BONNIE Prince Charlie is hiding in one of Britain’s most famous paintings, according to a US-based researcher.

The Duke of Cumberland can also be seen in the 18th-century March of the Guards to Finchley, believes Jeremy Bell who has been studying the painting for years.

Much has been written about the characters in the work created by William Hogarth just after the 1745 Jacobite rising but, until now, no-one has noticed the resemblance of two of them to Bonnie Prince Charles and the “Butcher”.

Neither man was at Finchley but Hogarth is famous for the clever puzzles within his art and Bell is convinced the painting depicts details of their imminent battle at Culloden.

Despite the Prince being unnoticed in the work for nearly 300 years, Bell says it doesn’t take long to spot him once it is known he is there.

In the picture, the tall, slender, upright figure is similar to official portraits of the prince. He is riding away from a sign showing Charles II, which might be a reference to his desire to become Charles III. However, from the point of view of someone looking at the picture, he is heading to a barren tree which lies just around the corner.

Bell argues that this is a symbol of the impending disaster that awaits the House of Stuart and contrasts with a healthy tree nearby which is also just out of the prince’s sightline.

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Meanwhile, Bell believes the Duke of Cumberland is represented by a soldier killing a Catholic woman with one end of his pike and cutting an innocent mother and child with the other. Both these readings are only possible because of the painter’s trick of perspective.

The Catholic woman, identified by her cross and priest-like robes, is hitting a grenadier and his pregnant wife with a Jacobite newspaper but the other soldier appears be charging her from behind and driving her back with his halberd.

“On closer inspection, this soldier’s face is similar to a portrait of the Duke of Cumberland which the Protestant woman carries in her basket,” says Bell. “It is covered by a copy of ‘God Save the King’, a reference to rumours of the duke’s aspirations to rule.”

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BELL says the Catholic woman represents the Jacobite forces and her assault is being repelled by a pikeman in what appears to be a reference to the Battle of Culloden. The other end of the halberd axe appears to threaten a mother and child in a cart.

“I believe that this trompe l’oeil refers to the alleged atrocities that took place after the battle,” says Bell.

The grenadier seems to be clutching his chest as his pregnant wife looks on aghast. It is as if he has been shot. This might also be a reference to the battle in which 400 British soldiers were killed. Bell also believes that a man crouched behind Charles is meant to be a Scot because of his red hair. The man looks as though he could be pointing at the prince while also signalling not to give him away.

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The man is painted as if he is being speared by a bayonet which Bell thinks is another reference to the butchery caused by the order not to give quarter to any Jacobite troops. The soldier with the bayonet is also unaware that his rifle is pointing at the head of the man behind who appears to be celebrating the arrival of the Jacobites as he is raising his hat to the portrait of Charles II.

“His execution is another premonition of the carnage that will follow,” says Bell. “It is the foreboding story of a brave attempt to regain the crown for the Stuart line and the atrocities that were committed after its failure.

“How fascinating to discover several hints that identify Charles Edward Stuart in this painting on the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden.”

Bell has found details in many other works by William Hogarth that show how the artist was commissioned to include anti-Jacobite propaganda within his most famous works. His book, William Hogarth – A Freemason’s Harlot, can be ordered from his website