Why Bonnie Prince Charlie loved and loathed his time in Glasgow

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Bonnie Prince Charlie was shunned by the people of Glasgow but his visit to the city led to him meeting one of the loves of his lives.

On the corner of Glassford Street and Trongate, a plaque was affixed to the wall by Glasgow’s Pen and Pencil Club in 1910. It reads: "On this site stood the Shawfield mansion where Prince Charles Stuart resided in 1745."

Bonnie Prince Charlie did not enjoy a warm reception when he arrived in Glasgow on Christmas Day of that year. Glasgow had broadly rejected the call to support the Jacobite rebellion. The city had fared well under the Hanoverians and Glasgow’s leading merchants saw no pressing need to replace George II with Prince Charles Stuart’s father, the exiled Old Pretender.

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Charles hadn’t endeared himself to Glasgow’s populace by demanding payment of £15,000 in September to support his army. Provost Buchanan informed Charles that support was not justified, given the antipathy of the citizens towards the Jacobite cause, claiming he was more afraid of the Glasgow people than the largely Highlander army.

Charles had arrived in Scotland at Glenfinnan in August 1745 before capturing Edinburgh with his supporting army, then winning the Battle of Prestonpans in September. The Jacobite army marched into England, reaching Derby on 4 December. Expected support from English Jacobites did not materialise, neither did additional forces from France.

The 'Highlander Portrait' of Prince Charles Edward StuartThe 'Highlander Portrait' of Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The 'Highlander Portrait' of Prince Charles Edward Stuart

A King’s Council had debated whether to return to Scotland at several points along the route. The reasons for the retreat have been long discussed and the symbolic turning point in Scottish history romanticised. A suggestion of more reinforcements arriving at Montrose may have provided enough excuse for the squabbling noblemen and Highland chiefs to reach a consensus on a slow march north.

And so the man who would be king found himself in Glasgow for the end of a tumultuous year. In a melancholy mood, he was to enjoy hospitality at Shawfield Mansion, then considered Glasgow’s finest home which belonged to tobacco merchant James Glassford.

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On arrival in Glasgow, Charles’s first job was to refit his men, who were in a “most pitable plight from the want of clothing,” according to Browne’s third volume of History of the Highlands (1852).

“He ordered the magistrates to furnish the army with twelve thousand shirts, six thousand cloth coats, six thousand pairs of stockings and six thousand waistcoats,” Browne said.

Despite clothing being made available, Charles was enraged that the citizens of Glasgow had subscribed to a fund for raising troops against him. The Prince sent for Buchanan and demanded the names of those who had funded the opposition force. Buchanan was threatened with hanging if he did not comply - but the Provost stood firm in the face of the Chevalier.

“The provost, undismayed, replied that he would name nobody except himself, that he had subscribed largely, as he thought he was discharging a duty, and he was not afraid to die in such a cause.”

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Browne details the hospitality enjoyed by the Charles while in Glasgow. “While in Glasgow he ate twice a day in public. The table was spread in a small dining room, at which he sat down without ceremony with a few of his officers in the Highland dress. He was waited upon on these occasions by a few Jacobite ladies.

“Charles courted popularity, and, to attract attention, dressed more elegantly in Glasgow that at any other place. But the citizens of Glasgow kept up a reserve, which made Charles remark, with a feeling of mortal disappointment, that he had never been in a place where he found fewer friends.

“Though dissatisfied with the people, he seemed, however, greatly to admire the regularity and beauty of the buildings,” according to Browne.

Charles summoned his army to Glasgow Green to inspect his men, now clad in new clothes. Despite losing only 40 soldiers during his recent march into England, a expedition which included the siege of Carlisle, witnesses to the gathering recalled a rather downbeat Prince.

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The witness account said: “He had a princely aspect, and its interest was much heightened by the dejection which appeared in his pale fair countenance and downcast eye.

“He evidently wanted confidence in his cause, and seemed to have a melancholy foreboding of that disaster which soon after ruined the hopes of his family for ever.”

Charles abandoned his plan to return to England and instead choose to march towards Stirling Castle. The Prince left Glasgow with his troops on January 4 - his decisive defeat at Culloden just three months away.

After a lonely Christmas, the new year brought a reunion with Glaswegian Clementina Walkinshaw, who was later to become the mother of his daughter, Charlotte.

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Charles arrived in the Stirling area on January 4 1746, first stopping at Kilsyth House and then Bannockburn House, the home of Jacobite ally Sir Hugh Paterson which was to become the temporary headquarters of the ‘45 rebellion.

It was here that the Prince was to spend long periods of time with Clementina, daughter of textile merchant, Walkinshaw of Barrowfield, who founded the weaving village of Calton.

A niece of Sir Hugh and one of 10 sisters, Clementina was one of the ladies assigned to care for the Prince, even tending to him with cinnamon possets when the Young Pretender fell ill with a dose of flu and fever.

Some claim that Clementina, who was raised in-part on the Continent, first met the Prince while staying at Shawfield Mansion, home to merchant James Glassford, during the festive season with a second meeting then arranged at Bannockburn for the New Year.

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What is known is that a week after Charles arrived at Bannockburn House, he and Clementina were lovers, according to Bonnie Prince Charlie in Love, by Hugh Douglas, published by the History Press last year.

Diaries presented by Clementina’s daughter, Charlotte, laid before Louis XV and XVI state “categorically” that she was presented to him at Bannockburn, Douglas said.

She was also referred to as his “mistress” by Dr William King of Oxford, a Jacobite leader south of the border, with Lord Elcho, a Scottish Jacobite officer, claiming the pair met at Bannockburn House.

Charles was to leave Bannockburn for the siege of Stirling, with the city surrendering on January 8 but the castle remaining outwith Jacobite hold, and the successful Battle of Falkirk Muir on January 17.

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The Prince left Bannockburn House on February 1746 with Clementine later to follow Charles to the Continent.

Their daughter, Charlotte, was born to Charles and Clementina at Liège in October 1753 but his mistress was to later flee the Prince in fear of her life.

A letter she left behind said: “Your Royal Highness cannot be surprised when you consider the repeated bad treatment I met with these eight years past and the daily risk of losing my life.”

Mother and daughter went to live in a convent, the pair supported by an annual pension from the royal household of King James III and VIII.

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Charles married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern in 1772 and continued to refuse to make provision for his daughter and her mother.

Meanwhile, it is claimed he went on to become a violent, scarlet-faced boor who frittered his family fortune on “legions of prostitutes”, according to Bonnie Prince Charlie: Truth or Lies, by Roderick Graham.

With the prince’s wine intake upping to six bottles a day, and sometimes a bottle or two of brandy, his growing bulk caused painful sores on his legs, Graham said.

In 1783 he wrote a new will in which he made Charlotte his heir. He granted his daughter the title of Duchess of Albany in the Scottish peerage. An act of legitimation for Charlotte was also signed which allowed her to inherit his properties in France.

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Father and daughter ended up living together in Florence with her later named a Knight of the Order of The Thistle. Charlotte died in 1789 of liver cancer, just a year after her father.

Clementina, meanwhile, outlived both of them and died in 1802 in Switzerland. Her last few years were spent in relative comfort given she had inherited handsomely from her daughter.

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