Heirs of the Stuarts

The So-Called Heirs of the Stuarts

After the disastrous battle of Culloden, Charles Edward Stuart, or "The Young Pretender," as he was commonly styled by his opponents, fled from the field, and after many hair-breadth escapes succeeded in reaching the Highlands, where he wandered to and fro for many weary months. A reward of £30,000 was set upon his head, his enemies dogged his footsteps like bloodhounds, and often he was so hard pressed by the troops that he had to take refuge in caves and barns, and sometimes was compelled to avoid all shelter but that afforded him by the forests and brackens on the bleak hillsides. But the people remained faithful to his cause, and, even when danger seemed most imminent, succeeded in baffling his pursuers, and ultimately in effecting his escape. Accompanied by Cameron of Lochiel, and a few of his most faithful adherents, he managed to smuggle himself on board a little French privateer, and was at last landed in safety at a place called Roseau, near Morlaix, in France. He was treated with great respect at the French court, until the King of France, by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, disowned all rivals of the House of Hanover. The prince protested against this treaty, and braved the French court. He was accordingly ordered, in no very ceremonious terms, to leave the country, and betook himself to Italy, where he gave himself up to drunkenness, debauchery, and excesses of the lowest kind. In 1772 he married the Princess Louisa Maximilian de Stolberg, by whom he had no children, and with whom he lived very unhappily. He died from the effects of his own self-indulgence, and without male issue, in 1788. His father, the Chevalier de St. George, had pre-deceased him in 1766, and his younger brother the Cardinal York, having been debarred from marriage, it was supposed that at the death of the cardinal the royal House of Stuart had passed away.

But, in 1847, a book appeared, entitled "Tales of the Century; or, Sketches of the Romance of History between the Years 1746 and 1846, by John Sobieski and Charles Edward Stuart," and it immediately created a considerable stir in literary circles. It was at once evident that the three stories which the work contained were not intended to be read as fictions, but as a contribution to the history of the period; or, in other words, the authors meant the public to understand that Prince Charles Edward Stuart left a legitimate son by his wife Louisa de Stolberg, and that they themselves were his descendants and representatives.

The first of these "Tales of the Century" is called "The Picture," and introduces the reader to a young Highland gentleman, named Macdonnell, of Glendulochan, who is paying a first visit, in 1831, to an aged Jacobite doctor, then resident in Westminster. This old adherent of the cause feels the near approach of death, and is oppressed by the possession of a secret which he feels must not die with him. He had promised only to reveal it "in the service of his king;" and believing it for his service that it should live, he confides it to the young chief. "I will reveal it to you," he says, "that the last of the Gael may live to keep that mysterious hope—They have yet a king."

He then narrates how, in the course of a tour which he had made in Italy, in 1773, a lingering fascination compelled him to remain for some days in the vicinity of St. Rosalie, on the road from Parma to Florence; how he had often walked for hours in the deep quiet shades of the convent, ruminating on his distant country, on past events, and on coming fortunes yet unknown; and how, while thus engaged one evening, his reverie was disturbed by the rapid approach of a carriage with scarlet outriders. He gained a momentary glimpse, of its occupants—a lady and gentleman—and recognised the prince at once, "for though changed with years and care, he was still himself; and though no longer the 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' of our faithful beau-ideal, still the same eagle-featured royal bird which I had seen on his own mountains, when he spread his wings towards the south; and once more I felt the thrilling talismanic influence of his appearance, the sight so dear, so deeply-rooted in the hearts of the Highlanders—Charlie, King of the Gael."

On the same evening, while the doctor was pacing the aisles of St. Rosalie, he was disturbed from his meditation by a heavy military tread and the jingling of spurs, and a man of superior appearance, but equivocal demeanour, strode towards him, and demanded to know if he were Dr. Beaton, the Scotch physician. On receiving an affirmative answer, he was requested to render assistance to some one in need of immediate attendance, and all hesitation and inquiry was attempted to be cut short by the announcement—"The relief of the malady, and not the circumstances, of the patient is the province of the physician, and for the present occasion you will best learn by an inspection of the individual."

A carriage was in waiting, but, in true romantic style, it was necessary that the doctor should consent to be blindfolded; an indignity to which he refused to submit, until the stranger, with effusive expressions of respect for his doubts, said the secret would be embarrassing to its possessor, as it concerned the interest and safety of the most illustrious of the Scottish Jacobites. The doctor's reluctance now changed into eagerness; he readily agreed to follow his guide, and was conveyed, partly by land and partly by water, to a mansion, which they entered through a garden. After passing through a long range of apartments, his mask was removed, and he looked round upon a splendid saloon, hung with crimson velvet, and blazing with mirrors which reached from floor to ceiling, while the dim perspective of a long conservatory was revealed at the farther end. His conductor rang a silver bell, which was immediately answered by a little page, richly dressed in scarlet. This boy entered into conversation in German with the cavalier, and gave very pleasing information to him, which he, in turn, communicated to the doctor. "Signor Dottore," said he, "the most important part of your occasion is past. The lady whom you have been unhappily called to attend met with an alarming accident in her carriage not half an hour before I found you in the church, and the unlucky absence of her physician leaves her entirely in your charge. Her accouchement is over, apparently without more than exhaustion; but of that you will be the judge."

The mention of the carriage and the accident recalled to Dr. Beaton his hasty vision of the prince, but, before he could collect his confused thoughts, he was led through a splendid suite of apartments to a small ante-room, decorated with several portraits, among which he instantly recognised one of the Duke of Perth and another of King James VIII. Thence he was conducted into a magnificent bed-chamber, where the light of a single taper shed a dim glimmer through the apartment. A lady who addressed him in English led him towards the bed. The curtains were almost closed, and by the bed stood a female attendant holding an infant enveloped in a mantle. As she retired, the lady drew aside the curtains, and by the faint light which fell within the bed, the doctor imperfectly distinguished the pale features of a delicate face, which lay wan and languid, almost enveloped in the down pillow. The patient uttered a few words in German, but was extremely weak, and almost pulseless. The case was urgent, and the Scotch doctor, suppressing all indication of the danger of which he was sensible, offered at once to write a prescription.

For this purpose he was taken to a writing-cabinet which stood near; and there, while momentarily reflecting upon the ingredients which were to form his prescription, he glanced at a toilet beside him. The light of the taper shone full upon a number of jewels, which lay loosely intermixed among the scent bottles, as if put off in haste and confusion; and his surprise was great to recognise an exquisite miniature of his noble exiled prince, Charles Edward, representing him in the very dress in which he had seen him at Culloden. The lady suddenly approached, as if looking for some ornaments, and placed herself between him and the table. It was but an instant, and she retired; but when the doctor, anxious for another glimpse, again turned his eyes to the table, the face of the miniature was turned.

His duty done, he was led from the house in the same mysterious manner in which he was admitted to it; but not until he had taken an oath on the crucifix "never to speak of what he had seen, heard, or thought on that night, unless it should be in the service of his king—King Charles." Moreover, he was required to leave Tuscany the same night, and, in implicit obedience to his instructions, departed to a seaport. Here he resumed his rambles and meditation, having still deeper food for thought than when he was at St. Rosalie.

On the third night after his arrival, while strolling along the beach, his attention was attracted by an English frigate, and in answer to his inquiries he was told that her name was the "Albina," and that she was commanded by Commodore O'Haleran. The doctor lingered on the shore in the bright moonlight, and was just about to retire when he was detained by the approach of a horseman, who was followed by a small close carriage. In the horseman he recognised his mysterious guide of St. Rosalie, and waited to see the next move in the game. The carriage stopped full in the moonlight, near the margin of the water. A signal was given by the cavalier, and in response the long black shadow of a man-of-war's galley shot from behind a creek of rocks, and pulled straight for the spot where the carriage stood. Her stern was backed towards the shore. A lady alighted from the carriage, and as she descended the doctor observed that she bore in her arms some object which she held with great solicitation. An officer at the same time leaped from the boat and hastened towards the travellers. The doctor did not discern his face, but, from the glimmer of the moonlight upon his shoulders, saw that he wore double epaulettes. It may therefore be conjectured that this was Commodore O'Haleran himself. He made a brief but profound salute to the lady, and led her towards the galley. Then, says the doctor,—

"As they approached the lady unfolded her mantle, and I heard the faint cry of an infant, and distinguished for a moment the glisten of a little white mantle and cap, as she laid her charge in the arms of her companion. The officer immediately lifted her into the boat, and as soon as she was seated the cavalier delivered to her the child; and, folding it carefully in her cloak, I heard her half-suppressed voice lulling the infant from its disturbance. A brief word and a momentary grasp of the hand passed between the lady and the cavalier; and, the officer lifting his hat, the boat pushed off, the oars fell in the water, and the galley glided down the creek with a velocity that soon rendered her but a shadow in the grey tide. In a few minutes I lost sight of her altogether; but I still distinguished the faint measured plash of the oars, and the feeble wail of the infant's voice float along the still water.

"For some moments I thought I had seen the last of the little bark, which seemed to venture, like an enchanted skiff, into that world of black waters. But suddenly I caught a glimpse of the narrow boat, and the dark figures of the men, gliding across the bright stream of moonlight upon the tide; an instant after a faint gleam blinked on the white mantle of the lady and the sparkle of the oars, but it died away by degrees, and neither sound nor sight returned again.

"For more than a quarter of an hour the tall black figure of the cavalier continued fixed upon the same spot and in the same attitude; but suddenly the broad gigantic shadow of the frigate swung round in the moonshine, her sails filled to the breeze, and, dimly brightening in the light, she bore off slow and still and stately towards the west."

So much for the birth. Doctor Beaton, at least, says that Louisa de Stolberg, the lawful wife of the young pretender, gave birth to a child at St Rosalie in 1773, and that it was carried away three days afterwards in the British frigate "Albina," by Commodore O'Haleran.

In the next story, called "The Red Eagle," another stage is reached. The Highland chief who went to visit Dr. Beaton in Westminster has passed his youth, and, in middle age, is astounded by some neighbourly gossip concerning a mysterious personage who has taken up his quarters in an adjacent mansion. This unknown individual is described as wearing the red tartan, and as having that peculiar look of the eye "which was never in the head of man nor bird but the eagle and Prince Charlie." His name also is given as Captain O'Haleran, so that there can be no difficulty in tracing his history back to the time when the commodore and the mysterious infant sailed from the Mediterranean port toward the west. Moreover, it seems that he is the reputed son of an admiral who lays claim to a Scottish peerage, who had married a southern heiress against the wishes of his relatives, and had assumed her name; and that his French valet is in the habit of paying him great deference, and occasionally styles him "Monseigneur" and "Altesse Royal." As if this hint were not sufficient, it is incidentally mentioned that a very aged Highland chief, who is almost in his dotage, no sooner set eyes upon the "Red Eagle" than he addressed him as Prince Charlie, and told his royal highness that the last time he saw him was on the morning of Culloden.

In the third and last of the tales—"The Wolf's Den"—the "Red Eagle" reappears, and is married to an English lady named Catherine Bruce. His pretensions to royalty are even more plainly acknowledged than before; and in the course of the story the Chevalier Græme, chamberlain to the Countess d'Albanie, addresses him as "My Prince." The inference is obvious. The Highland hero with the wonderful eyes was the child of the pretender; he espoused an English lady, and the names on the title-page of the book which tells this marvellous history lead us to believe that the marriage was fruitful, and that "John Sobieski Stuart" and "Charles Edward Stuart" were the offspring of the union, and as such inherited whatever family pretensions might exist to the sovereignty of the British empire.

This very pretty story might have passed with the public as a mere romance, and, possibly, the two names on the title-page might have been regarded as mere noms de plume, if vague reports had not previously been circulated which made it apparent that the motive of the so-called Stuarts was to deceive the public rather than to amuse them.

There seemed, indeed, to be little ground for believing this romantic story to be true, and when it was made public it was immediately rent to pieces. One shrewd critic, in particular, tore the veil aside, and in the pages of the Quarterly Review  revealed the truth. He plainly showed the imposture, both by direct and collateral evidence, and traced the sham Stuarts through all the turnings of their tortuous lives. By him Commodore O'Haleran, who is said to have carried off the child, is shown to be Admiral Allen, who died in 1800, and who pretended to have certain claims to the earldom of Errol and the estates of the Hay family. This gentleman, it seems, had two sons, Captain John Allen and Lieutenant Thomas Allen, both of whom were officers in the navy. The younger of these, Thomas, was married on the 2d of October 1792 to Catherine Manning, the daughter of the Vicar of Godalming. In this gentleman, Lieutenant Thomas Allen, the reviewer declares the prototype of the mysterious "Red Eagle" may clearly be recognised; and he works his case out in this way:—The "Red Eagle" calls himself captain, and is seen in the story in connection with a man-of-war, and displaying remarkable powers of seamanship during a storm among the Hebrides; Thomas Allen was a lieutenant in the navy. The "Red Eagle" passed for the son of Admiral O'Haleran; Thomas Allen for the son of Admiral Carter Allen. The "Red Eagle" married Catherine Bruce, sometime after the summer of 1790; Thomas Allen married Catherine Manning in 1792. In the last of the three "Tales of the Century," Admiral O'Haleran and the mysterious guide of Dr. Beaton are represented as endeavouring to prevent the "Red Eagle" from injuring the prospects of his house by such a mesalliance  as they considered his marriage with Catherine Bruce would be; and there is a scene in which the royal birth of the "Red Eagle" is spoken of without concealment, and in which the admiral begs his "foster son" not to destroy, by such a marriage, the last hope that was withering on his father's  foreign tomb. In his will Admiral Allen bequeathed his whole fortune to his eldest son, and only left a legacy of £100 to Thomas; so that it may reasonably be inferred that his displeasure had been excited against his youngest born by some such event as an imprudent marriage. This Thomas Allen had two sons, of whom the elder published a volume of poems in 1822, to which he put his name as John Hay Allen, Esq.; while the marriage of the other is noted in Blackwood's Magazine  for the same year, when he figures as "Charles Stuart, youngest son of Thomas Hay Allen, Esq." These are the gentlemen who, more than twenty years later, placed their names to the "Tales of the Century," and styled themselves John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, thus seeking to persuade the world that they were the direct heirs of Prince Charlie.

There can be no doubt as to their motive; but is it probable, or even possible, that the occurrences which they describe with so much minuteness could ever have taken place? The imaginary Dr. Beaton's story as to the birth is altogether uncorroborated. What became of the attendants on the Princess Louisa, of the lady who was in the bedchamber, of the nurse who held the child in her arms, and of the little page who announced the advent of the royal heir to the mysterious guide? They knew the nature of the important event which is said to have taken place, yet they all died with sealed lips, nor, even "in the service of the king," revealed the fact that an heir had been born. The officers and crew of the frigate, also, must have gossiped about the commodore's midnight adventure, and the strange shipment of a lady and child off the Italian coast on a moonlight night; but not one of them ever gave a sign or betrayed the fact. Such secrecy is, to say the least, very unusual. Then, returning to Prince Charlie himself, it is indisputable that when his wife left him in disgust in 1780, he had no recourse to his imaginary son to cheer his old age, but turned instinctively to Charlotte Stuart, his illegitimate child, for sympathy. In July 1784 he executed a deed, with all the necessary forms, legitimating this person, and bestowing upon her the title of Albany, by which he had himself been known for fourteen years, with the rank of duchess. To legitimate his natural daughter, and give her the reversion of his own title, was very unlike the action of a pseudo -king who had a lawful son alive. In 1784, also, when the pretender executed his will, he left this same Duchess of Albany, of his own constitution, all that he possessed, with the exception of a small bequest to his brother the cardinal, and a few trifling legacies to his attendants. To the duchess he bequeathed his palace at Florence, with all its rich furniture, all his plate and jewels, including those brought into the family by his mother, the Princess Clementina Sobieski, and also such of the crown jewels of England as had been conveyed to the continent by James II. If the claimant to the British throne had had a son, would he have alienated from him not only his Italian residence and the Polish jewels which he inherited from his mother, but also the crown jewels of England, which had come into his possession as the descendant of a king, and which were, by the same right, the inalienable property of his legitimate son?

The Duchess of Albany very evidently knew nothing of the existence of her supposed half-brother. She survived her father Prince Charles Edward for two years. Before her decease she sent to the cardinal the whole of the crown jewels, and at her death she left him all her property, with the exception of an annuity to her mother, Miss Walkinshaw, who survived her for some time, and who was known in Jacobite circles as the Countess of Alberstroff.

The conduct of the Princess Louisa, the reputed mother of the child, was equally strange. When she left her old debauched husband, she found consolation in the friendship and intimacy of the poet Alfieri, who at his death left her his whole property. Cardinal York settled a handsome income upon her, and her second lover—a Frenchman, named Fabre—added to her store. She survived till 1824, when her alleged son must have been in his fifty-first year; yet at her death all her property, including the seal and the portrait of Prince Charles Edward, were left to her French admirer, and were by him bequeathed to an Italian sculptor.

Cardinal York, also, betrayed no knowledge that his brother ever had had a son. When Prince Charles Edward died the cardinal adopted all the form and etiquette usual in the residence of a monarch, and insisted upon its observance by his visitors, as well as by his own attendants. He published protests asserting his right to the British crown, and caused medals to be struck bearing his effigy, and an inscription wherein he is styled Henry the Ninth, King of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c., &c. This he neither could nor would have done had he been aware of the existence of his brother's son, who had a prior claim to his own. Moreover, when the Princess Louisa left her husband, he exerted himself to the utmost of his ability to serve her; carried her to Rome; and succeeded in procuring for her a suitable establishment from his brother. Surely, in return for his great services, she would have informed him of the existence of her son, if any such son had ever been born! When the pretender's health began to give way Cardinal York was among the first to hasten to his assistance, and, discarding all previous disagreements, renewed his friendship with him, and persuaded him to make his home in Rome for the last two years of his life. Yet Prince Charles in his old age, and with death before his eyes, never revealed the secret of St. Rosalie to his brother, but permitted him to assume a title to which he had not the shadow of a claim. In his will also, Cardinal York betrays his ignorance of any heir of his brother, and bequeaths his possessions to the missionary funds of the Romish Church. Dr. Beaton alone seems to have been worthy of trust.

As far as Admiral Allen is concerned, it is not only unproven that he was a Tory or a Jacobite, but it is almost certainly shown that he was a Whig, and would have been a very unlikely person to be entrusted either with the secrets, or the heir, of Prince Charlie. Had Charles Edward been in a situation to confide so delicate a trust to any one, it is impossible to conceive that he would have selected any other than one of his staunchest adherents; yet John and Charles Hay Allen ask the public to believe that the charge was entrusted to one whose political relations seem to have been with the opposite party. They declare that the "Red Eagle" was aware of his real parentage prior to 1790; yet in the notice of Thomas Allen's marriage, which occurred two years later, he is expressly described as the son of Admiral Allen, and in the admiral's will he is distinctly mentioned as his son. As the reviewer, who has been quoted so freely, remarks: "What conceivable motive could induce the officer entrusted by Charles Edward with the care of the only hope of the House of Stuart to leave in his will, and that will, too, executed in the year of his death, a flat denial of the royal birth of his illustrious ward? The fact is utterly irreconcilable with the existence of such a secret, and appears absolutely conclusive. There was no occasion for the admiral stating in his will whose son Thomas Allen was. He might have left him £100 without any allusion to his parentage; but when he deliberately, and, as lawyers say, in intuitu mortis, assures us that this gentleman, the father of those who assume names so directly indicative of royal pretensions, was his own son, we are inclined to give him credit for a clearer knowledge of the truth than any now alive can possess."

Such is the story, and such is its refutation. It has had many believers and many critics. That it was advanced in earnest there can be no doubt, and the pretenders were well known in London circles. The elder of them, "John Sobieski Stuart," died in February 1872; but before his decease solemnly appointed his successor, and passed his supposed royal birthright to a younger member of the same family—a birthright which is worthless and vain.