The Love of a Prince: Bonnie Prince Charlie in France, 1744-1748

Synopsis

Many books have been written about Bonnie Prince Charlie, but few have brought to light as much new material as this one, including evidence of a short-lived son, born in Paris scarcely two years after the royal fugitive escaped to France following the unlucky Battle of Culloden.

The book deals less with the oft-told story of the Prince's crushing defeat in '45 than with his subsequent inability to cope with failure and with the even more devastating personal defeat represented by his arrest in Paris and expulsion from France in 1748. During that critical time - a major turning point in his life - the once generous and compassionate Prince, having failed in his noble ambition either to vanquish his enemies or perish sword in hand, began his long descent into oblivion.

One happy event, hitherto unnoted, nevertheless marked this crucial period. As the Prince in 1747-48 watched his world crumbling around him - his father and brother in Rome having abandoned him and given up hope of a Stuart restoration -- he fell in love, for the first time in his life, with his married cousin Louise, Princesse de Rohan, like himself a direct descendant of Poland's King John Sobieski. The Love of a Prince is her story too and an extensive appendix to the work is devoted to the passionate love letters she wrote during their clandestine affair. They convey the full tragedy of an archetypal femme abandonnee whom we observe progressing from the initial joys of young love to inevitable catastrophe. Ultimately, the princess's suffering and her moral defeat become little more than an unhappy subplot in the Prince's own saga of distrust, bad faith and angry failure set amid the intrigues and petty jealousies of the French court.

Nearly a decade of researach by the author in the Stuart Papers at Windsor Castle and in private and public archives has gone into the work. Though at times challenging for the general reader because of its period French documentation (retained for the sake of authentic flavour), the work is by no means directed to the specialist alone. Indeed, at times The Love of a Prince reads more like an historical romance than history, despite the total absence of fictional elements. It will appeal to those interested in eighteenth-century history and biography, followers of the royal families of Europe, and especially those long-fascinated by the exploits of one of history's legendary heroes.