Bonnie Prince Charlie is one of the best-known historical Scottish heroes. He was not, however, Scottish, he was born in Rome, Italy on December 31, 1720. His grandfather, James II of England had ruled that country from 1685-1689. Since the exile of James II the so-called 'Jacobite Cause' had striven to return the Stuarts to the English and Scottish thrones. Bonnie Prince Charlie was to play a major part in this important goal.
Bonnie Prince Charlie was the son of the 'Old Pretender' James Stuart, James II and Mary of Modena's son. His father was called the 'Pretender' because many believed he was not the King's true son. Charles Edward was also called the Young Pretender, the Young Chevalier, and later, Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The young Prince was trained in the military and from an early age was a pawn in the Jacobite Cause. His father managed to obtain the support of the French government in 1744, and Charles Edward traveled to France with dream of commanding a French army, which he would lead in an invasion of England.
The invasion never happened, because the French were afraid of the strong British army, but Charles Edward wasn`t going to give up that easily.
So, in 1745 he traveled to Scotland, with a few supporters, and arriving on the Isle of Eriskay he set about rousing the Highland Clans to support his cause. Many of the Scottish people believed in the 'divine right of Kings', in other words, the unquestioning right of the Stuarts, chosen by God, to regain the thrones they had lost. William III's successors were from the German House of Hanover, and the current King, George II, was regarded by many as a foreigner. The fact that Charles Edward was born in Italy, his mother Maria Clementina Sobieski was Polish, and was therefore also technically a 'foreigner' escaped them. Bonnie Prince Charlie was embraced by some, but not all, of the Scottish Clans.
The Prince raised his father's (the Stuarts) standard at Glenfinnan in Scotland on the 19th August 1745, and so initiated what was to be referred to as the "'45", effectively the last Jacobite Uprising. Among his supporters were 300 from the Macdonald Clan and 700 from the clan Cameron. The rebels quickly took control of Edinburgh and by September 1745 had defeated the King's army (led by John Cope) at Prestonpans. Several victories followed and Bonnie Prince Charlie's' army grew in number, at one point reaching over 6000.
Spurred on by the victories they crossed the border into England and got to within 130 miles of the capital London. Unfortunately, the English Catholics failed to support the Jacobite rebellion, the expected French support was non-existent and many of the English were content with the stable, placid rule of George II. This apathy and lack of support plus the might of the King's army forced the Jacobites to withdraw back to Scotland. They had only managed to reach Derby.
The Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, followed on the 16th April 1746 and the Jacobite army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the 'Butcher of Cumberland', William Augustus the Duke of Cumberland. The Battle itself lasted for only about one hour but a widespread massacre of Scots, many of whom were not even involved in the Jacobite Uprising, followed.
Thousands were killed and the Battle of Culloden Moor went down as one of the bloodiest in Scottish history. The defeat effectively put an end to the last Jacobite Uprising and the Prince was now a fugitive. On the run he spent the next five months in hiding in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland assisted by his supporters. A ransom of 30,000 pounds (equivalent to $1 million in today's currency) was placed on his head but despite this no one betrayed him to the authorities.
The defeat at Culloden had wide-reaching implications for the Scots. The English government imposed strict laws, especially targeting the Clans. These included making it illegal for Highlanders to carry instruments of War (e.g. swords, targes and bagpipes) or to wear the tartan and the kilt. Jacobite supporters were either executed or forced to emigrate and their land was turned over to George II who distributed it amongst his English supporters.
The 'Highland Clearances' also became law, where landowners now found it more profitable to keep sheep on land that had always been used for farming. Many Highlanders now found themselves without a home and there was a surge of people moving from the country to the new, emerging cities.