Birthday: December 31, 1720
Died At Age: 67
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Palazzo Muti, Rome
Famous as: Military Leader
Spouse/Ex-: Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern (m. 1772 - Sep. 1780)
father: James Francis Edward Stuart
mother: Maria Clementina Sobieska
siblings: Henry Benedict Stuart
children: Charles Godefroi Sophie Jules Marie de Rohan, Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany
Died on: January 31, 1788
place of death: Palazzo Muti, Rome
Who was Charles Edward Stuart?
Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was a military leader and a Jacobite claimant to the English, Irish, and Scottish thrones. As the eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart and grandson of James II and VII, Charles became the Stuart claimant to the throne of Great Britain following the death of his father in 1766. He grew up in Italy and enjoyed a privileged childhood. Like the rest of his family, he carried himself with a sense of pride and was an ardent believer in the divine rights of kings. He found a place in history because of his involvement in the 1745 rising. After he was decidedly defeated at Culloden in April 1746, the Stuart cause in England was finished. In later years, his other plans to claim the thrones, including the proposed 1759 French invasion, did not come to fruition. Throughout his life, Charles was given nicknames like “the Young Pretender", "the Young Chevalier," and "Bonnie Prince Charlie". His flight from Scotland after the failed uprising has since made him a romantic figure of heroic failure. For the rest of his life, Charles resided in various parts of the continent, returning to London for one secret visit in 1750.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on December 31, 1720, in Palazzo Muti, Rome, Papal States, Italy, Charles was one of the two sons of James Francis Edward Stuart and Maria Clementina Sobieska.
His paternal grandfather, James II and VII, the former King of England, Ireland, and Scotland and a Catholic, was overthrown during the revolution of 1688. His son-in-law, the Dutch Protestant William III (through his daughter Mary), replaced him as the king of both England and Scotland. James was forced to go on an exile along with the rest of his family.
Charles spent much of his childhood in Rome and Bologna, leading a luxurious life. The family had been allowed to reside in the papal property by Pope Clement XI himself.
After the death of his grandfather, his father was recognised as the legitimate heir to the three thrones by Louis XIV of France, Spain, the Papal States, and Modena.
Charles’ mother, Maria Clementina Sobieska, was the granddaughter of the Polish King John III Sobieski.
He had a younger brother, Henry Benedict Stuart, who later became a Roman Catholic cardinal.
In 1744, his father convinced the French government to continue supporting him. Charles went to France to receive a French army that he would command in an invasion of England. This never came to fruition as the fleet dispersed due to a storm.
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The 1745 Jacobite Uprising
Charles got the ability to act on his father’s behalf in December 1743, when James Stewart made him his regent. He spent the next 18 months in preparing for a French-backed rebellion for the thrones.
Charles found support from both Catholic and Protestant Highland clans. He hoisted his father’s standard at Glenfinnan and garnered an army that marched towards Edinburgh, which opened its gates without a fight.
He led his forces against the only government army in Scotland at the time, led by General Sir John Cope, at the Battle of Prestonpans, on September 21, 1745. The Jacobite victory in the battle finally made him a real threat for the House of Hanover. Commanding an army of 6,000, Charles took Carlisle before reaching the Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire.
In Derbyshire. Charles expressed his desire to progress further. However, his council, noting the lack of French and English support and hearing the speculations of large government forces, took the decision to go back to Scotland.
Their army progressed northwards once more. They were victorious in the Battle of Falkirk Muir in January 1746, but Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, was chasing them. The two forces met in the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.
Not heeding to the suggestions of general Lord George Murray, Charles decided to engage the enemy on a flat, open, marshy ground where his soldiers were easy targets for superior government firepower. Because he was issuing commands from a place behind the lines of his forces, he had no idea what was going on. The battle was eventually lost, with heavy causalities to the Jacobite forces.
Charles feared that he was betrayed by Murray when the latter man went to Ruthven with a group of soldiers, wanting to keep on fighting. However, Charles was done with the Jacobite cause. His subsequent escape is immortalised in the folk song ‘The Skye Boat Song’ and the Irish song ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill.
He took refuge in the moors of Scotland, always escaping the clutches of the government forces just in time. He was helped by numerous Highlanders, none of whom gave him up, despite the £30,000 reward. Eventually, he made his departure from the country aboard the French frigate L'Heureux. By September 1746, he was in France.
After the failure of his campaign, Charles spent some years in France and got involved in several affairs, including with his first cousin Marie Louise de La Tour d'Auvergne, wife of Jules, Prince of Guéméné. She gave birth to his short-lived son, Charles (1748–49).
Charles was forced to leave France following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. He also had a daughter named Charlotte (1753-89) with his Scottish mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw.
At one point, Charles was convinced that he could not win back the thrones as a Catholic and told his supporters in England that he would be converting to Protestantism.
In 1750, he travelled to London in secret and embraced the Protestant faith, probably at one of the remaining nonjuring chapels. In all likelihood, the communion was celebrated by Bishop Robert Gordon, a loyal Jacobite. Furthermore, his house in Theobald's Row was used as one of the safe-houses by Charles during the visit. Surprisingly, his followers failed to spread the news of his conversion.
In 1759, during the Seven Years' War, Charles travelled to Paris to meet the French foreign minister, the Duc De Choiseul. He was very argumentative during the meeting and displayed naive beliefs. The minister was forming a plan to attack England with over 100,000 men and thought that the Jacobite support could be useful. However, not being impressed with Charles, he decided that France would have to invade without it.
Following his father’s death in 1766, Charles did not receive the papal recognition as the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. While he was living in Florence, he adopted the title “Count of Albany” as an alias.
In 1772, Charles got married to Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. He converted back to Roman Catholicism at this time. The couple resided in Rome for the first two years before relocating to Florence in 1774. In 1780, Louise opted for a split from Charles, citing physical abuse.
Death & Legacy
In 1783, he legitimised Charlotte and allowed her the use of the title “Duchess of Albany" in the peerage of Scotland and the style “Her Royal Highness”, though neither of these titles granted her a place in the line of succession to the throne.
On January 31, 1788, Charles passed away in Rome after suffering a stroke. He was 67 years old at the time. In 1807, his remains, save for his heart, were transferred to the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican where the remains of his parents and brother are also kept. His heart was placed in a small urn, which is kept beneath the floor under a monument to the Royal Stuarts.