Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 1 January 2016

King James III and VIII

Today is the 250th anniversary of the death in Rome in 1766 of the Jacobite claimant to the throne King James III and VIII.

He given full regal honours for his funeral and burial in St Peters Basilica, having enjoyed Papal recognition as King of Great Britain and Ireland, but from January 14th of that year the Papacy  to the chagrin of both of his sons recognised King George III as being the British monarch.

I wrote about King James III and VIII in a post in 2013 for the 325th anniversary of his birth in a piece which can be seen at The birth of King James III and VIII

An important part in keeping the image alive amongst adherents was played by artists for whom the claimant King and his sons sat.

The claimant King James as a teenager

Francois du Troy

Image: magnoliabox.com


Monarch in waiting in 1712

Alexis Simon Belle

Image: Wikimedia

James can still lay claim to being the longest reigning British monarch, even if in exile. His reign of sixty four and a quarter years will be exceeded on June 3 ( if my quick calculation is right ) by Queen Elizabeth II.

Had he given up his Catholic faith he might well have succeeded his half-sister Queen Anne in 1714, and indeed the idea of his being adopted as heir to the throne by King William III had been suggested by King Louis XIV. The sticking point for both sides was James' Catholicism.

He might well have proved a good monarch, and one might add that he was not that dissimilar in some ways to King George I and King George II, even if he had a less turbulent or colourful private life - though his Queen Clementina left him at one point to live in a convent. After 1745 he had poor relations with his eldest son, very much like the Hanoverians.

His pietism was something he had in common in essence with reigning Catholic contemporaries such as the Empress Maria Theresa and her son the Emperor Joseph II as well as Danish and Prussian contemporary monarchs.

His stated intention if in power was to allow freedom of religion, and ask that his subjects would grant him the same. That was in reality a difficult request - even the most recent legislation still forbids the British monarch himself or herself from being a Roman Catholic because of the Supreme Governorship of the Church of England. Given the realities [sic] of Synodical Government it is difficult to see why that matters at all. However it does point to the question as to whether any eighteenth century monarchy could envisage much in the way of plurality of denominations before the 1780s - as the Emperor Joseph II and his brother-in-law King Louis XVI found they got precious little thanks for liberalisng measures in that decade.

How realistic were the chances of a Jacobite or Stuart restoration? This is difficult to answer, and would have depended upon the cirumstances. The Duke of Berwick, illegitimate son of King James II appears to have been more realistic that many others in his assessment of his half-brother's chances, and favoured, had it been possible, a coup d'etat on the death of Queen Anne.

With successive defeats and consequent executions the numbers and confidence of Jacobites inevitably declined. What were the chances for the '08, the'15, the'19, the '45, or indeed of the'59 had it got that far off the ground. They were all dependent on French or Spanish support, the Stuart claim being a useful distraction for a continental power to use when at war with Hanoverian Britain.

In some places, not least Oxford, but also the western Midland counties, parts of the north and in Scotland, Jacobite sympathies remained strong with or alongside Toryism and High Church or Non-Juring Anglican, Scottish Episcopalians and Roman Catholics. As late as the 1770s Dr Johnson could assert that given the chance and opportunity the country would welcome back the Stuarts.

Romantic Jacobitism, which still has an appeal today, and has included not a few people over the years - including at times Queen Victoria herself - may in part have been the curse of the movement, in that drinking deep in the wee small hours to the King over the Water did ( and does) little to bring him back.

I have seen the argument that the extent of the threat posed by the Jacobite cause to the 1689 Settlement and the Hanoverians was talked up by Walpole to maintain his position as chief minister. I am not sufficiently informed as to pronouncing on this, but I can see how the fear of Popery and Absolutism - however ill-founded - was easily exploited.

Once in exile from an island realm the sheer physical difficulty of getting back increased in time as the population settled don to rule by, or in the name of, the Hanoverians.


The dream of Kingship

Louis Gabriel Blanchet 1741

Image: Wikimedia

Old Mr Misfortune, as he was known to British agents in Rome, spent his last years as a distinguished figure, but one who was estranged from his son and heir, a devout widower who doubtless to many appeared a link to an ever receding world.

His monument in St Peter's and his reburial there together with his sons in 1939 were paid for respectively by King George IV and King George VI, rather as Queen Victoria commemorated King James II at St Germain. A case of keeping things in the family.

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