After a brief chat with one of our regular customers, Ali was reminded that this week sees the 229th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s death. Cheery as that definitely isn’t, we thought it might be interesting to go through some facts about the young pretender.
Before we get too fact happy, let’s have a quick reminder of who Bonnie Prince Charlie was. Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was the grandson of James II and VII, the last Roman Catholic King of England Scotland and Ireland who was replaced as king by his son-in-law William of Orange. Being the grandson of the deposed king Charles, he and his father before him, had claims to being the rightful kings of England, Scotland and Ireland. The attempts of both father and son to reinstate themselves as monarch are known as the Jacobite Rebellions.
Jacobite vs. Jacobean
Terminology can get a bit muddled so let’s get one thing clear from the off; a Jacobite is not the same as a Jacobean. To describe someone or something as Jacobean denotes that it comes from the reign of King James VI and I ( 1567- 1625 (Scotland only) 1603-1625 (England, Scotland and Ireland)). Therefore Shakespeare, Francis Bacon and the ruff are all Jacobean whereas the supporters of Charlie and his dad are Jacobites. The name Jacobite is derived from the Latin for James – Iacobus.
Charlie is referred to as the young pretender, but what, if anything was he pretending? Furthermore, if he is the Young Pretender, is there an Old Pretender? Answering the second question is easy, the answer is yes. Charles’ father; James Francis Edward Stewart, was also known as The Old Pretender, being older than his son I suppose. The first point, however, requires a little more thought. To modern readers the term pretender makes it seem as if Charles were faking it or acting but, indeed, this is not the case. It is clear from Charlie’s genealogy that he has a valid claim to the throne, so where do people get off calling him a pretender? Well, the word pretend comes from the Latin praetendere – to stretch forth or claim, claim being the important part here. To be a pretender then, is to lay claim to something, which seems a fit way to describe Charles.
Although Charles is seen as an icon of Scottish history, it wasn’t until he was 25 that he actually set foot in the country. Charles was born in Rome in 1720 – his father, the old pretender, had been given a residence there by the Pope. During his childhood Charles divided his time between Rome and Bologna but it wasn’t until he was made Prince Regent by his father that he contemplated heading to Scotland. The first place Charles set foot in Scotland was at Eriskay in 1745.
Charles was not one of history’s great generals. During the ’45 uprising, he had a lot of success early on while he maintained the element of surprise – Prestonpans being a notable example. However, as his campaign continued, his luck began to fail him and having got as far south as Derby, he was forced to return to Scotland, withdrawing as far north as Inverness. In 1746 The Duke of Cumberland met Charles’ force at Culloden resulting in the near massacre of the Jacobite forces and Charles’ flight from the battlefield.
Charles’ flight from Scotland has become a thing of legend, a bounty of £30,000 was put on his head and, although helped by many Highlanders on his way, none of them was tempted to take the cash. The most famous aspect of Charles’ flight when he was smuggled out of Skye by Flora MacDonald with Charles disguised as her Irish maid Betty Burke.
There is a story that the french sent gold to support the Jacobite cause, but finding nobody to give it to, left it on the shores of Loch Arkaig – this doesn’t seem at all plausible but oh well, that’s the story. The sum said to have been sent by the French was £4,000 (£760,000 in today’s money) which may still be there!
The Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacket has become the go to jacket for occasions when formal highland attire is required. Given the jacket’s name, it would be reasonable to assume a connection with our dashing young prince, however, this does not appear to be the case. The Prince Charlie Jacket is a modern name for an older garment; the coatee. The coatee became popular as an alternative to the traditional doublet which was worn on formal occasions and differed from it by including tails in the design. Why the coatee became known as the Prince Charlie, I cannot say, perhaps burly highlander balked at the idea of asking their wife to hand them their coatee…
That’s a nice little run-down of a man whose influence on Scottish history cannot be disputed. Being that it is impossible to distill a man’s life into a few paragraphs, I have chosen to direct this blog at only a few points and there is plenty more information out there for those who are interested. For those of you who may want to gain first-hand experience of some of the places visited by Prince Charlie in his lifetime, a Bonnie Prince Charlie trail has been set up in the Outer Hebrides.