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Charles Edward Stuart
- For the U.S. politician, see Charles E. Stuart
Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart (December 31, 1720 – January 31, 1788), was the exiled claimant to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland, commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie". Charles was the son of James Francis Edward Stuart, the "Old Pretender", who was in turn the son of King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland, who had been deposed in 1688. The Jacobite movement tried to restore the family to the throne. Charles's mother was James's Polish-born wife, Maria Clementina Sobieski (1702–1735). After his father's death Charles styled himself as "King Charles III", and was referred to in England as "The Young Pretender".
Despite his strong associations with Scotland, Charles was born in Rome and brought up there with his father who was in exile having failed to regain the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland from which his own father had been deposed in 1688. In 1743, Charles fought at the Battle of Dettingen, where the British army was led by his chief rival, the Hanoverian King George II. Two years later, the French invited him from Rome where he was living with his father to take part in an invasion of Britain and to lead a Jacobite rising on behalf of his father. The fleet was badly damaged by storms and the invasion abandoned, but Charles raised funds to fit out two ships one of which successfully landed him with seven companions at Eriskay on July 23, 1745.
The Jacobite cause was still supported by many Highland Clans, both Catholic and Protestant, and the Catholic Charles hoped for a warm welcome from these clans to start an insurgency by Jacobites throughout Britain, but there was no immediate response. Charles raised his father's standard at Glenfinnan and there raised a large enough force to enable him to march on the City of Edinburgh, which quickly surrendered. On 21 September 1745 he defeated the only government army in Scotland at the Battle of Prestonpans, and by November was marching south at the head of around 6,000 men. Having taken Carlisle and progressed as far as Derby, he found himself beset by conflicting advice and decided to turn back. Now he was pursued by the king's son, the Duke of Cumberland, who caught up with him at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746, and inflicted a heavy defeat on the half-starved and demoralised Jacobite army.
Bonnie Prince Charlie's subsequent flight has become the stuff of legend, and is commemorated in the popular folk song "The Skye Boat Song" (lyrics 1884, tune traditional). Assisted by loyal supporters such as Flora Macdonald, he escaped the country, arriving back in France in September. The remainder of his life was spent in drunken idleness and debauchery.
In 1766 Charles's father died. Until his death James had been recognised as King of England and Scotland by the Pope, as "James III and VIII". But Clement XIII decided not to give the same recognition to Charles.
In 1772 Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern. They lived first at Rome, but in 1774 moved to Florence where Charles first began to use the title "Count of Albany" as an alias. This title is frequently used for him in European publications; his wife Louise is almost always called "Countess of Albany". In 1780 Louise left Charles. Her claim that Charles had physically abused her is probably accurate, but she had also previously started an adulterous relationship with the Italian poet, Count Vittorio Alfieri.
In 1783 Charles signed an act of legitimation for his illegitimate daughter Charlotte, his child born in 1753 to Clementina Walkinshaw (later known as Countess von Alberstrof). Charles also gave Charlotte the title "Duchess of Albany" in the peerage of Scotland and the style "Her Royal Highness". But these honours did not give Charlotte any right to the succession to the throne. Charlotte lived with her father at Florence and Rome for the next five years.
Charles died in Rome on January 31, 1788. He was first buried in the Cathedral of Frascati, where his brother Henry Benedict Stuart was bishop. At Henry's death in 1807, Charles's remains were moved to the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and father.
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