Henry – The Other Stuart

Most of history remembers Bonnie Prince Charlie and his romanticised attempt to take back the Stuart throne for his father, but little is mentioned about his brother, Henry Benedict Stuart, who was the final public Jacobite heir to the Stuart throne.

Today we take a closer look at Henry and discover more about his history….

Firstly his name was not simply Henry Benedict Stuart, it was in fact Henry Benedict Thomas Edward Maria Clement Francis Xavier Stuart, but that’s a little long to keep saying so for now we’ll make do with Henry. Henry was born on 6th March 1725 in Palazo Muti in Rome and was baptised by Pope Benedict XIII on the same day. From birth he was known as the Duke of York and he was apparently a rather intelligent child who could spell and write better than his older brother Charles.

Henry Benedict Stuart aged 13

In 1745 Henry travelled to France to help gain French support for Charles expedition and was there when Charles escaped in 1746 to greet him when he returned to France. By all accounts Henry appears to have been more introverted than Charles and more cautious in his approach to problems. However, he did manage to secure French troops and ships to support the ’45 but ongoing delays meant they never reached Scotland in time to aid his brother. Consequently many Jacobites felt he had not done enough to support the Jacobite cause and his lack of aid was a source of friction between the brothers.

The brothers relationship became more strained when, on return to Rome, Henry persued his desires to become a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Charles has tried not to emphasise his familys Catholicism, fearing it would prevent the Protestants in Britain from joining his cause, and therefore he was not particularly pleased with Henrys descision to join the church. Henry was ordained as a Cardinal Deacon on 30th June, 1747 and was very committed in his duties becoming Cardinal of Santa Maria, Portici, on 3rd July, 1747, before being ordained as a priest on 1st September, 1748.

Circle of Anton Raphael Mengs, Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart, Cardinal York (ca 1750) -002.jpg
Henry Benedict Stuart

Henrys father James, the Old Pretender, fully supported his sons desire to become a priest but personal relationships began to come between the father and son. Henry became very close with his majordomo, Giovanni Lercari, and this led to serious family tension eventually resutling in Henrys father attempting to have Lercari dismissed from service. Henry responded by attempting to seperate his finances from his father and a public scandal was only avoided by the input of Pope Benedict XIV who acted as a peace maker. Whilst some suggest there was more to the relationship than meets the eye nothing was ever proven and many have pointed to Henrys strict views against all impropriety to refute any allegations.

Henry and Charles would also reconcile with the help of Charles daughter Charlotte and it was Henry who to to convince Charles to stop drinking and offered him financial support in his later years. On the death of Prince Charles, Henry became the Jacobite claimant to the throne and apparently declared himself Henry IX but did not take any action to persue his claims. For most of the next forty years Henry lived in the town of Frascati just south of Rome where he was known as a very active bishop who led a simple life and is remembered for his acts for charity.

The Stuart memorial in St Peters Basilica in Rome

When Henry died in 1807 he was buried along with his brother, father and mother in the crypt of St Peters Basilica in Rome. He was succeeded in all his claimed British rights by his nearest blood-relative and friend, Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia. Charles was the great-grandson of Henrietta Anne, the youngest daughter of Charles I but neither asserted nor renounced his Jacobite claims, nor have any of his successors to this day.

Henry certainly followed a different path to his brother Charles and is largely remembered for his work in the Catholic Church eventually becoming Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome and Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri.

Hopefully this little insight has piqued your curiosity about the often forgotten Henry Stuart and as always please like, follow, share, comment, tweet, reblog and keep coming back for more intriguing stories.

All the best, K & D.


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