Saturday, September 27, 2014

"The Man Who Wouldn't be King"--and Should Have Been

Father Dwight Longenecker writes for the Imaginative Conservative about James III, the true heir to the throne of England, who would  not give up his faith for the throne---even though, as Winston Churchill noted, the Tories would have supported him in 1714 if he became an Anglican and he would have become the King of England, Ireland, and Wales:

In 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne. Under the influence of his Catholic brother and wife, Charles II converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. His brother James then became King James II. James II was a Catholic. He assured his Protestant subjects that all he wished to do was to establish religious freedom, but at the birth of a male heir the Protestant powers, fearful that James would establish a Catholic succession, undermined him and installed his Protestant daughter Mary (from his first marriage) and her husband William of Orange on his throne. James fled to France where he established a court in exile.

On his death in 1701 James’ II’s oldest son became the rightful claimant of the throne of England. James Francis Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales was recognized as King James III by France, Spain and the Papal States, but he was accused of treason at home and known by his enemies as “The King Over the Water” or “The Old Pretender.” In 1708 James attempted an invasion of England through Scotland but was intercepted by the English. The French admiral in charge of James’ fleet retreated. By 1710 James’ other half-sister Anne was on the throne of England. She offered for James to be restored to the throne if he converted to the Protestant faith. He refused.

Three years later Queen Anne was close to death. In 1714 her agents were in secret correspondence with James III. They told him the queen was dying and indicated that if he converted to the Protestant faith the way would be open for him to ascend the throne. He wrote, “I have chosen my own course, therefore it is for others to change their sentiments.” Because of James’ refusal to give up his Catholic faith, the English looked for another monarch. More than fifty members of the royal houses of Europe were a closer blood relation to Queen Anne, but they were barred from the throne by their Catholic religion. Therefore at the Queen’s death, a German prince from the House of Hanover was offered the throne of England and became George I.

 Pope Clement XI offered the disappointed King the Palazzo Muti in Rome and James set up his court in exile. His attempts to regain the throne failed and he suffered from melancholy and depression. He became known as “Old Mr. Misfortunate” and grew increasingly frail and despondent.

The Old Pretender's marriage to Maria Clementina Sobieska, grand-daughter of the great victor of Vienna, was unhappy. She accused him of adultery and fled to a convent; it was two years before they reconciled. James III had been raised at St. Germain-en-Laye in France to be a king, receiving the education necessary to prepare him for that role; but he had also been raised as an observant Catholic and would not apostatize. His son, the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, would attempt a brief foray into Anglicanism, hoping to find support for the throne, but failed too and then repented and returned to the Catholic faith.
James III is rather the opposite of Henri IV of France--England was not well worth giving up the Mass!

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