The letter written by Bonnie Prince Charlie to King Louis XV of France on November 5 1746, 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, is being sold at the Lyon & Turnbull books and manuscripts auction in Edinburgh on May 7th 2014.
Details are given on Lyon & Turnbull’s website,
The catalogue entry is below.
Lot 98: Stuart, Charles Edward, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, or “The Young Pretender”, 1720-88
Estimated Price: £8,000 – £12,000
Description: Stuart, Charles Edward, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, or “The Young Pretender”, 1720-88
Autograph letter signed to Louis XV, the King of France, “Monsieur Mon Frere et Cousin. J’ai eu l’honneur d’ecrire a Votre Majesté”, stating that he has written a Memorandum of his affairs [“un petit memoire des mes affaires”], that he strongly hopes to put into the hands of the King himself, and that he waits with impatience the King’s orders as to the day and way he may do so, and offering to come incognito to a secret rendezvous to be recommended by the king, signed “Monsieur Mon Frere et Cousin de Votre Majesté, le bon Frere et Cousin, Charles P., Clichy, le 5 Novembre, 1746”, 1 page, with Stuart, Charles Edward Autograph covering letter, stating that he is enclosing a letter for His Majesty, that without exception no one knows that he has written it nor the method of its delivery, stating that the carrier, Monsieur Kelly, is a citizen esteemed by him but that nevertheless he knows nothing of the contents [“il ne scait rien pourtant du contenu”], and that he is completely convinced of His Majesty’s friendship for him and he can be same of his, 1 leaf, integral blank, Clichy, 5 November, 1746; Stuart, Charles Edward. Autograph memoir, headed “Memoire”, describing the political situation [“ce Roiaume est a la veille de se voir aneantir”], stating that English government oppression is fostering ever more support for his cause [“j’y trouverais aujourdhui trois partisans pour un que j’y ay trouvé en debarquant”], explains his lack of success at taking the English throne, noting that he has never lacked for Scottish subjects ready to fight, but lacked money, equipment and a regular army “J’ay manqué tout a la fois, d’argent, de vivres et d’une poigneé de troupes regulieres” . If he had had just one of these he states, he would by now have been King of Scotland “et vraisembalement de toute l’Angleterre”, 2 pp., integral blank leaf, all 31 x 20cm., all with small stamp “Bu. Poitiers, Archives d’Argenson”
Notes: Provenance: The letter was passed by King Louis to the Marquis d’Argenson, his Minister of War and it remained in the d”Argenson family archives for nearly 250 years until it was loaned to the University of Poitiers for safekeeping. In 2002 the d’Argenson family sold this and other documents. Note: 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; and  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. 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. 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. 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 40 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 November 5th 1746.