Charles Edward Stewart Young Pretender

Charles Edward Stewart / Famous Historical Figures

  • Name  : Stewart
  • Born  : 1720
  • Died  : 1788
  • Category  : Famous Historical Figures
  • Finest Moment : Battle of Prestonpans, 21 September 1745
  • Resources - The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie

Called 'The Young Pretender', he mounted the second, and last Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.

Born 31 December 1720 in Rome, his father was James Edward Stewart, 'The Old Pretender'. He was brought up a Roman Catholic and was trained in the arts of war. He served with courage at the siege of Gaeta, though still an adolescent, and his education seems to have been well rounded, with Charles being respected for his conversational skills as well as his tastes in music and the arts.

But he had ambitions to succeed where his father had not, and in 1745 set out for Scotland. A supporting French fleet was wrecked by storm, and Charles landed at Glenfinnan on the west coast with seven men, raising his standard there on 19 August. Four of the seven were Irish; they had the ear of Charles and their own agenda, and were soon in constant disagreement with Lord George Murray, easily the best of the Jacobite generals.

He entered Edinburgh on 17 September, with 2,400 men. Four days later, the skill of Murray defeated the English, under Sir John Cope, at Prestonpans. Against Murray's advice, and egged on by the Irishmen, he invaded England, reaching as far south as Derby before the decision to retreat was made on 5 December. More Irishmen arriving as officers in a French force under Lord John Drummond increased the friction within the Jacobite followers, though again Murray saved the day with a last crushing victory against the English at Falkirk.

Charles had by now lost the plot, and squandered time and resources trying to take Stirling Castle, before moving north to Inverness. The canvas was slowly being prepared for the last, dismal battle fought on British soil, as the English, under the command of William, Duke of Cumberland, closed in. His captain, Lord Elcho, had been forced to retreat from the River Spey under pressure from Cumberland's men, and reached Culloden Moor to find his commander in a 'boastful and unworthy state for a Prince'.

The next night, 15 April, Charles ordered a march to Nairn, a disastrous, exhausting mistake. Murray turned back against his commander's orders, but the following morning, 16 April, the Battle of Culloden was a massacre. The Prince's actions thereafter were solely self-seeking, and Elcho last words as he left were 'There goes a damned Italian coward.' The fading romanticism attached to 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' arose from the period of some five months following Culloden, when he spent it as a fugitive, skulking through the highlands hiding from the English troops searching for him.

He seemed to be oblivious and uncaring about the hardships and very real dangers which his followers were still undergoing, in trying to protect him. He even complained when helped by Flora MacDonald to escape by ship, as he had not been met in person by Lady Margaret MacDonald, to whose house he had been brought. He felt that the Gaels had failed him, though the Gaels could have stated the obvious, that he had failed them.

He finally escaped in September 1746, sailing in a French ship. It was all downhill from then on, with alcohol an increasing problem. He beat his women, including his wife, Princess Louise of Stolberg, whom he married in 1772. She stuck it for eight years before bailing out. He eventually settled in Rome, where he died on 31 January 1788, the last rites being performed by his brother Henry, Cardinal Duke of York.

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