Murder, conspiracy and execution: 6 centuries of scandalous royal deaths!

From mysterious hunting ‘accidents’ to the public execution of Charles I, dozens of British royals died in suspicious or shocking circumstances. Historian Nicola Tallis investigates…

The execution of Charles I, 1649. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Royal status brings with it privilege and power – but also danger, particularly the risk of assassination by those craving that power. From the Norman conquest to Charles’s execution in 1649, many British men, women and children of royal blood died in extraordinary circumstances. Deaths early in that period were often shrouded in mystery, but by the 17th century circumstances had changed to an extraordinary extent – for the first time an executioner severed the head of a king of England: Charles I, condemned by his own people…

William II meets his fate in the forest

On 2 August 1100 King William II, third son of William the Conqueror, was hunting in the New Forest. The chronicler William of Malmesbury reported that after dinner the king, nicknamed ‘Rufus’, went into the forest “attended by few persons”, notably a gentleman named Walter Tirel. While most of the king’s party “employed in the chase, were dispersed as chance directed,” Tirel remained with the king. As the sun began to set, William spotted a stag and “drawing his bow and letting fly an arrow, slightly wounded” it.

In his excitement the king began to run towards the injured target, and at that point Tirel, “conceiving a noble exploit” in that the king’s attention was occupied elsewhere, “pierced his breast with a fatal arrow”. William fell to the ground and Tirel, seeing that the king was dead, immediately “leaped swiftly upon his horse, and escaped by spurring him to his utmost speed”.

Upon discovering William’s body, the rest of his party fled and, in an attempt to protect their own interests, readied themselves to declare their allegiance to the next king. It was left to a few countrymen to convey the dead king’s corpse to Winchester Cathedral by cart, “the blood dripping from it all the way”.

Was William’s death an accident, or was it murder? An accident was possible, but there were many who believed otherwise. William’s younger brother immediately assumed the throne and swiftly had himself crowned Henry I. Henry had much to gain from his brother’s death, and Tirel may have been in his employ. William had, however, been an unpopular king, and his death was “lamented by few”.

King William II of England, aka William Rufus, c1100. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Lionheart and eyeless Art

Almost 100 years later, Henry I’s great-grandson, Richard I, also met a violent end at the point of an arrow, but in very different circumstances. Richard had spent the majority of his 10-year reign fighting abroad on crusade; he was a brave solider who inspired loyalty in his men. In 1199, while he was besieging the Château de Châlus-Chabrol, a crossbow bolt struck him in the shoulder. Though the shot did not kill him, it penetrated deep into his body. Though removal of the bolt by a surgeon was a painful ordeal, Richard survived – but before long the wound became infected and gangrene set in. It became clear that the king’s days were numbered, and on 6 April, 11 days after he was shot, “the man devoted to martial deeds, breathed his last.”

Richard was succeeded by his younger brother, John. However, though John was accepted as king of England he had a rival for his French lands: Arthur of Brittany, son of John’s brother, Geoffrey, who had died over a decade earlier. In 1202, John’s forces captured Arthur at Mirebeau, where the latter had been attempting to besiege the castle in which his grandmother (John’s mother), Eleanor of Aquitaine, was sheltering. Arthur was taken to Falaise, where – it was later claimed – John gave orders for his 16-year-old nephew to be “deprived of his eyes and genitals”, but the jailer refused to obey such a cruel command. Shortly afterwards, the boy was moved to Rouen where, on the evening of 3 April 1203, it seems that John himself, “drunk with wine and possessed of the Devil”, killed Arthur personally. The young boy’s lifeless body was reputedly weighed down with a heavy stone and thrown into the river Seine.

In the two centuries after the murder of Arthur of Brittany, both Edward II and Richard II were deposed. The latter was almost certainly starved to death in Pontefract Castle, but controversy still surrounds the end of Edward II – he may have been murdered in Berkeley Castle, but several modern historians are of the opinion that he escaped abroad.

Richard I, aka ‘Richard the Lionheart’, depicted plunging his fist into a lion’s throat, c1180. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The bloody Wars of the Roses

In the middle of the 15th century, the Wars of the Roses broke out, causing a profusion of bloodshed that did not exclude royal or noble families. After a struggle that saw the Lancastrian King Henry VI deposed in favour of the Yorkist Edward IV, and a brief period of restoration for Henry VI (commonly referred to as the readeption), on 4 May 1471 the armies of Lancaster and York met at Tewkesbury, where Edward IV won “a famous victory”. It was a fierce battle during which around 2,000 Lancastrians were slain, and the battlefield is still referred to as ‘Bloody Meadow.’

For Henry’s son and heir, the 18-year-old Prince Edward of Lancaster, Tewkesbury had been his first experience of war, and one that he would not survive. Reports of the precise manner of the prince’s death vary: most sources state that the he was killed in the field, whereas the Yorkist author of the Arrivall of Edward IV, who claimed to be a servant of Edward IV’s and a witness to many of the events about which he wrote, asserts that Edward “was taken fleeing to the townwards, and slain in the field”. Later Tudor historians, however, implied that the prince had been murdered “by the avenging hands of certain persons,” on the orders of Edward IV. Whatever the circumstances, the Lancastrian heir had been removed; now all that remained was for his father to be eliminated.

While the battle of Tewkesbury raged, Henry VI was a prisoner in the Tower of London. Following his victory, Edward IV travelled to London in triumph, arriving on 21 May. That same evening, Henry VI was reportedly praying in his oratory within the Wakefield Tower when he “was put to death”. Though the author of the Arrivall stated that Henry died of “pure displeasure and melancholy” as a result of being told of the death of his son, there is little doubt that he died violently. The examination of his skull in 1911 revealed that to one piece “there was still attached some of the hair, which was brown in colour, save in one place, where it was much darker and apparently matted with blood,” consistent with a blow to the head. Many believed that Henry had been murdered at the hands of the king’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but though Richard may have been present, the order undoubtedly came from Edward IV.

Henry VI , c1450. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The slaughter also extended to Edward’s own family. The relationship Edward shared with his younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, was tumultuous, to say the least. After several estrangements and reconciliations, in 1477 Clarence finally went too far. Convinced that his brother was conspiring against him, Edward had Clarence arrested; at the beginning of February 1478, he was tried and condemned to death. On 18 February Clarence was executed within the confines of the Tower of London. According to several contemporary sources, at his own request the duke was drowned after being “plunged into a jar of sweet wine” in the Bowyer Tower. Clarence’s daughter, Margaret Pole, was later painted wearing a bracelet with a barrel charm, which appears to support this story. The duke’s death orphaned both Margaret and her younger brother Edward, Earl of Warwick. Like their father, both would meet violent ends.

The princes in the Tower

Edward IV died unexpectedly on 9 April 1483, leaving as successor his 12-year-old son, also Edward, at that time staying at Ludlow Castle. After his father’s death, the young Prince Edward set out for London but was intercepted en route by his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who lodged Edward and his brother Prince Richard in the Tower of London. Having been declared illegitimate, on 26 June Edward was deposed in favour of his uncle, who took the throne as Richard III.

Rumours about the fate of the ‘princes in the Tower’ soon began to circulate. Many believe that they were murdered “lying in their beds” on the orders of Richard III, and the skeletons of two youths discovered in the Tower in 1674 seems to support this theory. Some, however, insist that the boys did not die in the Tower but managed to escape. Though their ultimate fate is still obscure, one thing is certain: after the coronation of Richard III on 6 July, neither boy was seen alive again.

‘The Young Princes in the Tower’, 1831. After a painting by Hippolyte De La Roche (1797–1856), commonly known as Paul Delaroche. From the Connoisseur VOL XXVII, 1910. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Richard III did not hold his throne for long. In 1485 his army was confronted by the forces of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor at Bosworth in Leicestershire. Richard fought bravely in his attempt to defend his crown, but was “pierced with many mortal wounds”, and became the last king of England to be killed on the battlefield. Thanks to the discovery of his skeleton in Leicester, we now know that a blow to the head killed Richard, and that his body was subjected to a number of “humiliation” wounds after his death.

Richard’s successor, Henry VII, ordered the execution of the Duke of Clarence’s son, the Earl of Warwick, beheaded In 1499 for conspiring with the pretender Perkin Warbeck to overthrow the king. Warwick’s sister, Margaret Pole, was executed in 1541 by command of Henry VIII on charges of treason. In her late sixties and condemned on evidence that was almost certainly falsified, Margaret’s death shocked her contemporaries, one of whom observed that her execution was conducted by “a wretched and blundering youth” who “literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner” so that she bled to death.

Henry VIII’s wives

Henry VIII also notoriously executed two of his wives. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were both condemned on charges of adultery, treason, and, in Anne’s case, incest with her own brother. Anne was almost certainly innocent of the crimes of which she was accused; nevertheless, on the morning of 19 May 1536 she became the first queen of England to be executed. Although her death within the confines of the Tower of London was intended to be a private affair, conducted away from the eyes of curious Londoners, around 1,000 people watched as her head was struck from her body with one strike of a French executioner’s sword.

In 1554 Lady Jane Grey also met her fate at the headsman’s axe. So, too, did Mary, Queen of Scots, executed in February 1587 on the orders of Elizabeth I. The first queen regnant to be beheaded, Mary was decapitated at Fotheringhay Castle in a bloody scene: it took three strokes of the axe to remove her head.

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, 1587. From ‘The Island Race’, a book written by Sir Winston Churchill and published in 1964 that covers the history of the British Isles from pre-Roman times to the Victorian era. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Mary’s grandson was to suffer a similar ignominious end the following century. Having been defeated in the Civil War, in January 1649 Charles I became the first English monarch to be tried and condemned for treason – there was no precedent for the lawful killing of a king. On the date of his execution, 30 January, Charles stepped out of Banqueting House in Whitehall on to a public scaffold. His head was removed amid a great groan from the crowd, and it was observed that many of those who attended dipped their handkerchiefs in the late king’s blood as a memento.

Charles’s death signalled the abolition of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic in England. In a public display of contempt for the monarchy, he became the only king of England to be murdered by his subjects. It was a far cry from the dark and mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of William ‘Rufus’ and those other ill-fated royals who came before.

Nicola Tallis is a British historian and author. Her new book Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey is published by Michael O’Mara Books on 3 November 2016.

To find out more about Nicola, visit nicolatallis.com

Henry VIII is buried where?!

Henry VIII buried 2

Henry VIII is buried where?!

Portrait of Henry VIII. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

He’s the king who had six wives and tired of them like a child tires of toys, who rid himself (and the world) of anyone who disagreed with him, didn’t like the pope and was fat…. Well, not quite. The truth and the facts are somewhat simplified for the wider audience; as one American tourist said to me on thinking she had found the tomb of Henry VIII in Westminster Abbey: “Henry VIII? He’s the one who killed all his wives, right?” She can be forgiven for both thinking of him as the ‘wife-killing king’ and for assuming he would be buried within the splendour of Westminster Abbey. She was wrong on both counts.

The iconic image of Henry VIII, created by talented court painter Hans Holbein, is known worldwide. Poised in confrontational stance, he stares out of the painting, challenging us to find fault and leaving us in no doubt that he is in charge. This was a carefully crafted image as was typical of Henry. As his father before him, he consciously, purposely and effectively used ceremony, art and symbolism to send the self-asserting message to his contemporaries: “I am the rightful king of England, appointed and supported by God.” We can only imagine the consternation and anger he would feel to know that the shrine-like tomb he designed for himself was never completed.

Indeed, despite his keen control of self-image in life and instructions for his tomb and image in death, he remains in a ‘temporary’ vault under the Quire in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the company of his third queen, Jane Seymour, and also the body of Charles I and one of Queen Anne’s tragically short-lived children. The chamber is marked simply by a black marble slab placed there almost 300 years later on the orders of William IV, its functional description the only thing alerting us to his presence beneath:

IN A VAULT

BENEATH THIS MARBLE SLAB

ARE DEPOSITED THE REMAINS

OF

JANE SEYMOUR QUEEN OF KING HENRY VIII 1537

KING HENRY VIII

1547

KING CHARLES I

1648

AND

AN INFANT CHILD OF QUEEN ANNE. THIS MEMORIAL WAS PLACED HERE

BY COMMAND OF

KING WILLIAM IV. 1837.

The Quire In St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

The Quire in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

So how, when it came to what should have been Henry’s most important and enduring symbol, do we find him in a crowded vault marked only by a simple black marble tomb stone? It is a far cry from the ostentatious tomb of his father and mother in Westminster Abbey and far from what Henry imagined, indeed instructed, should be created for himself.

Henry VIII died in the early hours of 28 January 1547 at Whitehall Palace aged 55. For a couple of days his death was kept secret from everyone except those closest to the king, to allow for a smooth transition to the council rule which was to follow under his son, Edward VI. Court ritual continued so as not to alert anyone to the king’s death before everything was ready. Meals even continued to be brought to his chambers – announced, as always, by the sound of trumpets.

Edward VI was nine years old at his accession and would be only the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was male and legitimate, but for the fledgling dynasty a child king was almost as dangerous a prospect as a woman on the throne. Everything had to be managed in minute detail, all of which had been planned by Henry himself. Of course this included Henry’s funeral which would, through impressive pageantry and ceremony, assert once again that the Tudors were rightful kings of England under God with the strong implication that Edward should be unchallenged. Always one for self-appreciation, Henry also wanted to show that he had been a true Renaissance king on the European stage.

Edward VI

Edward VI. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

The funeral procession that escorted Henry’s body to Windsor left London on 14 February with an overnight stop at Syon House. It was four miles long, included more than a thousand men on horseback and hundreds more on foot. The coffin, draped in cloth of gold with an effigy of the king on top, was pulled on a carriage by eight horses. It impressed all who lined the processional route. So far so good! Henry would have approved.

The ceremony, too, was as Henry wanted. Following a sermon by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, Henry’s coffin was lowered into its temporary place next to his third wife and Edward VI’s mother, Jane Seymour. The white wands of office, which each office holder broke over his head, followed into the grave in customary fashion. 

For his tomb, Henry requested “… a convenient altar honourably prepared and apparelled with all manner of things requisite and necessary for daily masses there to be said perpetually while the world shall endure”. Neither the tomb, nor the masses, were completed as Henry had stipulated.

A black marble sarcophagus, confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry, was already at Windsor. Thanks to John Speed, the 17th-century mapmaker and antiquarian, and his 1627 book The History of Great Britaine, we are able to understand how Henry planned to use it for himself. Fortuitously, for Henry’s original manuscript has since gone missing, Speed transcribes the instructions Henry left for a double tomb, magnificent in size, decoration and iconography.

Described in around 1,400 words, the plans included effigies of the king and queen as if sleeping; numerous angels; prophets aloft columns; scriptures and children with baskets of red and white roses scattering them down over the tomb and the pavement beyond. It would have been fabulous, very ‘Henry-esque’ – if it had been built! However, the sarcophagus remained at Windsor for more than 250 years until the Georgians found a use for it and transported it to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where it now holds the coffin of Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Nelson's Tomb
The sarcophagus of English naval officer Horatio Nelson in the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, circa 1925. It was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey in around 1524. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

So why did Henry not ensure his legacy by having his tomb built in his own time? Lack of money perhaps, although that had never deterred Henry from large expensive projects before. More likely, then, that despite Henry’s concern (you could say preoccupation) with the Tudor succession, he simply did not want to face up to his own mortality. Talk of the death of the king was a treasonable offence. Indeed, it had been a brave Sir Anthony Denny who had finally told Henry on the evening of 27 January 1547 that he was dying and thus allowing him (just) enough time to take the last rites – essential for one of the Catholic faith, as Henry was right to the end of his life.

Henry may not have liked to think about his own death, but three of his children followed him to the throne. Did none of them wish to honour their father with a fitting monument? The short answer is ‘no’. At any rate, none of them did. But why was this the case?

Edward VI may have been a child of only nine years old when he followed his father to the throne, but he had determination beyond his years and had one clear agenda – to make England Protestant. Edward was ruthless in his reforms, going far beyond anything his father had done. He died only six years later and had dedicated the majority of his reign to religious reform. We can surmise that building his father’s tomb as designed, with all its trappings of the Catholic faith, was neither a priority nor a concern to the boy king. It was far easier to display his father’s memory for his own use in his own image. A portrait of Edward in the National Portrait Gallery, believed to have been painted following his accession, mimics the strong pose of his father in the Whitehall Mural.

Edward was succeeded in turn by his two older half-sisters. First Mary, daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and then by Elizabeth, daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Unlike Edward, both sisters had been subjected to emotional damage at the hands of their father and both had suffered the devastation of being declared illegitimate, coupled with separation from their mothers.

Mary Tudor
1544, Mary Tudor (1516 – 1558), the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, at the age of 28. Following the death of her half-brother Edward VI and the brief rule of Lady Jane Grey, she ascended to the English throne as Queen Mary I in 1553. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Mary Tudor, 1544. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Of the two, Mary suffered the most. Elizabeth, two years old when her mother was executed, may have been confused to be addressed one day as ‘Princess Elizabeth’ and the following day ‘the lady Elizabeth’, but the toddler probably had no lasting memories of such events. On the other hand, Mary could remember all too vividly the cruel treatment herself and her mother endured at the hands of her father when he failed in his efforts to secure a divorce from Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Mary had been forbidden to see her mother, forced to agree that her parents’ marriage was illegal and that her mother had never been queen, and to reject the pope and recognise her father as supreme head of the Church in England. It would be difficult to overestimate the impact all these things had on her. Tragically, mother and daughter were kept apart and Mary never saw her mother again.

It would therefore have been surprising for Mary to expend much energy on the glorification of her father’s memory. Besides, she was far too busy trying to undo his and Edward’s religious reforms by re-establishing the Catholic church in England under the pope in Rome. 

After Mary came Elizabeth, who is known to have enjoyed reminding people that she was her father’s daughter. Elizabeth often referred to Henry when speaking to her council and made reference to him in a speech to parliament quite late into her reign, in 1593, when she talked of the debt she was in to her father “whom in the duty of a child I must regard, and to whom I must acknowledge myself far shallow”.

Many historians and writers have asserted that Elizabeth’s references come from a deep affection for her late father, which had developed toward the end of his life when she spent a great deal of time at court. Perhaps this is true. However, it is difficult to deny that her references served a purpose. Invoking her father’s memory, aided no doubt by her inheritance of his auburn hair, reminded those around her of her descent and provided Henry’s support for her legitimacy from beyond the grave. Ironically this was something he had failed to do in life when he restored her to the succession but left her illegitimate.

Elizabeth I is not known to have spoken of her mother in public, however a ring she wore, now known as the Chequers Ring, contained a miniature portrait of her mother and one of herself. Although she had only been a little girl of two years old when her mother was beheaded at the Tower of London, Elizabeth felt a connection to her and, privately at least, kept her memory alive. Would she have been willing to create a tomb to her father when she could not have done the same for her mother?

Queen Elizabeth I Ring, c. 1560. Artist: Anonymous master
Queen Elizabeth I Ring, c. 1560. Found in the collection of the Chequers Estate. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The Chequers Ring. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

We could surmise from all of this that once Henry’s mortal presence was gone his children were not going to be his biggest supporters. It was easier to invoke his name at points where it was advantageous to them than to muster the effort and money required to erect his permanent shrine. Nowadays, then, thousands of visitors walk over his remains every year without realising they are so close to the infamous Henry VIII.

Philippa Brewell is a historical trip writer and blogs at britishhistorytours.com

 

On this day, July 11th, in Tudor Times

Cranmer-Thomas-Archbishop-of-Canterbury

 

On 11th July 1536, the Act of Ten Articles was promulgated. This was the first element of Henry VIII’s Reformation that actually affected doctrinal matters, and was probably written by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Considered to be reformist in tone, whilst it permitted prayers for the dead, it negated any value in papal pardons or remissions. It confirmed the Real Presence in the sacraments, and thus remains essentially a Catholic exposition of faith. It was, however, novel enough to cause disquiet, and religious change was one of the motives behind the Pilgrimage of Grace.

6 Trailblazing Medieval Women

Six trailblazing medieval women

Everyone has heard of Joan of Arc or Eleanor of Aquitaine, but which other women were important during this 1,000-year period? As Susan Signe Morrison explains, evidence abounds concerning medieval women who were doctors, musicians, writers, theologians, explorer and scientists…

Submitted by: Emma Mason
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), a scientist, doctor of medicine, musician, philosopher and theologian, is “acclaimed as the most accomplished of medieval women”, says Susan Signe Morrison. (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)

First female playwright: Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (c935–c1000)

 

The 10th-century Saxon canoness Hrotsvit of Gandersheim called herself ‘the strong voice of Gandersheim’. She had many firsts to her credit: first medieval playwright; first female playwright; first female German poet and first female German historian.

Dedicating her works to various members of Emperor Otto’s family, Hrotsvit was highly educated in both the quadrivium (music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy) and the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic), as well as key writings by Christian theologians. Hrotsvit was also well-versed in Roman pagan authors, whose immoral comedies featured love affairs and women of suspect reputation, embodying the worst of misogynist beliefs. Hrotsvit took these well-plotted, but immoral, plays and turned them into morally admirable dramas featuring worthy women and weak men. Girls stood up to those who did not let them lead the lives they chose.

Hrotsvit put to vellum the first-known dramas since the classical period. Her plays extol females, from strong virgins to prostitute saints, willing to sacrifice themselves for God. What could have been happier for a devout medieval Christian than to end up in heaven? Her heroines include young girls, one as young as eight, who stand up defiantly under torture and humiliation from pagan Roman officials.  One holy virgin tells the violent emperor, “I have called him a fool, I now call him a fool, and I shall call him a fool as long as I live.” Nothing frightens her.

Hrotsvit uses misogynistic stereotypes about women – that they are more physically weak than men, for example – to argue the very opposite. Hrotsvit even has two fallen women as her heroines, who exemplify the category of the ‘holy harlot’, as seen most famously in the life of St Mary of Egypt.

 

Hrotsvit presents Emperor Otto the Great with her Gesta Oddonis, in the background is Abbess Gerberga. Woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, 1501.  (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

 

 

 

Fighting crusader: Margaret of Beverley (c1150–c1214/15)

 

The 12th-century Margaret of Beverley, born in Jerusalem to her English pilgrim parents, returned to the Holy Land just as the great Muslim leader Saladin decided to reclaim Jerusalem from Christian control. Margaret lived in Jerusalem as the city came under siege by Saladin’s troops in September 1187. Mobbed with refugees from other defeated cities, Jerusalem was surrounded by enemy soldiers. No food or water could enter. Everyone living in this urban nightmare had to participate in its defence.

Forced to stay, Margaret willingly set to work. “[L]ike a fierce virago, I tried to play the role of a man,” her brother records her saying. She told how “During this siege, which lasted 15 days, I carried out all of the functions of a soldier that I could. I wore a breastplate like a man; I came and went on the ramparts, with a cauldron on my head for a helmet. Though a woman, I seemed a warrior, I threw the weapon; though filled with fear, I learned to conceal my weakness.”

The heat was blistering. The soldiers inside had to battle continually to prevent their enemies from entering. Women helped by using weapons and machines such as catapults when not enough men were available, filling in ditches and providing food and drink. Once, when Margaret gave water to the men to drink, a catapult sent a millstone over the walls. It burst apart. A small piece of stone flew off and struck her, causing blood to gush out. Margaret carried the scar throughout her life.

About two weeks after the tumult had begun, the siege was over. Later enduring imprisonment, torture and humiliation, Margaret ultimately gained her freedom and returned to Europe, becoming a Cistercian lay-sister in a French nunnery.

 

 

 

Scandalous nun: Heloise d’Argenteuil (c1100–64)

 

By the time she was not yet 20, Heloise d’Argenteuil was renowned as the most educated woman in Europe. Peter Abelard, arguably the most brilliant philosopher of his time, had already caused an uproar among the intellectual classes. No diplomat, Peter alienated respectable older theologians, making enemies.

Heloise’s uncle, Fulbert, a clergyman at the church of Notre-Dame on the Île-de-France in Paris, hired Peter, who gladly took on the role of tutor to this young girl. Peter later wrote how he intended to break his lifelong chastity with this student entrusted to him.  Featuring a pregnant teenager and the older teacher who seduced her, this scandalous affair stemming from 1118 became the gossip of Paris.

Soon after they met,  Heloise and Peter exchanged amorous glances, looks that transformed into touches. As Peter openly confesses, “My hands strayed oftener to her bosom than to the pages.” They soon were enjoying carnal embraces. “[O]ur desires left no stage of lovemaking untried, and if love could devise something new, we welcomed it”. Heloise’s uncle remained oblivious, until he caught the lovers together. Meanwhile, Heloise was thrilled to learn she was pregnant.

The couple secretly wed. But Peter ignored Heloise after being tragically castrated by the henchmen of her vengeful uncle. In return, Heloise wrote brilliant, angry and passionate letters. Boldly proclaiming, “It would be dearer and more honorable to me to be called your whore,” she understands her passion to be authentically motivated; the true whores are those women who marry for position and money. Amazingly, scholars once refused to believe that a woman could have written such intelligent letters. Ultimately, Heloise became abbess at the Paraclete, a religious hermitage with daughter houses, six of which were set up under Heloise’s rule. She remained abbess until her death.

 

Héloïse d’Argenteuil and Peter Abélard. (© Quagga Media/Alamy Stock Photo)

 

 

Audacious innovator: Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

 

Female scientists were active in both practical and theoretical medicine. The most famous of all is Hildegard of Bingen, who transcends categorisation. Scientist, doctor of medicine, musician, philosopher, theologian, mystic – Hildegard is acclaimed as the most accomplished of medieval women. A resident of medieval Germany, she explained confounding theological notions such as that of the Trinity (the Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  Standing up to male superiors in the church, she often succeeded in getting her desires, including founding a new convent.

Hildegard wrote about the human body, even using poetic language to describe reproduction from the woman’s perspective. Her music, much performed today, reflects her view that humans create music in an attempt to recapture the cosmically harmonious paradise lost with the fall, when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. In Hildegard’s Ordo virtutum, a liturgical drama in song, the devil fights with the soul’s virtues; only the devil has a speaking role.

Hildegard’s other writings include theological, cosmological and visionary works. “Let no man be so audacious as to add anything to this writing lest he be blotted out from the book of life,” she asserts. While many medieval women turned to the divine to find meaning in their interior lives, Hildegard also commented publicly on state and church politics.  Creating voluminous letters to the pope and churchmen, she corresponded on issues of salvation and church organisation. Between 1158 and 1170 she also undertook four preaching tours – extraordinary in a time when women were expected to obey St Paul’s injunction to not teach or speak in the church.

Vocal feminist: Christine de Pizan (1364–c1430)

 

Feminist beliefs were espoused unashamedly by some trailblazing medieval women. The brilliant Christine de Pizan, for instance, was raised by an unconventional father who supported Christine’s desire to study and learn. Her arranged marriage at the age of 15 became a love match. When tragedy struck, cutting down both her father and husband in the prime of life, the 25-year-old Christine was suddenly left in charge of the extended household.

Christine had been left with no knowledge of how the financial accounts were arranged. She was even cheated by people claiming false debts. Initiating a feminist critique of marriage that still resounds today, she laments, “For it was the custom for married men not to talk about or declare the complete state of their affairs to their wives… it makes no sense unless women, instead of being ignorant, learn wise management of such matters.”

Christine had few options. “Now it was necessary for me to go to work, something which I, nurtured on the finer things of life, had not learned”. While initially she copied manuscripts as a scribe, she then became the first European professional female writer. Defying misogynist writers, calling anti-woman invective “hodgepodge, rubbish, and wasted words,” Christine boldly proclaimed to one anti-woman writer, “You have committed a great error without reason.”

In her masterpiece from 1404–5, The Book of the City of Ladies, Christine envisions an allegorical city populated only by women and ruled by the Virgin Mary. In this prose text, Christine asserts how women created all good culture, politics and science. Christine argued that women should be allowed to be what everyone should be given – the right to be human. Her final work extols a young maiden as embodying all that is fine about womanhood – none other than Joan of Arc.

 

 

Christine de Pizan, seated on a chair in carved wood. Miniature from a MS in the Burgundy Library, Brussels, 15th century. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

 

 

Matchless matriarch: Margaret Paston (c1423–84)

 

With shades of Real Housewives of the Middle Ages, estate manager Margaret Paston protected her extended family’s vast properties during the War of the Roses, a time of violence and disruption. As adept and well-versed in legal intricacies as her male lawyer counterparts who were away in London, she defended the homestead, bidding her husband to send weapons such as crossbows, axes and protective garments should enemies attack.

In addition to protecting her lands and informing her husband of crises, Margaret undertook the activities that any woman would have to do to support an estate or even modest farm: making bread and wine, brewing ale, smoking ham and bacon, and drying fruit for the winter months. She oversaw the care of pigs, poultry and cows.  Needlecraft, such as embroidery, weaving, cloth making and mending, lay within a woman’s sphere. Given the Pastons’ estates and property, Margaret consulted with tenants, negotiated legal claims, and sought out (and gave) judicial advice.

Estate management also included selling products manufactured on the farm, such as foodstuffs, cloth and grain, as well as ordering supplies from larger cities in the area. Making and maintaining connections with powerful individuals who would support her during these political turbulent times, Margaret had to borrow jewellery when she finally met Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI.

Catherine Morland,  Jane Austen’s heroine in Northanger Abbey (1803), laments, “I read [history] a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome….” Poor Catherine! If only she could come back today, when much medieval history focuses on gender and the everyday experiences of the vibrant, dynamic and unexpected lives of women from the medieval period.

 

 

 

Susan Signe Morrison is professor of English at Texas State University. Her award-winning historical novel, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, tells the story of the Old English poem, Beowulf, from the woman’s point of view. 

She can be found at amedievalwomanscompanion.com and susansignemorrison.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @medievalwomen.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Bonnie Prince Charles and the Jacobites

~10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion was a turning point in British history. Believing the British throne to be his birthright, Charles Edward Stuart, aka ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, planned to invade Great Britain along with his Jacobite followers and remove the Hanoverian ‘usurper’ George II. Yet, argues Dr Jacqueline Riding, the reality of the ’45 continues to be obscured by fiction and fables

Submitted by: Emma Mason
Bonnie Prince Charlie. (Photo by National Galleries Of Scotland/Getty Images)

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, by William Mosman, 1750. Oil on canvas. (Photo by National Galleries Of Scotland/Getty Images)

 

Her new book, Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion, reveals a story more complex and paradoxical than the myth suggests.

Here, writing for History Extra, she brings you 10 lesser-known facts about the Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the rebellion…

 

In June 1745, Charles Edward Stuart (b1720) had one key aim: regaining the thrones his grandfather, the Roman Catholic convert James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland, had lost in 1688–90 to his nephew and son-in-law William of Orange (who reigned as William III). This ‘glorious’ revolution had confirmed a Protestant succession, in a predominantly Protestant Great Britain, which, from 1714, was embodied in the Hanoverian dynasty.

Following George I’s accession, several risings in support of the exiled Stuarts occurred, most notably in the years 1715 and 1719. By this stage, on the death of James VII and II in 1701, the chief claimant (or ‘old pretender’) was his only legitimate son (and father of Charles) James Francis Edward (b1688). A French invasion of Britain in support of the Stuarts in early 1744 had been abandoned, mainly due to severe weather, leaving Charles, who had arrived in France to lead the invasion, kicking his heels in Paris.

Losing patience with the lack of commitment for another invasion attempt by his chief supporter and cousin, Louis XV, and with the greater part of the British Army fighting in Flanders against the French, Charles secretly gathered together arms and a modest war chest and set sail from Brittany, landing a small party at Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 23 July 1745.

His audacious – or reckless – plan was to gain a foothold in the western Highlands, rally support en route south, meet up with a French invasion force at London and remove the Hanoverian ‘usurper’ George II (reigned 1727–60). And with luck and the element of surprise on his side, for a time it proved almost as straightforward as that.

 

After raising the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan on 19 August – the official beginning of the rebellion – the small Jacobite army marched south-east towards the Scottish capital. Edinburgh surrendered on 17 September and four days later Charles achieved an unexpected and resounding victory against Sir John Cope and his British army troops at Prestonpans. The key to their success was the Highland charge: a fast and furious manoeuvre that regular troops had little or no experience of.

At the beginning of November the Jacobite army entered England, taking Carlisle after a short, bloodless siege. Having marched through Lancashire gathering further support, by 4 December the Jacobite army, now numbering around 6,000 men and boys, entered Derby, some 120 miles from London. But rather than push on to his ultimate prize, at a council of war the prince was completely outnumbered by his predominantly Scottish commanders and, to his utter dismay, the Jacobite army returned to Scotland. However, the rebellion was far from over. Between January and March 1746, with his army almost doubled in size, Charles and his men secured another victory against the British Army at Falkirk, this time led by General Henry Hawley, and then seized Inverness – the capital of the Highlands. But Charles was in desperate need of money to feed and maintain his troops.

On 24 March the Royal Navy captured a French ship carrying the money destined for the Jacobite army. Its loss was a disaster. With dwindling funds and a British army hard on his heels – a well-fed and now tactically prepared force commanded by George II’s son, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland – Charles resolved to fight sooner rather than later, once again against the advice of his Scottish commanders.

The defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden on 16 April 1746, the last battle fought on the British mainland, led to the rolling out of a new British government policy: the attempted extinction of core Stuart support in the Highlands via the systematic dismantling of the ancient social and military culture of the Highland clans, regardless of whether they had joined the rebellion. The wearing of Highland garb, particularly tartan plaid, was banned, and the semi-feudal bond of military service, coupled with the power of the chiefs over their clans, removed.

 

Understandably the British government wanted to stamp out any potential of another rebellion occurring, but the uncompromisingly ruthless and often violent manner in which this was achieved, including the destruction of property and livelihood, executions and transportation, swiftly turned the joy at the rebellion’s termination into sympathy for the rebels and, soon after, disaffection towards the government. The Duke of Cumberland’s enthusiastic leadership in this process won him the soubriquet ‘the butcher’. However, the pacification of the Highlands and the channelling of Highland military prowess into the British Army largely removed any potential for a future rising in the area.

Charles, meanwhile, had left the field, believing his swift return to France would hurry the long-promised French battalions he needed to resurrect the campaign. Others, however, believed he had abandoned his troops to their terrible fate and even abandoned the Stuart cause in order to save his own skin. In the event, Charles spent five months as a fugitive in the western Highlands and islands with Cumberland’s men in relentless pursuit. He eventually escaped to France, with the selfless assistance of the heroic Flora MacDonald, and died in Rome in 1788 by all accounts a drink-befuddled and bitter man. But his legendary alter ego, the ‘Highland laddie’, lived on.

Here are 10 things you might not know about him and the Jacobites…

1) The term Jacobite comes from the Latin for James (ie James VII and II) ‘Jacobus’

‘Jacobite’ is not to be confused with ‘Jacobean’, which refers to James Stuart’s rule in England as James I. (Jacobean is also often used to describe a style of art, architecture and theatre.) Nor is Jacobite to be mistaken for ‘Jacobin’, the radical political group formed during the French Revolution.

As it was treason even to make contact with the exiled Stuarts, let alone visit them, Jacobites established an intricate set of symbols, coded phrases and rituals. For example, the white rose was a symbol of James Francis Edward (his birthday, 10 June, was ‘white rose day’) and after the birth of his sons, Charles (1720) and Henry (1725), the single rose is often represented with two buds. Such symbols were used on items including fans, glassware and snuff boxes, and can also be seen in Jacobite portraiture.

The toast to “The little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat” was a reference to William III’s death from injuries sustained during a riding accident. It is said his horse stumbled on a molehill. Perhaps the most famous toast, though, is to “The king over the water”, by raising your glass and then passing it over a bowl of water.

 

2) Jacobites weren’t all Roman Catholics

The ‘senior’ Stuart branch – the male heirs of James VII and II – were Roman Catholic, but many Jacobites were Protestant, whether ‘high church’ Anglican, Episcopalian, nonjuring or dissenting.

Whatever their religion, Jacobites considered the exiled Stuarts the true British and Irish monarchs – most believed by divine right – and therefore they could not be removed, as they would see it, at the ‘whim’ of parliaments. Among the Scottish Jacobite army commanders of the 1745 rebellion, James Drummond, Duke of Perth, and his brother Lord John Drummond, were both Scottish Catholics raised in France. But other commanders, such as Lieutenant-General Lord George Murray and the Life Guards commander David Wemyss, Lord Elcho, were Protestant.

It is true that religious minorities like British Catholics could expect greater tolerance under a Catholic monarch, but few displayed any interest in joining Charles’s campaign. The most eminent English Catholics, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, attended court at St James’s Palace at the height of the threatened advance to London in November 1745, in order to publically demonstrate their support for King George.

3) Jacobites weren’t all Scottish

It is true that many members of the Stuart court in exile were Scottish – certainly by 1745 – but there were Irish and English exiles too. It is also true that Scottish Jacobites, whether in exile or not, felt an inherent loyalty to the ancient Stuart – prior to Mary Queen of Scots ‘Stewart’ – kings of Scotland. The dynasty was founded in Scotland in 1371, inheriting the English crown via James I in 1603.

In addition, many Scottish Jacobites saw the return of the Stuarts as the welcome catalyst for the dismantling of the Acts of Union between Scotland and England (creating the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707). Yet the one thing that united all Jacobites was not their nationality or the breaking up of the Union, but, as previously stated, their desire to see the return of the Stuarts to the British and Irish thrones.

Jacobites came from all parts of the British Isles and Ireland, and in exile formed a very international network. During the 1745 uprising, Charles’s small inner circle of chief confidants included two Irishmen, his former tutor in Rome, Sir Thomas Sheridan, and the Jacobite army’s adjutant general (senior administrative officer) and quarter-master general (senior supplies officer), Colonel John William O’Sullivan. Their influence over the prince rankled with some of the Scottish commanders, such as Lords George and Elcho, as the Scotsmen believed they, the Irish, had little to lose but their lives.

The expectation of a rising of the English and Welsh Jacobites was one of the key reasons why Charles ventured so far into England, believing he could reach London on a wave of residual pro-Stuart feeling and with the armed support of thousands of local recruits. Indeed, supported by a French invasion, the only hope of success in regaining all the Stuarts’ former territories lay in a significant local English rising.

4) Charles Edward Stuart spoke English with a British accent

Charles was born and raised in Rome to a Polish mother and a father of mixed European heritage, including Italian and French as well as British, which has led to the assumption that the prince spoke English with some form of foreign accent. In Peter Watkins’ BBC docudrama Culloden (1964), for example, the prince, played by Olivier Espitalier-Noel, speaks with a sort of French/trans-European accent. Lord Elcho’s oft-quoted jibe as the prince left the field at Culloden – “There you go for a damned cowardly Italian”– has fuelled this particular interpretation, although this jibe was likely a later embellishment.

Although Charles’s father, James Francis Edward, left Britain when he was six-months-old and spent his youth in exile in France (in St Germain-en-Laye, near Paris) he was surrounded by British and Irish courtiers. Indeed, his main role model, his father James VII and II, born at St James’s Palace, London and a mature 55-year-old in 1688, would have obviously spoken English with an English accent.

Eyewitnesses during the 1745 uprising described Charles as speaking “the English or broad Scots very well”. One observer, the Edinburgh schoolmaster Andrew Henderson, stated that Charles’s “speech was sly, but very intelligible; his Dialect was more upon the English than the Scottish Accent, seem’d to me pretty like that of the Irish, some of whom I had known”. “Sly” here means soft or low.

5) The Jacobite troops at Culloden were not all Highlanders

The misconception that the Jacobite army was comprised solely of Highlanders is supported, in part, by the imposing memorial cairn on the battlefield itself, which states: “The graves of the gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland & Prince Charlie are marked by the names of their clans.”

Lowlanders and English alike spoke of the ‘Highlanders’ and the ‘Highland army’, and certainly focused their attention on the sizable Highland element within the Jacobite army as Charles and his men marched through their towns and countryside. Furthermore, in the early stages of the campaign the Jacobite army could have been described as ‘Highland’, as the thousand or so men gathered around the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan came predominantly from the Cameron and MacDonald clans.

But by the time the army had occupied Edinburgh for almost six weeks, the composition had changed. It now included many Lowland gentlemen, such as Lord Elcho, and Lowland tradesmen. A month later, by the time the Jacobite troops had crossed into England and reached Derby, it was compositionally a very different army to that at Glenfinnan. It now included, along with Lowlanders, an English regiment of about 300 men, known as the Manchester regiment. Fast-forward less than six months, at the battle of Culloden (16 April 1746) about two-thirds of Charles’s troops could be termed Highland Gaels, but there were also Lowlanders, Irishmen, Frenchmen and some Englishmen.

6) The ‘Skye Boat Song’ isn’t entirely Gaelic

One of the most famous stories concerning the prince’s five months as a fugitive is his escape by sea, dressed as a maid ‘Betty Burke’, accompanied by Flora MacDonald. Many of us will know the wistful ‘Skye Boat Song’ and its promise of “the lad that’s born to be king” as he is rowed away to Skye from whence, like King Arthur before him, he “will come again”.

Its form is a traditional Gaelic rowing song or iorram and the tune is believed to derive from the Gaelic song Cuachan nan Craobh or ‘The Cuckoo in the Grove’. But the lyrics, establishing the association with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 rebellion, were actually written by an Englishman named Sir Harold Edwin Boulton (1859–1935) of Copped Hall, Totteridge, Hertfordshire, and first published in 1884. Sir Harold, a keen collector and publisher of traditional British songs, also wrote the English words to a well-known traditional Welsh lullaby, ‘All Through the Night’.

In 1892, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the post-Culloden adventure, Kidnapped(1886), wrote his own version of the ‘Skye Boat Song’ with the first line “Sing me a song of a lad that is gone”. In recent years Stevenson’s version (with modifications) has been made famous by the TV series Outlander.

 

7) The battle of Culloden did not end the Jacobite cause

Yes, Culloden was a devastating defeat – the Jacobite army’s first of the entire nine-month campaign – but several thousand men, some of whom had not been present at the battle, gathered at Ruthven 30 miles to the south, and many were willing to continue the fight. But a lack of supplies and, in the short-term, a failure of leadership from both Lord George Murray and Charles, put paid to any thought of a final stand, or a ‘guerrilla’-type campaign.

Certainly, the Duke of Cumberland believed that another battle could occur in the months following Culloden. The various acts introduced after the battle, in particular the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act of 1746, in concert with the pacification of the Highlands, made another rising in this region extremely unlikely [the act abolished the traditional judicial rights afforded to a Scottish clan chief]. But the British government and army commanders alike believed that with Charles in France agitating for troops and money to renew his campaign, and while France was still at war with Britain (in Flanders), the Jacobite threat was very much alive.

It was the peace between Great Britain and France in 1748 that ended the 1745 rebellion, by the terms of which Charles was forcibly removed from French territory. But it is not widely known that the prince, still in his twenties, made a secret visit to London in 1750 to stimulate another rising in England, which later became known as the Elibank plot, during which, it is believed, he converted to the Church of England.

In reality, what completely put to bed any hope of a Stuart restoration was the removal of support by France. France had continued to toy with the idea of an invasion of Britain – as ever, a means of destabilising the British state, her trade and her colonial interests – during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), until major defeats in 1759, including the battle of Quiberon Bay, meant abandoning any such attempt. Charles’s behaviour in the face of yet another crushing disappointment, in particular his drunkenness, disgusted the French and eventually he and his cause were abandoned for good.

This was followed, in turn, by the papacy. On the death of his father in 1766, Pope Clement XIII did not recognise Charles as the Jacobite king Charles III, de jure king of England, Scotland and Ireland. Indeed, the peaceful accession of a third king George, in 1760, suggested that as an active, political cause, Jacobitism, along with its fundamental aim of a Stuart restoration, was effectively dead.

8) Charles Edward Stuart was not the last of the Stuart claimants

On Charles’s death in 1788, his brother, Henry Benedict, became the Jacobite Henry IX of England and I of Scotland. But, as a Roman Catholic cardinal, it was with him that the direct, legitimate line ended on his death in 1807. By this time the beleaguered cardinal, who had witnessed the French Revolution (and lost the financial support of his Bourbon cousin in the process) had begun receiving an annual pension of £4,000 from George III – yes, from the very Hanoverian monarch or, in Jacobite terminology ‘usurper’, that his father and brother had fought so hard, and at such great cost, to remove from the British throne. Henry, unlike his father and brother, did not press his claim.

However, the current official Jacobite claimant, according to the Royal Stuart Society, is Franz von Bayern (b1933) of the House of Wittelsbach, a prince of Bavaria, as his name suggests, and the great-grandson of the last king of Bavaria, Ludwig III. Franz von Bayern – or, as Jacobites would call him, Francis II – became the Jacobite de jure king in 1996, and is descended from the youngest daughter of Charles I (Princess Henrietta-Anne) via the House of Savoy and the House of Este. He has no intention of pressing his claim.

 

9) It’s claimed that Bonnie Prince Charlie has a direct descendant alive today

It is claimed that there are direct descendants of Charles Edward Stuart alive today. Therefore, potentially, in the 21st century there are at least two ‘pretenders’ (from the French ‘prétendant’ or claimant) to choose from. It is well known that Charles had an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany (b1753), by his mistress Clementina Walkinshaw. After many desperate years with an increasingly drunken and abusive partner, Clementina left Charles, accompanied by their young daughter. Charles initially refused to recognise Charlotte, who spent years in convents in France, and, it is believed, produced, in turn, three illegitimate children via her relationship with Ferdinand de Rohan, archbishop of Bordeaux.

In the meantime, Charles had married (in 1772) Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, but the marriage was a disaster and was childless. In 1784, a lonely Charles legitimised his daughter Charlotte, who left her children (or so the story goes) with her mother in order to nurse Charles through his final years. Charles eventually died of a stroke in 1788 and his daughter died less than two years later.

Charlotte’s children remained unknown to history until the mid-20th century, when research undertaken by the Jacobite historians and siblings Alasdair and Henrietta Tayler apparently revealed the existence of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandchildren: Marie Victoire Adelaide (b1779), Charlotte Maximilienne Amélie (b1780) and Charles Edward (b1784).

A biography of the self-styled Count Roehanstart (Rohan Stuart, aka Roehenstart) by George Sherburn (published in 1960), based on the subject’s private papers, sets out the extraordinary life of Charles’s secret grandson, who is buried at Dunkeld Cathedral. As Roehanstart had no children, nor, it was believed, did his sisters, there the Stuart direct (albeit illegitimate) line may have ended. But a new claimant, in the guise of Peter Pininski, has recently emerged. He claims to be the descendant of Charlotte’s eldest daughter (see the 2002 book The Stuarts’ Last Secret: The Missing Heirs of Bonnie Prince Charlie). The mystery continues.

10) Bonnie Prince Charlie is buried in Rome

Charles died at the Palazzo del Re, located on the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli in Rome, the building where he had been born. The palazzo still exists on the north side of the square and just to the north-east of the forum. Sadly Charles’s birth and death in this building is not acknowledged.

Charles was originally buried at Frascati Cathedral (his brother was cardinal-bishop of Frascati) but was eventually reburied (excepting his heart, which is still at Frascati) in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, alongside his brother and father. A modest but elegant marble monument by Antonio Canova, funded, in part, by George IV and unveiled in the south aisle of the main church in 1819, marks the final resting place of the ‘old pretender’ and his sons.

 

Dr Jacqueline Riding is an associate research fellow in the School of Arts, Birkbeck College, University of London, who specialises in 18th- and early 19th-century British history and art. She is the author of Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion (Bloomsbury 2016).

To find out more about Jacqueline, visit jacquelineriding.com