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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 tinsel


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 execution.

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


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 striking:

"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 France.

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


"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


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 untrained


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 officer.

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 country.

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


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


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


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 dramatic works.

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


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?"