Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Jacobite Pretender and the Venetian Conclave of 1799-1800

Yesterday, March 11 (NS) was the birthday of the last direct-line Stuart Pretender, Henry Benedict Stuart. Since the Papal Conclave of 2013 began today, however, and Henry Cardinal Stuart was among the Cardinal electors in Venice during the extraordinary Conclave of 1799-1800, I thought I would highlight his career again today.

Henry Benedict Stuart was the second son of the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, who was recognized by his supporters as James III and VIII, King of England, Ireland and Scotland, and James III's wife Princess Maria Klementyna Sobieska. Henry was born on March 11, 1725 at the Palazzo Muti in Rome and baptized by Pope Benedict XIII the same day. Henry supported his brother Charles Edward Stuart, aka the Young Pretender, aka "Bonnie Prince Charlie" during this attempt to recover the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland from George I in 1745, but afterwards became a priest, bishop, and cardinal in the Church.

The French Revolution of 1789 hurt Cardinal Stuart financially, as did his support of Pope Pius VI, who was captured and deposed by Napoleon Bonaparte's forces in 1798 and died in Valence, France in 1799. Along with several other cardinals, Henry Stuart fled first to Naples and then to Venice, where the Conclave finally met and took quite some time to elect the next pope. According to this site, which gives many details of these events, "The Conclave had lasted three months and fourteen days, the vacancy six months and sixteen days."

The Conclave met in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio, located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore--the monastery would be suppressed in 1806, and is now the headquarters of the Cini Foundation, which has restored it. Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, who had been a Benedictine monk (named Gregory) was finally elected on March 14, 1800 and crowned, wearing a papier mache tiara decorated with jewel stones donated by the other cardinals, in the monastery church. He took the name Pius, becoming the VIIth pope with that name.

In the meantime, Cardinal Stuart's financial difficulties were addressed with a 4,000 pound annuity from King George III and he eventually returned to his diocese in Frascati. He later became Dean of the College of Cardinals in 1803 and died in Frascati in 1807.

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