Page last updated at 20:26 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 21:26 UK

Guns and gold too late for prince

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Battlescar on ren-enactment
Battlescar recreated the Jacobites' retreat from Culloden

Divers say they have found the wreck of a vessel which may have been sent to relieve Bonnie Prince Charlie after his 1746 defeat at the Battle of Culloden.

The team says artefacts recovered from the ship, found off the north Wales coast, suggest it may have been bringing supplies from the King of France.

If its mission was to help Prince Charles Edward Stuart, in his bid to return the Stuart dynasty to the British throne, then it was not the only unsuccessful attempt to do so.

Artillery and gold were also dispatched to aid the "Young Pretender" in his fight for the British crown.

Earlier this year, Ian Deveney and a handful of other members of Battlescar re-enactment company recreated the Jacobites' retreat from near Inverness following the defeat at Culloden on 16 April 1746.

The men, in authentic period costume right down to buckled brogues, trudged into the ruins of Ruthven Barracks south of Aviemore - their feet a bubble-wrap of blisters.

Canons and fresh supplies were not the only items to arrive too late to help the cause

In the original forced march south, along a route now closely followed by the A9 trunk road, the defeated soldiers met a baggage train and artillery headed for Culloden, but far too late for the battle.

The troops eventually gathered at Ruthven - even then a ransacked government army barracks - with the plan of regrouping before pushing on with the rebellion.

But with their leader fearing he had been betrayed and in hiding while trying to flee to France, the men were told to disperse.

Canons and fresh supplies were not the only items to arrive too late to help the cause.

French gold sent to Scotland to fund the rebellion also did not arrive until after the Battle of Culloden.

A portion of the money was believed to have been hidden at Arisaig, near Mallaig.

Neil Oliver, an archaeologist and co-presenter of TV programmes Two men in a trench and Coast, went in search for the lost treasure in 2007.

He said the original complete sum of money sent from France may be worth £5m today.

In the aftermath of Culloden, Prince Charlie spent several months on the run hunted by troops on the ground and the Royal Navy at sea.

HMS Furnace - captained by Aberdeenshire naval officer John Ferguson - and HMS Terror were among the warships in pursuit of the prince.

Portrait from Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Bonnie Prince Charlie evaded capture by keeping on the move

When the navy ships anchored close to shore, nearby homes of Jacobite supporters were burned down by sailors and marines.

One of the strangest incidents saw the warships arrive at the remote archipelago of St Kilda.

The islanders ran from their homes and hid in the hills.

When the government soldiers finally tracked them down, they quickly realised that the islanders had never heard of the prince, and that he was not hiding on the islands.

The Young Pretender flitted between the west Highlands mainland, Skye and the Outer Hebrides.

Most famously, he was taken to Portree on Skye by Flora MacDonald while disguised in women's clothing and pretending to be an Irish maiden by the name of Betty Burke.

MacDonald was later arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

Eventually, at Loch nan Uamh near Arisaig, two French vessels L'Heureux and Le Prince Conti and their crews reached Prince Charlie and he was taken to France.

More than 250 years later, divers and historians hope to establish whether the latest wreck to be explored off the rugged north Wales coast was a ship that tried but failed to achieve what the two privateers did.

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