How Outlander got Bonnie Prince Charlie just right

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

On Dec. 31, 1720, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the man who would become the Young Pretender, was born.

New Year’s Eve is Bonnie Prince Charlie’s birthday. It’s possibly a fitting date for the man that would lead the Jacobite rebellion, considering Hogmanay was celebrated over Christmas in Scotland during his time. Bonnie Prince Charlie would later become known as the Young Pretender; the leader of the Jacobite Army.

Bonnie Prince Charlie is heavily romanticized in Scotland. The original “Skye Boat Song” is about the Bonnie Prince, although words adapted to suit Outlander. He’s viewed as the cornerstone of the Jacobite rebellion. However, he was nothing more than a figurehead who believed he was the leader. Outlander got the character just right.

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Bonnie Prince Charlie was a dangerous but foolish man

When fans first met Bonnie Prince Charlie in Outlander season 2, they saw a weak and silly little man. However, there was also a danger. This was a man with power. He knew what he wanted and had the determination to match. Overlook all the “mark me’s” and his bright red tartan. You didn’t want to cross the Bonnie Prince.

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (yes, really), was a man with a task. His father, James, had made it clear that he wanted the English and Scottish thrones back. Charles wasn’t really allowed to fail, nor did he really want to with the belief that he was the rightful heir to those thrones.

The portrayal in Outlander was perfect. There was this quiet, idiotic man, but he had a mission. He wasn’t afraid to make friends with the right people and plot an attack to get what he wanted. However, he didn’t have the mind to carry it all out in the end.

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He wasn’t the greatest of influencers

While he wielded power, he didn’t have everything he needed for a successful rebellion. One of the most important elements was influence. He certainly wouldn’t have had the biggest social media following if he was around today!

This is shown in Outlander season 2, when he continually listens to the wrong people and finds it hard to rally people behind him. The people rallied behind their own men, whether it was Dougal, Jamie, Andrew MacDonald, and even Lord General Murray. While there was respect for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s authority as the Young Pretender, there wasn’t the respect of a commander others in the rebellion held.

This made it hard for Charles to win in the Jacobite risings, especially the last one. He didn’t have the character to keep the clans together. There was nothing to encourage the best warriors to join when the risks for treason were so dire. It’s no wonder that the rebellion failed (both in the show and in real life). When things got cold, difficult and scary, the clans separated and went home. A good leader with influence would have been able to keep more of them together.

His love of disguises

At one point, Outlander even included Bonnie Prince Charlie’s love for disguises. While in Paris, Charles sneaks into Jamie and Claire’s bedroom for safety and to talk. He does it in a disguise that makes it look like he’s a thief.

This is an element Outlander kept true to the character of the real man. When he escaped Scotland after Culloden, he dressed as a woman. Then throughout Europe he would use disguises to get around. While the show couldn’t show all this, it hinted to it with the one scene.

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Did you think the portrayal of the Bonnie Prince was just right? Are you surprised at the real history of the man? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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