Charles Edward Stuart

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Charles Edward Stuart (1720 - 1788) also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie and The Young Pretender, was a claimant to the throne of England and Scotland who led a rebellion in 1745 which was finally suppressed at the Battle of Culloden. Years later, the cause for which he fought, and especially the Highlanders who fought alongside him, came to be commemorated and romanticised in colorful traditions, some of which, such as the [kilt]] and bagpipes, are now considered to be important national Scottish symbols.

The roots of the Jacobite rebellion which Charles so famously led in 1745-46 go back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 and the Revolution Settlement which deposed the Catholic James VII and II in favor of William and Mary. The supporters of the deposed monarch came to be known as Jacobites (from the Latin for James.

Jacobite supporters of the deposed Stuart line raised militarily significant rebellions on four separate occasions - in 1689, 1715, 1719 and, finally, in 1745-46. Following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, James Francis Stuart, the only son of the deposed James VII, went back into exile, spending nearly all of the remainder of his life at Rome.

It was in Rome that Charles Edward Stuart was born and raised. Being in the direct line of descent from the deposed James VII, he thus came to be considered the rightful heir to the throne of England and Scotland and eventually became the focus of Jacobite support. French interests were also intertwined with his cause for, in any conflict between France and England, it would benefit French interests to foment trouble in Scotland, thereby diverting English attention (and troops) away from the continent.

In the Summer of 1745, sailing from France, Charles landed in the Outer Hebrides, just off the mainland of Scotland, accompanied by a mere handful of supporters. He then proceeded to Glenfinnan where he raised his father's standard and called on the clans to support his cause by raising troops.

The clans had always provided the main military muscle behind Jacobite sympathies and now, with a force of about 2500 men, and within a month of the landing, the charismatic Prince marched unopposed into Edinburgh and occupied the town. Meanwhile, a motley force under Sir John Cope had gathered just outside the town to oppose him. The two armies met on the field of battle at Prestonpans where the Jacobite forces inflicted a stunning and devastating defeat on the Hanoverians.

Turning south, the Jacobites marched into England itself, reaching as far south as Derby and causing a minor panic in London. By this time, well trained and large forces had been assembled to oppose the Stuart invasion and at a Council of War, it was decided, against Charles' wishes, to turn back towards Scotland. There followed a skillful retreat, punctuated by a victory over the Hanoverian forces in a rear-guard action at Falkirk in January of 1746. Finally, Charles and his supporters retreated into the Highlands itself.

Unfortunately for his cause, this retreat to the Highlands had cut the Jacobite forces off from the lowlands and south of Scotland and, with that, they were cut off from their sources of monetary support. French efforts, such as they were, to supply and finance the revolt also came to naught, thwarted by the British naval patrols.

Facing a choice between conducting a guerrilla war or making a stand, Charles chose to confront the Hanoverian forces on Culloden moor, just outside the vital city of Inverness. The terrain, alignment of forces, and the British artillery were all against Charles and, in the event, in one of the most storied military engagements in history, the Jacobites were thoroughly routed at the Battle of Culloden, thus effectively ending the rebellion.

For the next several months, Charles was a hunted fugitive in his own country which, to be sure, he had only seen for the first time in his life the previous Summer. In September of 1746, he was spirited away by Flora MacDonald and escaped back to the continent where he would spend the rest of his life.