Mary of Modena

In 1673, Mary of Modena married James, who would go on to become James VII & II (King of Scotland, England and Ireland) twelve years later, before being deposed in 1688. In the same year that her husband was deposed, Mary gave birth to a son they named James Francis Edward Stuart. The Jacobites fought across two centuries to get these two Jameses (Jacobus being Latin for James) crowned. Mary, as wife and mother, was at the centre of the civil war from its beginnings to her death in 1718.

mary
Mary of Modena

 

Born in 1658, Mary, whose full name was Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d’Este, was the only daughter of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena, and his wife, Laura Martinozzi. Her father died when she was young, and her brother inherited the title. Mary grew up multilingual and a devout Catholic. She expressed interest in becoming a nun, but when it reached Italy that James, Duke of York, was looking for a new wife, following the death of his first, she was convinced to reconsider.

James and Mary were married by proxy, before having a second ceremony when she arrived in England. The union was unpopular, with many Protestants viewing Mary with suspicion, believing her to be an agent of the Pope. Things worsened for James and Mary when a secretary of theirs was implicated in the fictitious Popish Plot, a plan to assassinate Charles II. This led to the Exclusionist Crisis, an attempt to bar the Catholic James from ever becoming King.

In an effort to ease tensions, Charles II sent his brother and Mary away from London, with them first going to Brussels and then Edinburgh for a few years, only returning to London for brief periods, such as when Charles got sick. In 1683, they enjoyed a boost in popularity after the Rye House Plot was discovered. The Rye House Plot had sought to assassinate both Charles II and James, which prompted many people to sympathise with them. Aware of this shift, Charles invited his brother and sister-in-law back to London. Charles II died in 1685, leaving no legitimate children. His brother was crowned James II and VII.

Since getting married, Mary had suffered several miscarriages, and all of her and James’s children had been stillborn or had died young. In 1688, she gave birth to a healthy son who was named James Francis Edward Stuart. James’s two daughters from his first marriage had been raised as Protestants, despite James’s own beliefs; because of this, Protestants had hoped that one of them would succeed their father. The new child became known by many as the “warming-pan Prince”, named so because of the rumour spread that Mary’s own child had been stillborn and swapped out for a random healthy baby. This, combined with a negative response to James’s policies, led to the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in James being deposed and him and Mary living in exile in France.

Louis XIV of France presented James and Mary with Château de-Saint-en-Layne, where they resided for the rest of their lives. Mary also spent a lot of time at Versailles, where she was well-liked. In 1692, she gave birth to a daughter, Louisa, who lived until 1712. The Jacobites referred to Mary as “The Queen Over the Water”.

In 1701, James VII & II died, and his young son succeeded him to the Jacobite claim. Mary, acting as regent, pushed for her son to be recognised as King. France, Spain, Modena and the Papal States acknowledged him, but in London he was declared a traitor. Though she wanted to promote his claim, she was against him being apart from her before he was of age. She acted as regent until her son turned sixteen.

Mary spent her later years assisting and visiting convents. She died of cancer at the age of fifty-nine. She was buried in the Convent of the Visitation at Chaillot, which was later destroyed during the French Revolution.

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A Family Affair…

The Jacobite story is a long one and has many complexities to it, from religion, to politics, to economics; there is a lot to contend with. But, the first thing you need to get you head around is the family connections, of which there are many.

family tree

Firstly, let’s look at the Jacobites. We can start with James VII & II who was king from 1685-1688 when he was deposed. This is what kicked off the first Jacobite Rising in 1688, known as the Glorious Revolution. We then follow a pretty simple line with his son James VIII & III becoming ‘the Old Pretender’ and trying to take back the throne, and then his son Prince Charles Edward Stuart as ‘the Young Pretender’ making his attempt in 1745.

Meanwhile, there are obviously changes in the monarchy when James VII & II was deposed. The crown first passed to his daughter Mary, who ruled with her husband William of Orange. When they both died without heirs it then moved to James VII & II’s other daughter, Anne, who ruled until 1714.

At this point though there was a problem. The next successor should have been James VIII & III but many in the government did not want this. So, whilst Anne was still on the throne,  they passed a law that prevented Catholics from taking the throne, thereby ruling James VIII & III out of contention.

 

family tree2
House of Stuart – made by local school pupils

 

 

To find the next monarch they went back through the family tree to find the closest, suitable, relative. This takes us back to James VI & I whose granddaughter was Sophia of Hanover. She was named as the successor to the throne. Unfortunately, she died shortly before Anne so the next monarch was her son, George I.

By the time we reach the 1745 rebellion we have George I’s son, George II on the throne and it is his younger son, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland who fights Prince Charles Edward Stuart at Culloden. Both men were 25 years old and were distant cousins.

family tree3
House of Hanover – made by local school pupils

 

 

 

In terms of other key historical figures which we sometimes get asked about at Culloden. Mary Queen of Scots was the mother of James VI & I. She was also the great niece of Henry VIII and challenged his daughter Elizabeth I to the throne but failed. Robert the Bruce was alive from 1274-1329, so quite a while before the Jacobites, but he was a direct ancestor of the Stuarts as James VI is his 8x great grandson.

We hope that helped you make a bit more sense of the family tree and the succession of the monarchs. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and feel free to ask us any questions you may have.

All the best, K & D