Charles III

Copy of a portrait by Louis Tocqué
Copy of a portrait by Louis Tocqué
Charles Edward Louis John Philip Casimir Sylvester Maria Stuart was born in Rome December 31, 1720 at the Palazzo Muti (now Palazzo Balestra). He was the elder son of King James III and VIII and of his wife, Princess Clementina Sobieska. From his birth Charles bore the titles of "Prince of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles, and Great Steward of Scotland". At his birth he was also named "Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester".

Charles' childhood was spent mostly in Rome and Bologna. His first exposure to the military arts was at the siege of Gaeta in 1734.

In December 1743 King James named Charles Prince Regent in order that Charles would have full authority to bring about a restoration of the throne. On May 16, 1745 Charles issued a manifesto requiring that his father's subjects "forthwith repair to His Majesty's royal standard". On July 25 (O.S.), August 3 (N.S.) he landed in Scotland. Although he did not receive universal support in the Highlands, he achieved several military successes culminating in a major victory at Prestonpans on September 21. On October 10 he issued a declaration defending his actions.

Charles' armies entered England on November 8. They travelled as far south as Derby, but on December 6 they turned back north, eventually retreating to Scotland. Charles enjoyed a major victory at Falkirk on January 1, 1746, but on April 16, his armies were defeated at Culloden. After wandering in the Highlands for six months, Charles left Scotland for France on September 20.

The next few years were spent mostly in France. In late 1747 and early 1748 Charles engaged in a relationship with his first-cousin Marie-Louise de La Tour d'Auvergne who was married to the duc de Montbazon; the relationship resulted in the birth of a son, Prince Charles de Rohan, who died some five months later. Charles next began a three-year relationship with another married woman, Princess Marie-Louise Jablonowska, wife of the prince de Talmont, a woman almost twenty years older than Charles.

On June 16, 1748, Charles protested against the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which had confirmed the British claims of the House of Hanover. On account of this treaty, Charles was required to leave France (although he continued to visit there in disguise for the next few years). He first went to Avignon, then to Venice, and finally to Luneville (in the Duchy of Lorraine); this remained his base until 1752. He made a number of incognito visits to France, Germany, and the Low Countries, and in September 1750 a week-long visit to London. It is commonly believed that on this occasion he apostasized from the Catholic Church and conformed to the Established Church of England.

In May 1752 Charles transferred his residence to Ghent and Liège in the Low Countries. There he renewed a relationship with Clementina Walkinshaw with whom he had had a relationship in Scotland. The couple lived together for the following eight years; in October 1753 a daughter Charlotte was born to them. The relationship between Charles and Clementina was stormy. Charles had turned to drink. Disappointed by the lack of support from the pope and France for any further military action in England and Scotland, he had become rabidly anti-Catholic. He dismissed his Catholic servants and argued with Clementina about the baptism of their daughter. After a stay of some months in Paris, Charles, Clementina, and Charlotte moved to Basle in Switzerland in September 1754, only to return to Liège in June 1756. In May 1758 they moved to Bouillon, but in July 1760 Clementina left Charles taking their daughter with her.

At the death of his father King James III and VIII, January 1, 1766, Charles succeeded to all of his British rights. He was henceforward recognised by the Jacobites as "King Charles III". He arrived in Rome, January 23, 1766, and took up residence at the Palazzo Muti. None of the courts which had recognised his father as king was willing to accord the same recognition to Charles. His brother the Cardinal Duke of York sent Pope Clement XIII a memorial in an unsuccessful attempt to receive papal recognition. Henceforward Charles used the title "Baron Renfrew" in public.

On March 22, 1772, at Paris, Charles was married by proxy to Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, daughter of Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern and of his wife, Princess Elizabeth of Hornes. The following May 1 (O.S. April 17) Charles and Louise renewed their vows in person in the chapel of the Palazzo Marefoschi in Macerata. The couple had no children.

In spite of a thirty year age difference between the couple, Charles and Louise were at first content in their married life at Rome. They were disappointed, however, when the pope continued not to recognise Charles as king; both had been encouraged to believe that this would change with marriage.

In July 1774 they moved to Florence where Charles began to use the title "Count of Albany". They lived for several years in the Palazzo Corsini sul Prato before finding a more permanent home in the Palazzo Guadagni (now Palazzo San Clemente). Louise had a series of young men who paid court to her; Charles took to drink and then became jealous. It became clear that Louise was unable to conceive a child and ensure the succession to the throne.

At some point in 1778 Louise's flirtations became adulterous, and Charles' jealousy turned into physical abuse. In December 1780 Louise took refuge in a nearby convent. Charles and Louise never saw each other again, and in 1784 Charles issued a decree permitting her to live separately from him.

In 1783 Charles signed an Act of Legitimation of his daughter Charlotte; this legitimation was registered in the Parlement of Paris. The following year Charlotte came to live with Charles in the Palazzo Guadagni; she was given the title "Duchess of Albany". At the end of 1785 Charles and Charlotte moved to Rome where they lived in the Palazzo Muti and summered in Albano. By this time Charles was himself virtually a total invalid. Although he had never been a pious man, he now was reconciled to the Catholic Church.

Charles died in the Palazzo Muti in Rome, January 30/31, 1788, when he was succeeded in all his British rights by his younger brother Henry. His remains were at first laid to rest in the cathedral of Frascati. At the death of his brother Henry, Charles' remains were transferred to the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, where a monument designed by Antonio Canova was raised to his memory.

Further reading:

Ewald, A.C. Life and Times of Prince Charles Stuart, Count of Albany, Commonly Called the Young Pretender: From the State Papers and Other Sources . London: Chapman & Hall, 1875. The first biography to be written making wide use of archival sources.

McLynn, Frank. Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts. London: Routledge, 1988. The finest of the modern biographies, with excellent bibliographic references. The work is somewhat marred, however, by the author's penchant for psychological analysis; at times, this pschological analysis says more about the author than it does about Charles or other characters.

Among the older standard works are:

Lang, Andrew. Prince Charles Edward Stuart: The Young Chevalier. London: Longman, 1900.

Norrie, W.D. Life and Adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. London: Caxton, 1903.

There are a great number of popular biographies, the most widely-read of which are the following:

Erickson, Carolly Erickson. Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography. New York: William Morrow, 1989.

Daiches, David. Charles Edward Stuart: The Life and Times of Bonnie Prince Charlie London: Thames and Hudson, 1973).

McLaren, Moray. Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972.

Image (Copy of a portrait by Louis Tocqué): Robin Nicholson, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Royal House of Stuart, 1688-1788: Works of Art from The Drambuie Collection (The Drambuie Liquer Company, 2002), 52.

This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran ( and was last updated July 26, 2008.
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