Attributed to Antonio David, 1698 - 1750
Portrait of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart 1688 - 1766 half length in Armour
Prince James Francis Edward Stuart
Oil on Canvas
76.20 x 63.50 cm. (30 x 25 in.)


Benjamin Bates, Jun Atalanta Georgia


James Francis Edward [James Francis Edward Stuart; styled James VIII and III; known as Chevalier de St George, Pretender, Old Pretender](1688–1766), Jacobite claimant to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was born at St James's Palace, Westminster, on 10 June 1688, the only surviving son of James II and VII (1633–1701) and his second wife, Maria Beatrice d'Este of Modena [see Mary (1658–1718)]. His birth was highly controversial; his mother had last given birth in 1683 and none of her five earlier children had survived infancy. By the autumn of 1687, when it was generally assumed that the king and queen could not produce healthy children, it was widely feared that James II's policies were directed towards the formal re-establishment of Roman Catholicism as the state religion; in such circumstances the birth of a male heir, who would supersede his protestant half-sisters, Princess Mary of Orange [see Mary II (1662–1694)] and Princess Anne of Denmark [see Anne (1665–1714)], in the succession, would be highly convenient. From the moment the queen's pregnancy was formally announced in November 1687, protestants started a campaign to question its legitimacy and, where possible, avoided the queen's lying-in. Those who were obligated to be present, by virtue of their offices, took pains to stand with their backs to the queen's bed, so they could not be called upon to provide eye-witness testimony. James II attempted in vain to discredit the ‘warming pan’ fiction (so called after rumours that the child had been smuggled into the queen's chamber in such a device) by publishing the depositions of over seventy witnesses to the birth (Depositions made in council on Monday, 22 October 1688, concerning the birth of the prince of Wales), but the nation was prepared to disbelieve any evidence. When the king left London on 17 November to go to Salisbury to confront Prince William of Orange, James was sent to the fortress at Portsmouth, then under the command of his half-brother, James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick, but as soon as James II had decided to flee to France the prince was returned to London on 9 December, and that night with his mother was taken to Gravesend to embark for Calais. On their arrival Louis XIV ordered that they be transported to the château of St Germain-en-Laye, which was to be the prince's home for the next twenty-four years.

Exile and succession, 1689–1714

During the ensuing Nine Years' War, William III's Roman Catholic allies suggested a compromise which would allow William to remain king for his lifetime, to be succeeded by the prince of Wales. There is no evidence that William had any intention whatsoever of repealing the clause in the Bill of Rights of 1689 which barred all Roman Catholics from succession to the throne; Louis XIV, however, desperate for peace, apparently broached the idea with James II, who flatly refused to allow his son to be bred a protestant. When in July 1696 James II established an independent household for his son, he gave the prince's new governor, James Drummond, fourth earl of Perth, an extremely detailed set of rules, the burden of which was to ensure that the prince would not spend one moment without direct adult supervision (Stuart Papers, 1.114–17).

On 2/13 September 1701, three days before James II's death, Louis XIV visited St Germain and publicly announced that on the king's death France would recognize his son as king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. This recognition, in contravention of Louis's promises in the treaty of Ryswick (1697), infuriated the English public. In June 1701 parliament had passed an Act of Settlement which vested the succession in the next protestant heir, the dowager Electress Sophia of Hanover ‘and the heirs of her body being protestant’. Only a few hours before his death on 8 March 1702, William III assented to an attainder of ‘the pretended James III’ as well as an act of abjuration of the young prince. During his minority the regency was vested in the prince's mother, Queen Mary, and Jacobite affairs were directed by her closest adviser, Charles, second earl of Middleton; their influence over James remained paramount even after the formal declaration of his majority in June 1706.

A lifetime of repeated failure should not obscure James Francis Edward Stuart's many assets: tenacity of purpose, considerable physical courage, a quick (but not profound) intelligence, and a quiet personal charm (but not the magnetism of his uncle, Charles II, or of his eldest son, Charles Edward). Reared largely by Scottish Catholic exiles, James's education had produced a careful, cautious man, very much at home at his writing desk, from which poured thousands of letters. James was susceptible to the influence of favourites in all but one point: he consistently refused to consider renouncing the religion in which he had been reared, even though he fully realized that it precluded his restoration to the British throne.

During the reign of his immensely popular half-sister Queen Anne (1702–1714), there appeared to be little hope of a successful Jacobite uprising in Great Britain; none the less, the French in 1705 sent Lieutenant Nathaniel Hooke to Scotland to explore possibilities there; on his return to France in May 1706 Hooke reported favourably on the possibilities in the northern kingdom. It was the series of military and financial disasters produced by the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), however, which impelled the desperate Louis XIV and his ministers to undertake what they regarded as a last throw of the dice, an invasion of Scotland to exploit nationalist discontent there against the Act of Union (1707). Five men-of-war, two transports, and twenty frigates with approximately 4000 French troops under the command of Admiral Claude Forbin were assembled at Dunkirk at the beginning of 1708; on 21 February/3 March James left St Germain secretly and proceeded to Dunkirk, where he arrived two days later. He promptly came down with measles, however, and on the insistence of his physicians the expedition was delayed for one week, finally sailing on 6/17 March. The delay allowed English and Dutch spies in the French ports to alert London and The Hague, and the French found themselves pursued through the channel into the North Sea by a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of Sir George Byng. The French fleet reached the mouth of the Firth of Forth, but had not seen the bonfires on the coast promised by Scottish Jacobites (most of whom had been arrested) indicating where they should land. Ignoring James's pleas that he, with only his attendants, be allowed to embark in a small boat to land in Fife, Forbin chose to escape Byng's approaching fleet, which he succeeded in doing, returning to Dunkirk with only one ship captured on 27 March/7 April.

On James's return to France, Louis acquiesced in his long-time plea to be allowed to serve militarily, and accordingly he joined the household troops in the army of Flanders, serving with distinction in the battles of Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709). The Hague peace negotiations in the spring of 1709 had made it clear that the French would agree to James's expulsion from France as one of the conditions of peace with Great Britain, but Louis was still determined to extract the last ounce of advantage from his support of the Stuarts. In the summer of 1711, instead of being posted again to the army, James was dispatched on a tour of western France in order to raise British apprehensions of another invasion attempt. The advent in August–September 1710 of a new tory government in London, led by Robert Harley, inspired new Jacobite hopes of a Stuart restoration; indeed Harley, in his secret negotiations with the French secretary of foreign affairs, the marquis de Torcy, suggested that James's restoration was his ultimate goal, ‘if he thinks like us’ in matters of religion. In September 1711, however, the British made it clear that James's expulsion from France was still a prerequisite of peace, although in collusion with Harley (created lord treasurer and earl of Oxford in May 1711) and his secretary of state, Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, Louis and Torcy were able to arrange for James to take up residence in the neighbouring duchy of Lorraine, which he did in February 1713.

After the conclusion of the treaty of Utrecht (1713), Great Britain's erstwhile allies, the whigs, the Electress Sophia, and her eldest son, George Lewis, elector of Hanover, were all convinced that the tory government intended to repeal the Act of Settlement in favour of the Pretender, as James was known. Oxford maintained close contact with James through Torcy and his London agent, the Abbé François Gaultier. At Christmas 1713 Queen Anne became severely ill and for several days seemed likely to die. Her recovery was incomplete, and by January 1714 it was clear that she could not live much longer. It was then that Oxford and Bolingbroke (who by this time were at each other's throats) secretly and separately requested James to convert to protestantism in order to make a Stuart restoration feasible. James, whose devotion to Roman Catholicism was unalterable, had no difficulty in reaching his decision, nor did he ever regret it. Displaying his full share of Stuart arrogance and lack of remorse, he later informed Torcy: ‘I have chosen my own course, therefore it is for others to change their sentiments’ (James to Torcy, 27 July 1714 NS, Archives des Affairs Étrangères, CP Angleterre 262, fols. 325–8). With the arrival on 11 March of news of James's refusal to convert (James to Gaultier, 2/13 March 1714, ibid., fols. 311–12; an English translation is printed in Macpherson, 2.525–6), both Oxford and Bolingbroke saw that a restoration attempt was impossible, although for their own purposes they continued to offer pro forma assurances of their sympathies to James and his supporters. On the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714 the Jacobites were unable to do anything to hinder the peaceful accession of George I.

The 'Fifteen

The establishment of the Hanoverian dynasty ushered in a new whig administration which seemed to be intent on proscribing their tory enemies from all governmental employments. When the new parliament opened in March 1715, it became clear that the government intended to impeach the former tory ministers for their involvement in the Utrecht negotiations. In April 1715 Oxford was sent to the Tower, but Bolingbroke precipitately fled to France, where he joined James openly three months later, being named Jacobite secretary of state and elevated to an earldom in the Jacobite peerage. In August the tory general James Butler, duke of Ormond, also fled to France to escape impeachment. Bolingbroke and Ormond, both in Paris, joined Torcy and James's half-brother, James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick, in planning military intervention in both England and Scotland. Their plans came to grief, however, with the death of Louis XIV on 21 August/1 September 1715. A regency under Louis's nephew, Philippe, duc d'Orléans, was established in the name of Louis XV, and the regent refused to give any material aid to the Jacobites, promising only to regard their activities with a blind eye.

In Scotland, however, events had taken a different turn. On 26 August 1715 John Erskine, twenty-third or sixth earl of Mar, raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar in the highlands. In England the rebellion was quickly crushed; Ormond's attempt to invade the west country failed, largely because the government had arrested most of the prominent Jacobite tories there. On 13 November the crushing government victory at Preston completely extinguished any immediate hope of a rising in northern England. The battle of Sheriffmuir on the same day proved inconclusive militarily, but government forces prevented Mar's army from entering the lowlands of Scotland and kept it bottled up in Perth; in France, however, Sheriffmuir was represented as a great Jacobite triumph. James III had already arranged to go to Scotland; on 28 October he left Bar-le-Duc and, disguised as a French bishop, crossed France, reaching the coast near St Malo on 8 November. For the next eight weeks he roamed the channel coast, waiting fruitlessly for news of a renewed rebellion in England; finally, on 28 December NS he embarked at Dunkirk aboard a small privateer, accompanied by only a few attendants, and on 22 December OS landed at Peterhead on the north-eastern coast of Scotland. There he passed the night, and the next day went to Newburgh, a seat of the Earl Marischal. Passing through Aberdeen in disguise, he journeyed south to Fetteresso, another seat of Marischal's, where he was joined by Mar and a small group of gentlemen from the army at Perth. On Mar's arrival James laid aside his disguise and his arrival in Scotland was publicly announced. A privy council was formed 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 (which it never did). The magistrates of Aberdeen—Mar's nominees—went to pay him homage, and the episcopal clergy enthusiastically welcomed him. On 2 January 1716 James began his journey south, via Brechin and Glamis, to Dundee, where he made a state entry, the populace receiving him with enthusiasm and no signs of hostility. He then travelled at a leisurely pace to Scone Palace outside Perth, arriving there on 8 January, where he established his court with the observances and etiquette appropriate to royalty. James was reported to be ‘a tall lean blak man, loukes half dead alredy, very thine, long faced, and very ill cullored and melancholy’ (countess of Lauderdale to duke of Montrose, 14 Jan 1716, Third Report, HMC, 1872, 378).

From the time of his arrival in Scotland, James realized that the military situation was hopeless; while his supporters were rapidly deserting (only about 4000 remained at Perth), the government was reinforcing its position not only with English regiments but also with 5000 Dutch troops. In addition, James had no talent to inspire men en masse. ‘If he found himself disappointed with us,’ the master of Sinclair later recalled:

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. (J. Sinclair, A True Account of the Proceedings at Perth, Written by a Rebel, 1716, 20)

The earl of Mar (who had been created a duke in the Jacobite peerage) had already established a complete ascendancy over the Chevalier, and Mar's chief thought now was how to escape the consequences of his rash undertaking. On 28 January news reached Perth that government forces, under the command of the duke of Argyll, were unexpectedly marching through the winter snow towards the highland capital. On the understanding that the army would retire into the highlands to await a spring campaign, the highland chiefs agreed to retreat to Montrose; unbeknown to them, arrangements had secretly been made there for the Chevalier to leave Scotland and sail to France. On 31 January the Jacobite army crossed the Tay on the ice, and by the time they reached Montrose the government forces were two days' march to their rear. On 3 February James wrote to both the regent and Bolingbroke from Montrose, appealing once again for immediate French help but not suggesting that he was preparing to leave Scotland (James to Orléans, 3 Feb 1716, Stuart Papers, 1.54–5). That night, however, in disguise, James slipped onto a waiting French vessel and left Scotland. In his ‘letter of adieu to the Scotch’ he attempted to justify his precipitate departure and his decision to ‘command’ Mar to accompany him, but he gave no explanation for leaving the other rebel leaders in ignorance of his plans (ibid., 1.505–7). James's popularity in Scotland was permanently damaged, and virtually all the Scottish exiles (except for his own relatives and dependants) became virulently opposed to the earl of Mar.

Accompanied by only sixteen people, including lords Mar, Drummond, and Melfort, Lieutenant-General Dominick Sheldon, and Sir John Erskine, James landed at Gravelines on 10/21 February 1716. He arrived at St Germain on 26 February and remained in hiding near Paris until 6 March, during which time he abruptly dismissed Bolingbroke from his service, accusing him of treasonable correspondence with England (James to regent, 6 March 1716, Stuart Papers, 2.5). He hoped to re-establish his residence in Lorraine, but Duke Leopold, under pressure from the regent, refused to receive him and, faute de mieux, James was forced to take up residence in the papal enclave of Avignon, where he arrived on 2 April. It was there in October 1716 that he survived traumatic surgery for an anal fistula.

The signature in January 1717 of the triple alliance between Britain, France, and the Dutch republic, which reiterated the treaty of Utrecht's guarantees of the Hanoverian succession, meant that James could no longer remain in Avignon; on 6 February he began his journey ‘beyond the mountains’ to the Papal States where, with two short intervals, he spent the remainder of his life. Clement XI (r. 1700–21) grudgingly granted James the Palazzo Muti in Rome, a country home at Albano, and a papal pension of 12,000 Roman crowns (about £3000) p.a., which remained unchanged for the rest of James's life.

The 'Nineteen and marriage

In 1717–18 Jacobite hopes centred mainly on Charles XII of Sweden, who was at war with George I as elector of Hanover; hopes that the protestant hero of Europe might intervene in Britain on James's behalf were shattered when Charles XII was killed on 11 December 1718. Meanwhile, however, Giulio, Cardinal Alberoni, had promised to mount a Spanish invasion of Great Britain. On his invitation James left Rome secretly in February 1719 and, after a dangerous voyage, arrived at Madrid in mid-March. Spanish plans called for a large expedition to the west country of 5000 men, and arms for an additional 15,000, to be commanded by the duke of Ormond, and a smaller expedition to Scotland with only two Spanish frigates and 307 men and officers under the command of the Earl Marischal. The main expedition was battered and driven back into port by storms in the Bay of Biscay, but the smaller expedition managed to reach Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis. By contrast to 1715, when nearly 10,000 men had joined ‘the cause’, now only 1000 Scots rallied to the Jacobite standard, and the government easily suppressed the revolt at Glenshiels on 10 June 1719. Meanwhile James had remained in Madrid, where he was welcomed with royal honours and was assigned the palacio Buen Retiro. By early summer, with a series of Spanish reverses at the hands of the British and French, James's presence in Madrid had become an embarrassment and he was unceremoniously advised to return to Rome, which he did in August.

James's search for a bride had begun after the failure of the 'Fifteen, but despite the pleas of his followers he had no intention of considering protestant princesses. After a series of rebuffs by various German and Italian courts, the Chevalier's choice finally fell on Maria Clementina Sobieska [see Clementina (1702–1735)], the youngest daughter of Prince James and Hedwig Elizabeth of Neuberg, and granddaughter of King John Sobieski of Poland. A marriage contract signed in July 1718 eventually resulted in James receiving at least 900,000 French livres (approximately £75,000), the largest amount which the exiled Stuarts ever received at one time from one source. At the behest of George I, the emperor Charles VI arrested Clementina and her mother at Innsbruck in October 1718 on their journey to Italy; she was, however, rescued by the Jacobite agent Charles Wogan in April 1719 and arrived in Rome while her fiancé was still in Spain. Immediately after his return, James and Clementina were married on 2 September 1719. To the marriage were born two sons, Charles Edward in December 1720 and Henry Benedict in March 1725.

In 1722, thanks to the treachery of Mar who confirmed the British government's suspicions, Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester, and most leading Jacobite conspirators in England were arrested; Robert Walpole deliberately manipulated the ‘Atterbury plot’ both to destroy English Jacobitism and to consolidate his own ascendancy. The hysteria manufactured by the government and Atterbury's subsequent attainder and perpetual banishment in 1723 effectively destroyed Jacobitism as a viable political movement in south, but not in north, Britain.

Mar had long before been superseded by his brother-in-law, John Hay, as the Chevalier's principal adviser and confidant. Hay, his wife, Marjorie, and her brother James Murray—all ostensibly protestant—were unquestionably the most important figures in the Jacobite court in the 1720s, which was a growing grievance to James's ‘queen’. The breaking point came in November 1725 when James decided to create a separate household for their elder son, Charles Edward, and make Murray the prince's governor. Clementina promptly fled to a Roman convent and appealed to the pope, Benedict XIII, against the domination of protestants in her husband's court and the prospect that her two sons might be educated by them. Common gossip—which quickly spread throughout Europe—held that Clementina's real objection was that Lady Inverness was her husband's mistress. Their separation, which lasted nearly two years, sharply divided the Jacobite movement into ‘king's’ and ‘queen's’ factions. Roman society overwhelmingly favoured Clementina, and in October 1726, exasperated by the pope's hostility, James removed his court from Rome to Bologna (still within the Papal States). A reconciliation was arranged in June 1727, and Clementina was on her way to Bologna when James received word of the sudden death of George I at Osnabrück on 12/23 June. James, accompanied by Inverness, immediately left Italy for Lorraine, hoping that France would be willing to ignore the triple alliance. Leopold of Lorraine once again denied James asylum (Leopold to James, 8 Aug 1727, Stuart papers, RASP 109/46), the government of Louis XV (led by Cardinal Fleury) proved unsympathetic, and James was finally reduced once again to taking up residence in Avignon, where he arrived on 19 August (ibid., RASP 109/186). French pressure on the papacy forced James to return to Bologna in January 1728, where he found his wife in residence. In February of the following year James and his elder son returned to Rome; Clementina and Prince Henry followed in June (ibid., RASP 129/12), and the family remained united until Clementina's death on 18 January 1735.

Later years and reputation

James found the reigns of Clement XII (1730–40) and Benedict XIV (1749–58) much more sympathetic than those of earlier pontiffs. When his eldest son, Charles Edward, left Rome for France in 1744 for an abortive invasion attempt, James did everything in his power to raise money for the cause, but was pessimistic about its prospects for success. Nevertheless, he agreed to send his younger son, Henry Benedict, to France in August 1745 to be the ostensible commander of a Franco-Jacobite invasion of England, which never took place. After the collapse of the rising of 1745 and the return of Charles to France in October 1746, his relations with his father and brother deteriorated rapidly. In April 1747, without consulting Charles, James summoned Henry back to Rome, where in July he was created a cardinal. Charles was furious and never forgave his father for what he considered a stab in the back. James's last years, while he gradually failed both in body and mind, were darkened by this estrangement; after the signature of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle resulted in Charles's expulsion from France in October 1748, he went into hiding and only occasionally and vaguely communicated with his father. James spent the last decade of his life largely as a bedridden invalid. He died about 9 p.m. on 1 January 1766 at the Palazzo Muti, Rome, and was buried with royal honours in the basilica of St Peter's. In 1819 Pius VII (r. 1800–23) erected a monument by Canova over his tomb and that of his two sons; the prince regent contributed 50 guineas of the cost.

Contemporary characterizations of James vary according to the author's political prejudices. In 1740 the poet Thomas Gray was scathing:

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. (Gray to Philip Gray, [10] July 1740, in The Correspondence of Thomas Gray, ed. P. Toynbee, L. Whifley, and H. W. Starr, 3 vols., 1971, 1.166–7)

Gray's travelling companion, Horace Walpole, had a somewhat different impression:

Enthusiasm and disappointment have stamped a solemnity on his person which rather creates pity than respect … Without the particular features of any Stuart, the Chevalier has the strong lines and fatality of air peculiar to them all. From the moment I saw him, I never doubted the legitimacy of his birth. (H. Walpole, Memoirs of King George II, ed. J. Brooke, 3 vols., 1985, 1.195)

An Irishman, Captain Robert O'Flanagan, who accompanied James in 1715 from his departure from Lorraine in October until his embarkation for Scotland in December, recorded:

I never knew any have better temper, be more familiar and good, always pleased and in good humour, notwithstanding all the crosses and accidents that happen'd during His journey; never the least disquieted, but with the greatest courage and fermness resolved to goe through what He designed on. … and enfine posessing eminently all the qualityes of a great prince, with those of a most Honest private Gentelman. (Seton, 266)

It has been fashionable among Jacobite historians—among them his biographers Martin Haile (1907), A. and H. Tayler (1934), and Peggy Miller (1971), who focus exclusively on the period covered by the printed Historical Manuscripts Commission Stuart papers—to regard James Stuart as eminently suited to fill the role of a constitutional monarch, at least as it was evolving in the eighteenth century. Such views, however, are superficial, ignoring both his inheritance and his training. James had his full share of Stuart arrogance, wilfulness, ingratitude for the sacrifices of others, and susceptibility to domination by favourites; through his lifelong residence in France and the Papal States, his devotion to an authoritarian church, and a belief in the divine right of monarchs he had only an acquired rather than an innate appreciation of the unwritten limits to the actions of a British sovereign, and his high-handed use of papal police during the last two decades of his life was reminiscent of James II's approach to constitutional and statute law.

Edward Gregg  DNB

Artist biography

Antonio David's most celebrated credential was as an official painter of the exiled Jacobite court in Rome. Painting in his homeland of Italy, David worked for the Stuart dynasty for nearly twenty years. Copies of his portraits were circulated to the family's supporters throughout Europe. Due to a previous wrangle over a bill, the artist insisted on being paid in advance for his renowned pair of portraits of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his brother Prince Henry, painted in 1729. David also painted portraits of Scottish Jacobite supporters.