The Story Of Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The royal families of Europe are widely known, yet not all of them
are equally renowned. Thus, the house of Romanoff, although
comparatively young, stands out to the mind with a sort of
barbaric power, more vividly than the Austrian house of Hapsburg,
which is the oldest reigning family in Europe, tracing its
beginnings backward until they are lost in the Dark Ages. The
Hohenzollerns of Prussia are comparatively modern, so far as
concerns their royalty. The offshoots of the Bourbons carry on a
very proud tradition in the person of the King of Spain, although
France, which has been ruled by so many members of the family,
will probably never again behold a Bourbon king. The deposed
Braganzas bear a name which is ancient, but which has a somewhat
The Bonapartes, of course, are merely parvenus, and they have had
the good taste to pretend to no antiquity of birth. The first
Napoleon, dining at a table full of monarchs, when he heard one of
them deferentially alluding to the Bonaparte family as being very
old and noble, exclaimed:
"Pish! My nobility dates from the day of Marengo!"
And the third Napoleon, in announcing his coming marriage with
Mlle. de Montijo, used the very word "parvenu" in speaking of
himself and of his family. His frankness won the hearts of the
French people and helped to reconcile them to a marriage in which
the bride was barely noble.
In English history there are two great names to conjure by, at
least to the imaginative. One is Plantagenet, which seems to
contain within itself the very essence of all that is patrician,
magnificent, and royal. It calls to memory at once the lion-
hearted Richard, whose short reign was replete with romance in
England and France and Austria and the Holy Land.
But perhaps a name of greater influence is that which links the
royal family of Britain today with the traditions of the past, and
which summons up legend and story and great deeds of history. This
is the name of Stuart, about which a whole volume might be written
to recall its suggestions and its reminiscences.
The first Stuart (then Stewart) of whom anything is known got his
name from the title of "Steward of Scotland," which remained in
the family for generations, until the sixth of the line, by
marriage with Princess Marjory Bruce, acquired the Scottish crown.
That was in the early years of the fourteenth century; and
finally, after the death of Elizabeth of England, her rival's son,
James VI. of Scotland and I. of England, united under one crown
two kingdoms that had so long been at almost constant war.
It is almost characteristic of the Scot that, having small
territory, little wealth, and a seat among his peers that is
almost ostentatiously humble, he should bit by bit absorb the
possessions of all the rest and become their master. Surely, the
proud Tudors, whose line ended with Elizabeth, must have despised
the "Stewards," whose kingdom was small and bleak and cold, and
who could not control their own vassals.
One can imagine also, with Sir Walter Scott, the haughty nobles of
the English court sneering covertly at the awkward, shambling
James, pedant and bookworm. Nevertheless, his diplomacy was almost
as good as that of Elizabeth herself; and, though he did some
foolish things, he was very far from being a fool.
In his appearance James was not unlike Abraham Lincoln--an
unkingly figure; and yet, like Lincoln, when occasion required it
he could rise to the dignity which makes one feel the presence of
a king. He was the only Stuart who lacked anything in form or
feature or external grace. His son, Charles I., was perhaps one of
the worst rulers that England has ever had; yet his uprightness of
life, his melancholy yet handsome face, his graceful bearing, and
the strong religious element in his character, together with the
fact that he was put to death after being treacherously
surrendered to his enemies--all these have combined to make almost
a saint of him. There are Englishmen to-day who speak of him as
"the martyr king," and who, on certain days of the year, say
prayers that beg the Lord's forgiveness because of Charles's
The members of the so-called League of the White Rose, founded to
perpetuate English allegiance to the direct line of Stuarts, do
many things that are quite absurd. They refuse to pray for the
present King of England and profess to think that the Princess
Mary of Bavaria is the true ruler of Great Britain. All this
represents that trace of sentiment which lingers among the English
to-day. They feel that the Stuarts were the last kings of England
to rule by the grace of God rather than by the grace of
Parliament. As a matter of fact, the present reigning family in
England is glad to derive its ancient strain of royal blood
through a Stuart--descended on the distaff side from James I.,
and winding its way through Hanover.
This sentiment for the Stuarts is a thing entirely apart from
reason and belongs to the realm of poetry and romance; yet so
strong is it that it has shown itself in the most inconsistent
fashion. For instance, Sir Walter Scott was a devoted adherent of
the house of Hanover. When George IV. visited Edinburgh, Scott was
completely carried away by his loyal enthusiasm. He could not see
that the man before him was a drunkard and braggart. He viewed him
as an incarnation of all the noble traits that ought to hedge
about a king. He snatched up a wine-glass from which George had
just been drinking and carried it away to be an object of
reverence for ever after. Nevertheless, in his heart, and often in
his speech, Scott seemed to be a high Tory, and even a Jacobite.
There are precedents for this. The Empress Eugenie used often to
say with a laugh that she was the only true royalist at the
imperial court of France. That was well enough for her in her days
of flightiness and frivolity. No one, however, accused Queen
Victoria of being frivolous, and she was not supposed to have a
strong sense of humor. None the less, after listening to the
skirling of the bagpipes and to the romantic ballads which were
sung in Scotland she is said to have remarked with a sort of sigh:
"Whenever I hear those ballads I feel that England belongs really
to the Stuarts!"
Before Queen Victoria was born, when all the sons of George III.
were childless, the Duke of Kent was urged to marry, so that he
might have a family to continue the succession. In resenting the
suggestion he said many things, and among them this was the most
"Why don't you call the Stuarts back to England? They couldn't
possibly make a worse mess of it than our fellows have!"
But he yielded to persuasion and married. From this marriage came
Victoria, who had the sacred drop of Stuart blood which gave
England to the Hanoverians; and she was to redeem the blunders and
tyrannies of both houses.
The fascination of the Stuarts, which has been carried overseas to
America and the British dominions, probably began with the
striking history of Mary Queen of Scots. Her brilliancy and
boldness and beauty, and especially the pathos of her end, have
made us see only her intense womanliness, which in her own day was
the first thing that any one observed in her. So, too, with
Charles I., romantic figure and knightly gentleman. One regrets
his death upon the scaffold, even though his execution was
necessary to the growth of freedom.
Many people are no less fascinated by Charles II., that very
different type, with his gaiety, his good-fellowship, and his
easy-going ways. It is not surprising that his people, most of
whom never saw him, were very fond of him, and did not know that
he was selfish, a loose liver, and almost a vassal of the king of
So it is not strange that the Stuarts, with all their arts and
graces, were very hard to displace. James II., with the aid of the
French, fought hard before the British troops in Ireland broke the
backs of both his armies and sent him into exile. Again in 1715--an
episode perpetuated in Thackeray's dramatic story of Henry Esmond
--came the son of James to take advantage of the vacancy caused by
the death of Queen Anne. But it is perhaps to this claimant's son,
the last of the militant Stuarts, that more chivalrous feeling has
been given than to any other.
To his followers he was the Young Chevalier, the true Prince of
Wales; to his enemies, the Whigs and the Hanoverians, he was "the
Pretender." One of the most romantic chapters of history is the
one which tells of that last brilliant dash which he made upon the
coast of Scotland, landing with but a few attendants and rejecting
the support of a French army.
"It is not with foreigners," he said, "but with my own loyal
subjects, that I wish to regain the kingdom for my father."
It was a daring deed, and the spectacular side of it has been
often commemorated, especially in Sir Walter Scott's Waverley.
There we see the gallant prince moving through a sort of military
panorama. Most of the British troops were absent in Flanders, and
the few regiments that could be mustered to meet him were appalled
by the ferocity and reckless courage of the Highlanders, who
leaped down like wildcats from their hills and flung themselves
with dirk and sword upon the British cannon.
We see Sir John Cope retiring at Falkirk, and the astonishing
victory of Prestonpans, where disciplined British troops fled in
dismay through the morning mist, leaving artillery and supplies
behind them. It is Scott again who shows us the prince, master of
Edinburgh for a time, while the white rose of Stuart royalty held
once more the ancient keep above the Scottish capital. Then we see
the Chevalier pressing southward into England, where he hoped to
raise an English army to support his own. But his Highlanders
cared nothing for England, and the English--even the Catholic
gentry--would not rise to support his cause.
Personally, he had every gift that could win allegiance. Handsome,
high-tempered, and brave, he could also control his fiery spirit
and listen to advice, however unpalatable it might be.
The time was favorable. The British troops had been defeated on
the Continent by Marshal Saxe, of whom I have already written, and
by Marshal d'Estrees. George II. was a king whom few respected. He
could scarcely speak anything but German. He grossly ill-treated
his wife. It is said that on one occasion, in a fit of temper, he
actually kicked the prime minister. Not many felt any personal
loyalty to him, and he spent most of his time away from England in
his other domain of Hanover.
But precisely here was a reason why Englishmen were willing to put
up with him. As between him and the brilliant Stuart there would
have been no hesitation had the choice been merely one of men; but
it was believed that the return of the Stuarts meant the return of
something like absolute government, of taxation without sanction
of law, and of religious persecution. Under the Hanoverian George
the English people had begun to exercise a considerable measure of
self-government. Sharp opposition in Parliament compelled him time
and again to yield; and when he was in Hanover the English were
left to work out the problem of free government.
Hence, although Prince Charles Edward fascinated all who met him,
and although a small army was raised for his support, still the
unromantic, common-sense Englishmen felt that things were better
than in the days gone by, and most of them refused to take up arms
for the cause which sentimentally they favored. Therefore,
although the Chevalier stirred all England and sent a thrill
through the officers of state in London, his soldiers gradually
deserted, and the Scots insisted on returning to their own
country. Although the Stuart troops reached a point as far south
as Derby, they were soon pushed backward into Scotland, pursued by
an army of about nine thousand men under the Duke of Cumberland,
son of George II.
Cumberland was no soldier; he had been soundly beaten by the
French on the famous field of Fontenoy. Yet he had firmness and a
sort of overmastering brutality, which, with disciplined troops
and abundant artillery, were sufficient to win a victory over the
When the battle came five thousand of these mountaineers went
roaring along the English lines, with the Chevalier himself at
their head. For a moment there was surprise. The Duke of
Cumberland had been drinking so heavily that he could give no
verbal orders. One of his officers, however, is said to have come
to him in his tent, where he was trying to play cards.
"What disposition shall we make of the prisoners?" asked the
The duke tried to reply, but his utterance was very thick.
"No quarter!" he was believed to say.
The officer objected and begged that such an order as that should
be given in writing. The duke rolled over and seized a sheaf of
playing-cards. Pulling one out, he scrawled the necessary order,
and that was taken to the commanders in the field.
The Highlanders could not stand the cannon fire, and the English
won. Then the fury of the common soldiery broke loose upon the
There was a reign of fantastic and fiendish brutality. One provost
of the town was violently kicked for a mild remonstrance about the
destruction of the Episcopalian meeting-house; another was
condemned to clean out dirty stables. Men and women were whipped
and tortured on slight suspicion or to extract information.
Cumberland frankly professed his contempt and hatred of the people
among whom he found himself, but he savagely punished robberies
committed by private soldiers for their own profit.
"Mild measures will not do," he wrote to Newcastle.
When leaving the North in July, he said:
"All the good we have done is but a little blood-letting, which
has only weakened the madness, but not at all cured it; and I
tremble to fear that this vile spot may still be the ruin of this
island and of our family."
Such was the famous battle of Culloden, fought in 1746, and
putting a final end to the hopes of all the Stuarts. As to
Cumberland's order for "No quarter," if any apology can be made
for such brutality, it must be found in the fact that the Highland
chiefs had on their side agreed to spare no captured enemy.
The battle has also left a name commonly given to the nine of
diamonds, which is called "the curse of Scotland," because it is
said that on that card Cumberland wrote his bloodthirsty order.
Such, in brief, was the story of Prince Charlie's gallant attempt
to restore the kingdom of his ancestors. Even when defeated, he
would not at once leave Scotland. A French squadron appeared off
the coast near Edinburgh. It had been sent to bring him troops and
a large supply of money, but he turned his back upon it and made
his way into the Highlands on foot, closely pursued by English
soldiers and Lowland spies.
This part of his career is in reality the most romantic of all. He
was hunted closely, almost as by hounds. For weeks he had only
such sleep as he could snatch during short periods of safety, and
there were times when his pursuers came within an inch of
capturing him. But never in his life were his spirits so high.
It was a sort of life that he had never seen before, climbing the
mighty rocks, and listening to the thunder of the cataracts, among
which he often slept, with only one faithful follower to guard
him. The story of his escape is almost incredible, but he laughed
and drank and rolled upon the grass when he was free from care. He
hobnobbed with the most suspicious-looking caterans, with whom he
drank the smoky brew of the North, and lived as he might on fish
and onions and bacon and wild fowl, with an appetite such as he
had never known at the luxurious court of Versailles or St.-Germain.
After the battle of Culloden the prince would have been captured
had not a Scottish girl named Flora Macdonald met him, caused him
to be dressed in the clothes of her waiting-maid, and thus got
him off to the Isle of Skye.
There for a time it was impossible to follow him; and there the
two lived almost alone together. Such a proximity could not fail
to stir the romantic feeling of one who was both a youth and a
prince. On the other hand, no thought of love-making seems to have
entered Flora's mind. If, however, we read Campbell's narrative
very closely we can see that Prince Charles made every advance
consistent with a delicate remembrance of her sex and services.
It seems to have been his thought that if she cared for him, then
the two might well love; and he gave her every chance to show him
favor. The youth of twenty-five and the girl of twenty-four
roamed together in the long, tufted grass or lay in the sunshine
and looked out over the sea. The prince would rest his head in her
lap, and she would tumble his golden hair with her slender fingers
and sometimes clip off tresses which she preserved to give to
friends of hers as love-locks. But to the last he was either too
high or too low for her, according to her own modest thought. He
was a royal prince, the heir to a throne, or else he was a boy
with whom she might play quite fancy-free. A lover he could not
be--so pure and beautiful was her thought of him.
These were perhaps the most delightful days of all his life, as
they were a beautiful memory in hers. In time he returned to
France and resumed his place amid the intrigues that surrounded
that other Stuart prince who styled himself James III., and still
kept up the appearance of a king in exile. As he watched the
artifice and the plotting of these make-believe courtiers he may
well have thought of his innocent companion of the Highland wilds.
As for Flora, she was arrested and imprisoned for five months on
English vessels of war. After her release she was married, in
1750; and she and her husband sailed for the American colonies
just before the Revolution. In that war Macdonald became a British
officer and served against his adopted countrymen. Perhaps because
of this reason Flora returned alone to Scotland, where she died at
the age of sixty-eight.
The royal prince who would have given her his easy love lived a
life of far less dignity in the years that followed his return to
France. There was no more hope of recovering the English throne.
For him there were left only the idle and licentious diversions of
such a court as that in which his father lived.
At the death of James III., even this court was disintegrated, and
Prince Charles led a roving life under the title of Earl of
Albany. In his wanderings he met Louise Marie, the daughter of a
German prince, Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg. She was only
nineteen years of age when she first felt the fascination that he
still possessed; but it was an unhappy marriage for the girl when
she discovered that her husband was a confirmed drunkard.
Not long after, in fact, she found her life with him so utterly
intolerable that she persuaded the Pope to allow her a formal
separation. The pontiff intrusted her to her husband's brother,
Cardinal York, who placed her in a convent and presently removed
her to his own residence in Rome.
Here begins another romance. She was often visited by Vittorio
Alfieri, the great Italian poet and dramatist. Alfieri was a man
of wealth. In early years he divided his time into alternate
periods during which he either studied hard in civil and canonical
law, or was a constant attendant upon the race-course, or rushed
aimlessly all over Europe without any object except to wear out
the post-horses which he used in relays over hundreds of miles of
road. His life, indeed, was eccentric almost to insanity; but when
he had met the beautiful and lonely Countess of Albany there came
over him a striking change. She influenced him for all that was
good, and he used to say that he owed her all that was best in his
Sixteen years after her marriage her royal husband died, a worn-
out, bloated wreck of one who had been as a youth a model of
knightliness and manhood. During his final years he had fallen to
utter destitution, and there was either a touch of half contempt
or a feeling of remote kinship in the act of George III., who
bestowed upon the prince an annual pension of four thousand
pounds. It showed most plainly that England was now consolidated
under Hanoverian rule.
When Cardinal York died, in 1807, there was no Stuart left in the
male line; and the countess was the last to bear the royal
Scottish name of Albany.
After the prince's death his widow is said to have been married to
Alfieri, and for the rest of her life she lived in Florence,
though Alfieri died nearly twenty-one years before her.
Here we have seen a part of the romance which attaches itself to
the name of Stuart--in the chivalrous young prince, leading his
Highlanders against the bayonets of the British, lolling idly
among the Hebrides, or fallen, at the last, to be a drunkard and
the husband of an unwilling consort, who in her turn loved a
famous poet. But it is this Stuart, after all, of whom we think
when we hear the bagpipes skirling "Over the Water to Charlie" or
"Wha'll be King but Charlie?"