12 May 2014
A historic letter written by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) appealing for the support of King Louis XV of France has been sold at auction in Edinburgh. ...
The letter was written by the prince on 5 November 1746 and addressed to King Louis XV of France, giving the prince's detailed account of the events of the '45 in his own hand, and appealing for the king's support to return to Scotland to complete the campaign.
Auction house Lyon & Turnbull handled the sale of the letter, which went for £31,250.
The historic document had been passed by King Louis to the Marquis d'Argenson, his minister of war, and it remained in the family archives for almost 250 years until it was loaned to the University of Poitiers for safekeeping. It was eventually sold by the d'Argenson family in 2002.
A plea for assistance
Notes from Lyon & Turnbull concerning the history and importance of the letter are as follows: Prince Charlie wrote to King Louis XV of France on November 5th 1746, six weeks after his escape to France from Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland, and three weeks after his arrival at Roscoff on 11 October, setting out his account of the Rising and appealing for the King's help to mobilise another campaign to win back his kingdom.
The document comprises three sections:
 a covering letter to the Marquis d'Argenson, King Louis' Minister of War, requesting that he present his letter and Memorandum to King Louis
 a covering letter to the King
 the Memorandum itself, setting out the Prince's account of the campaign and appealing for the King's support.
The letters and Memorandum comprise a unique historical account, in the Prince's own hand, setting out his version of the events of the 1745 Rising. The content of the letter shows that he had clearly not given up hope of a successful return and states bluntly that the 1745 Campaign would surely have succeeded with modest help from France at critical points during the campaign.
It reveals that the Prince was still very optimistic about the prospects for eventual success, hoping to repeat the experience of his great-uncle King Charles II, who returned to become King after the Stuart monarchy's defeat in battle and exile abroad. Had King Louis responded positively to the Prince's request for support to launch a new campaign, it could have altered the course of British history.
The Memorandum confirms that the Prince's decision to advise supporters to disperse after Culloden was not a betrayal, but rather a fully rational decision to minimise loss of life pending his efforts to mobilise further support.
No prospect of support
However, by that time, the French had defeated British forces in Flanders, greatly assisted by the withdrawal of key British regiments from the continent to counteract the threat posed by the Rising. So, looked at from the viewpoint of King Louis and his ministers, the Prince had served his purpose and no further support was given. The Prince's worst fears were realised when France signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748, recognising the Hanoverian succession and repudiating the claim of the Stuarts.
With all hope of an imminent invasion abandoned, Charles was forcibly escorted from Paris and began forty years of exile. In the light of the Prince's subsequent decline, reading the Memorandum today is rather poignant, for we know how the story turned out, as he could not when he sat down to write to King Louis XV on 5 November, 1746.
For more information on the letter, visit the Lyon & Turnbull website.