- Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788)
Bonnie Prince Charlie was a grandson of King James VII who was driven out of Britain in 1688 because of his support of the Catholic faith. Parliament had originally wanted James' daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange from the Netherlands, to act as regents until James' newly born son, James Francis Stuart (Charles' father), reached his majority (and had been raised in the Protestant faith). But William was unhappy with this arrangement and insisted on having the crown along with his wife. Parliament agreed, thus sowing the seeds of the subsequent Jacobite Uprisings (Jacobite came from the Latin word for James - Jacobus).
Of course, King James VII tried to regain his throne. But on July 12, 1690, William defeated James in the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland. King James VII died in exile in 1701. There were further Jacobite insurrections in Scotland, particularly in 1715 when James Francis Stuart (nicknamed "The Old Pretender") landed in Scotland, some months after the Earl of Mar had conducted an ineffectual campaign. James had dithered in France about when to leave for Scotland and it was mid-winter by the time he arrived at Aberdeen on 22 December. And he did not bring the expected French military forces or any money. After two months he was advised to withdraw and left once more for France, never to return.
William and Mary died childless and her sister and successor Queen Anne also died without issue. Parliament then decided in 1714 (by a majority of one) to ask George, the Elector of Hanover in Germany to become king of Britain. George's mother was Sophia, a grand-daughter of King James VI>. Even so, the rules of succession gave James Francis Stuart a stronger right to the throne, a point not lost on the Jacobite supporters, most of whom were in Scotland.
In 1718, James Francis Stuart married Princess Clementina Maria Sobieski of Poland who was one of the wealthiest females of royal birth in Europe. Their son, Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Maria Stuart was born in Rome on 31 December 1720. The Pope gave his personal blessing to the infant.
Although the Hanoverian rumour machine tried to spread stories that he was deformed and an imbecile, unbiased observers of the young Prince described him as headstrong and brave. He learned quickly and could converse in English, French, Latin and Italian (but there was nobody to teach him Gaelic). He was a good marksman with a cross-bow. It is possible that his father would have allowed Charles to be reared as a Protestant to improve his chances of inheriting the throne but this was not a viable proposition while living in Rome.
In addition to being called Prince Charles Edward, he also gained the nicknames of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and "The Young Chevalier" (the French word for Prince). His portraits certainly show him to be a handsome young man.
Charles was treated as a Prince in Italy and later in France. The French and British were at loggerheads (as on so many occasions over the centuries) and in 1744 offered a fleet with 7,000 soldiers to help Charles restore the Stuarts to the British throne. But many of the ships were lost in a storm and wrecked on the Dunkirk coast.
Jacobite Uprising, 1745
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