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Bonnie Prince Charlie
1720 - 1788


Charles Edward Louis John Philip Casimir Sylvester Maria Stuart was born in Rome December 31, 1720 at the Palazzo Muti (now Palazzo Balestra). He was the elder son of King James III and VIII and of his wife, Princess Clementina Sobieska. From his birth Charles bore the titles of "Prince of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Duke of Cornwall and 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".

Charles' childhood was spent mostly in Rome and Bologna. His first exposure to the military arts was at the siege of Gaeta in 1734.

In December 1743 King James named Charles Prince Regent in order that Charles would have full authority to bring about a restoration of the throne. On May 16, 1745 Charles issued a manifesto requiring that his father's subjects "forthwith repair to His Majesty's royal standard". On July 25 (O.S.), August 3 (N.S.) he landed in Scotland. Although he did not receive universal support in the Highlands, he achieved several military successes culminating in a major victory at Prestonpans on September 21. On October 10 he issued a declaration defending his actions.

Charles' armies entered England on November 8. They travelled as far south as Derby, but on December 6 they turned back north, eventually retreating to Scotland. Charles enjoyed a major victory at Falkirk on January 1, 1746, but on April 16, his armies were defeated at Culloden. After wandering in the Highlands for six months, Charles left Scotland for France on September 20.

The next few years were spent mostly in France. In late 1747 and early 1748 Charles engaged in a relationship with his first-cousin Marie-Louise de La Tour d'Auvergne who was married to the duc de Montbazon; the relationship resulted in the birth of a son, Prince Charles de Rohan, who died some five months later. Charles next began a three-year relationship with another married woman, Princess Marie-Louise Jablonowska, wife of the prince de Talmont, a woman almost twenty years older than Charles.

On June 16, 1748, Charles protested against the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which had confirmed the British claims of the House of Hanover. On account of this treaty, Charles was required to leave France (although he continued to visit there in disguise for the next few years). He first went to Avignon, then to Venice, and finally to Luneville (in the Duchy of Lorraine); this remained his base until 1752. He made a number of incognito visits to France, Germany, and the Low Countries, and in September 1750 a week-long visit to London. It is commonly believed that on this occasion he apostasized from the Catholic Church and conformed to the Established Church of England.

In May 1752 Charles transferred his residence to Ghent and Liège in the Low Countries. There he renewed a relationship with Clementina Walkinshaw with whom he had had a relationship in Scotland. The couple lived together for the following eight years; in October 1753 a daughter Charlotte was born to them. The relationship between Charles and Clementina was stormy. Charles had turned to drink. Disappointed by the lack of support from the pope and France for any further military action in England and Scotland, he had become rabidly anti-Catholic. He dismissed his Catholic servants and argued with Clementina about the baptism of their daughter. After a stay of some months in Paris, Charles, Clementina, and Charlotte moved to Basle in Switzerland in September 1754, only to return to Liège in June 1756. In May 1758 they moved to Bouillon, but in July 1760 Clementina left Charles taking their daughter with her.

At the death of his father King James III and VIII, January 1, 1766, Charles succeeded to all of his British rights. He was henceforward recognised by the Jacobites as "King Charles III". He arrived in Rome, January 23, 1766, and took up residence at the Palazzo Muti. None of the courts which had recognised his father as king was willing to accord the same recognition to Charles. His brother the Cardinal Duke of York sent Pope Clement XIII a memorial in an unsuccessful attempt to receive papal recognition. Henceforward Charles used the title "Baron Renfrew" in public.

On March 22, 1772, at Paris, Charles was married by proxy to Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, daughter of Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern and of his wife, Princess Elizabeth of Hornes. The following May 1 (O.S. April 17) Charles and Louise renewed their vows in person in the chapel of the Palazzo Marefoschi in Macerata. The couple had no children.

In spite of a thirty year age difference between the couple, Charles and Louise were at first content in their married life at Rome. They were disappointed, however, when the pope continued not to recognise Charles as king; both had been encouraged to believe that this would change with marriage.

In July 1774 they moved to Florence where Charles began to use the title "Count of Albany". They lived for several years in the Palazzo Corsini sul Prato before finding a more permanent home in the Palazzo Guadagni (now Palazzo San Clemente). Louise had a series of young men who paid court to her; Charles took to drink and then became jealous. It became clear that Louise was unable to conceive a child and ensure the succession to the throne.

At some point in 1778 Louise's flirtations became adulterous, and Charles' jealousy turned into physical abuse. In December 1780 Louise took refuge in a nearby convent. Charles and Louise never saw each other again, and in 1784 Charles issued a decree permitting her to live separately from him.

In 1783 Charles signed an Act of Legitimation of his daughter Charlotte; this legitimation was registered in the Parlement of Paris. The following year Charlotte came to live with Charles in the Palazzo Guadagni; she was given the title "Duchess of Albany". At the end of 1785 Charles and Charlotte moved to Rome where they lived in the Palazzo Muti and summered in Albano. By this time Charles was himself virtually a total invalid. Although he had never been a pious man, he now was reconciled to the Catholic Church.

Charles died in the Palazzo Muti in Rome, January 30/31, 1788, when he was succeeded in all his British rights by his younger brother Henry. His remains were at first laid to rest in the cathedral of Frascati. At the death of his brother Henry, Charles' remains were transferred to the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, where a monument designed by Antonio Canova was raised to his memory.


Charles Edward Stuart (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788) was the exiled Jacobite claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He is most commonly known in English and Scots as Bonnie Prince Charlie. In Scots Gaelic, his name was Teàrlach Eideard Stiùbhairt.

Charles was the son of James Francis Edward Stuart who was in turn the son of James II and VII, who had been deposed in the Revolution of 1688. The Jacobite movement tried to restore the family to the throne. Charles' mother was James' Polish wife, Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702–1735, granddaughter of the Polish King, John III Sobieski). After his father's death Charles was recognised as Charles III by his supporters; his opponents referred to him as The Young Pretender.

Early life

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart was born in Rome, Italy, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI. He spent almost all of his childhood in Rome and Bologna. In 1734 he participated in the French and Spanish siege of Gaeta; this was his first exposure to a military battle.

In December 1743, Charles' father named him Prince Regent, giving him full authority to act in his name. Eighteen months later he led a rising to restore his father to his thrones. Charles raised funds to fit out two ships: the Elisabeth, an old man-of-war of sixty-six guns, and a small frigate of sixteen guns named the Doutelle (le Du Teillay) which successfully landed him with seven companions at Eriskay on 23 July 1745. Charles had hoped for support from a French fleet, but this was badly damaged by storms, and he was left to raise an army in Scotland.

The Jacobite cause was still supported by many Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant, and the Catholic Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain, but there was no immediate response. Charles raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan and there raised a large enough force to enable him to march on the city of Edinburgh, which quickly surrendered. On 21 September 1745 he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans, and by November was marching south at the head of around 6,000 men. Having taken Carlisle, Charles' army progressed as far as Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire. Here, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was taken by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of the almost complete lack of the support from English Jacobites that Charles had promised. By now he was pursued by King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with him at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.

Ignoring the advice of his best commander, Lord George Murray, Charles chose to fight on flat, open, marshy ground where his forces would be exposed to superior British firepower. Charles commanded his army from a position behind his lines, where he could not see what was happening. Hoping that Cumberland's army would attack first, he had his men stand exposed to Hanoverian artillery for twenty minutes before finally ordering an attack. The Jacobite attack, charging into the teeth of musket fire and grapeshot fired from the cannons, was uncoordinated and met little success. Only in one place did a group of Jacobites break through the bayonets of the redcoats, but they were shot down by a second line of soldiers, and the survivors fled. Cumberland's troops committed numerous atrocities as they hunted for the defeated Jacobite soldiers, earning him the title "the Butcher" from the Highlanders. Murray managed to lead a group of Jacobites to Ruthven, intending to continue the fight. However Charles, believing himself betrayed, had 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" (lyrics 1884, tune traditional) and also the old Irish song Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill. Assisted by loyal supporters such as Flora MacDonald who helped him escape pursuers on the Isle of Skye by taking him in a small boat disguised as her Irish maid, "Betty Burke," he evaded capture and left the country aboard the French frigate L'Heureux, arriving back in France in September. The cause of the Stuarts being lost, the remainder of his life was - with a brief exception - spent in exile.


Whilst back in France, Charles had numerous affairs; the one with his first cousin Louise, wife of the Duke of Montbazon, resulted in a short-lived son Charles (1748–1749). He lived for several years in exile with his Scottish mistress, or common-law wife, Clementina Walkinshaw [1720-1802} {Right}, whom he met, and may have begun a relationship with, whilst on the '45 campaign. In 1753 the couple had a daughter, Charlotte. Charles's inability to cope with the collapse of the cause led to his heavy drinking and mother and daughter left Charles with James' connivance. Charlotte went on to have three illegitimate children with Ferdinand, an ecclesiastical member of the de Rohan family.

After his defeat, Charles indicated to the remaining supporters of the Jacobite cause in England that, accepting the impossibility of his recovering the English and Scots crowns while he remained a Roman Catholic, he was willing to commit himself to reigning as a Protestant. Accordingly he visited London incognito in 1750 and conformed to the Protestant faith by receiving Anglican communion at the Church of St Mary-le-Strand, a noted centre of Anglican Jacobitism. On Charles's return to France he reverted to Catholic observance.

In 1766 Charles' father died. Until his death James had been recognised as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland by the Pope, as "James III and VIII". But Clement XIII decided not to give the same recognition to Charles.

In 1772 Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They lived first in Rome, but in 1774 moved to Florence where Charles first began to use the title "Count of Albany" as an alias. This title is frequently used for him in European publications; his wife Louise is almost always called "Countess of Albany".

In 1780 Louise left Charles. She claimed that Charles had physically abused her; this claim was generally believed by contemporaries in spite of the fact that Louise was already involved in an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet, Count Vittorio Alfieri, before she left Charles.

The claims by two nineteenth century charlatans, Charles and John Allen alias John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, that their father Thomas Allen was a legitimate son of Charles and Louise, are without foundation.

In 1783 Charles signed an act of legitimation for his illegitimate daughter Charlotte, his child born in 1753 to Clementina Walkinshaw (later known as Countess von Alberstrof). Charles also gave Charlotte the title "Duchess of Albany" in the peerage of Scotland and the style "Her Royal Highness". But these honours did not give Charlotte any right to the succession to the throne. Charlotte lived with her father in Florence and Rome for the next five years.

Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788. He was first buried in the Cathedral of Frascati, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop. At Henry's death in 1807, Charles's remains were moved to the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and father. His mother is also buried in Saint Peter's Basilica. When the body of Charles Stuart was transferred to the Saint Peter's Basilica, his "praecordia" were left in Frascati Cathedral: a small urn encloses the heart of Charles, placed beneath the floor below the funerary monument.











This web page was last updated on: 09 December, 2008