This week in 1745: the Bonnie Prince sets sail for Scotland…

Held in the National Maritime Museum's collection, this painting depicts the sea battle on July 9 involving the prince's ships. NO F29 ship
Held in the National Maritime Museum's collection, this painting depicts the sea battle on July 9 involving the prince's ships. NO F29 ship

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This August, on the 19th to be precise, it will be 275 years since Prince Charles Edward Stuart – ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ – sparked the last, and most successful, of the Jacobite risings when he lifted his fluttering standard into the Loch Shiel breeze at Glenfinnan.

Today the 400,000 visitors that stream into this tiny hamlet every year might gaze down Loch Shiel, squeezed in between truly majestic hills, whilst thinking how beautiful it is, and pause to take a picture of the conveniently-situated stone tower with the kilted man on top, almost as an after-thought, before they turn the other way and head up the glen.

The main prize for many Glenfinnan visitors these days is ‘the Harry Potter bridge’, preferably with the ‘Hogwarts Express’ puffing over the top of it.

‘Concrete Bob’ MacAlpine, whose brainchild the viaduct was, would be spinning in his grave. In his day it was the Eighth Wonder of the World, a triumph of engineering.

Lochaber Pipe Band opening the 2017 Glenfinnan Gathering with the 1745 monument in the background. Photograph: Abrightside Photography. F33 Glenfinnan Games 07JP.
Lochaber Pipe Band opening the 2017 Glenfinnan Gathering with the 1745 monument in the background. Photograph: Abrightside Photography.

But for many Scots, the dark waters of Loch Shiel and the 18-metre (60 feet in old money) monument are a bitter-sweet place of pilgrimage, the site of a hopeful spark which started a rising that could have changed the course of British history.

But it ended nine months later, trampled into the blood and mud on a muir in the carnage that was Culloden.

Whilst debates still swirl around the actual, physical spot at which Prince Charles Edward raised the standard – reputedly sewn in red and white silk by women at nearby Dalilea – the monument and the loch along which the Prince was rowed remain the focus for modern-day Jacobites.

To mark the 275th anniversary of the start of the last Jacobite rising, this week we launch our new series involving a weekly timeline of the events leading up to that momentous day at Glenfinnan on August 19, and afterwards, along with some of the interesting facts and artefacts associated with the rising.

It was in 1744, that King Louis XV of France had formally declared war on Britain. Two merchants of Irish extraction operating in France – Walsh and Rutledge – had recently bought two ships from the French government in order to expand their operations and to act as privateers to cruise against the English in the war.

Walsh, who had made his money in the slave trade, came from Irish-Jacobite stock. His grandfather had been a captain in the French navy and it was on board his ship that the Prince’s grandfather, James VII and II had fled from Kinsale, Ireland, to France in July, 1690, after the Battle of the Boyne, an unsuccessful bid to regain the British throne.

Walsh and Ruttledge’s ships comprised an old 64-gun man-o’-war, the Elisabeth, and the 16-gun, light frigate Du Teillay, which had been built at Nantes and just been launched in 1744.

The intricate model of Du Teillay at NTS Glenfinnan Monument visitor centre. NO F29 ship 02
The intricate model of Du Teillay at NTS Glenfinnan Monument visitor centre.

The Prince was introduced to Walsh and Ruttledge and not only did they pledge to lend him their ships, but also placed £3,800 in his hands.

And so the romantic endeavour begins…

June 20 – The Prince makes his way to Nantes in disguise, and then sails to St Nazaire on a fishing boat, to board the Du Teillay.

June 21 – the Du Teillay leaves St Nazaire, and sails to Belle-Isle.

July 4 – the Elisabeth joins the Du Teillay. On board the Elisabeth are 100 marines, 2,000 muskets, 20 cannon, 11,000 ‘arm’ and 500 or 600 French broadswords.

July 5 – the expedition sets sail and gets off to a promising start, with a fair wind which continues for the next few days

July 8 – dead calm ensues.

July 9 – at around 4pm as the ships approach the English coast off the Lizard, the most south-westerly point on the British mainland, a sail is spotted windward, which proves to be the Lion, a British man-o’-war of 60 guns.

With the Lion bearing down on the Du Teillay, the Elisabeth has the first broadside, and the ensuing battle lasts nearly five hours before the two parted – almost by mutual agreement. Night is coming on and by this point they are both almost wrecks. On board the much smaller Du Teillay, there is little the Prince can do but stand back out of range and watch.

The Elisabeth is so badly damaged that she can not even pull up alongside the Du Teillay to transfer 300 casualties and limps back to France, to the port of Brest. This leaves the expedition at an early disadvantage – the Elisabeth is carrying the bulk of the arms and ammunition. The Du Teillay continued on her voyage towards the western Highlands.

July 11 – a sail was spied, and gave chase to the Du Teillay. A small, swift vessel, the Du Teillay outran her pursuer.

July 15 and 16 – rough seas and tempestuous weather.

 

Who was Bonnie Prince Charlie?
The 1745 portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the artist Allan Ramsay. Photograph courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. NO-F08-Charles Edward Stuart
The 1745 portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by the artist Allan Ramsay. Photograph courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Full name: Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart

Place of birth: Rome

Father: James Francis Edward, nicknamed The Old Pretender

Grandfather: James VII and II, who had been ousted in the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. James was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Wales.

Supporters: called Jacobites (from Jacobus, the Latin for James).

Emblem: White rose – The Old Pretender’s birthday, June 10, was known as White Rose Day by Jacobites.