Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Carol is 'ode to Bonnie Prince'

Portrait from Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated at Culloden in 1746

One of the most popular Christmas carols has a secret political code linked to the Jacobite rebellion, a Durham University professor claims.

According to head of music Bennett Zon, O Come All Ye Faithful is actually a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

He said "clear references" to the prince were in the lyrics, written by John Francis Wade in the 18th Century.

The prince was defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 after raising an army to take the British throne.

Born shortly before Christmas in December 1720, Bonnie Prince Charlie was the grandson of England's last Catholic monarch, James II.

He was born in exile in Italy and became the focus for Catholic Jacobite rebels intent on restoring the House of Stuart to the British throne.

'Popular consciousness'

In 1745, he raised an army to invade the British Isles, taking Edinburgh, but was defeated at Culloden in April 1746.

Prof Zon, said there was "far more" to the carol - also known as Adeste Fideles - than was originally thought.

He said: "Fideles is Faithful Catholic Jacobites. Bethlehem is a common Jacobite cipher for England, and Regem Angelorum is a well-known pun on Angelorum, angels and Anglorum, English.

"The meaning of the Christmas carol is clear: 'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels' really means, 'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of the English' - Bonnie Prince Charlie."

Professor Zon said the Jacobite meaning of the carol gradually faded as the cause lost its grip on popular consciousness.

He added: "The real meaning of the carol, remains, however. Although whose birth we choose to celebrate in it remains a matter of personal decision."

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