Born on 31 December 1720, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was the grandson of King James II of
and should have been heir to the British throne. Great Britain
Should have, but wasn’t. Because the British government got rid of James II in what came to be known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He and his wife Mary of
Modena and their baby son James Francis
Edward, (Charles Edward’s father) fled to France
and settled ultimately in .
Whereupon the British offered the throne to James II’s daughter Mary (by his
first wife Anne Hyde) and her husband William of Orange, who was James’ nephew. Rome
James II’s big crime was to convert to Catholicism. By marrying his second wife Mary who was also Catholic, sent the British establishment into panic. No-one in
wanted a return to the fanatical Catholicism of a century previously, where
Mary Tudor tried to bring the Inquisition to and brought in a reign of
terror. Not for nothing was Mary Tudor called Bloody Mary! Hundreds were burnt
at the stake during her five year reign because they refused to convert to the
Catholic faith. So James’ openly becoming a Catholic and marrying a Catholic
set English hearts into meltdown. Britain
As a result, he struggled against Parliament for the whole of his four year reign. The birth of his son, James Francis further upset the English establishment. Now there could be a succession of Catholic kings! That could not be allowed to happen. While they could tolerate James’ conversion to Catholicism if he behaved himself, they could not and would not put up with a Catholic succession. So they got rid of James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, putting William and Mary on the throne.
In 1701, James II died and his son James Francis claimed the British throne as James III of
and Ireland, and James VIII
Not that it mattered. The establishment had no intention of allowing him the
throne, despite the fact that he had the backing of his cousin Louis XIV of Scotland France and many Jacobite supporters in .
Perhaps he thought that when the throne became vacant in 1702, with no
offspring of William and Mary, he would be given the throne. Not so. The
government had foreseen that possibility and James Francis found himself out of
the picture by the Act of Settlement which prohibited any Catholic sitting on
the British throne. Britain
Instead, the throne was given to Anne, James Francis’ half sister. Inconveniently, and despite having eleven children and many miscarriages, all Anne’s children pre-deceased her and when she died in 1714, Parliament sought a protestant heir to the throne. Disregarding James Francis, and no less than fifty other people who might have had greater claim, they settled on George of Hanover, a Protestant.
George was the great grandson of King James I through his daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia.
In 1715, James Francis, now a man of twenty-seven came to Britain and attempted to retrieve the throne in the Jacobite Rising of that year, with no success. Narrowly avoiding capture he fled back to the Continent, where he married Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of the Polish King John III of Beuburg.
They had two sons, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Henry Benedict Stuart who became a Cardinal.
Understandably, both James Francis and his eldest son Charles believed the throne of
belonged to them by right. James even called himself James III of Great Britain
and VIII of Scotland. With James becoming too old for the venture, Charles took
up the cause, and aged twenty-four sailed for England Scotland
in 1745, raising an army from the clans of Scotland
with a view to eventually marching on
and claiming the throne. London
Charles Edward was indeed ‘bonny’. A good-looking young man, he had the ability to charm and to lead. When he arrived in
the clans readily came to
his call, and he had a formidable army. However, promised help from the French
did not materialise. After some initial successes, his plans came to an abrupt
end at the battle of Culloden in April 1746, where the government forces under
the Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George II, routed the Scots in a
devastating defeat. Scotland
For Charles, there was just one thing to do—flee!
And flee he did. His subsequent escape from the clutches of the British with the help of a Scottish lass is the subject of my book, Over the Sea to Skye, to be published soon.