One of the direct consequences of the homohoax called the Popish Plot, about which I wrote earlier this week, was to whip up anti-Catholic frenzy in England to such as extent that parliament banned Catholics from the House of Commons and House of Lords, and changed the laws of succession to the throne to exclude Catholics.
King James II of England
(James VII of Scotland) was deemed to have abdicated when he fled the country
during the Glorious Revolution on 1688 and he set up a court in exile in
France. His Protestant daughter became Queen Mary II and her husband (and
cousin, himself third in line of Protestant succession to the throne after her)
became joint sovereign as King William III.
Supporters of the exiled
King James II became known as Jacobites (after Jacobus, the Latin for James)
and over the next 57 years aided James’ Catholic son and grandsons in their
attempts to regain the British throne.
The most famous of the
Jacobite claimants was Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), better known
as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was James II’s grandson. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s
younger brother was Prince Henry Stuart (1725-1807) who later became a Catholic
cardinal we have met before on this blog. He is generally known today as
The first Question of
Identity is the Jacobite belief that these two princes were the rightful kings
of England under the titles Charles III and Henry IX. The second Question of
Identity concerns the royal portrait shown below on the left.
The portrait is by the
French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour and was bought by the Scottish National
Portrait Gallery in 1994. It is a pastel portrait on paper of Bonnie Prince
Charlie dating to about 1747. Or is it? It was the basis of several portraits
of Bonnie Prince Charlie over the succeeding years, even being reproduced by
the Scottish Gallery on postcards and souvenirs as being him. But ten years ago
serious doubts about who the man really was began to make ripples in the art
Eminent art detective Dr.
Bendor Grosvenor put forward the evidence to support his theory that the pastel
portrait was actually of Cardinal York. Grosvenor’s original paper on the
subject can be found here. Despite scepticism from the leading expert on
Jacobite portraiture, who said in 1997 that there was no doubt that the
portrait was of Bonnie Prince Charlie, it is now accepted that it depicts
Cardinal York. The Jacobite expert has since agreed with this new
How the portrait was
re-identified involved (among other scientific methods) comparing the face to
that of known portraits of both Bonnie Prince Charlie and Cardinal York. One
portrait in particular was used for comparison, the one I’ve shown above on the
right which depicts Cardinal York. The faces are identical. There is no doubt
about the portrait on the right was painted from life, so one face cannot be
that of someone else.
The next question to be
answered is when was the portrait made? Scottish National Portrait Gallery originally
put a date of 1746 or 1747 to it. At that time Cardinal York was living in Rome
and was preparing to be created a cardinal in July 1747.
Michael Nevin, Chair of
the 1745 Association, researched into the question of the date and, obviously,
ruled out any date in or around July 1747. He also excluded the previous months
in 1747 as it would have been very unlikely that Cardinal York would be
portrayed in armour while preparing for entry the cardinalate.
In 1746 the Jacobite
rebellion was effectively over. At the Battle of Culloden in 1745 Bonnie Prince
Charlie was defeated and returned to France. His brother York was in France to
help drum up support from the French king, but the Jacobites blamed York for
not doing enough and he left France for Rome after serving in the French army
for a few months.
So, if the Jacobite
rebellion was over by 1745 and Cardinal York had returned to Rome in 1746 there
would be little point in showing him in armour after that.
There is no record of the
artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour travelling to Rome to carry out this
portrait. It is most likely that it was done when York was in Paris in 1745
gathering support for his brother prior to the battle of Culloden.
Michael Nevin also came up
with an interesting theory to explain why it was painted. When Bonnie Prince
Charlie and his army were on their campaigns in England and Scotland during
1745 the Jacobites felt that the dynasty was on the verge of regaining the
throne. There was much optimism and, perhaps, York had his portrait done during
this time of optimism in anticipation of Bonnie Prince Charlie becoming king.
Whatever the reason, and
whenever it was done, this portrait remained in Cardinal York’s possession. In
1842 his executors sold it to the Townley Balfour family. Whether they knew who
the subject in the portrait was is not known, but between then and 1994 when it
was bough by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery the man in armour became
confused with similar portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Happily, this portrait of Cardinal
York, the last to show him in armour before him entering the Church, fills the
gap in the pictorial representation of the last true Jacobite claimant to the