O Come All Ye Faithful, attributed to John Francis Wade, was not intended to be the rousing Christmas hymn it is today, but a coded rallying call for Catholic supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie ( 1720-1788)and the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne, declares Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University.

He finds from his research that the Latin version of the hymn, Adeste Fideles, celebrated the birth not of Jesus but of the Prince. Of course today, the hymn is  universally sung in reference to the birth of Jeus of Nazareth, and not of  the Stuart pretender.  In the following video, the choir of Norwich Cathedral sing the hymn.

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The "faithful" in the song, he says, referred to those who believed that the 18th century prince – who was the grandson of England's last Catholic monarch, James II – was the rightful heir. 

On the invasion by William of Orange, and unable to garner sufficient support, James II did what William hoped he would do, he fled. The last thing William wanted was to capture the King.

James left England to place himself under  the protection of what most English saw as their enemy, the  King of France, Louis XIV. He destroyed importnat state papers related the summoning of Parliament, and cast the Great Seal into the Thames.

After toying with the idea of declaring regency, Parliament ruled that he had abdicated.

They decided against  establishing a regency in favour of James’ young son, Prince James, the Prince of Wales, who came to be known subsequently as “ The Old  Pretender”.  James had taken him to France, so he too was under the protection, and the English feared the control, of Louis XIV. 

Instead Parliament invited James’ daughter, Princess Mary, and her husband Prince William of Orange, the stadtholder of the main provinces constituting the Dutch Republic, to become joint Sovereigns on their accepting the Bill of Rights, thus ensuring the birth and evolution of the modern constitutional monarchy.

Born in exile in 1720, Prince Charles Edward Stuart,  “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” became the focus for Catholic Jacobite rebels who wanted to restore the House of Stuart to the English throne.

In 1745 he raised an army, and took Edinburgh. He was however defeated at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness on 16 April 1746 by King George II's forces.

"Fideles,” Professor Zon says “ 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."

When Bonnie Prince Charlie died in 1788,  his brother Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart became the Pretender.  Since then no one in the line of succession has claimed the throne.

The succession now resides with Franz, the Duke of Bavaria.

Bonnie Prince Charlie is immortalized in the haunting sounds of the Skye Boat Song, composed in 1884 by Sir Harold Boulton with an alternative version by Robert Louis Stephenson.

This  commemorates the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie from Scotland when Flora Macdonald took him, disguised as her serving maid, from Uist to Skye in a small boat after the Battle of Culloden. A video of the song follows as well as the words.

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Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,

'Onward' the sailors cry!

Carry the lad that is born to be King,

Over the sea to Skye. 

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,

Thunderclaps rend the air,

Baffled our foes stand on the shore,

Follow they will not dare. 

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,

'Onward' the sailors cry!

Carry the lad that is born to be King,

Over the sea to Skye. 

Though the waves leap,

soft shall ye sleep,

Ocean's a royal bed;

Rocked in the deep,

Flora will keep

Watch by your weary head. 

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,

'Onward' the sailors cry!

Carry the lad that is born to be King,

Over the sea to Skye. 

Many's the man fought on that day,

Well the claymore could wield,

When the night came, silently lay

Dead on Culloden's field. 

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,

'Onward' the sailors cry!

Carry the lad that is born to be King,

Over the sea to Skye. 

Burned are our homes, exile and death

Scatter the loyal men;

Yet, e'er the sword cool in the sheath,

Charlie will come again. 

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,

'Onward' the sailors cry!

Carry the lad that is born to be King,

Over the sea to Skye.