Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/James Francis Edward Stuart

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JAMES FRANCIS EDWARD STUART (1688–1766), prince of Wales, known as the Chevalier de St. George, and also as the Old Pretender, only son of James II, by his second wife, Mary of Modena, was born at St. James's Palace, London, on 10 June 1688. Five years had elapsed since the queen had given birth to a child; her previous children had not survived infancy, and the king's designs for the re-establishment of catholicism made the birth of an heir highly desirable. When thanksgiving was appointed for the queen's pregnancy open incredulity was expressed, and when the birth of a male child was announced the previous suspicions of deception became convictions. The publication, ‘by his Majesty's Command,’ of the ‘Depositions made in Council, on Monday, 22nd October 1688, concerning the birth of the Prince of Wales,’ simply suggested the concoction of the ‘warming-pan’ fiction. More careful precautions might have been taken to provide evidence; the information that has led posterity to acquit the king of the fraud imputed to him was in substance always available (cf. Lingard, Hist. of Engl. x. 167; Burnet, Hist. of his own Time, ed. 1823, iii. 239 et seq.) But the nation was prepared to disbelieve almost any evidence. When King James set out for Salisbury to oppose the march of William of Orange towards London, the infant prince was sent to the fortress of Portsmouth, then under the command of the Duke of Berwick (Clarke, Life of James II, pp. 220–1), but as soon as James had decided on flight from his kingdom the child was brought back secretly to Whitehall on 9 Dec. (ib. p. 237), and along with his mother was sent by night to Gravesend, whence they crossed to Calais, and proceeded to St. Germains (cf. Macaulay, Hist. of England, i. 597). In Clarke's ‘Life of James II’ (ii. 574) it is stated that subsequently the king of France ‘had, underhand, prevailed with the Prince of Orange to consent that the Prince of Wales should succeed to the throne of England after his death,’ and this is confirmed by Dalrymple, who indicates that William of Orange stipulated that the prince ‘should be educated a protestant in England’ (Memoirs of Great Britain, iii. 119). In a memorial, however, sent 27 July 1696 by Middleton, in James II's name, to the pope, it is objected that such an arrangement would be a surrender of the absolute claim of hereditary right (Original Papers, i. 553). The negotiation, therefore, did not go further. Louis XIV promised James II on his deathbed that the child should receive the same treatment as the father, and be acknowledged as king of England (ib. p. 589). Upon the death of James (6 Sept. 1701) a herald appeared at the palace gate of St. Germains, and in Latin, French, and English proclaimed the boy James III of England and VIII of Scotland. Upon an attempt to perform a similar ceremony in London the mock pursuivants were ignominiously pelted and dispersed by the mob. By the Act of Settlement, 21 June 1701, the male line of the Stuarts was excluded from the succession, and only a few hours before his death William gave assent to a special act of attainder against the young prince. Anne showed no more favour to the claims of her half-brother, and his youthfulness weakened the hands of his supporters. The ‘Scots Plot’ of 1704, in which Simon, lord Lovat [q. v.], was chiefly concerned, can scarcely be classed among serious Jacobite attempts, but in 1705 Lieutenant Nathaniel Hooke [q. v.], at the instance of the French king, undertook a mission to Scotland, and on his return to France, in the following May, he reported so favourably of the chances of success for a Jacobite rising, that Louis began to fit out a powerful expedition on behalf of the prince in the following January. Five men-of-war, two transports, and twenty frigates, with about four thousand troops, were collected at Dunkirk, under the command of Admiral Fourbin, and it was decided that the prince should go to encourage his followers. On parting with him at Paris, Louis bade him adieu with the words: ‘The best wish I can make you is that I may never see your face again.’ The arrival of the prince at Dunkirk at once revealed to the English agents the purpose of the expedition, and on 28 Feb., when all was nearly ready, an English fleet, much more powerful than the French, appeared in the Channel. Fourbin sent off an express to Paris for fresh orders, and meantime, on the plea—a false one (Memoirs of the Chevalier de St. George, 1712, p. 58)—that the prince was suffering from measles, the troops were disembarked. Orders arrived to sail at all hazards, and as the English fleet, in dread of the equinoctial gales, had returned to the Downs, Fourbin succeeded on 8 March in stealing away unperceived; but when on the 13th the vessels lay at anchor under the Isle of May, waiting for a tide to take them up the Firth of Forth, the approach of the English fleet was discovered. In face of such a force it was now impossible to carry out the original intention. The chevalier, it is said, wished to be put with his attendants in a small vessel, that he might make for the castle of Wemyss in Fife; but to this the French admiral refused consent, and set out to sea. Byng, the English admiral, followed in pursuit, but only succeeded in capturing one vessel, and, losing sight of the enemy during the night, returned to the mouth of the Firth of Forth. After careful consideration, the French admiral agreed to a proposal to land at Inverness, but on account of stormy weather this also was abandoned, and ultimately a direct course was steered for Dunkirk.

On his return to France the chevalier joined the army in Flanders, where he served with the household troops of Louis, especially distinguishing himself at Oudenarde and Malplaquet. An endeavour was made to induce the French king to send a second expedition to Scotland in the following year, but he was now unable to afford help, and although active negotiations were continued with the Jacobites in England and Scotland (see ‘Stuart Papers’ in Macpherson's Original Papers), no definite step was taken. The hopes of the chevalier were further shattered by a clause in the treaty of Utrecht, in April 1713, which provided for his removal from the dominions of France. Before the treaty was signed he went to Bar-le-Duc, where he was cordially received by the Duke of Lorraine. In May 1711 he had addressed a letter to Queen Anne (ib. ii. 223–4), requesting to be named as her heir; but if, as Lockhart asserts (Papers, i. 480), the queen ‘did design her brother's restoration,’ she never formally declared her intentions before her death, in August 1714, when the Jacobites were unable to hinder the accession of George I. Nevertheless, the change of dynasty tended to strengthen their claim, and they felt the importance of instant action. Preparations for a new expedition were stopped by the death of Louis XIV (1 Sept. 1715). The regent refused any material aid; but in August 1715 the irrevocable step was taken by Mar in the Scottish highlands [see Erskine, John, sixth or eleventh Earl of Mar, 1675–1732]. The attempt of the Duke of Ormonde upon Devonshire at once collapsed, and the disaster at Preston on 13 Nov. completely extinguished any immediate hope of a rising of England. The battle of Sheriffmuir happened on the same day, and in the report of it which reached France the dubious conflict was represented as a magnificent Jacobite triumph. The chevalier had already arranged to set out for Scotland. On 21 Oct., disguised as a servant, he left Bar-le-Duc, and on 8 Nov. he reached the coast near St. Malo (Letter to Bolingbroke in Thornton's Stuart Dynasty, 1890, p. 411). Here the news of Sheriffmuir finally decided him to start for Scotland, but finding it impossible to obtain a passage from St. Malo, he journeyed through Normandy, disguised as a sailor, to Dunkirk, where in the middle of December he embarked on board a small privateer, accompanied by a few attendants. On 22 Dec. a safe landing was made at Peterhead. Here he passed the night, and the next day came to Newburgh, a seat of the Earl Marischal [see Keith, George, tenth Earl Marischal]. Passing through Aberdeen in disguise, he journeyed south to Fetteresso, another seat of the Earl Marischal's, where he was joined by the Earl of Mar and a small band of gentlemen from the army at Perth. On Mar's arrival the chevalier laid aside his disguise, and allowed his arrival to be openly announced. The gentlemen who had met him were constituted a privy council, and proclamations were issued in the name of James VIII of Scotland and III of England, one of which appointed his coronation to take place at Scone. The magistrates of Aberdeen—nominees of Mar—went to offer him their homage, and the episcopal clergy presented him with an enthusiastic address of welcome. For a few days he was detained at Fetteresso by an attack of ague, but on 2 Jan. 1716 he began his journey southwards, by Brechin and Glamis, to Dundee, into which he made a kind of state entry, the populace receiving him with some enthusiasm, and with no manifestations of hostility. He then journeyed leisurely to Scone Palace, which he reached on the 8th. Here he established his court, with the observances and etiquette appropriate to royalty. Preparations were begun for his coronation, the Jacobite ladies denuding themselves of their jewels and ornaments that a crown might be extemporised for the occasion. Almost from the time of the chevalier's landing, however, it was discerned that his position was well-nigh desperate, and even before his arrival at Scone he observed, by way of consoling his followers: ‘For myself, it is no new thing for me to be unfortunate.’ Whatever may have been the ardour kindled by Mar's enthusiastic eulogy of the prince as ‘the first gentleman I ever knew,’ it was quenched as soon as he presented himself to the ‘little kings with their armies’ at Perth. ‘I must not conceal,’ writes one of his followers, ‘that when we saw the man whom they called our king, we found ourselves not at all animated by his presence, and if he was disappointed with us, we were tenfold more so in him. We saw nothing in him that looked like spirit. He never appeared with cheerfulness and vigour to animate us. Our men began to despise him; some asked if he could speak. His countenance looked extremely heavy. He cared not to come abroad among us soldiers, or to see us handle our arms or do our exercise’ (True Account of the Proceedings at Perth, written by a Rebel, 1716, p. 20). The chevalier was weak of purpose, and was managed by his favourites. Mar saw the need of devising a means by which he could decorously escape the perilous consequences of his rash enterprise. The only persons prepared to risk battle on behalf of the chevalier were the highland chiefs and their followers; but their chivalrous determination was one of Mar's chief difficulties. When, on 28 Jan., news reached Perth of Argyll's approach, nothing but immediate flight was thought of. A retreat into the highlands was the resolution ostensibly reached, and it was only on this understanding that the highland chiefs consented to the retrograde movement. The route selected was, however, by the Carse of Gowrie and Dundee to Montrose, provision having secretly been made for the escape, at Montrose, of the chevalier to France. On 31 Jan. the Jacobites crossed the Tay on the ice, the retreat being conducted with the swiftness and skill characteristic of the highland clans, and when they reached Montrose, Argyll was two days' march in their rear. A French vessel was lying in the harbour, and, according to Mar, the chevalier was now first advised to escape to France. Mar, in his ‘Narrative,’ asserts that the chevalier only consented to the proposal when told that his presence would merely increase the danger of his followers; but in a letter of 10 Feb. (Stuart Dynasty, p. 422) Mar asserts that he himself only joined the chevalier in his flight at his urgent solicitation. Lord Drummond and the Earl Marischal were left behind. To avoid English cruisers they sailed westwards, and afterwards, on nearing Norway, kept the coast-line till they reached Walden, near Gravelines, where they landed on 10 Feb. Before leaving Scotland the chevalier addressed a letter to the Duke of Argyll, enclosing a sum of money for distribution among the sufferers from the devastation by the Jacobites on Argyll's line of march, and he also sent a letter to General Gordon, left in command of his highland followers, thanking them for their devotion, explaining that he was deserting them for their own good, and promising to write more in a short time. The letter aroused bitter indignation.

On reaching France the chevalier proceeded by Boulogne and Abbeville to St. Germains, but the regent declined to grant him an interview, and desired him to return to his old quarters at Bar-le-Duc. He made a pretence of acceding to the request, but instead of doing so he went, according to Bolingbroke, ‘to a little house where his female ministers resided.’ Thence he sent a letter to Bolingbroke dismissing him from his service, apparently on the ground of remissness in raising supplies, but probably on account of Mar's influence. Mar succeeded Bolingbroke in the chief management of the chevalier's affairs. Finding it impossible to continue living near Paris, the chevalier withdrew to Avignon, and subsequently retired to Rome. In 1718 an attempt was made by Mar, in his name, to induce Charles XII of Sweden—then at enmity with George I on account of the seizure by the English of the duchies of Bremen and Verden—to send a deputation to Scotland; and, as an earnest of their sincerity, he advised the Scottish Jacobites to send to Charles five or six thousand bolls of oatmeal for the support of his troops (Lockhart, ii. 7). Charles, however, was killed on 11 Dec. Directly afterwards Cardinal Alberoni offered the chevalier the help of Spain, and on Alberoni's invitation he left Rome secretly in February 1719, arriving in Madrid in the beginning of March. Before his arrival the king of Spain, at the instance of Alberoni, had begun preparations at Cadiz for an expedition. The Duke of Ormonde was to lead the main expedition to England with five thousand men, and arms for over thirty thousand more. A subsidiary expedition under the Earl Marischal, of only two frigates, carrying a single battalion of men and over three thousand stands of arms, was to raise the highlands. The main expedition was, however, driven back to port by a storm. The smaller force reached Stornoway, in the Lewis, in safety, but surrendered after the action in the pass of Glenshiels on 1 April. The chevalier had judiciously remained at Madrid, where a residence in the palace of Buen Retiro was assigned him, and he received the honours due to sovereigns. While still at Madrid he was, on 28 May, married by proxy at Avignon to the Princess Maria Clementina, daughter of Prince James Sobieski, eldest son of the king of Poland. There had been a previous proposal to marry him to a niece of the Emperor Charles VI (cf. Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 20311 ff. 268, 281, 20312 ff. 144, &c.) On learning the fate of the expedition he again retired to Rome. In 1722 another Jacobite expedition was contemplated, without foreign aid, but it was abandoned, owing partly to want of money and partly to dissension among the Jacobites in England (Stuart Papers, App. p. 6). To remedy these evils it was proposed to constitute the Earl of Oxford and Bishop Atterbury the heads of the Jacobite movement; but, owing in all probability to the treachery of Mar, the correspondence in connection with the scheme was intercepted. On the proposal of Lockhart of Carnwath (Papers, ii. 26), the affairs of the chevalier in Scotland were entrusted to a body of trustees. When Mar's treachery was discovered, Hay [see Hay, John, titular Earl of Inverness] succeeded him in the office of secretary to the chevalier (1724); but the appointment was very displeasing to the chevalier's wife, the Princess Sobieski, who, irritated perhaps chiefly by jealousy of the wife of Hay, retired in November to a nunnery (Lockhart, ii. 265; see also the chevalier's two letters of remonstrance against the princess's resolution, dated Rome, 5 and 11 Nov. 1725, in Memorial of the Chevalier de St. George on occasion of the Princess Sobieski retiring to a Nunnery, London, 1726). His wife's desertion helped to confirm in the prince those habits which were the original cause of the estrangement, and he became a prey to mingled melancholy and dissipation. His conduct towards his wife tended, moreover, to alienate many of his supporters, whose hopes gradually turned towards his son, Charles Edward. The chevalier, who had a grant of a papal pension in 1727 (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 20313, f. 261), freely gave his savings to aid in fitting out the expedition of 1745, but his interest in it was languid and his anticipations of success were not sanguine. His son Charles, on parting from him, expressed the confidence that he would soon be able to lay three crowns at his feet; but his staid reply was: ‘Be careful, my dear boy, for I would not lose you for all the crowns in the world.’ Writing of him in 1756, the traveller Keysler states that the pope had ‘issued an order that all his subjects should style him king of England; but the Italians make a jest of this, for they term him “the local king,” or “king here,” while the real possessor is styled “the king there,” that is, in England.’ Keysler also states that the chevalier had ‘lately assumed some authority at the opera by calling encore when a song that pleased him was performed; but it was not till after a long pause that his order was obeyed. He never before affected the least power’ (Travels through Germany, &c., English transl. ii. 284). On 8 Nov. 1760 Horace Mann writes: ‘He seems of late totally indifferent to all affairs, both of a public and of a domestic nature’ (Last Stuarts, Roxburghe Club, p. 18). He died about nine o'clock at night, on 1 Jan. 1766 (ib. p. 23). He was buried in the church of St. Peter's, where, in 1819, a monument by Canova was erected, at the expense of George III, over his tomb and that of his two sons, Charles Edward [q. v.] and Henry, cardinal York [q. v.]

The descriptions of the chevalier's character and person by a considerable number of observers are tolerably consistent. Notwithstanding the numerous letters written by him which are still extant, and the variety of particulars recorded of him, he remains obscure because he had really no distinctive character. Physically, he was sufficiently presentable: he was of good height, straight and well-made, and but for a certain vacuity of expression might have been esteemed handsome. In 1714 he is described as ‘always cheerful, but seldom merry, thoughtful but not dejected’ (Letter of Mr. Lesley to a Member of Parliament). ‘An English Traveller at Rome,’ in a ‘Letter to his Father, 6 May 1721,’ mentions the chevalier's ‘air of greatness, which discovered a majesty superior to the rest,’ and says ‘he returned my salute with a smile which changed the sedateness of his first aspect into a very graceful countenance.’ Gray, writing in 1740, is less flattering: ‘He is a thin, ill-made man, extremely tall and awkward, of a most unpromising countenance, a good deal resembling King James the Second, and has extremely the air and look of an idiot, particularly when he laughs or prays. The first he does not often, the latter continually’ (Works, ed. Gosse, ii. 85). Horace Walpole, in 1752, gives a similar account.

Keysler mentions the chevalier's special fondness ‘of seeing his image struck on medals.’ Among numerous portraits, mention may be made of those by A. S. Belle and A. R. Mengs in the National Portrait Gallery; that by Wizeman at Hampton Court; those by Gennari at Stonyhurst, one as an infant; that, as an infant, by Kneller, in the possession of Miss Rosalind B. C. C. de M. Howell; that by T. Blanchet, in the possession of W. J. Hay of Duns; and that, as a boy, by P. de Mignard, in the possession of the Duke of Fife. There are many anonymous portraits. A portrait of him and his sister, Princess Louise, when young, by Largillière, is in the possession of the Earl of Orford; and a picture of his marriage to the Princess Maria Clementina, by Carlo Maratti, is in the possession of the Earl of Northesk. There are a large number of his letters printed in Lockhart's ‘Papers,’ Macpherson's ‘Original Papers,’ the ‘Stuart Papers,’ and Thornton's ‘Stuart Dynasty’ (1890; 2nd edit. 1891). Some of his correspondence with Cardinal Gualterio and others is preserved at the British Museum among the Additional and Egerton MSS. (cf. Index to Additions to Manuscripts in the British Museum, 1854–1875; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vi. 405 et seq.)

[Various particulars about the chevalier, more or less trustworthy, are to be found in such contemporary publications as Memoirs of John, Duke of Melfort, being an Account of the Secret Intrigues of the Chevalier de St. George, particularly relating to the Present Times, 1714; Secret Memoirs of Bar-le-Duc, 1716; Secret History of the Chevalier de St. George, being an Impartial Account of his Birth and Pretensions to the Throne of England, 1714; the Duke of Lorraine's Letter to Her Majesty, containing a Description and Character of the Pretender, 1714; Révolution d'Écosse et d'Irlande en 1707, 1708, et 1709, partie i. 1728; Memorial of the Chevalier de St. George on occasion of the Princess Sobieski retiring to a Nunnery, 1726; History of the Jacobite Club, 1712. See also Nathaniel Hooke's Correspondence (Abbotsford Club); Clarke's Life of James II; Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain; Decline of the Last Stuarts (Roxburghe Club); Klopp's Fall des Hauses Stuart (up to 1713); La Marquise Campana de Cavelli's Les derniers Stuarts; Memoirs of Marshal Keith (Bannatyne Club); and various Lives of Bolingbroke. Among modern books are Jesse's Memoirs of the Pretenders; Chambers's History of the Rebellion; Charles de Brosses' L'Italie il y a cent Ans, 1836; Lacroix de Marlès's Histoire du Chevalier de Saint-Georges et du Prince Charles Edouard, 1860; Doran's Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence, 1875; and Doran's London in Jacobite Times, 1877.]

T. F. H.