James Francis Edward Stuart

Prince James Francis Edward Stuart or Stewart (June 10, 1688 - January 1, 1766) was a claimant of the thrones of Scotland and England (September 16, 1701 - January 1, 1766) who is more commonly referred to as The Old Pretender and was a key figure in the history of the British monarchy, although his personality was not such as to have made a great impact.

From the moment of his birth, on June 10, 1688, at St James's Palace, the prince was the subject of controversy. He was the son of King James II of England and his Catholic second wife, Mary of Modena. From his first marriage, the king had adult daughters who had been brought up in the Protestant faith, and as long as there was a possibility of one of them succeeding him directly, the British people were prepared to tolerate his own Catholic sympathies. However, when it was feared that Mary would produce a son and heir, a movement grew to replace James by force with his son-in-law, William of Orange.

When the young prince was born, a rumour was immediately spread that the call for a "warming-pan" had been the pretext for a substitution, the real baby having allegedly been born dead. There is no historical evidence for this. However, within weeks of his birth, the child was sent to France for safety, and his father was fighting unsuccessfully to retain his crown.

The prince was brought up in France, where, recognised by King Louis XIV of France as the rightful heir to the English throne, he became the focus for the Jacobite movement. On his father's death in 1701, he was declared King, with the title of James III of England and VIII of Scotland. James landed at the Firth of Forth on March 23, 1708. Had he renounced his Catholic faith, he could have succeeded to the throne after the death of his half-sister Anne, but he refused to do so. As a result, in 1714, a German Protestant became King George I of Great Britain.

James Francis Edward Stuart married Maria Clementina Sobieski (1702-1735), granddaughter of the Polish king, John III Sobieski. They had two sons:

  1. Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart, (December 31, 1720- January 31, 1788), aka "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
  2. Henry Benedict Stuart, (March 11, 1725-July 13, 1807)

In 1714 the French forces were defeated, and King Louis XIV of France was forced to accept peace with England and her allies. He signed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714 that, amongst other humiliating conditions, required him to expel James from France.

In the following year, James instigated a rebellion in Scotland aimed at restoring him to the throne, but illness prevented him from leading the military action, and by the time he arrived, it was too late to consolidate the minor successes achieved.

Following this failure, attention turned to James's handsome and charismatic son, "Bonnie Prince Charlie", whose rebellion of 1745 came closer to success than his father's. However, with the failure of this second rebellion, the Stuart hopes of regaining the British throne were effectively destroyed. James died in Rome on January 1, 1766, and is buried in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.


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