Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)



Director:    Anthony Kimmins

Starring:    David Niven (Prince Charles), Margaret Leighton (Flora MacDonald), Jack Hawkins (Lord George Murray), Judy Campbell (Clementine Walkinshaw), Morland Graham (Donald), Finlay Currie (Marquis of Tullibardine). 

Country: British film

A not so good movie about Prince Charles of 18th century Scotland who tries to kick the English out of Scotland.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

The governor is tired of hearing a certain popular Jacobite song.  He's been fining people for singing the song all week.  He scolds his stepdaughter Flora for singing the song.   He says Parliament turned out King Jamie and when they brought in King Jordie it changed the whole situation.  King Jamie is in exile in Rome and Flora's stepfather rules the long island in the name of King Jordie.   So no more Jacobite songs, he says.  (Jacobites were supporters of the Stuarts sitting on the throne.)

James Francis Edward Stuart listens to the playing of the same song heard in all of Scotland.  His host is the Marquis of Tullibardine.  James says that he is amazed they still sing of him, since it has been thirty years ago that he tried to take the Scottish crown by force from the English.  The guys playing cards with him say that the French are ready to help him.  He says he's too old for such adventures.  And he is not supposed to leave Italy. 

But his son Charles will go tonight.  He will go hunting and then get into a disguise.  He then takes a ship to head to Scotland.  Charles goes and lands on Eriskay Island.  He spends his first hour in Scotland alone.  He talks to a shepherd named Donald resting with his sheep.  Charles tells the man he wants a message taken to the chief of the MacDonalds.  The shepherd says it's a long trip.  He has to go onto the mainland.  But then he suddenly recognizes who the man is who he is talking to.  He says he has waited thirty years for the return of his father, but now his son has come.  He kisses Charles's hand. 

A messenger arrives to tell King George II that King Louie of France is organizing still another Jacobite uprising.  He is giving the Young Pretender men and ships.  The king is not concerned saying that he is a better soldier than Louie and his English soldiers are better than the soldiers of France.  His navy is better too.  How many ships did they give the Young Pretender? he asks.  He answers his own question:  one little ship. 

The Scots have arrived onboard.  Tullibardine welcomes them aboard.  Some of the older Scots remember him from the last uprising.  Macleod wants to know where are all the promised French ships?  Donald runs up to tell Prince Charles that he must get down there because Macleod is starting to dominate the discussion with his strong personality.  Charles shows up and some of the leaders say that he should go home.  The English are too strong to fight.  Macleod asks where are the French ships?  Charles says the ships were destroyed by a storm and on that basis alone the French king denied him his men.  But he kept his word and came to Scotland.  Now all the leaders say they will join in, except for Macleod.  He will not be joining an uprising.  Charles lets him go.  Tomorrow they start work on getting other clans to join them.   

The next morning the men impatiently wait for the arrival of Cameron of Lochiel.  If he comes, the other clans will be sure to rise.  Blind Jimmie comes by the men.  Charles asks him if the clans will come?  Blind Jimmie sings the answer to him.  Soon the sound of bagpipes is heard.   The clans arrive.  Among them is Cameron of Lochiel.  Charles warmly greets him.  Charles's new general arrives:  George Murray. 

Tullibardine reads out a statement for all:  "Wherefore James VIII of Scotland and III of England do appoint our dearest son Charles to be the sole regent of our kingdom during our absence., let all true Britons join with him in setting our country  free."  Charles says the Highlands are on the march. 

Seven weeks later.  Charles is welcomed as a conquering hero by the people of the town of Edinburgh.  The church bells ring.    They landed with one ship and seven men, some of the chieftains told them to go home, but they raised the standard, marched into Perth, across the Firth, set Cope's dragoons galloping, entered Edinburgh and now lodge in Hollyrood Palace (i.e., the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 15th century). 

Bag pipers pipe Charles into a huge hall where a welcoming ball is to be held.  

A messenger arrives to tell Gen. Murray that that Gen. Copes has landed an English army at Dunbar and is marching toward Edinburgh.    He is now camped at Prestopans, only eight miles from here.   

Charles walks with Clementine Walkinshaw, who visited him and his father in Italy.  They used to run races in the garden. A messengers tells Charles about Gen. Copes.  Charles rides to Gen. Murray.  He complains of not being notified.  A bit of a row starts up, which is stopped by one of the older men.   Charles and Murray decide to attack at night.  They kill the two sentries and then attack the encampment.  They are on top of the English soldiers very quickly.  The battle is over in seven minutes. 

King George II is upset over the defeat.  He confers with his staff.  The Duke of Cumberland, his son, comes in to talk with his father.  Dad is very happy to see him and tells him that Charles has taken Manchester. Cumberland says he is approaching Derby now.  He has around 10,000 men with him.  Cumberland will take 10,000 soldiers to meet the Young Pretender. 

Murray has his officers informed of the bad situation.  They are near to being encircled.  Wade is advancing from the northeast with 10,000 men.  Cumberland is just 30 miles away with another 10,000.  King George defends London with 10,000.  Murray says his 5,000 against 30,000 makes the situation untenable.  They must retreat.  Meanwhile, Bonnie Prince Charles is at another celebration with music, food and dancing.  He is called to the council meeting and told that they should retreat.  Charles is shocked.  Murray says that Manchester had promised 1,500 men but they actually received only 130. 

Charles does his best to convince the men to keep fighting, that victory can still be had.  Murray reminds everyone that is impossible for 5,000 men to succeed against the will of the entire English people.  Charles says he will march on London, if only ten men will go with him.   But no one speaks up to join Charles. 

The Scots retreat and are badgered along the way by the British.  The Scots decide to stand against the English at Falkirk.  Charles arrives saying: "I am the last of the Stuarts and the most unlucky."  Tina (short for Clementine) is determined to soothe the prince's heart.  Charles tells her that the Scots won the battle.  They took 700 prisoners and saw the English general run for it, but Murray still retreats north.  Tina tells Charles to go to France and take her with him.  She tells him to forget Scotland and love her and forget. They embrace and kiss. 

George II reads a letter from his son Cumberland who tells him that they are now driving sheep toward the slaughter yard.  Cumberland himself is informed in the rain that they areonly one mile from the Scots.  The Duke says now the Scots will fight or starve.  He will spring his trap here at Culloden. 

It is a windy, cold day.  Blind Jimmie sings a sad song.  The Battle of Cullloden is over.  The Scots have lost.  Charles has told all the men to disperse to prevent another slaughter.  One of his dying soldiers tells him to leave.  George Murray also urges Charles to leave to save the honor of Scotland.     

Cumberland wants to catch Charles alive and put him in Newgate Prison.  He says they will never subdue the Highlanders until Charles is swinging from the gallows.  Macleod is there and he says the Scots have a great loyalty to their ancient kings.  Cumberland says:  "Rubbish!"   The English officer is not happy with spending three months at Culloden and says that his army failed him.  So he now calls on his navy.  Captain Ferguson in command of eight ships comes in to speak with Cumberland.  Ferguson thinks Charles will be on long island (Eriskay Island).

On the island, the British announce a reward for the capture of Charles.  No one will leave the island without a pass signed by the governor.  Furthermore, there is a nightly curfew that most be observed.  Donald is in the crowd listening to all this.  But now he must figure a way how to get Charles over to France.  Flora MacDonald is one of those who will be able to get a pass for she is the stepdaughter of the governor.  Donald aims to talk with her about it. 

He follows Flora as she walks home.  This makes her uneasy and she stops to tell Donald she doesn't like it.  Donald uses the opportunity to remind her that her own father was a Jacobite.  He beats around the bush about what he wants until an impatient Flora asks him if this is about the prince?  Yes. 

Flora serves tea to the governor and Captain Ferguson.  Ferguson tells her all about his plans to catch Charles and she listens to every word of it.   

Knowing about the beacon lights that will be set on fire upon seeing anything suspicious, a Scotsman goes to a nearby beacon, distracts the guards and lights the wood piles.   He is wounded while running from the fire.  The British soldiers all come out to check out the situation.  Flora speaks with Charles and tells him that she is on no side.  He wants her to take him with her to the Isle of Skye, but she says he will be recognized by his hair and long legs.  She thinks of a safer way for him to escape. 

The servant goes in to get Flora, but she is not there.  The guards bring in two people caught out after curfew.  The two are brought in and they are none other than Flora and Donald.  Flora asks her step father and Ferguson what is the meaning of this?  Yes, that's what the two men want to know.  Just then the servant comes in saying that Miss Flora's bed has not been slept in.  They tell her to be quiet.  The two men send the guards away. 

Flora asks her stepfather to write a pass for her and a male and female servant.  At night he comes in to her room to talk with her.  He suspects something is afoot, but decides not to inquire about it.  Flora and Donald with Charles dressed as a six  foot tall Irish woman servant start for the boat.  There is an old woman there that says a few words to Flora.  An English officer also talks with Flora.  He asks to see her pass and she gives it to him.  He doesn't blink an eye about the six foot tall Irish woman, probably because he is entranced with Flora.  He asks her later if he may call on her some day.  Flora says yes.

Off they sail for the Isle of Skye.  The seas are tough at first, but the sky clears up and the seas calm down.   

The old woman from last night and an old man are brought in to be interrogated.  The old man is the one that set the beacon pile on fire.  And the old woman from last night was heard to say thank God he is safe and they figure "he" is Charles. The older man won't talk even for a reward of 30,000 English pounds.  When they hear that the Irish spinning woman was all of six foot, it dawns on them that the servant was probably Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Ferguson says:  "The Scottish witch!  She'll pay for this!" 

The boat lands on the Isle of Skye (the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland on the west side of Scotland) and lets the three passengers off.  Flora goes ahead of them to tell Lady Margaret at the mansion to say that they are coming.  Donald has to go in search of a ship to take him the rest of the way to France.  When the door opens to Flora, it is a British soldier.    Inside she finds out that there are a lot of British soldiers there.  She speaks with them.  They ask if Charles has been found yet.  She says no.  In private Flora tells Margaret that the Young Pretender is with her.  Margaret almost faints, but Flora tells her she won't permit her to faint.  Margaret's husband will to go the beach to warn the two men there. 

Ferguson sets out for the Isle of Skye.  

The husband and Charles come up to the house at night.  Charles, Flora, Margaret and her husband have dinner together.  The prince says he is so grateful to Flora and the many other friends who have helped him.  Now Flora tells Charles that she is on his side.   

Ferguson and his men arrive.  The prince and Flora run out of the house with their baggage to find Donald.  Ferguson browbeats Lady Margaret, her family and servants.  The British have spotted the two escapees way up in the mountains.  Ferguson says it's too late to catch them. 

Charles and Flora take a break.  Flora is a bit scared that they won't make it to the main settlement of Portree to see Donald.  Donald and other Scotsmen are with the captain of the ship that will be heading for France.  They try to get him to delay his parting for 24 more hours, but he says he dare not because the British will suspect him.  They go to the tavern to talk about it.  A mist is settling in and the men are afraid that the two escapees won't be able to get down today.  But Blind Jimmie steps up and says he can make it through the mist with no trouble.  He know the trails. 

The mist is so thick that Charles and Flora cannot proceed down the mountain, so they sit down and wait.  Blind Jimmie finds them.

Ferguson pushes his way into the local tavern and demands some rooms in the inn.  He pushes the people around.  Macleod is there with him and he is very tried of seeing Ferguson mistreat the Scots.  So when Ferguson says he has word that Donald of Eriskay has been spotted in Portree, Macleod pretends he doesn't know Donald even though he stands right behind him.    A man named Angus says he knows where Donald is.  Ferguson grabs him and leads him out of the tavern, telling McLeod that he thinks they've got him now.  As he leaves, Flora comes in a back door. 

Charles waits in the kitchen.  Donald and the captain greet him.  Charles wants Flora to come with him to France.  She says she is not going, but he will always be with her here in Scotland.   The captain says they have to be going.  They leave.

Flora cries as the ship disappears in the distance. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:

1688  --   Glorious Revolution of 1688 deposes King James II of England and Ireland and VII of Scotland. 

1688  -- birth of Prince James, Prince of Wales (James Francis Edward Stuart; "The Old Pretender") to King James II and VII.

1708  --  James Francis Edward Stuart tries an invasion by trying to land at the Firth of Forth.  English Admiral Sir George Byng and his fleet forces back the French ships.

1720  -- birth of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Rome, Italy.  He grew up in Rome and Bologna. 

1734  --   he participated in the French and Spanish siege of Gaeta, Italy. 

1739 -- King George's War  in America (War of Jenkins' Ear + 1744 War of Austrian Succession)

1744 -- War of Austrian Succession -- France declares war on England and on Maria Theresa of Austria .

1745 -- Via the French ship Du Teillay, Charles Edward Stuart, the "Young Pretender," lands on Eriskay Island, Scotland.  He has to raise an army in Scotland.  He defeats the English army at Prestopans, advances south toward Derby; forced to retreat, because of the weak support he got from English Jacobites. 

1746 (January 17)  --  at the Battle of Falkirk the Scots win a victory.  The Scots have 50 dead and 80 wounded, but the English suffer 350 casualties with and 300 captured.  The Scots stick around Falkirk for near a month, failing to pursue Hawley and his troops.  Charles stays in Bannockburn House with Clementina Walkinshaw caring for his feverish cold.

1746 (April 16)  --  King George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, catches up with Charles and decisively defeat him at the Battle of Culloden. With the help of Flora MacDonald he escapes to France.

1748 -- Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle; recognition of Francis I as Holy Roman Emperor; England returns Louisbourg to France.

1788 (January 31)  --  Charles dies in Rome.


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