Highland Scots remember him as the rose among the heather.
Charles Edward Stuart was descended from the first king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, who defeated England at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Robert was descended from Robert de Bruce I, a follower of William the Conqueror, the Norman leader who invaded England in 1066. The surname Bruce came from Bruis, a castle near Cherbourg, and is typical of many French names that indicated the home of the person.
Edward III of England in 1328 recognized Scotland’s independence and Robert’s right to its throne, Robert’s daughter Marjorie married Walter the Steward, the sixth steward, or high seneschal, of Scotland, and Walter’s son Robert II became king in 1371, placing the Stewart family on the Scottish throne. From this line came Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI, who became James I of Great Britain in 1603. James II, the grandson of James I, was crowned king of Great Britain in 1685 after his brother Charles II died, but he escaped to France in 1688 after his Catholic leanings led English nobles to offer the throne to William of Orange, who married James II’s daughter Mary and was crowned William III. Princess Anne, the daughter of James II, was crowned after William III died and was succeeded by George I of the House of Hanover, a Stuart through his grandmother. James Edward Stuart, called James III by his supporters and The Pretender by his enemies, was the son of James II and half-brother to Anne. His followers, called Jacobites, supported the Stuart return to the throne, and in 1715 James landed in the Scottish Highlands in a short-lived attempt to retake the crown. James returned to France, never to see Scotland again.
The sole purpose of his life, though, was the retaking of the British crown, and a proper noble wife was found, who produced two sons. James’s health and spirit declined, and the hopes of the Jacobites were pinned on son Charles.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, called the Young Pretender by his enemies, landed in Scotland in the summer of 1745, and many of the Highland clans answered his call. At first he seemed unstoppable, occupying Edinburgh that fall and heading south to England in November, but William Duke of Cumberland, the third son of George II and younger brother to George III, defeated Charles at Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746, and the Jacobite cause was lost.
For months Charlie wandered the Highlands, evading the British, his travels becoming legend, and he was aided once by Flora MacDonald, who dressed him as her maid as he was rowed to safety. He eventually returned to France, where he languished and slipped into drinking and debauchery.
The years after The Forty-Five were hard on the Highlanders, who were stripped of their culture and clan system, and the melancholy Scottish reel “The Burning of the Piper’s Hut” recalls the Disarming Act Of 1746 that forbade Highlanders to carry arms, wear their clan tartans and play the bagpipes, the last giving rise to the fiddle in Scottish music. This also led many pipers to join the British army, the only place they could play. Cumberland punished the clans with a severity that earned him the sobriquets The Butcher and Stinking Billy under the Act, which was in effect until 1783. Those trying times are brought vividly to life in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” a historical novel about a Lowland Scot who is thought to be party to the murder of a supporter of King George and must fly through the heather with Highlander Alan Breck. The book follow the travels of the two as they hide atop rocks in the hot sun while surrounded by Redcoats, sneak through the mist, and are helped by outlaw clan chiefs, one of whom squares off with Breck in a bagpipe contest.
But Bonnie Prince Charlie lives on in Scottish memory. Nearly every Scottish fiddle and song collection includes a tune named for him: “The Lad With the Plaidie,” The Rose Among the Heather,” “Over the Water to Charlie,” “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” and “Wha Wadnae Fecht For Charlie?” (Who Wouldn’t Fight For Charlie?). He is remembered with the reverence we have for Washington and Lincoln. He is the lad with the plaidie, the hero who stood for Scotland and the House of Stuart.
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