Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany

Charlotte Stuart, styled Duchess of Albany[1] (29 October 1753 – 17 November 1789) was the illegitimate daughter of the Jacobite pretender Prince Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie' or the 'Young Pretender') and his only child to survive infancy.

Charlotte Stuart
Born29 October 1753
Died17 November 1789(1789-11-17) (aged 36)
TitleDuchess of Albany
Partner(s)Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec de Rohan

Her mother was Clementina Walkinshaw, who was mistress to the Prince from 1752 until 1760. After years of abuse, Clementina left him, taking Charlotte with her. Charlotte spent most of her life in French convents, estranged from a father who refused to make any provision for her. Unable to marry, she herself became a mistress with illegitimate children, taking Ferdinand de Rohan, Archbishop of Bordeaux, as her lover.

She was finally reconciled with her father in 1784, when he legitimised her and created her Duchess of Albany in the Jacobite Peerage. She left her own children with her mother, and became her father's carer and companion in the last years of his life, before dying less than two years after him. Her three children were raised in anonymity; however, as the only grandchildren of the pretender, they have been the subject of Jacobite interest since their lineage was uncovered in the 20th century.

Royal parentage

Charlotte Stuart was born on 29 October 1753 at Liège to Charles and his mistress Clementina Walkinshaw, whom he had met during the Jacobite rising of 1745 (when he came to Scotland from France in an attempt to regain by force the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland, which had been lost by his grandfather, James II and VII, in 1689). Clementina (1720–1802) was the youngest of the ten daughters of John Walkinshaw of Barrowhill (1671–1731).[2] The Walkinshaws owned the lands of Barrowfield and Camlachie, and her father had become a wealthy Glasgow merchant (founding the textile village of Calton).[3] However, he was also an Episcopalian Protestant and a Jacobite who had fought for the Prince's father in the rising of 1715, been captured at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, before escaping from Stirling Castle and fleeing to Europe.[3] In 1717, he had been pardoned by the British Government and returned to Glasgow, where his youngest daughter was born probably at Camlachie. However, Clementina was largely educated on the Continent, and later converted to Roman Catholicism.[3] In 1746, she was living at the home of her uncle Sir Hugh Paterson at Bannockburn, near Stirling.[4] The Prince came to Sir Hugh's home in early January 1746 where he first met Clementina, and he returned later that month to be nursed by her from what appears to have been a cold. Given that she was living under her uncle's protection, it is not thought the two were lovers at this time.[5]

After the defeat of the Prince's rebellion at Culloden in April 1746, Charles fled Scotland for France. In the following years, he had a scandalous affair with his 22-year-old first cousin Louise de Montbazon (who was married to his close friend, and whom he deserted when she became pregnant) and then with the Princess of Talmont, who was in her 40s.[6] In 1752, he heard that Clementina was at Dunkirk and in some financial difficulties, so he sent 50 louis d'or to help her and then dispatched Sir Henry Goring to entreat her to come to Ghent and live with him as his mistress. Goring, who described Clementina as a "bad woman", complained of being used as "no better than a pimp", and shortly after left Charles's employ.[7] However, by November 1752, Clementina was living with Charles, and was to remain as his mistress for the following eight years. The couple moved to Liège where Charlotte, their only child, was born on 29 October 1753[8] and baptised into the Roman Catholic faith at the church of Sainte Marie-des-Fonts.[9]

Separation from father (1760–1783)

The relationship between prince and mistress was disastrous. Charles was already a disillusioned, angry alcoholic when they began living together, and he became violent towards, and insanely possessive of, Clementina,[6] treating her as a "submissive whipping post".[11] Often away from home on "jaunts", he seldom referred to his daughter, and when he did, it was as "ye cheild".[11] During a temporary move to Paris, the Prince's lieutenants record ugly public arguments between the two, and that his drunkenness and temper were damaging his reputation.[11] By 1760, they were in Basel, and Clementina had had enough of Charles's intoxication and their nomadic lifestyle. She contacted his staunchly Roman Catholic father, James Stuart ('the Old Pretender'), and expressed a desire to secure a Catholic education for Charlotte and to retire to a convent.[12] (In 1750, during an incognito visit to London, Charles had nominally disavowed Roman Catholicism for the Anglican Church.[6]) James agreed to pay her an annuity of 10,000 livres and, in July 1760, there is evidence to suggest he aided her escape from the watchful Charles, with the seven-year-old Charlotte, to the convent of the Nuns of the Visitation in Paris. She left a letter for Charles expressing her devotion to him but complaining she had had to flee in fear of her life. A furious Charles circulated descriptions of them both, but it was to no avail.[13]

Appeals from France

For the next twelve years, Clementina and Charlotte continued to live in various French convents, supported by the 10,000 livre pension granted by James Stuart. Charles never forgave Clementina for depriving him of "ye cheild", and stubbornly refused to pay anything for their support. On 1 January 1766 James died, but Charles, (now considering himself de jure Charles III of Scotland, England and Ireland) still refused to make any provision for the two, forcing Clementina, now styling herself "Countess Alberstroff", to appeal to his brother Cardinal Henry Stuart for assistance. Henry gave them an allowance of 5,000 livres, but in return extracted a statement from Clementina that she had never been married to Charles – a statement she later tried to retract.[14] This lower amount forced them to find cheaper lodgings in the convent of Notre Dame at Meaux-en-Brie.[15]

In 1772, the Prince, then aged fifty-one, married the nineteen-year-old Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern (who was only a year older than Charlotte). Charlotte, now in penury, had consistently been writing to her father for some time, and she now desperately entreated him to legitimise her, provide support, and bring her to Rome before an heir could be born. In April 1772, Charlotte wrote a touching, yet pleading, letter to "mon Augusta Papa" which was sent via Principal Gordon of the Scots College in Rome. Charles relented and offered to bring Charlotte to Rome (he was now resident in the Palazzo Muti – the residence of the Stuarts-in-exile), but only on condition she would leave her mother behind in France. This she loyally refused to do, and Charles, in fury, broke off all discussions.[16]

Mistress of an Archbishop

Towards the end of 1772, Clementina and Charlotte unexpectedly arrived in Rome to press their desperate cause in person. (The trip pushed Clementina further into debt.) However, the Prince reacted angrily, refusing even to see them, forcing their helpless return to France, from where Charlotte's pleading letters continued.[17] Three years later, Charlotte, now in her twenty-second year and already in poor health, (she was apparently suffering from a liver ailment shared by the Stuarts) decided her only option was to marry as soon as possible. Charles, however, refused to give permission either for her to marry or to take the veil, and she was left awaiting his royal pleasure.[18]

Lacking legitimacy or permission, Charlotte was unable to marry. Thus, she otherwise sought a protector and provider. Probably unbeknown to Charles, she became the mistress of Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec de Rohan, Archbishop of Bordeaux and Cambrai. Ferdinand de Rohan – related by blood to the house of Stuart as well as Bourbon and Lorraine[19] – was also unable to marry legitimately, having entered the Church as a younger son of a noble house. By him, she had three children: two daughters, Marie Victoire and Charlotte, and finally a son, Charles Edward. Her children were kept secret, and remained largely unknown until the 20th century. When Charlotte eventually left France for Florence, she entrusted the children – and she was only just recovering from her son's birth[20] – to the care of her mother, and it appears that few, and certainly not her father, knew of their existence.


Only after his childless marriage to Louise was over, and Charles had fallen seriously ill, did he take an interest in Charlotte. She was now thirty, and she had not seen her father since she was seven. On 23 March 1783, he altered his will to make her his heir and, a week later, signed an act of legitimisation.[15] This act, recognising her as his natural daughter and entitling her to succeed to his private estate, was sent to Louis XVI of France. Henry Stuart, however, contested the legitimisation as being irregular and confusing to the succession. Louis XVI eventually did confirm the act and register it with the Parlement of Paris, but not until 6 September 1787.[21]

In July 1784, having granted Louise a legal separation, Charles summoned Charlotte to Florence, where he was now resident and, in November, installed her in the Palazzo Guadagni as Duchess of Albany,[1] styling her "Her Royal Highness" – and appointing her to the Order of the Thistle.[15] Nevertheless, being illegitimate at birth, Charlotte still had no right of succession to the Stuart claim to the British throne. However, by this stage, the claims were of little value. European rulers had long since ceased to take Charles seriously. Even Pope Pius VI was refusing to recognise his royal title, and the famous Casanova had wittily called him the "pretender-in-vain".[17] He was reduced to styling himself the 'Count d'Albany'.

That a Stuart restoration was now less than unlikely did not prevent the Prince presenting Charlotte as the next generation of the cause. He had medals struck for her, bearing the figure of Hope, the map of England, and the Stuart arms with legends such as "Spes Tamen Est Una" (there is one hope). He also had her idealised in art; the Scottish artist Gavin Hamilton was commissioned to draw her in chalk in the neo-classical style, whilst Hugh Douglas Hamilton painted a flattering portrait in a tiara.[22]

Companion to her father

When Charlotte arrived to live with her father in 1784, he was an ailing alcoholic. She found his physical state disgusting, and he was suffering from mental degeneration and using a litter for travel.[20] He did, however, introduce Charlotte into society, allowing her to wear his mother's famous Sobieska jewellery.[23] She continually, and unsuccessfully, sought gifts of jewels or money from her close-fisted father;[24] but this was probably largely out of a concern for the welfare of her mother and children.[24] Within a month of arriving at Florence, she did manage to persuade her father to provide at last for Clementina.[9] By this time, Charlotte was also in poor health, suffering from an ailment that would result in her death from "obstruction of the liver" just two years after her father. Indeed, shortly after she arrived in Florence, a protruding growth forced her to have clothes altered.[24] Charlotte sorely missed her mother (whom she vainly hoped Charles would allow to come to Rome) and her children, writing to her mother as many as 100 times in a single year;[9] she also feared that Rohan would take another lover; all this is revealed in her dispirited letters home, as she awaited Charles's death.[25]

Final months

In December 1785, she enlisted the help of Henry Stuart to get Charles back to the Palazzo Muti in Rome. There, Charlotte remained her father's carer and companion and did her best to make his life bearable until he died of a stroke two years later (31 January 1788). Her sacrifice for him was considerable—she was torn between an evident affection for her father and her mother and three children left behind in Paris.[25]

Charlotte survived her father by only twenty-two months and never saw her children again. On 9 October 1789, she arrived at the Palazzo Vizzani Sanguinetti (now Palazzo Ranuzzi) in Bologna, the home of her friend the Marchesa Giulia Lambertini-Bovio. She died there at age 36 of liver cancer (17 November 1789).[26] In her will, written just three days before her death, Charlotte left her mother, Clementina, a sum of 50,000 livres and an annuity of a further 15,000.[27] However, it was two years before Henry Stuart, her executor, and now considered by Jacobites to be King Henry IX, would release the money. Indeed, he only agreed to do this when Clementina signed a "quittance" renouncing, on behalf of herself and her descendants, any further claim on the estate.[28] Charlotte was buried in the Church of San Biagio, near where she died. When the church was pulled down by the French in 1797, Charlotte's remains were moved to the Oratorio della Santissima Trinità. When it closed in 1961, her monument (and possibly her remains) were moved to the nearby Chiesa della Santissima Trinità.[26][28]


For many years, Charlotte's three children remained unknown to history, and it was believed that the direct line of James II and Mary of Modena ended with the death of Henry in 1807. However, in the 1950s, research by the historians Alasdair and Hetty Tayler revealed the existence of two daughters and a son. Historian George Sherburn[29] then discovered the letters from Charlotte to her mother, from which he wrote his biography of Charles Edward.[30][31]


It appears that Clementina lived on in Fribourg, Switzerland, until her death in 1802 and that it was she who reared Charlotte's children in deliberate anonymity. Their identities were concealed by a variety of aliases and ruses, not even being mentioned in Charlotte's detailed will. The will makes reference only to Clementina and to Charlotte's desire that Clementina might be able to provide for "her necessitous relations".[27] The reason these children remained secret can be explained by the fact that the relationship between Rohan, the Archbishop, and Charlotte, who had been forbidden to marry, was highly illicit and would have been scandalous.[30] Marie Victoire Adelaide (born 1779) and Charlotte Maximilienne Amélie (born 1780)[32] were thought to have been placed in the care of Thomas Coutts, the London banker, and a distant relative of the Walkinshaws. They remained in anonymity and were believed to have been simply absorbed into English society.[28]

Charlotte's son, Charles Edward, born in Paris in 1784, followed a different path. Calling himself 'Count Roehenstart' (Rohan+Stuart), he was educated by his father's family in Germany, became an officer in the Russian army, and a general in the Austrian service.[33] He travelled widely—visiting India, America, and the West Indies—before coming to England and Scotland. He told such tall tales of his origins and adventures that few believed his claims to royal descent.[34] Indeed, it was not until the 20th century that historian George Sherburn established that he was indeed who he had claimed to be.[34] He died in Scotland in 1854 as the result of a coach accident near Stirling Castle and was buried at Dunkeld Cathedral, where his grave can still be seen.[35] He married twice but had no issue.[36]

Occasionally, it has been suggested that Prince Charles married Clementina Walkinshaw, and thus that Charlotte was legitimate and could legally claim to be her father's successor.[15] However, there are no records to substantiate this claim, and the affidavit signed by Clementina on 9 March 1767 explicitly disavows the idea. Further, Charles's initial disavowal of Charlotte speaks against her legitimacy.[15]

It was generally believed that Charlotte's daughters also died without issue.[31] However, according to Peter Pininski's research, Charlotte's elder daughter, Marie Victoire, did have issue. Pininski's 2002 book suggested that Jules-Hercule, Prince de Guéméné and Duke of Montbazon, elder brother of Ferdinand de Rohan (and aide-de-camp to Henry Stuart in 1745) recognised Charlotte's offspring as his own – thus giving her status in that tight family. The book claimed that in 1793, at the outbreak of the French revolution, the Rohan family scattered; and Marie Victoire de Rohan went to relatives in Poland. There, she met and married Paul Anthony Louis Bertrand de Nikorowicz, a Polish nobleman and son of a banker. They had a son, Antime, before she was widowed four years later. (She later remarried twice: first to James d'Auvergne, a British naval captain, who died after 14 months, and then finally to Jean de Pauw, a French army officer.) Antime was to have a son, Charles, and a daughter, Julia-Thérèse, who married Count Leonard Pininski and became Peter Pininski's great-great-grandmother.[30][37] Pininski's evidence for his thesis has been described as "often indirect, if not elliptical"; the Rohans were a large family, and it is easy to confuse its many members.[38] A former chairman of the Royal Stuart Society, however, stated that Pininski's evidence seemed "genuine",[39] and genealogist Hugh Massingberd described it as "painstakingly researched ... proof to surely the most sceptical pedant's satisfaction".[40]

Pininski's hypothesis has since been disputed by Marie-Louise Backhurst in a 2013 article.[41] Backhurst contends that the Charlotte's second daughter, who was always called Victoire Adelaide, was married firstly at St Roch, Paris, in 1804 to a military doctor in the service of Napoleon, Pierre Joseph Marie de St Ursin (1763–1818). By de St Ursin she was the mother of Theodore Marie de St Ursin, who was born in Paris about 1809–10 and who was still resident in Paris in 1823, although his history has not been found. His mother married again in 1823 to one Corbet James D'Auvergne, although her place and date of death have not been found. Backhurst examined Madame Nikorowicz's baptism, marriage and death, and gives her name as Marie Victoire de Thorigny, and Backhurst suggests that she was more likely to have been the illegitimate daughter of Jules, Prince de Rohan, brother of Ferdinand and thus a first cousin to Victoire Adelaide. Pininski argues that Backhurst's interpretation is based on a destroyed document that was "reconstituted" seventy years later and that no document confirms the birth of Marie Victoire's son, whereas Pininski's publications provide original archival documents and fully describe the context.[42]

In Jacobite folklore

Charlotte Stuart's story did not take long to enter into the Jacobite folklore. The Scots poet, Robert Burns (1759–96), a near contemporary, wrote a number of works celebrating the tragic romanticism of the Jacobite cause. Amongst them was The Bonnie Lass of Albanie, a lament to Charlotte Stuart probably written at the time of her death. Indeed, evidence from an unpublished collection of letters from Burns to Robert Ainslie reveals the Poet's fascination with Charlotte, in that he considered naming one of his own illegitimate children Charlotte after her.[43]

This lovely maid's of nobel blood,
That ruled Albion's kingdoms three;
But Oh, Alas! for her bonie face,
They hae wrang'd the lass of ALBANIE.


Notes and references

  1. She was given the title in 1783 by her father, Charles Edward Stuart, who claimed to be able to grant Scottish peerages by virtue of being de jure King of Scots. Neither that claim, nor the title itself, were ever recognised by the British State. Her title was recognised by Pope Pius VI, but not, unlike other Jacobite peers, by Louis XVI of France or Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Source: Pittock, Murray G. H. (September 2004; online edn, May 2006) "Charles Edward (1720–1788)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5145, retrieved 14 December 2007 (subscription required)
  2. "The old country houses of the old Glasgow gentry XCIX. Wolfe's House". Glasgow Digital Library. University of Strathclyde. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  3. Maver, Irene. "Clementina Walkinshaw". The Glasgow Story. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  4. Kybert, Susan Maclean (1988). Bonnie Prince Charlie:An Autobiography. London: Unwin. p. 186. ISBN 0-04-440387-9.
  5. Kybert, p. 190
  6. Magnusson, Magnus (2000). Scotland: The Story of a Nation. London: HarperCollins. pp. 628–29. ISBN 0-00-653191-1.
  7. Letter of June 1752, quoted by Kybert, p. 269
  8. Kybert, p. 269
  9. Douglas, Hugh (2004) "Walkinshaw, Clementine, styled countess of Albestroff (c.1720–1802)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28523, retrieved 14 December 2007 (subscription required)
  10. Portrait by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1756 (Musée Fabre, Avignon)
  11. Kybert p. 270
  12. Kybert, p. 271
  13. Kybert, p. 271–2
  14. Kybert, p. 282–3
  15. McFerran, Noel S. (22 December 2003). "Charlotte, Duchess of Albany". The Jacobite Heritage. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  16. Kybert, p. 283–4
  17. Kybert, p. 285
  18. Kybert p. 287–8
  19. Pininski, Peter (September 2003). Edward Corp (ed.). The Stuart's Last Secret, the children of Charlotte Duchess of Albany In The Stuart Court in Rome: The Legacy of Exile. Ashgate Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 0-7546-3324-1.
  20. Kybert, p. 304
  21. "Protest against the Legitimation of Charlotte, Duchess of Albany, 1784". The Jacobite Heritage. 6 October 2003. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  22. Monod, Paul Kelber (March 1993). Jacobitism and the English People, 1688–1788. Cambridge University Press. p. 90. ISBN 0-521-44793-3.
  23. Kybert, p. 305
  24. Kybert, p. 307
  25. Stiùbhart, Domhnall Uilleam (15 March 2005). "The cursed fruits of Charlie's loins". The Scotsman. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  26. McFerran, Noel. "A Jacobite Gazetteer – Bologna: Palazzo Vizzani Sanguinetti". The Jacobite Heritage. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  27. "Will of Charlotte, Duchess of Albany". The Jacobite Heritage. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  28. Kybert, p. 312
  29. Sherburn, George (1960). Roehenstart: A Late Stuart Pretender. Being an Account of the Life of Charles Edward August Maximilien Stuart Baron Korff Count Roenenstart. Chicago: University of Chicago.
  30. Powell, Sarah. "The Stuarts – A Secret Revealed: Peter Pininski interviewed". Burke's Peerage and Gentry. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  31. Pininski, Peter (September 2003). Edward Corp (ed.). The Stuart's Last Secret, the children of Charlotte Duchess of Albany In The Stuart Court in Rome: The Legacy of Exile. Ashgate Publishing. p. 111. ISBN 0-7546-3324-1.
  32. Reitwiesner, William Addams. "Descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie". William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  33. McFerran, Noel (30 October 2003). "General Charles Edward Stuart, Count Roehenstart". The Jacobite Heritage. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  34. Kybert, p. 313
  35. His gravestone states he was 73 although, if born in 1784, he would have been 69 (Kybert, p. 313)
  36. "Charles Edward Stuart". Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  37. Pininski, Peter (April 2002). The Stuarts' Last Secret. Tuckwell Press Ltd. ISBN 1-86232-199-X.
  38. Lyon, Ann (2003). "Book review: The Stuarts' Last Secret" (pdf). The Baronage. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  39. Hugh Massingberd (25 May 2002). "A More Than Likely Story". The Spectator: 48–49.
  40. "The marriages of the granddaughter of Bonnie Prince Charlie", in Genealogists' Magazine: Journal of the Society of Genealogists, vol. 31, no. 2 (June 2013) pages 45–49.
  41. "The Descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie" in Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 31, no. 3 (September 2013) pages 110–111.
  42. Noble, Andrew (editor); Patrick Scott Hogg (2001). The Canongate Burns. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. pp. 677–78. ISBN 0-86241-994-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)


  • Douglas, Hugh (2004) "Walkinshaw, Clementine, styled countess of Albestroff (c.1720–1802)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28523, retrieved 2007-12-14 (subscription required)
  • Kybert, Susan Maclean, Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography London, 1988 Unwin ISBN 0-04-440387-9
  • Magnusson, Magnus, Scotland: The Story of a Nation London, 2000 HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-653191-1
  • McFerran, Noel S., Charlotte, Duchess of Albany The Jacobite Heritage (accessed 4 February 2007)
  • Pininski, Peter, The Stuarts' Last Secret Tuckwell Press, 2001 ISBN 1-86232-199-X
  • Pittock, Murray G. H. (September 2004; online edn, May 2006) "Charles Edward (1720–1788)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5145, retrieved 2007-12-14 (subscription required)
  • Sherburn, George (1960). Roehenstart: A Late Stuart Pretender. Being an Account of the Life of Charles Edward August Maximilien Stuart Baron Korff Count Roenenstart. Chicago: University of Chicago.
  • Uilleam Stiùbhart, Domhnall, The cursed fruits of Charlie's loins? in The Scotsman Fri 15 April 2005 (The

Further reading

  • Buchan, Susan Grosvenor (1935). Funeral march of a marionette: Charlotte of Albany. London: L. and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth press.
  • Skeet, Francis John Angus (1932). The Life and Letters of H.R.H. Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
  • Tayler, Helen Agnes Henrietta (1950). Prince Charlie's Daughter: Being the Life and Letters of Charlotte of Albany. London: Batchworth Press.
  • The Jacobite Heritage (a collection of essays, source texts and other resources maintained by Noel S. McFerran)

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