James Francis Edward Stuart was just a few months old when his father, King James II of England and Ireland and James VI of Scotland, was sent into exile in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The king was exiled because he would not bow to a populace that wanted Protestantism and not Catholicism as the religion of the realm.
After King James’ exile, the country invited his Protestant elder daughter Mary and her husband William III (William of Orange) to be the joint monarchs of the United Kingdom. And so it went on until James Francis Edward Stuart, prompted by his cousin Louis XIV of France claimed the throne in 1715 in the First Jacobite Rebellion. He actually claimed the throne after his father’s death in 1701. Specifically, he claimed the English, Scottish and Irish crown as James III of England and Ireland and James VIII of Scotland. But he was not ready to make his move until the allies in Scotland were ready in 1715.
The rebellion was unsuccessful. And when he died in 1766, his son Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) tried again in the equally unsuccessful Second Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
The Old And Young Pretenders
James Francis Edward Stuart was known by his opponents as The Old Pretender, and his son Charles Edward Stuart was known as the Young Pretender. Pretender to the throne has such a strong negative connotation that it is no wonder that the epithets stuck.
And with the clarity borne of this distance of time it is hard to imagine how the rebellions could ever have been successful. The country had split from Rome under Henry VIII in the late 1530s. Now, nearly two hundred years later, how could anyone think the country had a taste for returning to Catholicism?
The National Archives has a photo of an exhibit from the West Highland Museum in Fort William, It is a wineglass in clear glass decorated with a white rose and two buds in frosted glass. The white rose refers to the James VIII, the exiled Stuart monarch, the ‘King across the water’. And the two buds are his sons Charles and Henry.
Henry Benedict Stuart
Henry was Henry Benedict Stuart, a Catholic Cardinal and the last of the line to claim the throne. He went to France in 1745 to help his brother Charles prepare the Jacobite rising. And in France he was the nominal commander of a cross-channel invasion force of 10,000 men of the French army. But the group never left France, and Henry subsequently served under Maurice de Saxe at the siege of Antwerp.
On 16 April 1746, at what is called the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobite army was defeated by a British force under Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, on Drummossie Moor near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. And that was the end of the Jacobite rebellions.
After the defeat at Culloden, Henry Stuart returned to Italy and died there in 1807, aged 82.
So what do we learn? James Francis Edward Stuart suffered fits of melancholy until his death. Bonnie Prince Charles became an alcoholic.
So, if you are pushing a doomed project against the tide of history, it is better to be an ineffectual third son and die peacefully at a ripe old age.