James III had exhausted himself in futile attempts to lead an expedition into England or Scotland. In 1719 he married Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of Poland’s most famous king. It was an unhappy marriage, but it gave James a son whose lovely face and lively temper—going back perhaps to Mary Queen of Scots—were the pride and problem of his parents. England called Charles Edward Stuart “the Young Pretender”; Scotland called him “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Brought up in a discordant household, taught conflicting faiths by his Catholic and Protestant tutors, Charles grew up with an indifferent education, but with all the charms of athletic youth and all the ardor of a head itching for a crown. The Duke of Liria was thrilled by the lad’s “great beauty,” his merry brown eyes and light-brown hair; a bold rider, a good shot, a body six feet tall and made for war, a “mighty golfer,” an accomplished musician, a graceful dancer—this, said the Duke, “is altogether the most ideal prince I have ever met.”69 Charles was conscious of his virtues, which made him now and then unmanageable. In 1734, still a boy of fourteen, he was allowed to sample war in the Spanish army at Gaeta; aroused by this baptism of fire, he could hardly wait for an opportunity to take England.
It seemed at hand when the British Parliament, overruling Walpole, opened hostilities with Spain (1739). Frederick the Great’s attack on Silesia (1740) swelled into the War of the Austrian Succession; England sent its main army to the Continent; what better time could the Jacobites find to make another dash for the English throne? In Scotland they formed “the Association” (1739) pledged to that enterprise; they sent emissaries to England to stir up a Stuart revolution; they dispatched appeals to France for money, arms, and troops. Louis XV ordered seven ships of war and twenty-one troop transports to assemble at Brest and prepare to convey ten thousand men under Maréchal de Saxe from Dunkirk to England. In Italy Prince Charles anxiously awaited an invitation from Paris to join the expedition. No invitation came, but he left Rome on January 10, 1744, rode day and night to Frascati, Lerici, and Genoa, took ship to Antibes, and drove on madly to Paris. His aging father remained in Rome, and never saw him again. Charles was well received, and moderately financed, by the King. He went on to Gravelines, and waited impatiently for orders to sail with Maréchal de Saxe, who waited impatiently for the French fleet.
The winds and waves, as usual, declared for England. The French fleet, sailing from Brest (February 6), ran into a “mer affreuse” a frightful sea, and “toujours un vent” always a contrary wind. Ships collided, masts broke, all was in chaos when word came that an English squadron of fifty-two ships was approaching. The French fled back to Brest, but many of their vessels were lost, and the rest were badly hurt by the gale. With this discouraging news word reached France that the English Jacobites were disorganized and spiritless, and that no help could be expected from them if the French came. Louis informed Saxe that the invasion scheme must be abandoned. England, not yet formally at war with France, complained that the presence of Charles on French soil was a breach of treaty commitments. Charles, disguised, hid in Paris, vowing to his friends that he would invade England even if he had to go alone in an open boat. His father sent him a plea to avoid precipitate action, “which would end in your ruin, and that of all those who would join with you in it.”70 Meanwhile Charles’ supporters intrigued against one another for influence and perquisities, and denounced one another to him, until he wrote in despair, “I am plagued out of my life” (November 16, 1744).71
Finally, despite all warnings, and without consulting the French court, he decided to “tempt my destiny” and “conquer or die.” He sent agents to Scotland to rouse the clans; these were so little prepared that they thought of forbidding him to come. The English Jacobites, following Bolingbroke’s lead, were seeking reconciliation with George II. Nevertheless Charles borrowed 180,000 livres, accepted the offer of two armed vessels, and sailed for Scotland (July 15, 1745). Near Land’s End the little convoy was met by a British man-of-war; one of Charles’s ships was so damaged that it returned to Brest. In the other he passed north to the west of England, and on August 3 he touched Scottish soil at Eriska, in the Outer Hebrides. A clan leader advised him to go home. “I am come home,” answered the Prince. He was warned that on August 1 the British government had proclaimed a reward of 30,000 pounds to anyone who would bring him captive, alive or dead. Charles replied by dismissing the ship that had brought him, so cutting off his own retreat. On August 19 he raised his standard at Glenfinnan in the Highlands, and called all Jacobites to his aid.
Most clan leaders remained aloof; some professed followers plotted to betray him; half a dozen lords declared for him; of his two thousand men twelve hundred were Macdonalds and Camerons. Eluding government forces under Sir John Cope, Charles led his band south. On September 17 they entered Edinburgh, seized the guardhouse and the gates, and established their leader in the once royal palace of Holyrood, where Mary Stuart had argued with John Knox, and James VI and I had forgotten his mother. The Prince, twenty-five years old, made an alluring picture in his Highland habit, with red velvet breeches, green velvet bonnet, and white cockade. Many a Scot, thinking that national glory had returned in this handsome reincarnation, knelt and kissed his hand, and all the ladies prayed and longed for him. He had hardly time to savor his reception when he learned that Cope was nearing Edinburgh with two thousand troops. On September 21 Charles led out his how three thousand men, met Cope’s army at Prestonpans, routed it, took many captives, treated them humanely, and returned to Holyrood anointed with victory. Scotland seemed won.
At ease for a month, Charles requisitioned food and clothing for his soldiers, and welcomed the adhesion of additional clans. Louis XV sent him money and arms from France. On November 8 the happy Prince, on foot, crossed into England with 4,500 men; he besieged and captured Carlisle; he was welcomed in Manchester; he pressed on to Derby, hoping by his dramatic advance to rouse England to receive him as its legitimate king. He issued a proclamation vowing that Anglicans and Presbyterians should suffer no more hurt from him, a Roman Catholic, than they had received from George I, a Lutheran.72 England did not believe him, and did not propose to begin anew the weary struggle of the younger faith against the old. Though hardly anyone in England rose against Charles, only a handful of English recruits came to his aid. The English Jacobites played safe.
George II had hastened back from Hanover to protect his threatened throne, and had ordered three English armies to converge at Derby. Charles was all for ignoring them and rushing on to London with his six thousand men, but his Scottish chieftains refused to follow him. They pointed out that each of the government armies was ten thousand strong, that these, in his rear, would harass and soon overwhelm him, and that the Jacobite rising which he had promised them was nowhere to be seen; they insisted on returning to Scotland, where they might raise more clans, and might receive reinforcements from France. Charles yielded, and led the sad retreat from Derby to Glasgow. At nearby Falkirk, with nine thousand men, he defeated an English force of ten thousand under Hawley (January 17, 1746). But it was a Pyrrhic victory. His army was weakened with losses and desertions; its supplies were running out; it was paid in oatmeal; its leaders were quarreling like clans. Again they advised retreat. The Prince pleaded for a stand; he saw nothing but disintegration and ruin in further retreat; why should they run away from an enemy no stronger than that which they had defeated? Again he yielded; but now he knew that he was beaten. The Scottish army turned back toward the Highlands. The pessimism of its leaders swept through the ranks; desertions ran into thousands; what remained was not so much an army as an undisciplined and disheartened crowd.
Meanwhile the main English force, under the Duke of Cumberland, entered Scotland, took control of the eastern coast, and received at Leith a reinforcement of five hundred Hessians brought by George II from Austria. With 8,800 men Cumberland marched north into Inverness county. There on Culloden Moor, April 16, 1746, Charles faced him with seven thousand men poorly armed, poorly fed, poorly led. They fought with Scottish courage, but they were shattered by Cumberland’s superior artillery firing grapeshot—“bags of balls” (said a Scottish poet) that “hewed them down, aye, score by score, as grass does fall before the mower.”73 Charles rode about wildly, seeking to rally his retreating men, but they took to precipitate and individual flight. His aides forced him to withdraw from the battlefield by seizing the bridle of his horse. His spirit broken, he fled with a few friends, and wandered in hiding from one refuge to another, repeating, with glory departed, the tale of Charles II. At last (September 20) he found a vessel that took him back to France.
Cumberland pursued his routed foes with orders of “No quarter”: every rebel Scot was to be killed on sight. Houses were searched; Scots found with arms were summarily shot; clans loyal to George II were let loose upon clans that had joined the revolt; hundreds of homes were burned down.74 “Mild measures will not do” said the Duke; “all the good we have done is but a little bloodletting, which has only weakened the madness but not cured it.”75 And in truth the rebel clans tried again and again to renew the rebellion. For ten years more the Jacobites of Scotland sang and dreamed of past defeats and coming victories, until their faith was broken by the degeneration of their once bonnie Prince in Rome.
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) between England and France required the expulsion of Charles from French soil. He refused to obey; he was forcibly evicted by French troops; he returned in disguise to Paris, even, in 1750, to London, seeking in vain to revive the Jacobite cause, promising in vain to abjure the Catholic faith.76 Finally admitting defeat, he fell into such drunkenness and debauchery that all the major Catholic powers repudiated him. He died in Rome in 1788, aged sixty-eight. Voltaire, thirty years before, had already written a just epitaph upon the second Jacobite revolt:
Thus [with the return of Charles to France in 1746] ended an adventure which in the times of knight-errantry might have proved fortunate, but could not be expected to succeed in an age when military discipline, artillery, and, above all, money, in the end determine everything.77