Tag Archives: Mary of Modena

The arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland.

bonnie prince charlieThe sailing vessel La Du Teillay made land fall on the island of Eriskay on the 23 July 1745.  On board was Charles Edward Stuart, known to his fans as Bonnie Prince Charlie and to the Hanoverians as the Young Pretender.  Charles’ father, the so-called Old Pretender was James Stuart, to some the rightful king of England and only surviving son of King James II whilst to others he was the baby in the bedpan – a changeling placed by James’ send wife Mary of Modena to ensure a catholic succession.  For more about James and Mary as well as the baby in the bed pan click here to open a new window: https://thehistoryjar.com/2016/12/09/mary-of-modena/

James II was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689.  From there he had fled to France where his family lived in exile. Jacobites from that time forward giving their toast to the king passed their glasses and goblets over a jug or bowl of water to signify their loyalty lay with the ‘king over the water.’ The failed rebellion of 1715 had dashed many Jacobite hopes but now some thirty years later the bonnie prince arrived in the name of his father and immediately set about striking heroic poses.

On that day in 1745 the inhabitants of Eriskay weren’t wildly enthusiastic to greet their Stuart monarch.  MacDonald of Boisdale told Charlie to take himself home where upon, with commendable speed, the prince announced that he was home.  It didn’t look good from the outset.  He didn’t bring any French support with him and he’d been told that at most he could probably count on the loyalty of 4,000 Highlanders.  There actually had been a planned invasion by the French the previous year but bad weather had prevented the enterprise.

On the 25 July the prince and his followers sailed for and arrived in mainland Scotland. The Cameron Clan were persuaded to declare their loyalty and the vessel which had carried Charlie to Scotland was dispatched back to France with a letter to the Old Pretender stating that the prince was prepared to die amongst the Highlanders.  It would be the 19th August before the royal standard of the Stuarts was raised drawing the Camerons, Macleods and Keppoch Macdonalds to its colours in the first instance.  There were about 1,200 men. The rebellion had officially begun.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh a wanted poster was drawn up with a price of £30,000 on Charles Edward Stuart’s head. The rebellion, for Bonnie Prince Charlie, would last slightly more than a year and it would see his army march beyond Derby spawning a plethora of blue plaques commemorating locations were he stayed or declared his father to be king as well as providing Sir Walter Scott with heady tales of love, honour and betrayal for the novels he wrote that made historical fiction a best seller.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eighteenth Century, The Stuarts

Mary of Modena

mary_of_modena_pieterszToday’s figure is Catherine of Modena, James II’s wife because it was on the 9th December 1688 that James II lost the Battle of Reading which marked the moment when his son-in-law William of Orange effectively deposed the hapless Stuart with the help of his people. James  having deposited his wife and son with his French cousin Louis XIV returned  and the whole sorry matter dragged on for a while longer  as he tried to hang on to the throne. He was caught by his son-in-law there was some umming and ahhing whilst the English worked out what to do with him and then they just quietly let him go rather than having to go through the tricky business of trying and executing him as they had done with his father.

 

We’re often taught at school that it was because of James II’s catholicism that the political elite of England toppled the second of Charles I’s sons to wear the crown but actually his lack of popularity was not for his personal beliefs alone. It was due to the laws he passed from 1685 onwards which offered religious toleration to everyone whether they were Catholic or Quaker. Other factors in the unrest included James’ links to France.  James was not so good at dissimulating about a french pension as big brother Charles had been. There is  also the fact that he didn’t have Charles II’s ability to juggle the different factions around him with good humour – his personality was a bit on the prickly side.

 

On the 10 June 1688 Mary of Modena gave birth to a boy – Charles Edward Stuart a.k.a. ‘The Old Pretender.’ This added to James’ woes because up until that point folk were prepared to tolerate him knowing that upon his death the throne would go to his eldest daughter Mary (if only  she’d been called something different this would have been a far easier post to write) by his first wife Anne Hyde (James should have married a princess rather than the daughter of  his brother’s leading minister but James had made Anne pregnant and had to be forced to the altar by his exasperated brother and future father-in-law). Mary (James’ daughter) was the protestant wife of the staunchly protestant William of Orange. Mary and her sister Anne conspired with one another to suggest that their half-brother wasn’t actually their half brother thus giving William the excuse he needed to accept the invitation to take the English crown. I’m not sure how Mary (daughter) squared that particular circle in her mind given that she was supposed to be friends with her slandered step-mother.

 

By December 1688 there had been anti-Catholic riots, plotting aplenty and rumour. James dithered. This was followed on the 9 December by the Battle of Reading, which James lost, and it was off to France for Mary of Modena the following day.

 

So who was she apart from James II’s second queen? Mary Beatrice d’Este, born 1658, was related to everyone important in Europe – the Bourbons and the Medicis. Her great uncle was the hugely influential Cardinal Mazarin. Her mother was very pious and little Mary grew up the same way.

 

Mary’s father died when she was just four. When she was eleven she contemplated becoming a nun  but it was evident that a child with so much important ancestry wasn’t going to be allowed to do that.  The Papacy, the French and even her own mother, who was acting as regent for her brother until he came of age, wanted to ensure the best and most beneficial marriage for themselves. Mary found herself being married off to Prince James a.k.a the Duke of York as the result of the usual diplomatic intriguing that went into most royal marriages the negotiations were strained. The pair eventually married by proxy and Mary, by now fifteen, left Italy to meet her new husband in 1673.

James was twenty-five years older than her, widowed with two daughters who weren’t terribly keen on their new step-mother. James was very admiring of his new bride but when she finally met him she is said to have burst into tears. Things probably didn’t get any better when James introduced her to her new step-daughters with the words “I’ve brought you a new play fellow.”  Mary (the new duchess of York) was four years older than Mary (James’ daughter) and some six years older than Anne. She did try to befriend Anne by playing with her.

 

Elsewhere in the country even though as an individual it is clear that Mary was a hugely sincere and likeable person (Charles II regarded her highly) the population called her ‘The Pope’s Daughter” and muttered darkly – so darkly in fact that Charles II sent his brother and bride out of London to let the matter cool down.

 

Gradually the resentment became an undercurrent. The problem seemed to be one that would resolve itself in time.  Charles II died. Prince James the duke of York became King James II.  Mary’s relationship with her step-daughters had resolved itself into dislike by Anne and warmth with Mary.  Mary had no real nursery to tend. Young Charles Edward was actually one of seven but all of them had died either at birth or before they reached the age of five up until that time – one little princess died as the result of illness caught from half-sister Anne. It can’t have helped Mary that there were plenty of other little Stuarts kicking about as James II had the same problems with fidelity as his elder brother.

Then came the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

So, where does that leave Mary?  Louis XIV provided the royal fugitives with a home, the Chateau de Saint- Germain-en-Laye just outside Paris and a pension. Mary bore James another child, the Princess Louisa Mary (one of England’s forgotten princesses) but she died of smallpox when she was nineteen.

 

James made a number of attempts to reclaim his throne. Mary’s jewels had to be sold to finance the ventures. Gradually James sank into bitterness and then, it has been suggested, senility before dying in 1701.

Mary who’d cried at first sight of her husband had grown to love him over the years. She wore black for the rest of her life and became increasingly withdrawn to the contemplative life that she’d hoped for as a child in the company of the nuns of the Convent of the Visitations. She died in 1718 in poverty and was buried by the nuns.

 

Her only surviving child – the so-called “baby in the bedpan” after the claim that the royal child was stillborn and a substitute smuggled into the royal bedchamber – proclaimed himself King James III. If you feel the urge you can still see the bed where Charles Edward Stuart was born or emerged from the bedpan. http://www.hrp.org.uk/exhibition-archive/secrets-of-the-royal-bedchamber/the-royal-beds/#gs.hTi2n=Y

 

I think that Mary was the only Italian queen England has had. She was also England’s last Catholic queen as the 1689 act of succession, or more correctly Bill of Rights, which invited William and Mary to become joint sovereigns, identified the order of succession specifically excluding potential catholic heirs. The 1701 Act of Settlement which identified where the crown would go after Queen Anne popped her clogs specified that no one married to a catholic could become monarch either.  This was confirmed in 1714 when George, elector of Hanover was invited to become King George I.

That’s not to say there might never be another catholic queen.  The Crown Act of 2013 ended those restrictions along with the system whereby a younger son displaces an elder sister from the succession – now the first born is the heir to the crown irrelevant of their gender or the gender of any siblings they may subsequentially acquire.

 

There’s even a biography freely available if you feel the urge:

https://archive.org/details/queenmaryofmoden00hailuoft

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Filed under December, On this day..., Queens of England, Seventeenth Century, The Stuarts

King James III lands

Prince_James_Edward_Stuart,_the_Old_PretenderOn the 23rd March 1708 King James III of England landed at the Firth of Forth.   History knows the king rather better as James Edward Stuart, the so-called Old-Pretender or the ‘baby in the bedpan.’

Charles II had balanced the political and religious beliefs of his subjects with all the acumen of an accomplished juggler.  Yes he’d relied heavily on the financial largesse of his cousin the French king.  Yes, he’d promised to convert to Catholicism at some point in the future (he was actually received into the Catholic church on his deathbed) and yes his queen Catherine of Braganza was Catholic but he didn’t alienate his people.  By contrast brother James managed to irritate most of the population irrelevant of their religious beliefs mainly because he failed to learn from his father’s errors and tried to turn the clock back to a time when people did what the king told them to do.  The final straw came in 1688 when James’s young bride Mary of Modena gave birth to a baby boy.

Rumours swiftly spread that Mary had given birth to a stillborn child and that a healthy baby had been smuggled into the palace in a bedpan.  Now – I don’t know about you but it would have to have been one heck of a bedpan or a very small baby for no one to spot the deception.  In any event the arrival of baby James prompted the new arrival’s more mature brother-in-law, William of Orange, to kick James Senior off the throne. It’s always nice to encounter a close and loving family.

Little James  grew up in France at the chateau of St-Germain-en-Laye. He was declared King James III of England and VIII of Scotland on his father’s death in 1701.  His title was acclaimed by the Pope as well as Catholic Spain and France.  Unfortunately Protestant England refused to play ball and even when King William died the country preferred James’ big sister Anne who was safely protestant though undesirably female – as we all know kings are better than queens except when they’re catholic or when they’re called Elizabeth Tudor.

In 1708 James attempted to claim his kingdom.  He decided the best bet was to invade Scotland where he would have been King James VIII (just in case you weren’t already confused enough). It was not a rip roaring success.

James returned to Scotland for a second time following the Jacobite uprising in 1715 – a rebellion against the new king (George I) who was German, a little on the podgy side and who didn’t speak a word of English.  His main qualification – you’ve got it- was the the fact that he was protestant.  James had actually turned down the opportunity of getting the crown by invitation when he’d refused overtures which came with the proviso of converting to C of E.

By February 1716 James had left the country once again never to return.  Sentimental types took to toasting the ‘king over the water’ – which sounds vaguely like some kind of Tolkienesque elf but that’s because my reading habits are far too eclectic.

 

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Filed under Eighteenth Century, Kings of England