Louisa Maria Stuart was born in France in 1692, almost four years after her father was deposed as King of Scotland, England and Ireland. To the Jacobites, however, as her father was still seen as King James VII and II, Louisa was known as the “Princess over the Water”.
She was born the second living child of James and his second wife, Mary of Modena. Her brother, also James, was four years older than her. As there had been rumours of babies being swapped at their son’s birth, James and Mary of Modena invited several Protestants to witness the birth of Louisa, including her half-sister Queen Mary. Louisa was born at Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the residence that had been gifted to her parents in their exile by King Louis XIV of France; she was named after Louis, who served as her godfather. Of her arrival, her father said, ‘See what God has given us to be our consolation in exile’; as she grew up, her parents continued to think of her in this way, nicknaming her ‘La Consolatrice’.
Her father died when she was nine, and her brother was recognised as King James VIII of Scotland and III of England and Ireland in France, Spain, the Papal States and Modena. For accepting the claims, in London he was declared a traitor.
Louisa was taught religion, Latin and history, among other things, and as a teenager she enjoyed spending time at the French Court, where she was well-liked. Potential future bridegrooms were discussed for her, including one of King Louis’ grandsons and the King of Sweden, but nothing ever materialised. Her uncertain position acted as an obstacle, and it was believed that she was reluctant to leave her mother. Out of her personal funds, Louisa paid for some Jacobite daughters to be educated.
In 1712 James fell ill with smallpox, and after a while it was discovered that Louisa had it too. It soon became apparent that Louisa’s condition was worse than James’s. She was bled, which weakened her, and she slipped into a coma and eventually died. She was buried in Paris alongside her father. James was not told of his sister’s death until after the funeral, as it had been feared that his own health would have suffered if he had been told earlier. Luckily James managed to recover from the disease.
The year following Louisa’s death, things changed again for James Francis Edward Stuart. France had been a home to him for many years, but under the conditions of the Treaty of Utrecht, Louis XIV had agreed to offer him no more support. After Louis’ death in 1715, the French Government told James that he was no longer welcome. His 1715 Uprising failed, and he spent most of the rest of his life at the Palazzo Muti in Rome.
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All the best, The Culloden Team