Did any of you see Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution at the National Maritime museum? I loved it, and was so intrigued by the brief reference at the end to James 111 that I decided to pursue him.
James Francis Edward Stuart was born in 1688, the eleventh but first surviving child of James 11 and his second wife, Mary of Modena. He was immediately given a long list of titles and baptised into the Catholic Church with Pope Innocent XI, (for whom the papal nuncio stood as proxy), as one of his godparents. A story was put about by the supporters of the Protestant Prince of Orange (James 11’s brother-in-law), that the real Prince had died at birth and the infant, who was really the son of the unfortunately named Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe, had been smuggled into the queen's bedchamber “in a warming pan” to provide a Catholic heir to the throne. When I was at school, in the remote sixties, this warming pan story was taught as a ‘fact.’
When James was six months old the so-called glorious Revolution took place and William of Orange’s army invaded England. James and Mary fled to France with their baby son, who was brought up at the Palace of St Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. When his father died in 1701, the thirteen-year old was regarded by the Jacobites as King James III of England and VIII of Scotland and his titles were also recognised by the courts of France, Spain, and the Holy See. Here he is actually wearing his crown but still looking rather unsure of himself.
When Queen Anne, James's half-sister, died in 1714, James refused to convert from Catholicism in order to claim the throne and so it passed to a distant relative, the Protestant Elector of Hanover, who succeeded as King George I. As a German who could not speak English, the new king managed to alienate many people and Jacobite supporters used this to attempt a rebellion in 1715. But it was only after the Scots had been defeated at Sherrifmuir and an English Jacobite rising had also failed at Preston that James finally managed to land in Scotland. He made his way to Scone Palace where he set up a court in January 1716. A month later, as government forces approached, he secretly left Scotland; his less than heroic abandonment of his courageous rebel allies understandably enraged them.
James returned to France and, in 1719, married Clementina Sobieska, the grand-daughter of King John III of Poland. They had two sons, Charles Prince of Wales, later Count of Albany (1720-1788), and Henry Duke of York, later Cardinal Duke of York (1725-1807). They moved to Rome to the Palazzo Muti, renamed the Palazzo del Re in James’s honour.
There he maintained a Court in Exile, supported by pensions from the Holy See and France as well as by many legacies from cardinals and Italian nobles. The Popes considered that the Stuarts might be restored to the English throne and naturally wanted to stay on the right side of a future Catholic monarch.
James became the unofficial English ambassador; English and Scottish Grand Tourists, both Protestants and Catholics, were happy to enjoy the lavish hospitality and good wines of the Court in Exile but kept very quiet about having visited the Stuarts when they returned to Hanoverian England, where James was known as the old Pretender and his son Charles as the Young Pretender( 'pretender,' in this context, means 'claimant'). Although he was well treated and able to indulge the usual courtly pursuits of boozing, quarrelling with all his relations and keeping mistresses, James suffered from fits of melancholy and depression. He created titles of nobility for his English supporters and members of his court, which, of course, were not recognised in England. James was allowed to hold Protestant services at his court and was given land where his Protestant subjects could receive a public burial, known as il Cimitero Anticattolico - now the delightful oasis of the Protestant Cemetery, where Keats and Shelley are buried.
In 1745 Charles led a rebellion which came much closer to success than his father's. He led the Jacobites as far south as Derby but he was advised to turn back to Scotland.The following April his army was savagely defeated by “Butcher” Cumberland at Culloden, where over a thousand Jacobites died. Charles survived but decided to abandon his own Jacobite cause. He fled from government forces and hid out in the moors of Scotland. Many Highlanders helped Charles and, remarkably, nobody betrayed him for the £30,000 reward the government was offering. At this point we’re all humming the beautiful Skye Boat Song (lyrics 1884 to a traditional tune).
Flora MacDonald helped him escape pursuers on Skye by taking him in her boat disguised as her Irish maid, Betty Burke...surely one of the great cross -dressing romances of history? But 24-year-old Flora was arrested for aiding the prince's escape and imprisoned in the Tower of London, while the bonnie prince evaded capture and escaped to France.
James 111 died in his Roman palace in 1766 and his remains lie in the crypt of Saint Peter’s, where a monument designed by Canova was raised to his memory. The Pope refused to recognise Charles’s claim to the English throne and accepted the Hanoverians as the legitimate rulers of Britain and Ireland.