Prince Charles Edward Stewart – better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or “The Young Pretender” – was born in Rome in 1720, where his father, “The Old Pretender”, claimant to the British throne, was living in exile. At the age of 25, having little military experience, no knowledge of Gaelic, an imperfect grasp of English and a strong attachment to the Catholic faith, the prince set out for Scotland with two French ships. He arrived on the Hebridean island of Eriskay on July 23, 1745, and went on to raise the royal standard at Glenfinnan, gather a Highland army, win the Battle of Prestonpans, march south into England and reach Derby before finally (and foolishly) agreeing to retreat. Back in Scotland, he won one last victory, at Falkirk, before the final disaster at Culloden in April 1746.

The prince spent the following five months in hiding, with a price of £30,000 on his head. He endured his share of cold and hunger whilst on the run, but the real price was paid by the Highlanders who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives by aiding and abetting him. The most famous of these was 23-year-old Flora MacDonald, whom Charles met on South Uist in June 1746. Flora was persuaded – either by his beauty or her relatives, depending on which account you believe – to convey Charles “over the sea to Skye”, disguised as a servant. She was arrested later in Portree, and held in the Tower of London until July 1747. She went on to marry a local man, had seven children, and in 1774 emigrated to America, where her husband was taken prisoner during the American War of Independence. Flora returned to Scotland and was reunited with her husband on his release; they resettled in Skye and she died aged 68.

Charles eventually boarded a ship back to France in September 1746, but never returned to Scotland; nor did he see Flora again. After mistreating a string of mistresses, he eventually got married at the age of 52 to the 19-year-old Princess of Stolberg, in an effort to produce a Stewart heir. They had no children, and she eventually fled from his violent drunkenness; in 1788, a none-too-“bonnie” Prince Charles died in the arms of his illegitimate daughter in Rome.

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