‘P’raps he was my father — though on this subjict I can’t speak suttinly, for my ma wrapped up my buth in a mistry. I may be illygitmit, I may have been changed at nuss.’
In these strange words does Mr. Thackeray’s Jeames de la Pluche anticipate the historical mystery of James de la Cloche. HIS ‘buth’ is ‘wrapped up in a mistry,’ HIS ‘ma’ is a theme of doubtful speculation; his father (to all appearance) was Charles II. We know not whether James de la Cloche — rejecting the gaudy lure of three crowns — lived and died a saintly Jesuit; or whether, on the other hand, he married beneath him, was thrown into gaol, was sentenced to a public whipping, was pardoned and released, and died at the age of twenty-three, full of swaggering and impenitent impudence. Was there but one James de la Cloche, a scion of the noblest of European royal lines? Did he, after professions of a holy vocation, suddenly assume the most secular of characters, jilting Poverty and Obedience for an earthly bride? Or was the person who appears to have acted in this unworthy manner a mere impostor, who had stolen James’s money and jewels and royal name? If so, what became of the genuine and saintly James de la Cloche? He is never heard of any more, whether because he assumed an ecclesiastical alias, or because he was effectually silenced by the person who took his character, name, money, and parentage.
There are two factions in the dispute about de la Cloche. The former (including the late Lord Acton and Father Boero) believe that James adhered to his sacred vocation, while the second James was a rank impostor. The other party holds that the frivolous and secular James was merely the original James, who suddenly abandoned his vocation, and burst on the world as a gay cavalier, and claimant of the rank of Prince of Wales, or, at least, of the revenues and perquisites of that position.
The first act in the drama was discovered by Father Boero, who printed the documents as to James de la Cloche in his ‘History of the Conversion to the Catholic Church of Charles II., King of England,’ in the sixth and seventh volumes, fifth series, of La Civilta Cattolica (Rome, 1863). (The essays can be procured in a separate brochure.) Father Boero says not a word about the second and secular James, calling himself ‘Giacopo Stuardo.’ But the learned father had communicated the papers about de la Cloche to Lord Acton, who wrote an article on the subject, ‘The Secret History of Charles II.,’ in ‘The Home and Foreign Review,’ July 1862. Lord Acton now added the story of the second James, or of the second avatar of the first James, from State Papers in our Record Office. The documents as to de la Cloche are among the MSS. of the Society of Jesus at Rome.
The purpose of Father Boero was not to elucidate a romance in royal life, but to prove that Charles II. had, for many years, been sincerely inclined to the Catholic creed, though thwarted by his often expressed disinclination to ‘go on his travels again.’ In point of fact, the religion of Charles II. might probably be stated in a celebrated figure of Pascal’s. Let it be granted that reason can discover nothing as to the existence of any ground for religion. Let it be granted that we cannot know whether there is a God or not. Yet either there is, or there is not. It is even betting, heads or tails, croix ou pile. This being so, it is wiser to bet that there is a God. It is safer. If you lose, you are just where you were, except for the pleasures which you desert. If you win, you win everything! What you stake is finite, a little pleasure; if you win, you win infinite bliss.
So far Charles was prepared theoretically to go but he would not abandon his diversions. A God there is, but ‘He’s a good fellow, and ’twill all be well.’ God would never punish a man, he told Burnet, for taking ‘a little irregular pleasure.’ Further, Charles saw that, if bet he must, the safest religion to back was that of Catholicism. Thereby he could — it was even betting — actually ensure his salvation. But if he put on his money publicly, if he professed Catholicism, he certainly lost his kingdoms. Consequently he tried to be a crypto-Catholic, but he was not permitted to practise one creed and profess another. THAT the Pope would not stand. So it was on his death-bed that he made his desperate plunge, and went, it must be said, bravely, on the darkling voyage.
Not to dwell on Charles’s earlier dalliances with Rome, in November 1665, his kinsman, Ludovick Stewart, Sieur d’Aubigny, of the Scoto–French Lennox Stewarts, was made a cardinal, and then died. Charles had now no man whom he could implicitly trust in his efforts to become formally, but secretly, a Catholic. And now James de la Cloche comes on the scene. Father Boero publishes, from the Jesuit archives, a strange paper, purporting to be written and signed by the King’s hand, and sealed with his private seal, that diamond seal, whereof the impression brought such joy to the soul of the disgraced Archbishop Sharp. Father Boero attests the authenticity of seal and handwriting. In this paper, Charles acknowledges his paternity of James Stuart, ‘who, by our command, has hitherto lived in France and other countries under a feigned name.’ He has come to London, and is to bear the name of ‘de la Cloche du Bourg de Jarsey.’ De la Cloche is not to produce this document, ‘written in his own language’ (French), till after the King’s death. (It is important to note that James de la Cloche seems to have spoken no language except French.) The paper is dated ‘Whitehall, September 27, 1665,’ when, as Lord Acton observes, the Court, during the Plague, was NOT at Whitehall.236
236 Civ. Catt. Series V., vol. vi. 710. Home and Foreign Review, vol. i. 156.
Lord Acton conjectured that the name ‘de la Cloche’ was taken from that of a Protestant minister in Jersey (circ. 1646). This is the more probable, as Charles later invented a false history of his son, who was to be described as the son of ‘a rich preacher, deceased.’ The surname, de la Cloche, had really been that of a preacher in Jersey, and survives in Jersey.
After 1665, James de la Cloche was pursuing his studies in Holland, being at this time a Protestant. Conceivably he had been brought up in a French Huguenot family, like that of the de Rohan. On February 7, 1667, Charles wrote a new document. In this he grants to de la Cloche 500 pounds a year, while he lives in London and adheres to ‘the religion of his father and the Anglican service book.’ But, in that very year (July 29, 1667), de la Cloche went to Hamburg, and was there received into the Catholic Church, forfeiting his pension.
Christina of Sweden was then residing in Hamburg. De la Cloche apprised her of his real position — a son of the King of England — and must have shown her in proof Charles’s two letters of 1665 and 1667. If so — and how else could he prove his birth? — he broke faith with Charles, but, apparently, he did not mean to use Charles’s letters as proof of his origin when applying, as he did, for admission to the novitiate of the Jesuits at Rome. He obtained from Christina a statement, in Latin, that Charles had acknowledged him, privately, to her, as his son. This note of Christina’s, de la Cloche was to show to his director at Rome.
It does not appear that Charles had ever told Christina a word about the matter. These pious monarchs were far from being veracious. However, Christina’s document would save the young man much trouble, on the point of his illegitimacy, when, on April 11, 1668, he entered St. Andrea al Quirinale as a Jesuit novice. He came in poverty. His wardrobe was of the scantiest. He had two shirts, a chamois leather chest protector, three collars, and three pairs of sleeves. He described himself as ‘Jacques de la Cloche, of Jersey, British subject,’ and falsely, or ignorantly, stated his age as twenty-four. Really he was twenty-two.237 Why he told Christina his secret, why he let her say that Charles had told her, we do not know. It may be that the General of the Jesuits, Oliva, did not yet know who de la Cloche really was. Meanwhile, his religious vocation led him to forfeit 500 pounds yearly, and expectations, and to disobey his father and king.
237 Civ. Catt., ut supra, 712, 713, and notes.
The good King took all very easily. On August 3, 1668, he wrote a longa et verbosa epistola, from Whitehall, to the General of the Jesuits. His face was now set towards the secret treaty of Dover and conversion. The conversion of his son, therefore, seemed truly providential. Charles had discussed it with his own mother and his wife. To Oliva he wrote in French, explaining that his Latin was ‘poor,’ and that, if he wrote English, an interpreter would be needed, but that no Englishman was to ‘put his nose’ into this affair. He had long prayed God to give him a safe and secret chance of conversion, but he could not use, without exciting suspicion, the priests then in England. On the other hand, his son would do: the young cavalier then at Rome, named de la Cloche de Jersey. This lad was the pledge of an early love for ‘a young lady of a family among the most distinguished in our kingdoms.’ He was a child of the King’s ‘earliest youth,’ that is, during his residence in Jersey, March–June 1646, when Charles was sixteen. In a few years, the King hoped to recognise him publicly. With him alone could Charles practise secretly the mysteries of the Church. To such edifying ends had God turned an offence against His laws, an amourette. De la Cloche, of course, was as yet not a priest, and could not administer sacraments, an idea which occurred to Charles himself.
The Queen of Sweden, Charles added, was prudent, but, being a woman, she probably could not keep a secret. Charles wants his son to come home, and asks the Jesuit to put off Christina with any lie he pleases, if she asks questions. In short, he regards the General of the Jesuits as a person ready to tell any convenient falsehood, and lets this opinion appear with perfect naivete! He will ask the Pope to hurry de la Cloche into priest’s orders, or, if that is not easy, he will have the thing done in Paris, by means of Louis XIV., or his own sister, Henrietta (Madame). Or the Queen and Queen Mother can have it done in London, as they ‘have bishops at their will.’ The King has no desire to interrupt his son’s vocation as a Jesuit. In London the young man must avoid Jesuit society, and other occasions of suspicion. He ends with a promise of subscriptions to Jesuit objects.238
238 Civ. Catt. Series V., vii. 269–274.
By the same courier, the King wrote to ‘Our most honoured son, the Prince Stuart, dwelling with the R.P. Jesuits under the name of Signor de la Cloche.’ James may be easy about money. He must be careful of his health, which is delicate, and not voyage at an unhealthy season. The Queens are anxious to see him. He should avoid asceticism. He may yet be recognised, and take precedence of his younger and less nobly born brother, the Duke of Monmouth. The King expresses his affection for a son of excellent character, and distinguished by the solidity of his studies and acquirements. If toleration is gained, de la Cloche has some chance of the English throne, supposing Charles and the Duke of York to die without issue male. Parliament will be unable to oppose this arrangement, unless Catholics are excluded from the succession.
This has a crazy sound. The Crown would have been in no lack of legitimate heirs, failing offspring male of the King and the Duke of York.
If de la Cloche, however, persists in his vocation, so be it. The King may get for him a cardinal’s hat. The King assures his son of his affection, not only as the child of his extreme youth, but for the virtues of his character. De la Cloche must travel as a simple gentleman.239
239 Ut supra, 275, 278.
On August 29, Charles again wrote to Oliva. He had heard that the Queen of Sweden was going to Rome. De la Cloche must not meet her, she might let out the secret: he must come home at once. If Charles is known to be a Catholic, there will be tumults, and he will lose his life. Another letter, undated, asks that the novice, contrary to rule, may travel alone, with no Jesuit chaperon, and by sea, direct from Genoa. Consulting physicians, the King has learned that sea sickness is never fatal, rather salutary. His travelling name should be Henri de Rohan, as if he were of that Calvinistic house, friends of the King. The story must be circulated that de la Cloche is the son of a rich preacher, deceased, and that he has gone to visit his mother, who is likely to be converted. He must leave his religious costume with the Jesuits at Genoa, and pick it up there on his return. He must not land at the port of London, but at some other harbour, and thence drive to town.240
240 Ut supra, 283–287.
On October 14, d’Oliva, from Leghorn, wrote to Charles that ‘the French gentleman’ was on the seas. On November 18, Charles wrote to d’Oliva that his son was returning to Rome as his secret ambassador, and, by the King’s orders, was to come back to London, bearing answers to questions which he will put verbally. In France he leaves a Jesuit whom he is to pick up as he again makes for England.241
241 Father Florent Dumas, in a rather florid essay on ‘The Saintly Son of Charles II,’ supposes that, after all, he had a Jesuit chaperon during his expedition to England (Jesuit Etudes de Rel., Hist. et Lit., Paris, 1864–1865).
The questions to which de la Cloche is to bring answers doubtless concerned the wish of Charles to be a Catholic secretly, and other arrangements which he is known to have suggested on another occasion.
After this letter of November 18, 1668, WE NEVER HEAR A WORD ABOUT JAMES DE LA CLOCHE.242 No later letters from the King to d’Oliva are found, the name of James de la Cloche does not occur again in the Records of the Society of Jesus.
242 Ut supra, 418–420.
Father Boero argues that James would return to London, under a third name, unknown. But it would be risky for one who had appeared in England under one name in 1665, and under another (Rohan) in 1668, to turn up under a third in 1669. To take aliases, often three or four, was, however, the custom of the English Jesuits, and de la Cloche may have chosen his fourth. Thus we could not trace him, in records, unless Charles wrote again to d’Oliva about his son. No such letter exists. In his letter of November 18, Charles promises, in a year, a subscription to the Jesuit building fund — this at his son’s request. I know not if the money was ever paid. He also asks Oliva to give James 800 doppie for expenses, to be repaid in six months.
James did not leave the Society of Jesus, argues Father Boero, for, had he left, he would have carried away the papers in which Charles acknowledges him and promises a pension of 500 pounds yearly. But that document would be useless to James, whether he remained a Jesuit or not, for the condition of the pension (1667) was that he should be a Protestant of the Anglican sect, and live in London. However, Charles’s letter of 1668 was in another tune, and James certainly left THAT with the Jesuits in Rome; at least, they possess it now. But suppose that James fled secretly from the Jesuits, then he probably had no chance of recovering his papers. He was not likely to run away, however, for, Charles says, he ‘did not like London,’ or the secular life, and he appears to have returned to Rome at the end of 1668, with every intention of fulfilling his mission and pursuing his vocation. His return mission to England over, he probably would finish his Jesuit training at a college in France or Flanders, say St. Omer’s, where Titus Oates for a while abode. No James de la Cloche is known there or elsewhere, but he might easily adopt a new alias, and Charles would have no need to write to Oliva about him. It may be that James was the priest at St. Omer’s, whom, in 167O, Charles had arranged to send, but did not send, to Clement IX.243 He may also be the priest secretly brought from abroad to Charles during the Popish Plot (1678–1681).244
243 Mignet, Neg. rel. Succ. d’Espagne, iii. 232.
244 Welwood, Memoirs, 146.
These are suggestions of Lord Acton, who thinks that de la Cloche may also have been the author of two papers, in French, on religion, left by Charles, in his own hand, at his death.245 These are conjectures. If we accept them, de la Cloche was a truly self-denying young semi-Prince, preferring an austere life to the delights and honours which attended his younger brother, the Duke of Monmouth. But, just when de la Cloche should have been returning from Rome to London, at the end of 1668 or beginning of 1669, a person calling himself James Stuart, son of Charles II., by an amour, at Jersey, in 1646, with a ‘Lady Mary Henrietta Stuart,’ appeared in some magnificence at Naples. This James Stuart either was, or affected to be, James de la Cloche. Whoever he was, the King’s carefully guarded secret was out, was public property.
245 Home and Foreign Review, i. 165.
Our information as to this James Stuart, or Giacopo Stuardo, son of the King of England — the cavalier who appears exactly when the Jesuit novice, James de la Cloche, son of the King of England, vanishes — is derived from two sources. First there are Roman newsletters, forwarded to England by Kent, the English agent at Rome, with his own despatches in English. It does not appear to me that Kent had, as a rule, any intimate purveyor of intelligence at Naples. He seems, in his own letters to Williamson,246 merely to follow and comment on the Italian newsletters which he forwards and the gossip of ‘the Nation,’ that is, the English in Rome. The newsletters, of course, might be under the censorship of Rome and Naples. Such is one of our sources.247
246 See ‘The Valet’s Master,’ for other references to Williamson.
247 State Papers, Italian, 1669, Bundle 10, Record Office.
Lord Acton, in 1862, and other writers, have relied solely on this first set of testimonies. But the late Mr. Maziere Brady has apparently ignored or been unacquainted with these materials, and he cites a printed book not quoted by Lord Acton.248 This work is the third volume of the ‘Lettere’ of Vincenzo Armanni of Gubbio, who wrote much about the conversion of England, and had himself been in that country. The work quoted was printed (privately?) by Giuseppe Piccini, at Macerata, in 1674, and, so far, I have been unable to see an example. The British Museum Library has no copy, and the ‘Lettere’ are unknown to Brunet. We have thus to take a secondhand version of Armanni’s account. He says that his informant was one of two confessors, employed successively by Prince James Stuart, at Naples, in January–August 1669. Now, Kent sent to England an English translation of the Italian will of James Stuart. A will is also given, of course in Italian, by Vincenzo Armanni; a copy of this is in the Record Office.
248 Maziere Brady, Anglo–Roman Papers, pp. 93–121 (Gardner Paisley, 1890).
It appears from this will that James Stuart, for reasons of his own, actually did enjoy the services of two successive confessors, at Naples, in 1669. The earlier of these two was Armanni’s informant. His account of James Stuart differs from that of Kent and the Italian newsletters, which we repeat, alone are cited by Lord Acton (1862); while Mr. Brady (1890), citing Armanni, knows nothing of the newsletters and Kent, and conceives himself to be the first writer in English on the subject.
Turning to our first source, the newsletters of Rome, and the letters of Kent, the dates in each case prove that Kent, with variations, follows the newsletters. The gazzetta of March 23, 1669, is the source of Kent’s despatch of March 30. On the gazzette of April 6, 13, and 20, he makes no comment, but his letter of June 16 varies more or less from the newsletter of June 11. His despatch of September 7 corresponds to the newsletter of the same date, but is much more copious.
Taking these authorities in order of date, we find the newsletter of Rome (March 23, 1669) averring that an unknown English gentleman has been ‘for some months’ at Naples, that is, since January at least, and has fallen in love with the daughter of a poor innkeeper, or host (locandiere). He is a Catholic and has married the girl. The newly made father-inlaw has been spending freely the money given to him by the bridegroom. Armanni, as summarised by Mr. Brady, states the matter of the money thus: ‘The Prince was anxious to make it appear that his intended father-inlaw was not altogether a pauper, and accordingly he gave a sum of money to Signor Francesco Corona to serve as a dowry for Teresa. Signor Corona could not deny himself the pleasure of exhibiting this money before his friends, and he indiscreetly boasted before his neighbours concerning his rich son-inlaw.’
From Armanni’s version, derived from the confessor of James Stuart, it appears that nothing was said as to James’s royal birth till after his arrest, when he informed the Viceroy of Naples in self-defence.
To return to the newsletter of March 23, it represents that the Viceroy heard of the unwonted expenditure of money by Corona, and seized the English son-inlaw on suspicion. In his possession the Viceroy found about 200 doppie, many jewels, and some papers in which he was addressed as Altezza (Highness). The word doppie is used by Charles (in Boero’s Italian translation) for the 800 coins which he asks Oliva to give to de la Cloche for travelling expenses. Were James Stuart’s 200 doppie the remains of the 800? Lord Acton exaggerates when he writes vaguely that Stuart possessed ‘heaps of pistoles.’ Two hundred doppie (about 150 or 160 pounds) are not ‘heaps.’ To return to the newsletter, the idea being current that the young man was a natural son of the King of England, he was provisionally confined in the castle of St. Elmo. On April 6, he is reported to be shut up in the castle of Gaeta. On the 20th, we hear that fifty scudi monthly have been assigned to the prisoner for his support. The Viceroy has written (to England) to ask what is to be done with him.
On June 11, it is reported that, after being removed to the Vicaria, a prison for vulgar malefactors, the captive has been released. He is NOT the son of the King of England.
Kent’s letter of March 30 follows the newsletter of March 23. He adds that the unknown Englishman ‘seems’ to have ‘vaunted to bee the King of England’s sonne BORNE AT GERSEY,’ a fact never expressly stated about de la Cloche. It is not clear that James Stuart vaunted his birth before his arrest made it necessary for him to give an account of himself. Kent also says that the unknown sent for the English consul, Mr. Browne, ‘to assist his delivery out of the castle. But it seems he could not speake a word of English nor give any account of the birth he pretended to.’ On Kent’s showing, he had no documentary proofs of his royal birth. French was de la Cloche’s language, if this unknown was he, and if Kent is right, he had not with him the two documents and the letter of Charles II. and the certificate of the Queen of Sweden. ‘This is all the light I can picke out of the Nation, or others, of his extravagant story, which whether will end in Prince or cheate I shall endeavour to inform you hereafter.’
Kent’s next letter (June 16) follows, with variations, the newsletter of June 11:—
Kent to J. Williamson
June 16, 1669.
The Gentleman who WOULD HAVE BEENE HIS MAT’YS BASTARD at Naples, vpon the receipt of his Ma’ties Letters to that Vice King was immediately taken out of the Castle of Gaetta brought to Naples and Cast into the Grand Prison called the Vicaria, where being thrust amongst the most Vile and infamous Rascalls, the Vice King intended to have Caused him to bee whipt about the Citty, but meanes was made by his wife’s kindred (Who was Likewise taken with this pretended Prince) to the Vice–Queene, who, in compassion to her and her kindred, prevailed with Don Pedro to deliver him from that Shame [and from gaol, it seems], and soe ends the Story of this fourb WHO SPEAKS NOE LANGUADGE BUT FFRENCH.
The newsletter says nothing of the intended whipping, or of the intercession of the family of the wife of the unknown. These points may be the additions of gossips.
In any case the unknown, with his wife, after a stay of no long time in the Vicaria, is set at liberty. His release might be explained on the ground that Charles disavowed and cast him off, which he might safely do, if the man was really de la Cloche, but had none of the papers proving his birth, the papers which are still in the Jesuit archives. Or he may have had the papers, and they may have been taken from him and restored to the Jesuit General.
So far, the betting as to whether de la Cloche and the Naples pretender were the same man or not is at evens. Each hypothesis is beset by difficulties. It is highly improbable that the unworldly and enthusiastic Jesuit novice threw up, at its very crisis, a mission which might lead his king, his father, and the British Empire back into the one Fold. De la Cloche, forfeiting his chances of an earthly crown, was on the point of gaining a heavenly one. It seems to the last degree unlikely that he would lose this and leave the Jesuits to whom he had devoted himself, and the quiet life of study and religion, for the worldly life which he disliked, and for that life on a humble capital of a few hundred pounds, and some jewels, presents, perhaps from the two Queens, his grandmother and stepmother. De la Cloche knew that Charles, if the novice clung to religion, had promised to procure for him, if he desired it, a cardinal’s hat; while if, with Charles’s approval, he left religion, he might be a prince, perhaps a king. He had thus every imaginable motive for behaving with decorum — in religion or out of it. Yet, if he is the Naples pretender, he suddenly left the Jesuits without Charles’s knowledge and approval, but by a freakish escapade, like ‘The Start’ of Charles himself as a lad, when he ran away from Argyll and the Covenanters. And he did this before he ever saw Teresa Corona. He reminds one of the Huguenot pastor in London, whom an acquaintance met on the Turf. ‘I not preacher now, I gay dog,’ explained the holy man.
All this is, undeniably, of a high improbability. But on the other side, de la Cloche was freakish and unsettled. He had but lately (1667) asked for and accepted a pension to be paid while he remained an Anglican, then he was suddenly received into the Roman Church, and started off, probably on foot, with his tiny ‘swag’ of three shirts and three collars, to walk to Rome and become a Jesuit. He may have deserted the Jesuits as suddenly and recklessly as he had joined them. It is not impossible. He may have received the 800 pounds for travelling expenses from Oliva; not much of it was left by March 1669 — only about 150 pounds. On the theory that the man at Naples was an impostor, it is odd that he should only have spoken French, that he was charged with no swindles, that he made a very poor marriage in place of aiming at a rich union; that he had, somehow, learned de la Cloche’s secret; and that, possessing a fatal secret, invaluable to a swindler and blackmailer, he was merely disgraced and set free. Louis XIV. would, at least, have held him a masked captive for the rest of his life. But he was liberated, and, after a brief excursion, returned to Naples, where he died, maintaining that he was a prince.
Thus, on either view, ‘prince or cheat,’ we are met by things almost impossible.
We now take up the Naples man’s adventure as narrated by Kent. He writes:
Kent to Jo: Williamson
Rome: August 31, 1669.
That certaine fellow or what hee was, who pretended to bee his Ma’ties naturall sonn at Naples is dead and haueing made his will they write mee from thence wee shall with the next Poast know the truth of his quality.
September 7, 1669.
That certaine Person at Naples who in his Lyfe tyme would needes bee his Ma’ties naturall Sonne is dead in the same confidence and Princely humour, for haueing Left his Lady Teresa Corona, an ordinary person, 7 months gone with Child, hee made his Testament, and hath Left his most Xtian Ma’tie (whom he called Cousin) executor of it.
Hee had been absent from Naples some tyme pretending to haue made a journey into France to visit his Mother, Dona Maria Stuarta of His Ma’tie Royall Family, which neernes and greatnes of Blood was the cause, Saies hee, that his Ma’tie would never acknowledge him for his Sonn, his mother Dona Maria Stuarta was, it seemes, dead before hee came into France. In his will hee desires the present King of England Carlo 2nd to allow His Prince Hans in Kelder eighty thousand Ducketts, which is his Mother’s Estate, he Leaues Likewise to his Child and Mother Teresa 291 thousand Ducketts which hee calls Legacies. Hee was buried in the Church of St. Fran’co Di Paolo out of the Porta Capuana (for hee dyed of this Religion). He left 400 pounds for a Lapide to have his name and quality engrauen vpon it for hee called himself Don Jacopo Stuarto, and this is the end of that Princely Cheate or whatever hee was.
The newsletter of September 7 merely mentions the death and the will. On this occasion Kent had private intelligence from a correspondent in Naples. Copies of the will, in English and in Italian, were forwarded to England, where both copies remain.
‘This will,’ Lord Acton remarked, ‘is fatal to the case for the Prince.’ If not fatal, it is a great obstacle to the cause of the Naples man. He claims as his mother, Donna Maria Stewart, ‘of the family of the Barons of San Marzo.’ If Marzo means ‘March,’ the Earl of March was a title in the Lennox family. The only Mary Stewart in that family known to Douglas’s ‘Peerage’ was younger than James de la Cloche, and died, the wife of the Earl of Arran, in 1667, at the age of eighteen. She may have had some outlying cousin Mary, but nothing is known of such a possible mother of de la Cloche. Again, the testator begs Charles II. to give his unborn child ‘the ordinary principality either of Wales or Monmouth, or other province customary to be given to the natural sons of the Crown;’ to the value of 100,000 scudi!
Could de la Cloche be so ignorant as to suppose that a royal bastard might be created Prince of Wales? He certainly knew, from Charles’s letter, that his younger brother was already Duke of Monmouth. His legacies are of princely munificence, but — he is to be buried at the expense of his father-inlaw.
By way of security for his legacies, the testator ‘assigns and gives his lands, called the Marquisate of Juvignis, worth 300,000 scudi.’
Mr. Brady writes: ‘Juvignis is probably a mistake for Aubigny, the dukedom which belonged to the Dukes of Richmond and Lennox by the older creation.’ But a dukedom is not a marquisate, nor could de la Cloche hold Aubigny, of which the last holder was Ludovick Stewart, who died, a cardinal, in November 1665. The lands then reverted to the French Crown. Moreover, there are two places called Juvigny, or Juvignis, in north-eastern France (Orne and Manche). Conceivably one or other of these belonged to the house of Rohan, and James Stuart’s posthumous son, one of whose names is ‘Roano,’ claimed a title from Juvigny or Juvignis, among other absurd pretensions. ‘Henri de Rohan’ was only the travelling name of de la Cloche in 1668, though it is conceivable that he was brought up by the de Rohan family, friendly to Charles II.
The whole will is incompatible with all that de la Cloche must have known. Being in Italian it cannot have been intelligible to him, and may conceivably be the work of an ignorant Neapolitan attorney, while de la Cloche, as a dying man, may have signed without understanding much of what he signed. The folly of the Corona family may thus (it is a mere suggestion) be responsible for this absurd testament. Armanni, however, represents the man as sane, and very devout, till his death.
A posthumous child, a son, was born and lived a scrambling life, now ‘recognised’ abroad, now in prison and poverty, till we lose him about 1750.249
249 A. F. Steuart, Engl. Hist. Review, July 1903, ‘The Neapolitan Stuarts.’ Maziere Brady, ut supra.
Among his sham titles are Dux Roani and ‘de Roano,’ clearly referring, as Mr. Steuart notices, to de la Cloche’s travelling name of Henri de Rohan. The Neapolitan pretender, therefore, knew the secret of that incognito, and so of de la Cloche’s mission to England in 1668. That, possessing this secret, he was set free, is a most unaccountable circumstance. Charles had written to Oliva that his life hung on absolute secrecy, yet the owner of the secret is left at liberty.
Our first sources leave us in these perplexities. They are not disentangled by the ‘Lettere’ of Vincenzo Armanni (1674). I have been unable, as has been said, to see this book. In the summary by Mr. Brady we read that (1668–1669) Prince James Stuart, with a French Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, came to Naples for his health. This must have been in December 1668 or January 1669; by March 1669 the pretender had been ‘for some months’ in Naples. The Frenchman went by way of Malta to England, recommending Prince James to a confessor at Naples, who was a parish priest. This priest was Armanni’s informant. He advised the Prince to lodge with Corona, and here James proposed to Teresa. She at first held aloof, and the priest discountenanced the affair. The Prince ceased to be devout, but later chose another confessor. Both priests knew, in confession, the secret of his birth: the Prince says so in his will, and leaves them great legacies. So far Armanni’s version is corroborated.
Mr. Brady goes on, citing Armanni: ‘At last he chose another spiritual director, to whom he revealed not only his passion for Teresa Corona, but also the secret of his birth, showing to him the letters written by the Queen of Sweden and the Father General of the Jesuits.’ Was the latter document Oliva’s note from Leghorn of October 14, 1668? That did not contain a word about de la Cloche’s birth: he is merely styled ‘the French gentleman.’ Again, the letter of the Queen of Sweden is now in the Jesuit archives; how could it be in the possession of the pretender at Naples? Was it taken from him in prison, and returned to Oliva?
The new confessor approved of the wedding which was certainly celebrated on February 19, 1669. Old Corona now began to show his money: his new son-inlaw was suspected of being a false coiner, and was arrested by the Viceroy. ‘The certificates and papers attesting the parentage of James Stuart were then produced . . . ’ How could this be — they were in the hands of the Jesuits at Rome. Had de la Cloche brought them to Naples, the Corona family would have clung to them, but they are in the Gesu at Rome to this day. The rest is much as we know it, save, what is important, that the Prince, from prison, ‘wrote to the General of the Jesuits, beseeching him to interpose his good offices with the Viceroy, and to obtain permission for him to go to England via Leghorn’ (as in 1688) ‘and Marseilles.’
Armanni knew nothing, or says nothing, of de la Cloche’s having been in the Jesuit novitiate. His informant, the priest, must have known that, but under seal of confession, so he would not tell Armanni. He did tell him that James Stuart wrote to the Jesuit general, asking his help in procuring leave to go to England. The General knew de la Cloche’s hand, and would not be taken in by the impostor’s. This point is in favour of the identity of James Stuart with de la Cloche. The Viceroy had, however, already written to London, and waited for a reply. ‘Immediately on arrival of the answer from London, the Prince was set at liberty and left Naples. It may be supposed he went to England. After a few months he returned to Naples with an assignment of 50,000 scudi,’ and died of fever.
Nothing is said by Armanni of the imprisonment among the low scum of the Vicaria: nothing of the intended whipping, nothing of the visit by James Stuart to France. The 50,000 scudi have a mythical ring. Why should James, if he had 50,000 scudi, be buried at the expense of his father-inlaw, who also has to pay 50 ducats to the notary for drawing the will of this ‘prince or cheate’? Probably the parish priest and ex-confessor of the prince was misinformed on some points. The Corona family would make out the best case they could for their royal kinsman.
Was the man of Naples ‘prince or cheate’? Was he de la Cloche, or, as Lord Acton suggests, a servant who had robbed de la Cloche of money and papers?
Every hypothesis (we shall recapitulate them) which we can try as a key fails to fit the lock. Say that de la Cloche had confided his secret to a friend among the Jesuit novices; say that this young man either robbed de la Cloche, or, having money and jewels of his own, fled from the S. Andrea training college, and, when arrested, assumed the name and pretended to the rank of de la Cloche. This is not inconceivable, but it is odd that he had no language but French, and that, possessing secrets of capital importance, he was released from prison, and allowed to depart where he would, and return to Naples when he chose.
Say that a French servant of de la Cloche robbed and perhaps even murdered him. In that case he certainly would not have been released from prison. The man at Naples was regarded as a gentleman, but that is not so important in an age when the low scoundrel, Bedloe, could pass in Spain and elsewhere for an English peer.
But again, if the Naples man is a swindler, as already remarked, he behaves unlike one. A swindler would have tried to entrap a woman of property into a marriage — he might have seduced, but would not have married, the penniless Teresa Corona, giving what money he had to her father. When arrested, the man had not in money more than 160 pounds. His maintenance, while in prison, was paid for by the Viceroy. No detaining charges, from other victims, appear to have been lodged against him. His will ordains that the document shall be destroyed by his confessor, if the secret of his birth therein contained is divulged before his death. The secret perhaps was only known — before his arrest — to his confessors; it came out when he was arrested by the Viceroy as a coiner of false money. Like de la Cloche, he was pious, though not much turns on that. If Armanni’s information is correct, if, when taken, the man wrote to the General of the Jesuits — who knew de la Cloche’s handwriting — we can scarcely escape the inference that he was de la Cloche.
On the other hand is the monstrous will. Unworldly as de la Cloche may have been, he can hardly have fancied that Wales was the appanage of a bastard of the Crown; and he certainly knew that ‘the province of Monmouth’ already gave a title to his younger brother, the duke, born in 1649. Yet the testator claims Wales or Monmouth for his unborn child. Again, de la Cloche may not have known who his mother was. But not only can no Mary, or Mary Henrietta, of the Lennox family be found, except the impossible Lady Mary who was younger than de la Cloche; but we observe no trace of the presence of any d’Aubigny, or even of any Stewart, male or female, at the court of the Prince of Wales in Jersey, in 1646.250
250 See Hoskins, Charles II. in the Channel islands (Bentley, London, 1854).
The names of the suite are given by Dr. Hoskins from the journal (MS.) of Chevalier, a Jersey man, and from the Osborne papers. No Stewart or Stuart occurs, but, in a crowd of some 3,000 refugees, there MAY have been a young lady of the name. Lady Fanshaw, who was in Jersey, is silent. The will is absurd throughout, but whether it is all of the dying pretender’s composition, whether it may not be a thing concocted by an agent of the Corona family, is another question.
It is a mere conjecture, suggested by more than one inquirer, as by Mr. Steuart, that the words ‘Signora D. Maria Stuardo della famiglia delli Baroni di S. Marzo,’ refer to the Lennox family, which would naturally be spoken of as Lennox, or as d’Aubigny. About the marquisate of Juvigny (which cannot mean the dukedom of d’Aubigny) we have said enough. In short, the whole will is absurd, and it is all but inconceivable that the real de la Cloche could have been so ignorant as to compose it.
So the matter stands; one of two hypotheses must be correct — the Naples man was de la Cloche or he was not — yet either hypothesis is almost impossible.251
251 I was at first inclined to suppose that the de la Cloche papers in the Gesu — the letters of Charles II. and the note of the Queen of Sweden — were forgeries, part of an impostor’s apparatus, seized at Naples and sent to Oliva for inspection. But the letters — handwriting and royal seal apart — show too much knowledge of Charles’s secret policy to have been feigned. We are not told that the certificates of de la Cloche’s birth were taken from James Stuart in prison, and, even if he possessed them, as Armanni says he did, he may have stolen them, and they may have been restored by the Viceroy of Naples, as we said, to the Jesuits. As to whether Charles II. paid his promised subscription to the Jesuit building fund, Father Boero says: ‘We possess a royal letter, proving that it was abundant’ (Boero, Istoria etc., p. 56, note 1), but he does not print the letter; and Mr. Brady speaks now of extant documents proving the donation, and now of ‘a traditional belief that Charles was a benefactor of the Jesuit College.’
It may be added that, on December 27, 1668, Charles wrote to his sister, Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans: ‘I assure you that nobody does, nor shall, know anything of it here’ (of his intended conversion and secret dealings with France) ‘but my selfe, and that one person more, till it be fitte to be publique. . .’ ‘That one person more’ is not elsewhere referred to in Charles’s known letters to his sister, unless he be ‘he that came last, and delivered me your letter of the 9th December; he has given me a full account of what he was charged with, and I am very well pleased with what he tells me’ (Whitehall, December 14, 1668).
This mysterious person, the one sharer of the King’s secret, may be de la Cloche, if he could have left England by November 18, visited Rome, and returned to Paris by December 9. If so, de la Cloche may have fulfilled his mission. Did he return to Italy, and appear in Naples in January or February 1669? (See Madame, by Julia Cartwright, pp. 274, 275, London, 1894.)
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52