Bonnie Prince Charlie


Charles Edward Stuart

Charles Edward Stuart, called the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, was born in Rome in 1720. He was the grandson of deposed English king James II (who was also King James VII of Scotland) and the son of the "Old Pretender," James Stuart, who had twice tried unsuccessfully to invade Scotland in order to seize England's throne. (Charles Edward Stuart's mother was a Polish princess, Maria Clementina Sobieski, called Princess Clementina.)

In 1745 the Young Pretender made his own attempt to put his father on the throne. He landed in Scotland with a handful of men, raised an army, and invaded England, but the lack of promised support from England and France forced him to retreat to Scotland, where his forces suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Culloden Moor in April, 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie became a fugitive.

After several months on the run, he met Flora MacDonald on the Scottish island of Benbecula. At first Flora wanted nothing to do with Charles. Her foster father, Clanranald, commanded the government troops on Benbecula, and her fiance, Allan MacDonald, was a military officer. But the islanders feared official reprisals if the fugitive was discovered on Benbecula, so Flora agreed to help Charles escape.

After hiding him for a week - a week in which, according to legend, they fell in love - Flora disguised Charles as her maid, "Betty Burke," and smuggled him to the island of Skye. There they were stopped by officers, who commented on Betty's odd appearance but let them go. Flora turned Charles over to his sympathizers in Skye, who helped him make his way safely to France. He and Flora never met again, although legend has it that Flora kept a lock of his hair to remember him by.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's luck had run out. His supporters abandoned his cause, and he became an alcoholic drifter. Eventually he settled in Rome as the "Duke of Albany" and married a princess, but they separated after less than ten years of marriage. Charles died in 1788.

Flora had been arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London for her role in the Young Pretender's escape. She was soon released and became a celebrity. In 1750 she married her first love, Allan MacDonald. Twenty-four years later they emigrated to North Carolina, where Allan served in the British army during the American Revolution. When he was captured by American forces, Flora returned to Scotland, and after his release Allan followed her home. Flora died in 1790 and was buried on the island of Skye, wrapped (supposedly) in Bonnie Prince Charlie's bedsheet.