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October 28th 1854

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End of the Stewart line

When James 7th (James 2nd of England) was crowned King in 1685 on the death of his brother Charles 2nd, this was to be the last time a Stewart king would reign as undisputed King of Scotland or England.

James was tactless, autocratic and even worse, was a devout Catholic. He became increasingly unpopular with most of his subjects on both sides of the border and it was no surprise that when the Protestant William of Orange landed in London, he was received with enthusiasm. Five days later James quit the country. The long period of exile had begun.

James’ son, James 3rd of Britain did indeed return briefly to Scotland, typically, when the rebellion of 1715 was all but over. James was a cold, somewhat morose man who had not made a good impression in Scotland during his short visit. But his depression at the failure of the 1715 rebellion was partially relieved by his marriage to Clementina Sobieska, a daughter of Prince Sobieski of Poland, and later by the arrival of two children, Charles Edward and his younger brother Henry.

Both James and his son Charles believed implicitly in the legitimacy of their claims to be rightful Kings of Britain. Charles who was of a sanguine disposition, grew up convinced that in due course he would become king. He was a handsome young man with a long oval face, dark brown eyes and above medium height. Though popular with the ladies, his mind was set upon higher things. Everything was to be subordinated to the task of leading an invasion, a successful invasion of Britain. At the centrepiece of his preparations was the assumption that he would return at the head of a large French invading army. It was an assumption that was to prove misplaced, and eventually tired of waiting, Charles sailed for Scotland with a few friends, immense confidence and exaggerated ideas of the support for the Jacobite cause.

The story of the ’45 has been told many times and the character of Charles dissected by many commentators with different diagnosis. He was certainly brave, arrogant and with a belief in his military prowess which was not borne out by results.

Towards the end of his period in Scotland he met Clementina Walkinshaw, a niece of Sir Hugh Paterson living at Bannockburn House where Charles was staying. She became his mistress. It was a short lived liaison in Scotland but was to be renewed some six years later in France and on October 27th 1753 she bore him a daughter, Charlotte. By this time the deterioration in Charles’ character had become more marked and he was drinking to excess. He was, claimed one supporter, “unforgiving and revengeful for the very smallest offence.”  Though he was fond of Charlotte, he was increasingly hostile towards Clementina who finally left him, taking Charlotte with her.

It was 1784 before he saw Charlotte again. Though he had married in the meantime, it had been a disastrous failure and it was now obvious that he would have no more children. He therefore legitimised Charlotte and created her Duchess of Albany.

Charlotte by this time had been living with Cardinal Ferdinand, Prince of Rohan and Archbishop of Bordeaux. She had borne him three children, two girls who had died young and a boy whom she christened Charles Edward. When Charlotte received an invitation to visit Prince Charles it was believed that he had but a few months to live, but against all expectations he survived another four years until his death in January 1788. Charles’ youngest brother, Henry was now direct in line of succession and did indeed call himself Henry 9th, but he was unmarried, a cardinal of the Church of Rome and there was no possibility that he would ever mount a threat to George 3rd. When he died in 1807 there was but one Stewart left in the direct line of succession, Charlotte’s son Charles Edward Roehenstart.

Charles Roehenstart was a man of some charm but with an incorrigible desire to embroider the truth. In 1816 he presented a Memorial to the Prince Regent in an attempt to secure a pension for himself as had previously been granted to his mother. The fact that both Roehenstart and his mother had both been illegitimate was overcome by the device of postulating secret marriages. “They were united by a secret marriage, ‘tis true, but still the act was drawn up with all the regular formalities. She was then acknowledged and considered in public as the Prince’s legitimate wife.”  Later in the Memorial “The Duchess of Albany had married without her father’s knowledge, Mr Roehenstart to whom she was tenderly attached.”  Both statements were sheer fantasy as was his implication that Henry (Prince Charles’ brother) had poisoned his mother Charlotte. The Prince Regent was not impressed with these manipulations of the truth and no pension was granted.

Much of Charles Roehenstart’s early years were taken up with an attempt to secure the jewels and money that he felt sure had at one time belonged to his grandfather. In this he was unsuccessful and it seems likely that these riches in fact never existed.

Charles Roehenstart was a great traveller, visiting Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, India, America and the West Indies. He married twice without producing any children. Finally in 1854 while riding on the top of a coach near Dunkeld, a wheel came off and the coach overturned. He survived a few days but died on October 28th and was buried at the nave of Dunkeld Cathedral.

The gravestone reads “Sacred to the memory of general Charles Edward Stewart, Count Roehenstart who died aged 73……” . Even in death the facts were embellished; he was not a general and was no more than 70 years old.

But he was the last of the Stewarts.

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