Bonnie Prince Charlie: Truth or Lies?
Saint Andrew Press
IF ever there was a figure in Scottish history to divide opinion, it is Charles Edward Stewart, the Young Chevailer.
Great romantic figure to some, one of the greatest disasters to befall Scotland to others, the dashing youth who dared to win a crown ended his days as a bloated, embittered drunk, separated from his family and nursing grudges againsy those who had shown him the greatest loyalty, the Scottish Highlanders.
Roderick Graham’s guide to the life of the Young Pretender makes no claims to be the definitive biography of the Prince. There are other contenders for that role. Hiowever, it does give a good overview of the man’s story by starting each chapter with a statement that is part of the Bonnie Prince Charlie legends.
Some of these, such as the belief he would have forced Catholicism on Britain, that Flora MacDonald was his mistress or he retreated at Derby because of cowardice, are myths. Others have more truth to them, but do not always bring the Prince credit.
The material is familiar, but Graham writes clearly and entertainingly and with a sharp eye for a grisly anecdote: after Culloden, all the British army deserters captured in the battle were hanged naked. Apart from one who had stolen an officer’s coat. The Government’s General "Hangman" Hawley thought it amusing to execute a man in the dress of a British major.
Unlike some, he also remembers there is more to the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the last Jacobite rebellion than those few months in Scotland and England. Graham gives a decent introduction to the events that led to Prince Charlie stepping onto that beach at Moidart, and a look at the long, scandalous decline that followed Culloden. Both of these can be seen as having their roots in the Prince’s troubled relationship with two men who should have been his greatest supporters, his father James, the Old Pretender, and King Louis of France.
At a relatively brief 180 pages, it is not the most comprehensive Bonnie Prince Charlie biography you can get your hands on, but it is a thoroughly entertaining one.