The Young Pretender

The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender) is one that has been romanticised in Scottish legend, but details one of the more impassioned attempts at taking the throne of England, in one turbulent year in British history. 

Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart by Allan Ramsay, 1745.

Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart by Allan Ramsay, 1745.

The Jacobite cause was a British and Irish movement to place the Roman Catholic Stuart line back on the throne of England and Scotland, notably English King James II and his heirs, after they were forced into exile, despite England being predominantly protestant at the time. Charles was the grandson of James II however he was born and raised in Italy.

By 1745, Charles had convinced the French to back his rebellion to place his father (James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales) on the throne of England and Scotland. Charles only had a small force with him when he landed on the coast of Scotland (two ships and seven companions), but over the next couple of months he was able to amass 2,400 Highland Clansmen to his cause, then they proceeded to march on Edinburgh.

When they reached Edinburgh they faced the Hanoverian army of King George II led by Sir John Cope, the battle lasted around ten minutes and Charles's army swiftly defeated Cope's troops and took Edinburgh with ease, killing hundreds of men, and taking 1,500 prisoners. By the time he reached the English border, he had 5,500 soldiers in his army, as he continued his determined march towards London.

Charles advanced as far as Derby (120 miles from London), however support from the northern English towns was wavering and they learned that massive English armies were on their way to face them in addition to the 6,000 soldiers who were defending London.  As a result Charles' forces retreated back to Scotland.

Soon after Charles' supporters began to wane heavily, and were massacred in battle of Culloden Moor in Inverness by the King's sons' (William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland) army. William's Army killed around 2,000 of Charles' men, and only suffered a loss of 50 men of his own, all within 40 minutes. Heavily defeated, Charles fled the battlefield in an attempt to get back to France, but spent the next five months constantly moving and hiding throughout the Scottish highlands while being relentlessly pursued by William and his men.

Charles' brother eventually came to rescue him from Scotland, where Charles had escaped to the Isle of Skye by travelling on a small boat disguised as an Irish maid with a few of his supporters. After many months of evading capture (despite the £30,000 reward on offer), he finally made his way back to France, settling into a life of exile and never returned to Scotland.

Despite all of the warfare of the unsuccessful Jacobite rebellion, it only lasted from 1745-1746, and there were no further serious attempts by the Stuart line on the throne of England. That was the only year that Charles spent in Britain.