Warning! Spoilers ahead for Outlander season 6, episode 5!
The epic story of Bonnie Prince Charlie finally saw its most poetic and famous element brought to screen with his escape to the Isle of Skye in Outlander season 6, episode 5. The Starz series, which is based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling book series by the same name, is known for its weaving of history throughout the time-bending tale, with the most recent episode including the Prince’s costumed escape. And while the show adheres closely to history in the depiction of the historical event, there are many details following his escape that Outlander leaves out.
Outlander season 6, episode 5 opens on the beach with Bonnie Prince Charlie dressed as the spinning maid, Betty Burke, trailing behind his accomplice Flora MacDonald. With her help, Prince Charles (who was also, ironically in this case, known as “the Young Pretender”) makes his escape after months spent in hiding following the Jacobite rebellion that led to the Battle of Culloden. And while Outlander’s story follows Claire’s return to her time to protect her and Jamie’s unborn daughter from the bloody battle, later scenes of Jamie’s survival and incarceration at Ardsmuir Prison show the aftermath of Prince Charles’ failed attempt at the throne.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to the Isle of Skye is one of the most famous stories in Scottish history, with the scene shown in Outlander season 6, episode 5 leading to the historic ballad "Over the Seas to Skye" (a version of which has been the Outlander theme song since the Starz series’ inception). Prince Charles’ story does not end with his escape, however, and while Claire (Caitriona Balfe) makes mention of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s later years during Outlander’s pot-smoking scene, there is much more to his story. Following his famous escape, Prince Charles would continue in his plots for the throne with attempts leading to another failed opportunity during the Seven Years’ War, before his death in 1788.
As detailed by Historic UK, the Prince and MacDonald “set sail in a small boat from Benbecula on 27th June 1746, not to the mainland but to Skye, landing in Kilmuir at what is today called Rudha Phrionnsa (Prince’s Point).” It was from there that the Bonnie Prince (played by Andrew Gower in Outlander) was able to secure passage to France, where he lived until the peace between Great Britain and France in 1748 forced his removal from French soil. After that, Bonnie Prince Charlie wandered Europe in search of supporters for his cause and even secretly visited London in 1750 in another failed effort at rebellion, known today as the Elibank plot.
It was not until the Seven Years’ War in 1759 that Prince Charles had another real opportunity at the throne when the French Foreign Prime Minister, Duc de Choiseul, called Stuart to a secret meeting in Paris. Duc de Choiseul planned to use Jacobite numbers to lead the French Invasion with Prince Charles at the helm, however, when Prince Charles arrived late and drunk, the Foreign Minister abandoned his plan. The Prince then moved to Italy, the land of his birth, where he continued in his drunkenness, as Claire notes in the Outlander season 6 scene, with his life ending following a stroke in 1788 at the age of 67. Though his life ended unremarkably, his story is one of the greatest romantic stories in Scottish history, with his escape to the Isle of Skye immortalized in the beautiful song that Outlander continues to make famous, "The Skye Boat Song."
New episodes of Outlander are available on Starz on Sunday nights.