Debunking History’s Handsome Prince: New Look at Bonnie Prince Charlie

Debunking History’s Handsome Prince: New Look at Bonnie Prince Charlie


Renowned for his good looks and immortalized in popular culture, the historical figure Bonnie Prince Charlie’s appearance has been reimagined in a way that challenges traditional perceptions.

Recent recreations of the Jacobite pretender’s face reveal a different side to his image, suggesting that his boyish looks were marked by imperfections.

Contrary to the widespread notion of the 18th century ‘bonnie prince’ as a handsome charmer, these new renditions depict him with pimples and unruly dirty blonde ringlets.

The new depiction, created by the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, is based on 3D scans of Charles Edward Stuart’s ‘death mask,’ a cast made from a person’s face after death for posthumous portraits.

Unveiling the New Image: From Boyish Charmer to Reality

The rendering offers a stark contrast to the romanticized view of the prince that has persisted throughout history.


The recreated image showcases Charles Edward Stuart with blonde ringlets, wearing a white shirt, and featuring blotchy patches on his skin, capturing his appearance during the Jacobite rising.

This uprising marked his unsuccessful attempt to restore his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, to the British throne.

The project, led by master’s student Barbora Vesela, aims to humanize the historical figure, inviting viewers to perceive him as more than just a legendary character.

Barbora Vesela emphasized the emotional connection that emerged during the process, underscoring the realization that the figure behind the mask was once a living person.

She hopes that the digitally de-aged depiction will prompt people to contemplate the prince’s life as a genuine individual rather than just a legend.


The rendering serves as a reminder that history often overlooks the age and humanity of its subjects, making the portrayal of a 24-year-old Prince Charlie during a pivotal moment in history particularly intriguing.

Examining Features and Challenging Idealized Views

While subjective, beauty takes a back seat in the new representation, with a focus on Prince Charlie’s distinctive features, including his nose and eyes.

The aim is to encourage deeper examination of his character.

At the same time, the project’s creators emphasize the importance of avoiding idealized romanticism of the era or the historical figure.

This approach helps to bridge the gap between history and humanity, providing a face to a name from the past.


The Reconstruction Process: Merging Art and Science

The reimagined depiction was meticulously crafted over several months, involving an examination of multiple copies of Charles’ death masks.

Photogrammetry software was employed to create a 3D model from nearly 500 images taken from various angles.

By utilizing ‘age regression’ techniques, the researchers digitally transformed Charles from his age at death (67) to approximately 24, the age he was during the Jacobite uprising.

The resulting 3D scans will be featured in the University of Dundee’s annual Masters Show, offering an opportunity for the public to engage with this reinterpretation.

A Fascinating Historical Insight

Tobias Houlton, an expert in craniofacial identification and forensic imaging, expressed excitement about the project, highlighting the fresh perspective it offers on European history.


The marriage of historical accuracy and artificial age regression captures the prince during his most famous period—the Jacobite era.

This interdisciplinary endeavor showcases the range of expertise present at the University of Dundee.

The Jacobite Revolution and the Enduring Legacy

The Jacobite revolution, spearheaded by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aimed to restore his exiled father, James III of England and Ireland and VIII of Scotland, to the British throne.

Amid tensions between Protestant England and Catholic and Jacobean communities, Charles led the 1745 uprising.

Fluent in several languages by the age of six, he sought to dethrone George II by invading England.


Although he achieved victories, the Battle of Culloden marked his defeat in 1746.

Charles’ subsequent adventures and influence have left an indelible mark, inspiring literary works like Diana Gabaldon’s series “Outlander.”

In summary, the recreation of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s appearance challenges idealized views of history and presents a more realistic portrayal of the young revolutionary.

This reinterpretation serves as a reminder of the humanity behind historical figures and offers a unique glimpse into a pivotal period in European history.

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