Nothing to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie

Every so often I mess about with family history. Not seriously. Really I do it to keep my skills in tracing documents back through the archives up to speed and to practice reading nineteenth century handwriting.

The only real mystery was my maternal grandfather, and that wasn’t really a mystery at all, more, that as he died when my mother was three, her memories of him were hazy, and perhaps confused with other early memories of uncles and aunts.

However, I started using MyHeritage, an ancestry company to back up the relationships map, for no reason that my brother had started on his own family history project using MyHeritage.

One side effect of this is that I get the ‘you’ve got matches’ emails that they send out as a tease to get you to sign up.

Usually they are things I already know, or in the case of Hanna Mathiesen, a false positive, even though Hanna’s turned out to be more useful than I first thought.

And then I got this email a few days ago:

Screenshot 2020-12-06 132038

William Cargill I knew about – in 1808 he married Magdalene Salmond and in 1816 he and Magdalene had a daughter Ann, who married one of the innumerable James Moncur’s in my family tree.

Magdalene’s father was Robert Salmond, and while I havn’t researched any of them, we must be looking at a date earlier than 1775 for Robert’s birth.

Screenshot 2020-12-06 132903

Now, as I have not researched William Cargill. I don’t know what he did for a living, but I’m reasonably certain it was nothing particularly grand.

So what of the other two names mentioned?

Well wikipedia (plus a bit of inspired googling) turned up this family tree:

Screenshot 2020-12-06 141056

so we can say that Charles de Rohan was the offspring of Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and immortalised for ever on shortbread tins.

Charles de Rohan had the following offspring

Screenshot 2020-12-06 140935

which initially all looks rather neat. (Except it isn’t)

Remember the story about Charles de Rohan being smuggled on a British ship to avoid assassination by agents of the Elector of Hanover?

Well, at this time the elector of Hanover was none other than Mad King George of England, and one could see that Charles de Rohan by his existence, could be a threat to the legitimacy of the Hanoverian dynasty, except that by then the Stuart claim was dead, and no real threat.

So what about this John Carter Allen?

He undoubtedly existed, and was an admiral. He had a number of children, including Thomas Allen, who appears to have been born before his father was married, suggesting he was illegitimate. His mother has never been identified.

John Carter Allen’s father, Carter Allen had married a woman name Emma Hay, and on that basis said he had a connection to the Earldom of Errol, the Errols’ surname being Hay. It’s worth noting that Mary Hay the 14th Countess was well known as  a Jacobite sympathiser and the story of Erroll connection could have had an influence on his children and grandchildren. Certainly he was well enough taken with the story to add the name Hay to his.

Thomas Allen had an undistinguished naval career, and while he claimed to have been a captain, seems not to have progressed beyond the rank of lieutenant.

However he did marry reasonably well, to Catherine Matilda Manning, and in time had three children, John, Matilda, and Charles.

This isn’t a story of Regency married bliss however, around 1807 he took up with a younger woman, Ann Salmon, who had been born in Hackney in 1790, and with whom he had five children. Sometimes the name is given as Salmond, and I’m guessing that Ann Salmond or Salmon was a descendant of one of Robert Salmond’s siblings.

Thomas never claimed (as far as I’m aware) to be grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie, but in the 1820’s his two legitimate sons adopted the surname Stuart, and claimed to be descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie

John Sobieski Stuart  c 1845 (attribution etc)

The claim of descent from the Young Pretender is, of course, bollocks.

The genealogist Antony Camp has researched them extensively and found no evidence for their descent from Charles Edward Stuart. It’s just possible Thomas Allen was the son of Charles Edward Stuart, but there’s no evidence to support it.

However, not only did  the brothers claim descent from Charles Edward Stuart, they also perpetrated a monumental hoax, the Vestiarium Scoticum, which claimed to be a history of the clans of Scotland and their tartan. Immensely popular as the romantic tartan myths took off in the 1840’s the book was not debunked until well over a century later.

The Vestiarum filled a need. After the ‘45, the Dress Act had broken the oral history of tartan and the significance, if any, of the various tartans.

In fact many of the associations were invented by weavers in central Scotland who started weaving tartans for the Highland regiments and sought approval for various designs from clan chiefs.

With the birth of highland romanticism in the early Victorian era there was a need to invent a whole history for tartan, and this is what the Sobieski Stuarts proceeded to do. Their claimed descent from Bonnie Prince Charlie of course lent an air of legitimacy to their hoax – a case of ‘if one lie doesn’t do it, tell a bigger one’.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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1 Response to Nothing to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie

  1. Pingback: The Iconography of John Sobieski Stuart | stuff 'n other stuff

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