Showing posts with label culloden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culloden. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A right proper Charlie, he was

A  diamond brooch once owned by Bonnie Prince Charlie is to be auctioned off.  The brooch is expected to fetch up to £300,000 in a sale in Geneva. The brooch features a 7.33-carat yellow diamond within a border of near-colourless “cushion-shaped” diamonds. Following the Battle of Culloden  he is thought to have offered the gem to the Corsini family in gratitude for their support.

The 1745 Rebellion has become part of the romantic heritage in Scottish history. But at the time there was little romance to it and the reality is far from the idealistic view portrayed through the mists of time and Hollywood films. It has been described as Highland versus Lowland, feudal Scotland against bourgeois Scotland, catholic against protestant, autocrats against democrats, as well as Scotland versus England. The reality was that it was a civil war, with many families divided. In the Stuart's Jacobite army, fro example, was Roderick Og Chisholm, youngest son of the chief of Clan Chisholm. On the opposing side were two of his brothers, James and John, who wore the uniform of St Clair's Regiment. It was Scot fighting Scot, Highlander against Highlander. In reality, Camerons, MacDonalds and Chattans fought Campbells, Munros and the many other clansmen that joined the ranks of the Argyll Militia. Some clan chiefs hedged their bets and sent sons off to fight on opposing sides. Nor was the '45 rising merely just a parochial civil war, it was also a part of the greater international politics of the period. War between Britain and France had been simmering below the surface since 1740. In order to divide the British further, the French encouraged the Jacobite plotting. The French defeat of the British at Fontenoy in May 1745 offered the perfect opportunity for a rising. 

Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Young Pretender, C was born in Rome to a Polish mother where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI. He spent almost all his childhood in Rome and Bologna. He spoke and behaved Italian. Charles was an instigator of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising of 1745, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden. In a battle that lasted less than an hour, thousands were slaughtered (Cumberland suffered only 300 dead or wounded). The Battle of Culloden went down as one of the bloodiest in Scottish history. It was not, as often portrayed, a battle between the Scots and the English: in reality the Scots on the Government side outnumbered those fighting for the Jacobites. There was no Geneva Convention in those days to protect the vanquished and the result was a ruthless victors' justice. Charles fled to the Isle of Benbecula where, it is reported, he met Flora Macdonald who helped him escape to the Isle of Skye, disguised as a maid. He escaped to France and never returned to Scotland. The Skye Boat Song was written almost a century later by an Englishman, and was for a Scot who spent just a year of his life in Scotland.

The Jacobite cause was supported by some Highland clans, both Catholic and Protestant. However, the majority of the Highland clans were Presbyterian, not Catholic like the Prince, and did not support his cause. 43-6% of the Jacobite Army came from the Highlands, 17-24% from Moray, Aberdeen and Banff, 17-20% from Perthshire, 7% from Dundee and Angus and 2.5% from Edinburgh and Hanoverian deserters with the balance being made up by the Irish Piquets, south and west Lowland recruits, the Manchester Regiment and the French Royal Scots. In the North, Mackays and Sutherlands supported the Government as some clans were openly Hanoverian, for example the Campbells of the Argyll Militia stood with the Regular Army against the Jacobites. Other clans were neutral. Had he gained the support of all the Highlanders, it is widely recognised that he would have access to nearly 50,000 fighting men, not 5000. These men who did fight for him were indeed brave and loyal highlanders, sadly being used by the prince for his own ends.

 Bonnie Prince Charlie was no hero. For most Highlanders he was the harbinger of doom. Charles' thanks for their unwavering loyalty and sacrifice was to blame his treacherous "mountaineers" for the failure of the rebellion until his dying day. He was a spoilt aristocrat who had no trouble with leading trusting men to their graves for his own personal ambitions. Nor did Jacobitism really stand for a noble cause for it sought to put the Stuarts back on the throne and they stood for the "divine right of kings" meaning that the king was chosen by god and should have absolute authority above all.

The pretender, in more ways than one, died in Rome in 1788, an obese, bloated and bitter alcoholic