward Francis Stuart, and grandson of King James 2nd of England and 7th of Scotland, who was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was deposed by his son-in-law and nephew, William of Orange, a protestant prince of the Dutch monarchy. Charles, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, as he was known, was head of the Jacobite movement which tried to restore his family to the throne. The Jacobites were a political movement dedicated to restoring the Stuart kings to the throne not only of England, but Scotland and Ireland as well. The name Jacobite was derived from the Latin for King James. Charlie's mother was James's Polish wife, Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of the King of Poland, John 3rd.

As Charles' father had been given property in Rome by the Pope, Clement 11th, almost all of his childhood was spent in Rome and Bologna. His first experience of battle was in 1734 when he was an observer at the siege of Gaeta, when French and Spanish infantry besieged them for four months. Gaeta eventually fell to the invaders.

Charles's father named him Prince Regent in December 1743, giving him authority to act in his name. Charles raised funds to fit out two ships, and in 1745 the Elizabeth, a man-of-war of sixty-six guns, and a small frigate of sixteen guns named the Douetelle, successfully landed him and seven of his men at Eriksay on 23 July 1745. Charles was supported by the French who had sent a fleet to join him but their ships were damaged by storms, and he was left to raise an army in Scotland.

The legend

The highland clans supported Jacobitism and Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these patriots, to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain. Sadly his hopes were dashed as there was no immediate response outside of Scotland. Charlie raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan which raised a large enough force to enable him to march on Edinburgh. The City quickly surrendered and on 21 September 1745, he defeated the government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans, and by November he was marching south at the head of around 6,000 men. After taking Carlisle, Charlie's army progressed as far as Derbyshire. Despite the objections of the Prince, his council of war decided to return to Scotland, mostly because of the near complete lack of support from English Jacobites that Charles had been promised. They were pursued by the Duke of Cumberland, King George 2nd's son who caught up with them and decimated the Scots at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. Cumberland's troops committed many atrocities as they hunted for the defeated Jacobites, earning him the title "the Butcher" from the Highlanders. Charlie, believing himself betrayed, decided to abandon the Jacobite cause.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's subsequent flight has become the stuff of legend, and is commemorated in the popular folk song "The Skye Boat Song." Assisted by loyal supporters such as Flora Macdonald, who helped him escape his pursuers by taking him in a small boat to the Isle of Skye, disguised as her Irish maid, "Betty Burke," he evaded capture and left the country aboard a French frigate, arriving in France in September. The cause of the Stuarts now lost, the remainder of his life was - with a brief exception - spent in exile.


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    • scarytaff profile imageAUTHOR

      Derek James 

      7 years ago from South Wales

      Thank you, yogamom.

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Beautifully written.

    • scarytaff profile imageAUTHOR

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      Thanks jayjay and No.7. Sorry about the delay in answering you. I've been away in Portugal for a week. Filthy weather all week.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Terrific hub, especially the escape scene, with Bonnie Prince Charlie disguised as Flora MacDonald's maid.

    • jayjay40 profile image


      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Another classic, you make history much easier to understand,than a lot of books. Well done

    • scarytaff profile imageAUTHOR

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      Thanks,Tonymac and Hello hello. Your comments are much appreciated.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you very much for this comprehensive piece of history. Not being from this country, I found it very interesting.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      As one of Scottish descent I really enjoyed this bit of history. Thanks very much.

      Love and peace



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