Opinion: Not just a pretty face


David Mesquita


Dakota Preslar, Reporter

I want to tell you about Bonnie Prince Charlie.


Charles Edward Stuart was the grandson of the last Stuart king of England, Scotland and Ireland – King James II and VII. This king fumbled the throne because of his devotion to Catholicism and the infallibility of kings in a time of religious and political upheaval. I mention his grandfather because his own father did little to reclaim the throne of his family.

Bonnie Prince Charlie,so named by his Scottish followers for his beauty, did not succeed in retaking the throne from the usurping Hanoverian dynasty, but not from lack of trying.

The Stuart exile government was based out of Rome thanks to the generosity of popes starting with Clement XI. Numerous Jacobite plots to put the Stuarts back on the throne – most of them depending on England’s eternal rival, France – flew in and out of the Palazzo Muti. Charles was brought up to continue the family’s fight for their rightful place on Britain’s throne.

Charles had a young brother named Henry. His whole life, Henry loved to pray. Set that aside for now, but keep it in the back of your mind.

Charles set out for Scotland in July 1745 assured by credible, and not so credible, claims of foreign and local support for his claim. Intercepted by English ships, only Charles and seven followers made landfall in Scotland. Most of their arsenal had fled back to France.

The clan leaders of Scotland were not impressed by Charlie’s lack of material support, but believers flocked to his banner regardless. The invasion had begun.

Charles wound up back in Rome over 20 years after the events of the 1745 rising. He won some, he lost some, and ultimately, it wasn’t enough to tip the scales of fate in his favor. He lost.

He turned into a different man. He was a drunk. He was abusive to his wife. He was trapped in the past and a fate he could never fulfill. If Charles made the pope regret his predecessors’ gift of a place to stay, his brother Henry made that regret go down easier.

Henry had forsaken the family business for the business of the Lord. He eventually became a cardinal, because of his own merit as much as his last name. The Stuart claim died with the cardinal.

I’m sorry for the history lesson. There are still people out there who see him as the original “Charles III,” and recognize a distantly related duke in Bavaria as the rightful king, though. I doubt any of you are among their ranks, but maybe one or two readers will look into Charlie’s story.

There are a few lessons here. One: You’re either a Charles or a Henry. Take that to mean what you like. Two: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Three: Bonnie Prince Charlie is indirectly responsible for the creation of the United States of America!

I’m throwing you a curveball here. After Bonnie Prince Charlie narrowly escaped the English’s wrath in 1746 and slipped out of Scotland disguised as a woman, the English banished numerous Jacobites to their colonies and took a hammer to the traditional Scottish clan system. Reports vary as to the severity of the treatment of Charlie’s followers, but the 1745 rising resulted in another Irish/Scottish diaspora at the hands of the British.

The French and Indian War that started nine years later is more directly responsible for the American Revolution, but I must theorize that Bonnie Prince Charlie added some particularly spicy (Scottish) oil to the fire.

I’m just saying – there was only a battle of the Georges because Charles did not sit on the throne! Is it a good thing Charles lost because there was more anti-British sentiment in the colonies? Or is it bad because he would have been easier to fight than mad King George III? Perhaps it is only neutral because of the grays the tapestry of history is painted with.

Why did I want to tell you about Bonnie Prince Charlie?

I forget he’s a prince. A lot of people in his time did, because he did not live up to the steep idea of one. I forget because he is essentially a relatable figure. He tried, and it didn’t work out. We all know we shouldn’t hurt our spouses or abuse drink. But in particular, he shows us what we can stoop to if we fall while reaching for our dreams. Our ambitions are more humble than a prince’s, but the weight of the world will crush us all the same.

Be a Henry, not a Charles. Live your life. Go with God, if that’s your thing.