Today marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Edward Stuart. Known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, he kicked off the last Jacobite Rebellion in 1745, in the attempt to see the exiled Stuart Dynasty Restored to the throne of Great Britain.
The ’45 ended in disaster for the Scottish Clans that backed his bid. It started off well enough. The Jacobite Army, largely composed of Highlanders, took Edinburgh without firing a shot and surprised and and destroyed an English army in the fog at PrestonPans. They turned south and marched deep into England, but, with supply lines extended and the threat of a large English army to their front (which wasn’t actually there), Stuart’s military commander George Murray advised retreat back to Scotland. By the narrowest of margins, the war council agreed and the Jacobite army turned back.
The demoralized and undersupplied army was pursued by a tough, crack force raised by King George’s son, the Duke of Cumberland. After a crushing defeat at Culloden Moor near Inverness in April 1746, the Clans were harried and broken, their culture proscribed and their right to keep and bear arms abrogated.
The disastrous outcome of the ’45 obscures how close the rebellion actually came to success. How different would the world have been in if the Jacobite army had pushed on to London when it had the chance? A Stuart monarchy would almost certainly have had a different policy toward France, making it unlikely that there would have been a Seven Years War. No “French & Indian War” = no American Revolution = no French Revolution?
A historical hinge point turned one way and not another by a man born 300 years ago this day…