Henry Benedict Stuart
Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart (March 11, 1725 – July 13, 1807), born in Rome, Italy, was the fourth and last Jacobite to publicly claim the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was also one of the longest-serving cardinals in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Henry was the second son of James Francis Edward Stuart, and the grandson of James II and VII, the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland who was deposed by the so-called Glorious Revolution in 1688. In his youth Henry's father created him Duke of York (in the Jacobite peerage), by which title he was generally known, and the Pope appointed him a Cardinal in 1747. He was known by Jacobites, and by his own wish among his personal entourage, as Henry IX and I, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland from January 31, 1788 to his death, although in public he continued to call himself the Cardinal-Duke of York.
Henry Benedict Maria Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart was born in exile, 37 years after his grandfather lost the throne, and ten years after his father's failed attempt to regain it. His father was James Francis Edward Stuart, known to his supporters as King James III and VIII, and to his opponents as "the Old Pretender". His mother was Maria Clementina Sobieski, granddaughter of the Polish king John III Sobieski, the saviour of Europe.
Henry went to France in 1745 to help his brother, Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie", or "the Young Pretender") prepare the Jacobite campaign of that year. After its defeat, Henry Stuart returned to Italy, and in 1747 the Pope made him a Cardinal and in 1748 he was ordained a priest. In 1761 came the appointed Cardinal Bishop of suburbicarian diocese of Frascati near Rome in Italy, where he lived and worked conscientiously for many years, descending each afternoon in his carriage to Rome, where his position as vice-chancellor entitled him to the Palazzo della Cancelleria.
In 1784, when his brother Charles Edward was dangerously ill, Henry proclaimed that he would continue to use the title Cardinal Duke of York as an incognito should he become king. On the death of his brother, on January 31, 1788 (one hundred years after the Glorious Revolution) Henry Stuart considered himself King Henry IX and I (eight previous kings of England had been named Henry, but no kings of Scotland). He was the last of the direct male line of James II and VII and the last genuine pretender to publicly claim the thrones of Britain.
Despite maintaining his claim, Henry was in general a peaceable man, attentive to his duties, well respected and a generous host in Rome to many English and Scots visitors, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.
At the time of the French Revolution, he lost his French Royal benefices yet sacrificed many other resources to assist the Pope. He was reduced to poverty by the seizure of his Frascati property by the French. He sailed to Padua and then to Venice for the papal conclave of March 1800 which elected Pope Pius VII.
The British Minister in Venice arranged for Henry to receive an annuity of £4000 from King George III of Great Britain. The Hanoverians represent this as an act of charity, however Jacobites followed Henry's view that it was no more than a first instalment on the money which was legally owed to him. In fact for many years the British government had promised to return the English dowry of his grandmother, Mary of Modena, but had never actually done so. Henry returned to Frascati and in September, 1803, he became Dean of the College of Cardinals and hence Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri, though he still lived in the episcopal palace at Frascati. He died there on July 13, 1807. Henry was one of the longest serving cardinals in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, serving in that office for over 60 years.
Under his will, which he signed as Henry R, he was succeeded in all his claimed British rights by his friend and nearest blood relative, Charles Emmanuel IV of Savoy, then the former King of Sardinia, a Roman Catholic. But Charles never publicly claimed his Jacobite rights, nor have any of his successors to this day. Jacobitism died finally with Henry, who was the last direct descendant of James II and VII.
Contrary to popular belief, he did not leave the crown jewels to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV of the United Kingdom. All his property was entrusted to Monsignor Angelo Cesarini for distribution. Cesarini sent the Prince Regent several jewels from Henry's private collection. These included a "Lesser George" (thought to have been worn by King Charles I at his execution, and now at Windsor Castle) and a St Andrew's Cross (now at Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh), which are insignia of the orders of the Garter and the Thistle, and also a ruby ring.
Henry, his brother and father are buried in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. There is a monument to the Royal Stuarts designed by Antonio Canova in the basilica to their memory on one of the columns in the basilica proper. This was restored within living memory at the expense of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
During his life, Cardinal Stuart was assigned the following Diaconia and Tituli:
- July 13, 1747 Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria in Portico
- September 16, 1748 Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Portico
- December 18, 1752 Cardinal Priest of Santi XII Apostoli
- February 12, 1759 Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere
- January 14, 1763 Cardinal Priest of San Lorenzo in Damaso
- July 13, 1761 Cardinal Bishop of Frascati
- September 26, 1803 Cardinal Bishop of Ostia
Giovanni Cardinal Albani
|Dean of the College of Cardinals
Leonardo Cardinal Antonelli