Bonnie Prince Charlie
1. The Young Pretender
Some three years after Walpole's fall came the Jacobite rebellion which he had always expected to result from war. The Old Pretender was now living quietly at Rome, but his son Charles Edward was far better fitted to lead a romantic adventure. For he was young, gallant, and fascinating; ready to share in every hardship and danger; and light-hearted enough often to cheer the most melancholy comrade in the most unhappy plight. And in 1744 he came to Dunkirk to help in an invasion of England, for which France was to furnish money, ships, and men. But in the following February a violent storm shattered many of the French ships, just when the English admiral was going to attack them, and so brought the scheme to an untimely end.
To an end, that is, as far as France was concerned. But, though France would do no more, Charles still resolved at all costs to try his luck himself. So he went on raising money by pawning and borrowing, but telling his father nothing for fear of being forbidden to go; and at last, in June, 1745, he sailed for Scotland. An English frigate followed him suspiciously, but was fought and worsted by the French vessel that escorted him. Two others caused him brief alarm, but, helped by a mist, he escaped from them also. And—as he neared the Scottish coast—an eagle flew over his ship, and the sight of the "king of birds" was hailed with rapture as an omen of success.
Finally, after visiting the Hebrides, Charles landed at Moidart, on the west coast of Scotland. But his arrival without French troops, and with only seven friends—the "Seven Men of Moidart"—filled his Scottish supporters with dismay. For a time it was kept secret—and the prince disguised himself as a clergyman, in "a plain black coat, plain shirt, fair round wig, and plain hat." On August 19th, however, his standard was openly raised, and though some clans—especially the powerful Campbells, whose chief was the Duke of Argyll—were hostile, and others hesitated, many Highlanders began to gather round him. That same day Sir John Cope, commanding King George's troops in Scotland, marched out of Edinburgh to meet him. But, instead of fighting at once, Cope turned aside to Inverness to summon the Campbells and other loyal clans, and Charles meanwhile pushed on to Perth.
At Perth he found Lord George Murray, who had fought for the Old Pretender in the '15, and now became the chief soldier in the Jacobite army. But, though able and honest, Lord George was jealous of his colleagues; they were jealous of him; and Charles soon began, unjustly, to suspect him of disloyalty. So there were hot quarrels among the Jacobite leaders, which were not at all likely to help them to success.
On September 17th, however, Charles entered Edinburgh, and that night a ball in the ancient palace of Holyrood celebrated the return of the Stuart to the Scottish capital. If, in the upper classes, ladies welcomed him more eagerly than men, if many even of the lower classes were "stubbornly silent," at least there was no real resistance. Some dragoons had indeed been sent out with the town guard to stop his advance, but when they met his troops, they fled home so fast that the encounter was called not the "Battle" but the "Canter" of Coldbrigg! And, when Cope came back from Aberdeen, he was utterly defeated at Preston Pans, his cavalry and gunners flying in terror from the wild charge of the fierce Highlanders.
Charles, however, knew that the English Crown could be won only on English soil. For England, therefore, he started on October 1st, though, as in 1715, some of the Scots deserted in consequence, and many more complained. But meanwhile nearly 10,000 of King George's troops had gathered at Newcastle; thirteen regiments more were in the Midlands; and a third army was being formed at Finchley. In London, if George himself was unpopular, his cause at least had warm supporters among all sorts and conditions of men. The weavers mustered a thousand strong; the lawyers, under the Lord Chief Justice, formed a bodyguard for the Royal Family; the theatre managers undertook to raise a corps from among their own servants.
Charles, however, was steadily moving south—first to Carlisle, then to Manchester, then, on December 4th, to Derby. And Derby was near enough to London to cause a panic in the city on the "Black Friday" when the news was known. Yet the danger was probably exaggerated. Few Englishmen had joined Charles's army; the Welsh squires, supposed to be enthusiastic Jacobites, did nothing; Ireland remained undisturbed; in Scotland itself Glasgow and other towns declared for King George, and even attacked his enemies. France had, indeed, at last sent troops, but some of them were captured by the English fleet, and only a few reached Scotland safely. The Jacobites in London were unarmed, and Charles's own army was far smaller than the forces which now lay between him and Scotland under George's second son, the Duke of Cumberland. Indeed, had the Londoners but known it, Charles—rightly or wrongly, but certainly against his will—had actually begun his march north again on the day when they were wildly clamouring at the Bank for their money, to prevent its falling into his hands.
2. Retreat and Defeat
The Jacobite retreat, however, was made without disaster, though the disappointed Highlanders provoked attacks by plundering, and a weak garrison foolishly left at Carlisle was quickly captured. When crossing the Esk the men were in such high spirits that they dried their clothes by dancing reels in the wintry air. When they reached Glasgow so many fresh troops came in that at last their numbers were larger than ever. They blockaded Stirling, and—when George's soldiers attacked them at Falkirk on January 17, 1746,—though part of each army fled in haste, as at Sheriffmuir thirty years before, yet most of Charles's men stood firm; they remained masters of the field; and they captured many of the enemy's guns.
But on January 30th Cumberland—brutal but brave, able, and dogged—took up the command of the English troops at Edinburgh. Next day he started for Stirling; and on February 1st Charles—once more compelled by his followers—withdrew northwards. Cumberland followed but slowly, and halted for six weeks at Aberdeen, drilling his men in a new method of meeting a Highland charge, and preparing for the final struggle. Then, on April 8th, he set out again, attended by a fleet which sailed along the coast.
That day week was his birthday, and the Jacobites, camped on Culloden Moor, planned a night attack on his army, hoping to find the men all drinking deep in his honour. But the scheme failed. The Scottish rearguard moved slowly; the vanguard had to hang back; the day dawned long before the English camp could be reached. So, hungry and weary, disappointed and disgusted with one another, the Scots marched back again in the early morning, and scattered in search of food and rest. Thus when Cumberland advanced he caught them at a disadvantage. Some had wandered far away; others were faint with hunger; most were wearied by their night march.
In the battle, too, a blinding storm of snow and rain drove straight into their faces. Still, they fought with all their wonted fire and fury. The Macdonalds, indeed, sulking because they were refused the post of honour, did nothing. But the other Highlanders rushed upon the enemy and, in spite of Cumberland's new drill, pierced the first English line. Here, however, their success ended. The second line stayed their advance; the English in their turn charged; the Highlanders were broken; the French and the Lowlanders behind them fled; and the Jacobite army was scattered far and wide.
The clans, indeed, still dreamt of final triumph, but Charles himself despaired, and, bidding every one seek his own safety, fled for his life. Cumberland proceeded to crush the rebellion and punish the rebels with a grim brutality which earned him his nickname—"The Butcher." And Charles, for five months and more, was a hunted fugitive, with a price upon his head, in the isles and coasts of western Scotland.
3. Hiding and Exile
Now he sheltered in a cowshed, now in a cave, now in some faithful follower's home. Always he had to be ready at a moment's notice to quit his quarters and flee before the soldiers. For George's men were hunting for him high and low, and often were so near that he dared not even light a fire for fear of attracting their notice, but had to warm himself, as best he might, with his pipe.
His scanty baggage needed no baggage-train. "Four shirts, a cold hen, a lump of sugar, a bottle of whisky and one of brandy"—this is the list on one occasion, and he carried the whole himself, with "a bottle hanging at each side "slung on his belt, like the famous John Gilpin. As for food and drink, he took whatever came to hand—"a cold hen" or "a slice of cheese covered with oatmeal," washed down with brandy drunk straight from the bottle or from a shell, or (for one short period of luxury) with punch, mixed in an earthen pitcher, till, alas! the pitcher was broken.
And, for his clothing, he played the part now of one humble character, now of another. Once he pretended to be "Lewie Caw," a rough country lad. Once he was "Betty Burke, from Ireland"—a peasant woman in attendance on Flora Macdonald, the young Highland heroine who risked life and liberty and all she held dear to save him from capture. But this second disguise had soon to be dropped, for he looked but "a very odd muckle ill-shaken-up wife," and walked with great strides such as no real "Betty Burke" would ever have taken.
Yet, through it all, he kept up his own spirits and cheered despairing comrades. And, great as was the danger of sheltering him, cruelly as the English soldiers punished all who were even suspected of doing so, vast as would have been the reward of treachery, not a man or a woman or a child, however poor or miserable, could be induced to betray him. At last, on September 20th, he escaped on board a French vessel, and nine days later landed safely in Brittany.
In October he was received in state by the French king as Regent of Scotland in his father's name. "His dress had in it somewhat of uncommon elegance. His coat was rose-coloured velvet, embroidered in silver and lined with silver tissue: his waistcoat was a rich gold brocade, with a spangled fringe set on in scallops. The cockade in his hat and the buckles on his shoes were diamonds; the Georgewhich he wore at his bosom, and the order of St. Andrew which he wore also, tied by a piece of green ribbon to one of the buttons of his waistcoat, were prodigiously illustrated with large brilliants; in short, he glittered all over like the star which they tell you appeared at his nativity."
It was a wonderful contrast to Lewie Caw and Betty Burke; yet, for all this grandeur, "the star of Charles's Nativity" had really set for ever. He was safe and sound, but he lived on only to lose his good name through the fatal habit of dram-drinking, learned in his adventures, and die at last a drunken and degraded object of pity and contempt. And meanwhile in Scotland the rebellion was wiped out in the blood of his followers, and the Government made sure that it should never be repeated. The old family power which Highland chiefs used to hand down from father to son was abolished; the people of the Highlands were forbidden to carry arms; it was made a crime even to wear the national kilt. So, though "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is even now the chosen hero of Scottish songs, the old wild, picturesque, romantic, uncomfortable Scotland of the Stuart kings vanished for ever.