Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Maria Stuart (December 31, 1720 – January 31, 1788), was the exiled claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and was commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie." Charles was the son of James Francis Edward Stuart who was in turn the son of King James II of England and Ireland (James VII of Scotland), who had been deposed in 1688. The Jacobite movement tried to restore the family to the throne. Charles' mother was James' Polish-born wife, Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702–1735). After his father's death Charles was recognised as "King Charles III" by his supporters; his opponents referred to him as "The Young Pretender."
Template:House of Stuart Charles was born in Rome, Italy, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI. He spent almost all of his childhood in Rome and Bologna. In 1734 he participated in the French and Spanish siege of Gaeta; this was his first exposure to a military battle.
- Main article: The 'Forty-Five'
In December 1743, Charles' father named him Prince Regent, giving him full authority to act in his name. Eighteen months later he led a rising to restore his father to his thrones. Charles raised funds to fit out two ships; the Elisabeth, an old man-of-war of sixty-six guns and a small frigate of sixteen guns named the Doutelle (le Du Teillay) which successfully landed him with seven companions at Eriskay on July 23, 1745. Charles had hoped to be supported by a French fleet but this was badly damaged by storms and he was left to raise an army in Scotland.
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 20 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, Charles' army progressed as far as Derby. Here, despite the objections of the Prince, the decision was taken by his council to return to Scotland, largely because of the almost complete lack of the support from English Jacobites that Charles had promised. By 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) and also the old Irish song Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló by Seán Clárach. Assisted by loyal supporters such as Flora Macdonald, he escaped the country aboard the French frigate L'Heureux, arriving back in France in September. The cause of the Stuarts being lost, the remainder of his life was — with a brief exception — spent in exile.
Whilst back in France Charles had numerous affairs, the one with his cousin Louise de Montbazon resulting in a short-lived son Charles (1748–49). He lived for several years in exile with his Scottish mistress, or common-law wife, Clementina Walkinshaw, whom he met, and may have begun a relationship with, whilst on the '45 campaign. She may have borne him a son, christened by Bishop Gordon in London but in 1753 the couple had a daughter, Charlotte. Charles's inability to cope with the collapse of the cause led to his heavy drinking and mother and daughter left Charles with James's connivance. Charlotte went on to have three illegitimate children with Ferdinand, an ecclesiastical member of the de Rohan family.
After his defeat, Charles indicated to the remaining supporters of the Jacobite cause in England that, accepting the impossibility of his recovering the English and Scots crowns while he remained a Roman Catholic, he was willing to commit himself to reigning as a Protestant. Accordingly he visited London incognito in 1750 and conformed to the Protestant faith by receiving Anglican communion at the Church of St Mary-le-Strand; a noted centre of Anglican Jacobitism. On Charles's return to France he reverted to Catholic observance.
In 1766 Charles's father died. Until his death James had been recognised as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland 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. The claims by two nineteenth century charlatans, Charles and John Allen alias John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, that their father Thomas Allen was a legitimate son of Charles and Louise are without foundation.
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 31 January 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.
- Frank J. MacLynn: Charles Edward Stuart: a tragedy in many acts, London [u.a.] : Routledge, 1988
- Susan M. Kybett: Bonnie Prince Charlie: a biography of Charles Edward Stuart, New York, NY : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1988
- Hugh Douglas: Charles Edward Stuart, London: Hale, 1975
- David Daiches: Charles Edward Stuart: the life and times of Bonnie Prince Charlie, London: Thames & Hudson, 1973
- Donald Barr Chidsey: Bonnie Prince Charlie, London: Williams & Norgate, (1928)