A new book published today ahead of the 300th anniversary of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s birth will reassess his life and legacy as a romantic failure, according to its author.
Michael Nevin challenges the image of Bonnie Prince Charlie in some print and screen portrayals as an inept leader and alcoholic at the time of the Battle of Culloden.
Mr Nevin said the prince was a “determined character” who did not descend into alcoholism until later in life when suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The book, ‘Reminiscences of a Jacobite’, will be published by Birlinn exactly 274 years after the prince, following his escape to France after Culloden, wrote to King Louis XV of France asking for 20,000 troops to complete what he saw as the unfinished business of the ’45 Rising.
Mr Nevin, chairman of the 1745 Association, said: “I’m trying to balance what I regard as misconceptions about a number of things, including the prince’s character, motivation and chance of success. In Outlander, for example, he is portrayed as a rather weak and feckless adventurer who never had a chance of success.
“It was not like that at all. His chances of success were quite high and he could well have completed the campaign. At the time of the Rising he was quite a determined character with a clear strategy to win back the throne which convinced a wide variety of quite experienced, intelligent men to back him.”
He said history could have been different had troops and supplies worth around £6 million sent from France not been intercepted by the Royal Navy.
After reaching Derby, the Jacobites turned back rather than advancing to London, but progressively ran out of money and was essentially bankrupt by Culloden.
“The reason they lost at Culloden was that they had no money for food, weapons or ammunition”, said Mr Nevin. “If the support had got through it would have been a very different story. Being well armed and well fed they could have won the battle.”
The prince fled to France after a heavy defeat by the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden. But a few months later wrote to King Louis seeking support to continue his campaign.
A translation of the memorandum reads: “I have never lacked Scottish subjects ready to fight. What I did simultaneously lack was money, supplies and a handful of regular troops; with but one of these three, I would today still be master of Scotland and probably the whole of England.”
The prince said with just half the support promised from France, he would have fought Cumberland on equal terms “and would surely have beaten him”.
He goes on: “These setbacks can still be redressed. If Your Majesty wishes to confer a corps of twenty thousand men upon me”.
Mr Nevin said the prince saw himself like his great uncle Charles II who lost the Battle of Worcester in 1651 but later ruled for a further 25 years: “He didn’t see Culloden as being the end, although that’s how we see it today. He felt he had come close to winning the war and if he had a few more troops could have gone back and finished the job.”