270 years ago on the 23rd July 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart set foot on Scottish soil for the first time.
From his birth in Rome, Italy on 31st December 1720 Charles had the potential to be a threat to the Hanoverian throne. Indeed, on the night of his birth it is said Hanover was hit by a fierce storm and Gaelic poets proclaimed his birth as the saviour of his people. The early part of Charles’ life was spent with his brother Henry and during his youth he learnt to read fluently, could speak English, French and Italian, was a capable rider and could fire a gun with a good aim.
In 1737 Charles, under the title of Count Albany made a tour of the Italian cities with great reception and the attention this drew was not welcomed by the Hanoverian government. However, it was not until the following year, 1738, that the earliest notion of Charles trying his fortunes in Scotland appeared but he was refused permission and the next seven years were spent waiting and brooding on the subject.
On 9th January 1744 Prince Charles left Rome to make his way to Paris where he had been invited by Louis XV as they prepared to invade England. Charles, just 24 years old, rode in disguise first as a Neopolitan courtier and then as an officer in the Spanish army to reach Genoa. From here he sailed to Antibes and reached Paris on 8th February 1744 where he spent the next couple of months with the French invasion force preparing for the invasion of England. Unfortunately, on 24th February one of the worst storms in a century damaged the French transports, sinking twelve ships and putting five out of action. The French invasion was cancelled.
Disappointed Charles returned to Paris. Finally, in May of 1745 the French defeated the British at Fontenoy and Prince Charles, apparently fed up of talk and speculation, decided to act. In June he wrote to his father in Rome telling him he had been invited over to Scotland with arms and money to restore the crown to the Stuart line.
Charles borrowed money in Paris and bought a store of arms and ammunition and managed to secure passage on board the Du Teillay captained by a wealthy Irish merchant, Anthony Walsh. He also managed to enlist the aid of a French frigate, the Elizabeth to carry his military stores and convoy the Du Teillay across to Scotland.
At last on 22nd June 1745 the Du Teillay set off from the French coast and set off to Belle Isle to meet up with the Elizabeth. On 5th July both ships set forth for Scotland, but it was not to be an easy crossing. Just four days into the voyage an English frigate, the Lion, met them and engaged the Elizabeth. Unable to outrun the English ship the Elizabeth was forced to fight. On board the Du Teillay the Prince was apparently keen to join the action and help but Walsh ordered that the two frigates must fight it out alone. Over five hours later both the Elizabeth and the Lion were so badly damaged they were forced to retreat and return to their respective ports. Prince Charles had lost his convoy and the vast majority of his supplies and he was urged to go with the Elizabeth back to France. But, Charles refused and the Du Teillay sailed on towards Scotland.
Finally, on the 23rd July 1745 the Prince landed on the small island of Eriskay which lies between Barra and South Uist. Here he disembarked and laid his first foot on Scottish soil. One of the first men he met Alexander Macleod of Boisdale tried to encourage the Prince to return home. Prince Charles reply has gone down in history; ‘I am come home.’
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the background of Prince Charles and as always please like, share, tweet, follow and discover more about the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
All the best. K & D