Bonnie Prince Charlie asked France for 20,000 soldiers to fight on after Culloden, new book claims.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart returned to France after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden and asked King Louis XV of France for 20,000 more soldiers to help "finish the job”, a handwritten letter by the Jacobite leader has shown.

The handwritten letter by Bonnie Prince Charlie in which he asks Louis XVI for 20,000 soldiers to continue the 1745 Rising. PIC: Courtesy of Birlinn Books.
The handwritten letter by Bonnie Prince Charlie in which he asks Louis XVI for 20,000 soldiers to continue the 1745 Rising. PIC: Courtesy of Birlinn Books.

A memorandum written to the monarch on November 17, 1746, which lay hidden “hidden and forgotten” in archives for more than 250 years, indicates the Prince did not believe his campaign to restore his Stuart family line to the British throne had come to an end on the battlefield near Inverness.

Michael Nevin, chairman of the 1745 Association, has published the contents of the letter in his new book Reminiscences of a Jacobite, which has been released to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the Prince’s birth today, December 31.

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He said: “The myth propagated by his Hanoverian enemies was that Prince Charlie abandoned Scotland after Culloden. The memorandum written by the Prince to the King of France on 5 November 1746 provides evidence, in the Prince’s own hand, that directly contradicts this myth.”

The letter, which Nevin earlier acquired from auction, was written after the Prince returned to France in September 1746 following five months on the run in Scotland.

Covered in sores, midge bites and lice, he was in a poor physical condition but he “rapidly recovered both in body and spirit” with this thoughts turning to a “continuation of the campaign to restore his father to the throne,” Nevin said.

In the letter, the Prince wrote: “I never lacked Scottish subjects ready to fight. What I did simultaneously lack was money, supplies and a handful of regular troops; with but one of these three, I would today still be master of Scotland and probably the whole of England."

He goes on to claim he could have marched into London “unopposed" after his clear victory over General Cope’s troops at Prestonpans in September 1745 had he 3,000 more soldiers under his command.

At the time, Duke of Cumberland and the British Army were then in Flanders fighting the French and their allies in the Austrian War of Succession, Nevin said.

But during this potential window of opportunity, the Prince remained in Edinburgh for six weeks raising money and troops for his campaign.

The Prince wrote: “These setbacks can still be redressed. If Your Majesty wishes to confer a corps of twenty thousand men upon me, they will be deployed purely in his interests.”

Nevin said the King did not view the Prince’s demands positively. Then, in January 1747, the pro-Jacobite party within the French court lost influence following the dismissal of Marquis d’Argenson, the Minister of War and leading supporter of the 1745 rising given its ability to deflect the British fighting force from battlefields in mainland Europe.

Jacobite sceptics then gained ascendancy with the royal inner circle.

As part of the 1748 peace deal, the French recognised the right of King George and his successors to sit on the British throne, ending their support for the Stuart cause. Prince Charles was then expelled from France.

Nevin wrote: “As far as the French Government were concerned, Prince Charles and his Highland supporters had served their purpose as pawns in their wider political game. The Prince had now become an embarrassment to them and was of no further value.”

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