THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY
BY VERNON LEE
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY. MCMX
Printed by BALLANTYNE AND CO. LIMITED Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London
TO THE MEMORY OF MY FRIEND
MADAME JOHN MEYER,
I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME, SO OFTEN AND SO LATELY TALKED OVER TOGETHER, IN GRATEFUL AND AFFECTIONATE REGRET.
In preparing this volume on the Countess of Albany (which I consider as a kind of completion of my previous studies of eighteenth-century Italy), I have availed myself largely of Baron Alfred von Reumont's large work Die Graefin von Albany (published in 1862); and of the monograph, itself partially founded on the foregoing, of M. St. Rene Taillandier, entitled La Comtesse d'Albany, published in Paris in 1862. Baron von Reumont's two volumes, written twenty years ago and when the generation which had come into personal contact with the Countess of Albany had not yet entirely died out; and M. St. Rene Taillandier's volume, which embodied the result of his researches into the archives of the Musee Fabre at Montpellier; might naturally be expected to have exhausted all the information obtainable about the subject of their and my studies. This has proved to be the case very much less than might have been anticipated. The publication, by Jacopo Bernardi and Carlo Milanesi, of a number of letters of Alfieri to Sienese friends, has afforded me an insight into Alfieri's character and his relations with the Countess of Albany such as was unattainable to Baron von Reumont and to M. St. Rene Taillandier. The examination, by myself and my friend Signor Mario Pratesi, of several hundreds of MS. letters of the Countess of Albany existing in public and private archives at Siena and at Milan, has added an important amount of what I may call psychological detail, overlooked by Baron von Reumont and unguessed by M. St. Rene Taillandier. I have, therefore, I trust, been able to reconstruct the Countess of Albany's spiritual likeness during the period—that of her early connection with Alfieri—which my predecessors have been satisfied to despatch in comparatively few pages, counterbalancing the thinness of this portion of their biographies by a degree of detail concerning the Countess's latter years, and the friends with whom she then corresponded, which, however interesting, cannot be considered as vital to the real subject of their works.
Besides the volumes of Baron von Reumont and M. St. Rene Taillandier, I have depended mainly upon Alfieri's autobiography, edited by Professor Teza, and supplemented by Bernardi's and Milanesi's Lettere di Vittorio Alfieri, published by Le Monnier in 1862. Among English books that I have put under contribution, I may mention Klose's Memoirs of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Colburn, 1845), Ewald's Life and Times of Prince Charles Stuart (Chapman and Hall, 1875), and Sir Horace Mann's Letters to Walpole, edited by Dr. Doran. A review, variously attributed to Lockhart and to Dennistoun, in the Quarterly for 1847, has been all the more useful to me as I have been unable to procure, writing in Italy, the Tales of the Century, of which that paper gives a masterly account.
For various details I must refer to Charles Dutens' Memoires d'un Voyageur qui se repose (Paris, 1806); to Silvagni's La Corte e la Societa Romana nel secolo XVIII.; to Foscolo's Correspondence, Gino Capponi's Ricordi and those of d'Azeglio; to Giordani's works and Benassu Montanari's Life of Ippolito Pindemonti, besides the books quoted by Baron Reumont; and for what I may call the general pervading historical colouring (if indeed I have succeeded in giving any) of the background against which I have tried to sketch the Countess of Albany, Charles Edward and Alfieri, I can only refer generally to what is now a vague mass of detail accumulated by myself during the years of preparation for my Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy.
My debt to the kindness of persons who have put unpublished matter at my disposal, or helped me to collect various information, is a large one. In the first category, I wish to express my best thanks to the Director of the Public Library at Siena; to Cavaliere Guiseppe Porri, a great collector of autographs, in the same city; to the Countess Baldelli and Cavaliere Emilio Santarelli of Florence, who possess some most curious portraits and other relics of the Countess of Albany, Prince Charles Edward, and Alfieri; and also to my friend Count Pierre Boutourline, whose grandfather and great-aunt were among Madame d'Albany's friends. Among those who have kindly given me the benefit of their advice and assistance, I must mention foremost my friend Signor Mario Pratesi, the eminent novelist; and next to him the learned Director of the State Archives of Florence, Cavaliere Gaetano Milanese, and Doctor Guido Biagi, of the Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuel of Rome, without whose kindness my work would have been quite impossible.
Florence, March 15, 1884.
CHAPTER I.—THE BRIDE 1 CHAPTER II.—THE BRIDEGROOM 14 CHAPTER III.—REGINA APOSTOLORUM 25 CHAPTER IV.—THE HEIR 33 CHAPTER V.—FLORENCE 46 CHAPTER VI.—ALFIERI 57 CHAPTER VII.—THE CAVALIERE SERVENTE 72 CHAPTER VIII.—THE ESCAPE 80 CHAPTER IX.—ROME 91 CHAPTER X—ANTIGONE 102 CHAPTER XI.—SEPARATION 120 CHAPTER XII.—COLMAR 134 CHAPTER XIII.—RUE DE BOURGOYNE 142 CHAPTER XIV.—BEFORE THE STORM 155 CHAPTER XV.—ENGLAND 166 CHAPTER XVI.—THE MISOGALLO 176 CHAPTER XVII.—CASA GIANFIGLIAZZI 190 CHAPTER XVIII.—FABRE 199 CHAPTER XIX.—THE SALON OF THE COUNTESS 207 CHAPTER XX.—SANTA CROCE 220
ALFIERI AND THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY
From the original portrait in the possession of the Marchesa A. Alfieri de Sostegno
CHARLES EDWARD STUART
From a pastel, painter unknown, once in the possession of the heir of the Countess of Albany's heir Fabre. Now in the possession of Mrs. Horace Walpole, of Heckfield Place, Winchfield, Hants
LOUISE, COUNTESS OF ALBANY
From a pastel once in the possession of the heirs of Fabre, now in the possession of Mrs. Horace Walpole, of Heckfield Place, Winchfield, Hants.
THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY.
On the Wednesday or Thursday of Holy Week of the year 1772 the inhabitants of the squalid and dilapidated little mountain towns between Ancona and Loreto were thrown into great excitement by the passage of a travelling equipage, doubtless followed by two or three dependent chaises, of more than usual magnificence.
The people of those parts have little to do now-a-days, and must have had still less during the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope Clement XIV.; and we can imagine how all the windows of the unplastered houses, all the black and oozy doorways, must have been lined with heads of women and children; how the principal square of each town, where the horses were changed, must have been crowded with inquisitive townsfolk and peasants, whispering, as they hung about the carriages, that the great traveller was the young Queen of England going to meet her bridegroom; a thing to be remembered in such world-forgotten places as these, and which must have furnished the subject of conversation for months and years, till that Queen of England and her bridegroom had become part and parcel of the tales of the "Three Golden Oranges," of the "King of Portugal's Cowherd," of the "Wonderful Little Blue Bird," and such-like stories in the minds of the children of those Apennine cities. The Queen of England going to meet her bridegroom at the Holy House of Loreto. The notion, even to us, does savour strangely of the fairy tale.
What were, meanwhile, the thoughts of the beautiful little fairy princess, with laughing dark eyes and shining golden hair, and brilliant fair skin, more brilliant for the mysterious patches of rouge upon the cheeks, and vermilion upon the lips, whom the more audacious or fortunate of the townsfolk caught a glimpse of seated in her gorgeous travelling dress (for the eighteenth century was still in its stage of pre-revolutionary brocade and gold lace and powder and spangles) behind the curtains of the coach? Louise, Princess of Stolberg-Gedern, and ex-Canoness of Mons, was, if we may judge by the crayon portrait and the miniature done about that time, much more of a child than most women of nineteen. A clever and accomplished young lady, but, one would say, with, as yet, more intelligence and acquired pretty little habits and ideas than character; a childish woman of the world, a bright, light handful of thistle-bloom. And thus, besides the confusion, the unreality due to precipitation of events and change of scene, the sense that she had (how long ago—days, weeks, or years? in such a state time becomes a great muddle and mystery) been actually married by proxy, that she had come the whole way from Paris, through Venice and across the sea, besides being in this dream-like, phantasmagoric condition, which must have made all things seem light—it is probable that the young lady had scarcely sufficient consciousness of herself as a grown-up, independent, independently feeling and thinking creature, to feel or think very strongly over her situation. It was the regular thing for girls of Louise of Stolberg's rank to be put through a certain amount of rather vague convent education, as she had been at Mons; to be put through a certain amount of balls and parties; to be put through the formality of betrothal and marriage; all this was the half-conscious dream—then would come the great waking up. And Louise of Stolberg was, most likely, in a state of feeling like that which comes to us with the earliest light through the blinds: pleasant, or unpleasant? We know not which; still drowsing, dreaming, but yet strongly conscious that in a moment we shall be awake to reality.
There was, nevertheless, in the position of this girl something which, even in these circumstances, must have compelled her to think, or, at all events, to meditate, however confusedly, upon the present and the future. If she had in her the smallest spark of imagination she must have felt, to an acute degree, the sort of continuous surprise, recurring like the tick of a clock, which haunts us sometimes with the fact that it really does just happen to be ourselves to whom some curious lot, some rare combination of the numbers in life's lottery, has come. For the man whom she was going to marry—nay, to whom, in a sense, she was married already—the unknown whom she would see for the first time that evening, was not the mere typical bridegroom, the mere man of rank and fortune, to whom, whatever his particular individual shape and name, the daughter of a high-born but impoverished house had known herself, since her childhood, to be devoted.
Louise Maximilienne Caroline Emanuele, daughter of the late Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern, Prince of the Empire, who had died, a Colonel of Maria Theresa, in the battle of Leuthen; and of Elisabeth Philippine, Countess of Horn, born at Mons in Hainaut, the 20th September 1752, educated there in a convent, and subsequently admitted to the half-ecclesiastic, half-worldly dignity of Canoness of Ste. Wandru in that town: Louise, Princess of Stolberg, now in her twentieth year, had been betrothed, and, a few weeks ago, married by proxy in Paris to Charles Edward Stuart, known to history as the Younger Pretender, to popular imagination as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and to society in the second half of the eighteenth century as the Count of Albany. The match had been made up hurriedly—most probably without consulting, or dreaming of consulting, the girl—by her mother, the dowager Princess Stolberg, and the Duke of Fitz-James, Charles Edward's cousin. The French Minister, Duc d'Aiguillon, in one of those fits of preparing Charles Edward as a weapon against England, which had more than once cost the Pretender so much bitterness, and the Court of Versailles so much brazenly endured shame, had intimated to the Count of Albany that he had better take unto himself a wife. Charles Edward had more than once refused; this time he accepted, and his cousin Fitz-James looked around for a possible future Queen of England. Now it happened that the eldest son of Fitz-James, the Marquis of Jamaica and Duke of Berwick, had just married Caroline, the second daughter of the widow of Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern; so that the choice naturally fell upon this lady's elder sister, Louise of Stolberg, the young Canoness of Ste. Wandru of Mons.
The alliance, short of royal birth, was, in the matter of dignity, all that could be wished; the Stolbergs were one of the most illustrious families of the Holy Roman Empire, in whose service they had discharged many high offices; the Horns, on the other hand, were among the most brilliant of the Flemish aristocracy, allied to the Gonzagas of Mantua, the Colonna, Orsinis, the Medina Celis, Croys, Lignes, Hohenzollerns, and the house of Lorraine, reigning or quasi-reigning families; and Louise of Stolberg's mother was, moreover, on the maternal side, the grand-daughter of the Earl of Elgin and Ailesbury, a Bruce, and a staunch follower of King James II. Such had been the inducements in the eyes of the Duke of Fitz-James; and therefore in the eyes of Charles Edward, for whom he was commissioned to select a wife. The inducements to the Princess of Stolberg had been even greater. Foremost among them was probably the mere desire of ridding herself, poor and living as she was on the charity of the Empress-Queen, of another of the four girls with whom she had been left a widow at twenty-five. It had been a great blessing to get the two eldest girls, Louise and Caroline, educated, housed for a time, and momentarily settled in the world by their admission to the rich and noble chapter of Ste. Wandru: it must have been a great blessing to see the second girl married to the son of Fitz-James; it would be a still greater one to get Louise safely off her hands, now that the third and fourth daughters required to be thought of. So far for the desirability of any marriage. This particular marriage with Prince Charles Edward was, moreover, such as to tempt the vanity and ambition of a lady like the widowed Princess of Stolberg, conscious of her high rank, and conscious, perhaps painfully conscious of the difficulty of living up to its requirements. The Count of Albany's grandfather had been King of England; his father, the Pretender James, had lived with royal state in his exile at Rome, recognised as reigning Sovereign by the Pope, and even, every now and then, by France and Spain. No Government had recognised Charles Edward as King of England; but, on the other hand, Charles Edward had virtually been King of Scotland during the '45; he had been promised the help of France to restore him to his rights; and although that help had never been satisfactorily given in the past, who could tell whether it might not be given at any moment in the future? The ups and downs of politics brought all sorts of unexpected necessities; and why should the French Government, which had ignominiously kidnapped and bundled off Charles Edward in 1748, have sent for him again only a year ago, have urged him to marry, unless it had some scheme for reinstating him in England? The Duke of Fitz-James had doubtless urged these considerations; he had not laid much weight on the fact that Charles Edward was thirty-two years older than his proposed wife; still less is it probable that he had bade the Princess of Stolberg consider that his royal kinsman was said to be neither of very good health, nor of very agreeable disposition, nor of very temperate habits; or, if such ideas were presented to the Princess Stolberg, she put them behind her. Be it as it may, these were matters for the judicious consideration of a mother; not, certainly, for the thoughts of a daughter. The judicious mother decided that such a match was a good one; perhaps, in her heart, she was even overwhelmed by the glory which this daughter of hers was permitted by Heaven to add to all the glories of the illustrious Stolbergs and Horns. Anyhow, she accepted eagerly; so eagerly as to forget both gratitude and prudence: for so far from consulting her benefactress, Maria Theresa, about the advisability of this marriage, or asking her sovereign permission for a step which might draw upon the Empress-Queen some disagreeable diplomatic correspondence with England, the Princess of Stolberg kept the matter close, and did not even announce the marriage to the Court of Vienna; yet she must have foreseen what occurred, namely, that Maria Theresa, mortified not merely in her dignity as a sovereign, but also, and perhaps more, in her ruling passion of benevolent meddlesomeness, would suspend the pension which formed a large portion of the Princess's income, and compel her to the abject apology before restoring it. The marriage with Charles Edward Stuart was worth all that!
Louise of Stolberg was probably well aware of the extreme glory of the marriage for which she had been reserved. The Fitz-Jameses, in virtue of their illegitimate descent from James II., considered themselves and were considered as a sort of Princes of the Blood; and as such they doubtless impressed Louise with a great notion of the glory of the Stuarts, and the absolute legitimacy of their claims. On his marriage Charles Edward assumed the title, and attempted to assume the position, of King of England; so his bride must have considered herself as the wife not merely of the Count of Albany, but of Charles III., King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. She was going to be a Queen! We must try, we democratic creatures of a time when kings and queens may perfectly be adventurers and adventuresses, to put ourselves in the place of this young lady of a century ago, brought up as a dignitary of a chapter into which admission depended entirely upon the number and quality of quarterings of the candidate's escutcheon, under a superior—the Abbess of Ste. Wandru—who was the sister of the late Emperor Francis, the sister-in-law of Maria Theresa; we must try and conceive an institution something between a school, a sisterhood, and a club, in which the ruling idea, the source of all dignity, jealousy, envy, and triumph, was greatness of birth and connection; we must try and do this in order to understand what, to Louise of Stolberg, was the full value of the fact of becoming the wife of Charles Edward Stuart. One hundred and twelve years ago, and seventeen years before the great revolution which yawns, an almost impassable gulf, between us and the men and women of the past, a woman, a girl of nineteen, and a Canoness of Ste. Wandru of Mons, need have been of no base temper if, on the eve of such a wedding as this one, her mind had been full of only one idea: the idea, monotonous and drowningly loud like some big cathedral bell, "I shall be a Queen." But if Louise of Stolberg was, as is most probable, in some such a state of vague exultation, we must remember also that there may well have entered into such exultation an element with which even we, and even the most austerely or snobbishly democratic among us, might fully have sympathised. Her mother, her sister, her brother-in-law, and the old Duke of Fitz-James, who had made up her marriage and married her by proxy, and every other person who had approached her during the last month, must have been filling the mind of Louise of Stolberg with tales of the '45 and of the heroism of Prince Charlie. And her mind, which, as afterwards appeared, was romantic, fascinated by eccentricity and genius, may easily have become enamoured of the bridegroom who awaited her, the last of so brilliant and ill-fated a race, the hero of Gladsmuir and Falkirk, at whose approach the Londoners had shut their shops in terror, and the Hanoverian usurper ordered his yacht to lie ready moored at the Tower steps; the more than royal young man whom (as the Jacobites doubtless told her) only the foolish and traitorous obstinacy of his followers had prevented from reinstating his father on the throne of England. Historical figures, especially those of a heroic sort, remain pictured in men's minds at their moment of glory; and this was the case particularly with the Young Pretender, who had disappeared into well-nigh complete mystery after his wonderful exploits and hairbreadth escapes of the '45; so that in the eyes of Louise of Stolberg the man she was about to marry appeared most probably but little changed from the brilliant youth who had marched on foot at the head of his army towards London, who had held court at Holyrood and roamed in disguise about the Hebrides.
Still, it is difficult to imagine that as the hours of meeting drew nearer, the little Princess, as her travelling carriage toiled up the Apennine valleys, did not feel some terror of the future and the unknown. The spring comes late to those regions; in the middle of April the blackthorn is scarcely budding on the rocks, the violets are still plentiful underneath the leafless roadside hedges; scarcely a faint yellow, more like autumn that spring, is beginning to tinge the scraggy outlines of the poplars, which rise in spectral regiments out of the river beds. Wherever the valley widens, or the road gains some hill-crest, a huge peak white with newly-fallen snow confronts you, closes in the view, bringing bleakness and bitterness curiously home to the feelings. These valleys, torrent-tracks between the steep rocks of livid basalt or bright red sandstone, bare as a bone or thinly clothed with ilex and juniper scrub, are inexpressibly lonely and sad, especially at this time of year. You feel imprisoned among the rocks in a sort of catacomb open to the sky, where the shadows gather in the early afternoon, and only the light on the snow-peaks and on the high-sailing clouds tells you that the sun is still in the heavens. Villages there seem none; and you may drive for an hour without meeting more than a stray peasant cutting scrub or quarrying gravel on the hill-side, a train of mules carrying charcoal or faggots; the towns are far between, bleak, black, filthy, and such as only to make you feel all the more poignantly the utter desolateness of these mountains. No sadder way of entering Italy can well be imagined than landing at Ancona and crossing through the Apennines to Rome in the early spring. To a girl accustomed to the fat flatness of Flanders, to the market-bustle of a Flemish provincial town, this journey must have been overwhelmingly dreary and dismal. During those long hours dragging up these Apennine valleys, did a shadow fall across the mind of the pretty, fair-haired, brilliant-complexioned little Canoness of Mons, a shadow like the cold melancholy blue which filled the valleys between the sun-smitten peaks? And did it ever occur to her, as the horses were changed in the little post-towns, that it was in honour of Holy Week that the savage-looking bearded men, the big, brawny, madonna-like women had got on their best clothes? Did it strike her that the unplastered church-fronts were draped with black, the streets strewn with laurel and box, as for a funeral, that the bells were silent in their towers? Perhaps not; and yet when, a few years later, the Countess of Albany was already wont to say that her married life had been just such as befitted a woman who had gone to the altar on Good Friday, she must have remembered, and the remembrance must have seemed fraught with ill omen, that last day of her girlhood, travelling through the black deserted valleys of the March, through the world-forgotten mountain-towns with their hushed bells and black-draped churches and funereally strewn streets.
At Loreto—where, as a good Catholic, the Princess Louise of Stolberg doubtless prayed for a blessing on her marriage, in the great sanctuary which encloses with silver and carved marble the little house of the Virgin—at Loreto the bride was met by a Jacobite dignitary, Lord Carlyle, and five servants in the crimson liveries of England. At Macerata, one of the larger towns of the March of Ancona, she was awaited by her bridegroom. A noble family of the province, the Compagnoni-Marefoschis, one of whom, a cardinal, was an old friend of the Stuarts, had placed their palace at the disposal of the royal pair. We most of us know what such palaces, in small Italian provincial towns south of the Apennines, are apt to be; huge, gloomy, shapeless masses of brickwork and mouldering plaster, something between a mediaeval fortress and a convent; great black archways, where the refuse of the house, the filth of the town, has peaceably accumulated (and how much more in those days); magnificent statued staircases given over to the few servants who have replaced the armed bravos of two centuries ago; long suites of rooms, vast, resounding like so many churches, glazed in the last century with tiny squares of bad glass, through which the light comes green and thick as through sea-water; carpets still despised as a new-fangled luxury from France; the walls, not cheerful with eighteenth-century French panel and hangings, but covered with big naked frescoed men and women, or faded arras; few fire-places, but those few enormous, looking like a huge red cavern in the room. The Marefoschis had got together all their best furniture and plate, and the palace was filled with torches and wax lights; a funereal illumination in a funereal place, it must have seemed to the little Princess of Stolberg, fresh from the brilliant nattiness of the Parisian houses of the time of Louis XV.
The bride alighted; a small, plump, well-proportioned, rather childish creature, with still half-formed childish features, a trifle snub, a trifle soulless, very pretty, tender, light-hearted; a charming little creature, very well made to steal folk's hearts unconscious to themselves and to herself.
The bridegroom met her. A faded, but extremely characteristic crayon portrait, the companion of the one of which I have already spoken, now in the possession of Cavaliere Emilio Santarelli (the only man still living who can remember that same Louise d'Albany), a portrait evidently taken at this time, has shown me what that bridegroom must have been. The man who met Louise of Stolberg at Macerata as her husband and master, the man who had once been Bonnie Prince Charlie, was tall, big-boned, gaunt, and prematurely bowed for his age of fifty-two; dressed usually, and doubtless on this occasion, with the blue ribbon and star, in a suit of crimson watered silk, which threw up a red reflection into his red and bloated face. A red face, but of a livid, purplish red suffused all over the heavy furrowed forehead to where it met the white wig, all over the flabby cheeks, hanging in big loose folds upon the short, loose-folded red neck; massive features, but coarsened and drawn; and dull, thick, silent-looking lips, of purplish red scarce redder than the red skin; pale blue eyes tending to a watery greyness, leaden, vague, sad, but with angry streakings of red; something inexpressibly sad, gloomy, helpless, vacant and debased in the whole face: such was the man who awaited Louise of Stolberg in the Compagnoni-Marefoschi palace at Macerata, and who, on Good Friday the 17th of April 1772, wedded her in the palace chapel and signed his name in the register as Charles III., King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland.
On the Wednesday after Easter the bride and bridegroom made their solemn entry into Rome; the two travelling carriages of the Prince and of the Princess were drawn by six horses; four gala coaches, carrying the attendants of Charles Edward and of his brother the Cardinal Duke of York, followed behind, and the streets were cleared by four outriders dressed in scarlet with the white Stuart cockade. The house to which Louise of Stolberg, now Louise d'Albany, or rather, as she signed herself at this time, Louise R., was conducted after her five days' wedding journey, has passed through several hands since belonging to the Sacchettis, the Muti Papazzurris, and now-a-days to the family of About's charming and unhappy Tolla Ferraldi. Clement XI. had given or lent it to the Elder Pretender: James III., as he was styled in Italy, had settled in it about 1719 with his beautiful bride Maria Clementina Sobieska, romantically filched by her Jacobites from the convent at Innsbruck, where the Emperor Charles VI. had hoped to restrain her from so compromising a match; here, in the year 1720, Charles Edward had been born and had his baby fingers kissed by the whole sacred college; and here the so-called King of England had died at last, a melancholy hypochondriac, in 1766. The palace closes in the narrow end of the square of the Santissimi Apostoli, stately and quiet with its various palaces, Colonna, Odescalchi, and whatever else their names, and its pillared church front. There is a certain aristocratic serenity about that square, separated, like a big palace yard, from the bustling Corso in front; yet to me there remains, a tradition of my childhood, a sort of grotesque and horrid suggestiveness connected with this peaceful and princely corner of Rome. For, many years ago, when the square of the Santissimi Apostoli was still periodically strewn with sand that the Pope might not be jolted when his golden coach drove up to the church, and when the names of Charles Edward and his Countess were curiously mixed up in my brain with those of Charles the First and Mary Queen of Scots, there used to be in a little street leading out of the square towards the Colonna Gardens, a dark recess in the blank church-wall, an embrasure, sheltered by a pent-house roof and raised like a stage a few steep steps above the pavement; and in it loomed, strapped to a chair, dark in the shadow, a creature in a long black robe and a skull cap drawn close over his head; a vague, contorted, writhing and gibbering horror, of whose St. Vitus twistings and mouthings we children scarcely ventured to catch a glimpse as we hurried up the narrow street, followed by the bestial cries and moans of the solitary maniac. This weird and grotesque sight, more weird and more grotesque seen through a muddled childish fancy and through the haze of years, has remained associated in my mind with that particular corner of Rome, where, with windows looking down upon that street, upon that blank church-wall with its little black recess, the palace of the Stuarts closes in the narrow end of the square of the Santissimi Apostoli. And now, I cannot help seeing a certain strange appropriateness in the fact that the image of that mouthing and gesticulating half-witted creature should be connected in my mind with the house to which, with pomp of six-horse coaches and scarlet outriders, Charles Edward Stuart conducted his bride.
Illustration: CHARLES EDWARD STUART From a pastel, painter unknown, once in the possession of the heir of the Countess of Albany's heir Fabre. Now in the possession of Mrs. Horace Walpole, of Heckfield Place, Winchfield, Hants.
For the beautiful and brilliant youth who had secretly left that palace twenty-four years before to re-conquer his father's kingdom, the gentle and gallant and chivalric young prince of whose irresistible manner and voice the canny chieftains had vainly bid each other beware when he landed with his handful of friends and called the Highlanders to arms; the patient and heroic exile, singing to his friends when the sea washed over their boat and the Hanoverian soldiers surrounded their cavern or hovel, who had silently given Miss Macdonald that solemn kiss which she treasured for more than fifty years in her strong heart—that Charles Edward Stuart was now a creature not much worthier and not much less repulsive than the poor idiot whom I still see, flinging about his palsied hands and gobbling with his speechless mouth, beneath the windows of the Stuart palace. The taste for drinking, so strange in a man brought up to the age of twenty-three among the proverbially sober Italians, had arisen in Charles Edward, a most excusable ill habit in one continually exposed to wet and cold, frequently sleeping on the damp ground, ill-fed, anxious, worn out by over-exertion in flying before his enemies, during those frightful months after the defeat at Culloden, when, with a price of thirty thousand pounds upon his head, he had lurked in the fastnesses of the Hebrides. We hear that on the eve of his final escape from Scotland, his host, Macdonald of Kingsburgh, prevented the possible miscarriage of all their perilous plans only by smashing the punch-bowl over which the Pretender, already more than half drunk, had insisted upon spending the night. Still more significant is the fact, recorded by Hugh Macdonald of Balshair, that when Charles Edward was concealed in a hovel in the isle of South Uist, the prince and his faithful followers continued drinking (the words are Balshair's own) "for three days and three nights." Hard drinking was, we all know, a necessary accomplishment in the Scotland of those days; and hard drinking, we must all of us admit, may well have been the one comfort and resource of a man undergoing the frightful mental and bodily miseries of those months of lying at bay. But Charles Edward did not relinquish the habit when he was back again in safety and luxury. Strangely compounded of an Englishman and a Pole, the Polish element, the brilliant and light-hearted chivalry, the cheerful and youthfully wayward heroism which he had inherited from the Sobieskis, seemed to constitute the whole of Charles Edward's nature when he was young and, for all his reverses, still hopeful; as he grew older, as deferred and disappointed hopes, and endured ignominy, made him a middle-aged man before his time, then also did the other hereditary strain, the morose obstinacy, the gloomy brutality of James II. and of his father begin to appear, and gradually obliterated every trace of what had been the splendour and charm of the Prince Charlie of the '45. Disappointed of the assistance of France, which had egged him to this great enterprise only to leave him shamefully in the lurch, Charles Edward had, immediately upon the peace of Aix la Chapelle, become an embarrassing guest of Louis XV., and a guest of whom the victorious English were continually requiring the ignominious dismissal; until, wearied by the indifference to all hints and orders to free France from his compromising presence, the Court of Versailles had descended to the incredible baseness of having the Prince kidnapped as he was going to the opera, bound hand and foot, carried like a thief to the fortress of Vincennes, and then conducted to the frontier like a suspected though unconvicted swindler, or other public nuisance.
This indignity, coming close upon the irreparable blow dealt to the Jacobite cause by the stupid selfishness which impelled Charles Edward's younger brother to become a Romish priest and a cardinal, appears to have definitively decided the extraordinary change in the character of the Young Pretender. During the many years of skulking, often completely lost to the sight both of Jacobite adherents and of Hanoverian spies, which followed upon that outrage of the year 1748, the few glimpses which we obtain of Charles Edward show us only a precociously aged, brutish and brutal sot, obstinate in disregarding all efforts to restore him to a worthier life, yet not obstinate enough to refuse unnecessary pecuniary aid from the very government and persons by whom he had been so cruelly outraged. We hear that Charles Edward's confessor, with whom, despite his secret abjuration of Catholicism, he continued to associate, was a notorious drunkard; and that the mistress with whom he lived for many years, and whom he even passed off as his wife, was also addicted to drinking; nay, Lord Elcho is said to have witnessed a tipsy squabble between the Young Pretender and Miss Walkenshaw, the lady in question, across the table of a low Paris tavern. The reports of the many spies whom the English Government set everywhere on his traces are constant and unanimous in one item of information: the Prince began to drink early in the morning, and was invariably dead drunk by the evening; nay, some letters of Cardinal York, addressed to an unknown Jacobite, speak of the "nasty bottle, that goes on but too much, and certainly must at last kill him." But, although drunkenness undoubtedly did much to obliterate whatever still remained of the hero of the '45, it was itself only one of the proofs of the strange metamorphosis which had taken place in his character. We cannot admit the plea of some of his biographers, who would save his honour at the price of his reason. Charles Edward was the victim neither of an hereditary vice nor of a mental disease; drink was in his case not a form of madness, but merely the ruling passion of a broken-spirited and degraded nature. He had the power when he married, and even much later in life, when he sent for his illegitimate daughter, of refraining from his usual excesses; his will, impaired though it was, still existed, and what was wanting in the sad second half of his career was not resolution, but conscience, pride, an ideal, anything which might beget the desire of reform. The curious mixture of brow-beating moroseness with a brazen readiness to accept and even extort favours, he would appear, as he ceased to be young, to have gradually inherited from his father; he was ready to live on the alms of the French Court, while never losing an opportunity of declaiming against the ignoble treatment which that same Court had inflicted on him. He became sordid and grasping in money matters, basely begging for money, which he did not require, from those who, like Gustavus III. of Sweden, discovered only too late that he was demeaning himself from avarice and not from necessity. While keeping a certain maudlin sentiment about his exploits and those of his followers, which manifested itself in cruelly pathetic scenes when, as in his old age, people talked to him of the Highlands and the Rebellion; he was wholly without any sense of his obligation towards men who had exposed their life and happiness for him, of the duty which bound him to repay their devotion by docility to their advice, by sacrifice of his inclinations, or even by such mere decency of behaviour as would spare them the bitterness of allegiance to a disreputable and foul-mouthed sot. But, until the moment when old and dying, he placed himself in the strong hands of his natural daughter, Charles Edward seems to have been, however obstinate in his favouritism, incapable of any real affection. When his brother Henry became a priest Charles held aloof for long years both from him and from his father; and this resentment of what was after all a mere piece of bigoted folly, may be partially excused by the fact that the identification of his family with Popery had seriously damaged the prospects of Jacobitism. But the lack of all lovingness in his nature is proved beyond possibility of doubt by the brutal manner in which, while obstinately refusing to part with his mistress at the earnest entreaty of his adherents, he explained to their envoy Macnamara that his refusal was due merely to resentment at any attempted interference in his concerns; but that, for the rest, he had not the smallest affection or consideration remaining for the woman they wished to make him relinquish. As if all the stupid selfishness bred of centuries of royalty had accumulated in this man who might be king only through his own and his adherents' magnanimity, Charles Edward seemed, in the second period of his life, to feel as if he had a right over everything, and nobody else had a right over anything; all sense of reciprocity was gone; he would accept devotion, self-sacrifice, generosity, charity—nay, he would even insist upon them; but he would give not one tittle in return; so that, forgetful of the heroism and clemency and high spirit of his earlier days, one might almost think that his indignant answer to Cardinal de Tenein, who offered him England and Scotland if he would cede Ireland to France, "Everything or nothing, Monsieur le Cardinal!" was dictated less by the indignation of an Englishman than by the stubborn graspingness of a Stuart. His further behaviour towards Miss Walkenshaw shows the same indifference to everything except what he considered his own rights. He had crudely admitted that he cared nothing for her, that it was only because his adherents wished her dismissal that he did not pack her off; and subsequently he seems to have given himself so little thought either for his mistress or for his child by her, that, without the benevolence of his brother the Cardinal, they might have starved. But when, after long endurance of his jealousy and brutality, after being watched like a prisoner and beaten like a slave, the wretched woman at length took refuge in a convent, Charles Edward's rage knew no bounds; and he summoned the French Government, despite his old quarrel with it, to kidnap and send back the woman over whom he had no legal rights, and certainly no moral ones, with the obstinacy and violence of a drunken navvy clamouring for the wife whom he has well-nigh done to death. Beyond the mere intemperance and the violence born of intemperance which made Charles Edward's name a byword and served the Hanoverian dynasty better than all the Duke of Cumberland's gibbets, there was at the bottom of the Pretender's character—his second character at least, his character after the year 1750—heartlessness and selfishness, an absence of all ideal and all gratitude, much more morally repulsive than any mere vice, and of which the vice which publicly degraded him was the result much more than the cause. The curse of kingship in an age when royalty had lost all utility, the habit of irresponsibility, of indifference, the habit of always claiming and never giving justice, love, self-sacrifice, all the good things of this world, this curse had lurked, an evil strain, in the nature of this king without a kingdom, and had gradually blighted and made hideous what had seemed an almost heroic character. Royal-souled Charles Edward Stuart had certainly been in his youth; brilliant with all those virtues of endurance, clemency, and affability which the earlier eighteenth century still fondly associated with the divine right of kings; and royal-souled, hard and weak with all the hardness and weakness, the self-indulgence, obstinacy, and thoughtlessness for others of effete races of kings, he had become no less certainly, in the second part of his life; branded with God's own brand of unworthiness, which signifies that a people, or a class, or a family, is doomed to extinction.
Such was the man to whom the easy-going habit of the world, the perfectly self-righteous indifference to a woman's happiness or honour of the well-bred people of that day, gave over as a partner for life a half-educated, worldly-ignorant and absolutely will-less young girl of nineteen and a half, who doubtless considered herself extremely fortunate in being chosen for so brilliant a match.
There is a glamour, even for us, connected with the name of Charles Edward Stuart; in his youth he forms a brilliant speck of romantic light in that dull eighteenth century, a spot of light surrounded by the halo of glory of the devotion which he inspired and the enthusiasm which he left behind him. We feel, in a way, grateful to him almost as we might feel grateful to a clever talker, a beautiful woman, a bright day, as to something pleasing and enlivening to our fancy. But the brilliant effect which has pleased us is like some gorgeous pageant connected with the worship of a stupid and ferocious divinity; nay, rather, if we let our thoughts dwell upon the matter, if we remember how, while the prisons and ship-holds were pestilent with the Jacobite men and women penned up like cattle in obscene promiscuity, while the mutilated corpses were lying still green, piled up under the bog turf of Culloden, while so many of the bravest men of Scotland, who had supplicated the Young Pretender not to tempt them to a hopeless enterprise, were cheerfully mounting the scaffold "for so sweet a prince," Charles Edward was dancing at Versailles in his crimson silk dress and diamonds, with his black-eyed boast the eldest-born Princess of France. Nay, worse, if we remember how the man, for whose love and whose right so much needless agony had been expended, let himself become a disgrace to the very memory of the men who had died for him: if we bear all this in mind, Charles Edward seems to become a mere irresponsible and fated representative of some evil creed; the idol, at first fair-shapen and smiling, then hideous and loathsome, to which human sacrifices are brought in solemnity; a glittering idol of silver, or a foul idol of rotten wood, but without nerves and mind to perceive the weeping all around, the sop of blood at its feet. And now, after the sacrifice of so many hundreds of brave men to this one man, comes the less tragic, less heroic, perfectly legitimate and correct sacrifice to him of a pretty young woman, not brave and not magnanimous, but very fit for innocent enjoyment and very fit for honourable love.
Charles Edward had refrained from drink, or at least refrained from any excesses, in honour of his marriage. Perhaps the notion that France was again taking him up, a notion well-founded since France had bid him marry and have an heir, and the recollection of the near miscarriage of all his projects, thanks to having presented himself, a year before, to the French Minister so drunk that he could neither speak nor be spoken to, perhaps the old hope of becoming after all a real king, had turned the Pretender into a temporarily-reformed character. Or, perhaps, weary of the life of melancholy solitude, of debauched squalor, of the moral pig-stye in which he had been rotting so many years, the idea of decency, of dignity, of society, of a wife and children and friends, may have made him capable of a strong resolution. Perhaps, also, the unfamiliar, wonderful presence of a beautiful and refined young woman, of something to adore, or at least to be jealous and vain of, may have wakened whatever still remained of the gallant and high-spirited Polish nature in this morose and besotten old Stuart. Be this as it may, Charles Edward, however degraded, was able to command himself when he chose, and, for one reason or another, he did choose to command himself and behave like a tolerably decent man and husband during the first few months following on his marriage. Besides the redness of his face, the leaden suffused look of his eyes, the vague air of degradation all about him, there was perhaps nothing, at first, that revealed to Louise, Queen of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, that her husband was a drunkard and well-nigh a maniac. Engaging he certainly could not have been, however much he tried (and we know he tried hard) to show his full delight at having got so charming a little wife; indeed, it is easy to imagine that if anything might inspire even a properly educated and high-born young Flemish or German lady of the eighteenth century with somewhat of a sense of loathing, it must have been the assiduities and endearments of a man such as Charles Edward. But Louise of Stolberg had doubtless absorbed, from her mother, from her older fellow-canonesses, nay, from the very school-girls in the convent where she had been educated, all proper views, negative and positive, on the subject of marriage; nor must we give to a girl who was probably still too much of a child, too much of an unromantic little woman of the world, undeserved pity on account of degradation which she had most probably, as yet, not sufficient moral nerve to appreciate. Her husband was old, he was ugly, he was not attractive; he may have been tiresome and rather loathsome in his constant attendance; he may even have smelt of brandy every now and then; but as marriages had been invented in order to give young women a position in the world, husbands were not expected to be much more than drawbacks to the situation; and as to the sense of life-long dependence upon an individual, as to the desire for love and sympathy, it was still too early in the eighteenth century, and perhaps, also, too early in the life of a half-Flemish, half-German girl, very childish still in aspect, and brought up in the worldly wisdom of a noble chapter of canonesses, to expect anything of that kind.
There must, however, from the very beginning, have been something unreal and uncanny in the girl's situation. The huge old palace, crammed with properties of dead Stuarts and Sobieskis, with its royal throne and dais in the ante-room, its servants in the royal liveries of England, must have been full of rather lugubrious memories. Here James III. of England and VIII. of Scotland had moped away his bitter old age; here, years and years ago, Charles Edward's mother, the beautiful and brilliant grand-daughter of John Sobieski, had pined away, bullied and cajoled back from the convent in which she had taken refuge, perpetually outraged by the violence of her husband and the insolence of his mistress; it was an ill-omened sort of place for a bride. Around extended the sombre and squalid Rome of the second half of the eighteenth century, with its huge ostentatious rococo palaces and churches, its straggled, black and filthy streets, its ruins still embedded in nettles and filth, its population seemingly composed only of monks and priests (for all men of the middle-classes wore the black dress and short hair of the clergy), or of half-savage peasants and workmen, bearded creatures, in wonderful embroidered vests and scarves, looking exceedingly like brigands, as Bartolomeo Pinelli etched them even some thirty years later. A town where every doorway was a sewer by day and a possible hiding-place for thieves by night; where no woman durst cross the street alone after dusk, and no man dared to walk home unattended after nine or ten; where, driving about in her gilded state-coach of an afternoon, the Pretender's bride must often have met a knot of people conveying a stabbed man (the average gave more than one assassination per day) to the nearest barber or apothecary, the blood of the murdered man mingling, in the black ooze about the rough cobble-stones over which the coaches jolted, with the blood trickling from the disembowelled sheep hanging, ghastly in their fleeces, from the hooks outside the butchers' and cheesemongers' shops; or returning home at night from the opera, amid the flare of the footmen's torches, must have heard the distant cries of some imprudent person struggling in the hands of marauders; or, again, on Sundays and holidays have been stopped by the crowd gathered round the pillory where some too easy-going husband sat crowned with a paper-cap in a hail-storm of mud and egg-shells and fruit-peelings, round the scaffold where some petty offender was being flogged by the hangman, until the fortunate appearance of a clement cardinal or the rage of the sympathising mob put a stop to the proceedings. Barbarous as we remember the Rome of the Popes, we must imagine it just a hundred times more barbarous, more squalid, picturesque, filthy, and unsafe if we would know what it was a hundred years ago.
But in this barbarous Rome there were things more beautiful and wonderful to a young Flemish lady of the eighteenth century than they could possibly be to us, indifferent and much-cultured creatures of the nineteenth century, who know that most art is corrupt and most music trashy. The private galleries of Rome were then in process of formation; pictures which had hung in dwelling-rooms were being assembled in those beautiful gilded and stuccoed saloons, with their out-look on to the cloisters of a court, or the ilex tops or orange espaliers of a garden, filled with the faint splash of the fountains outside, the spectral silvery chiming of musical clocks, where, unconscious of the thousands of beings who would crowd in there armed with guide-books and opera-glasses in the days to come, only stray foreigners were to be met, foreigners who most likely were daintily embroidered and powdered aristocrats from England or Germany, if they were not men like Winckelmann, or Goethe, or Beckford. It was the great day, also, for excavations; the vast majority of antiques which we now see in Rome having been dug up at that period; and among the ilexes of the Ludovisi and Albani gardens, among the laurels and rough grass of the Vatican hill, porticoes were being built, and long galleries and temple-like places, where a whole people of marble might live among the newly-found mosaics and carved altars and vases. Moreover, there was at that time in Rome a thing of which there is now less in Rome than anywhere, perhaps, in the world—a thing for which English and Germans came expressly to Italy: there was music. A large proportion of the best new operas were always brought out in Rome—always four or five new ones in each season; and the young singers from the conservatorios of Naples came to the ecclesiastical city, where no actresses were suffered, to begin their career in the hoop skirts and stomachers, and powdered toupes with which the eighteenth century was wont to conceive the heroines of ancient Greece and Rome. The bride of Charles Edward was herself a tolerable musician, and she had a taste for painting and sculpture which developed into a perfect passion in after life; so, with respect to art, there was plenty to amuse her.
It was different with regard to society. By insisting upon royal honours such as had been enjoyed by his father, but which the Papal Court, anxious to keep on good terms with England, absolutely refused to give him, the Pretender had virtually cut himself and his wife out of all Roman society; for he would not know the nobles on a footing of equality, and they, on the other hand, dared know him on no other. The great entertainments in the palaces where Charles Edward had so often danced, the admired of all beholders, in his boyhood, were not for the Count and Countess of Albany. There remained the theatres and public balls, to which the Pretender conducted his wife with the assiduity of a man immensely vain of having on his arm a woman far too young and too pretty for his deserts. And, besides this, there was a certain amount of vague, shifting foreign society, nobles on the loose, and young men on their grand tour, who mostly considered that a visit to the Palazzo Muti, or at least a seemingly accidental meeting and introduction in the lobby of a theatre or the garden of a villa, was an indispensable part of their sight-seeing. Such people as these were the guests of the Palazzo Muti; and, together with a few Jacobite hangers-on, constituted the fluctuating little Court of Louise, Queen of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, whom the people of Rome, hearing of the throne and dais in the ante-room and of the royal ceremonial in the palace near the Santissimi Apostoli, usually spoke of as the Regina Apostolorum; while only a very few, who had approached that charming little blonde lady, corrected the title to that of Queen of Hearts, Regina dei Cuori. Among the few who bowed before Charles Edward's wife, in consideration of this last-named kingdom, was a brilliant, wayward young man, destined to remain a sort of brilliant, wayward, impracticable child until he was eighty; and destined, also, to cherish throughout the long lives of both, the sort of half genuine, half affected, boy's, or rather page's, passion with which Queen Louise had inspired him. Karl Victor von Bonstetten, of a patrician family of Bern, a Frenchified German, more French, more butterfly-like than any real Frenchman, even of the old regime, came to Rome, already well-known by his romantic friendship with the Swiss historian Mueller, and by the ideas which he had desultorily and gaily aired on most subjects, in the year 1773. In his memoirs he wrote as follows of the "Queen of Hearts": "She was of middle height, fair, with dark-blue eyes, a slightly turned-up nose, and a dazzling white English complexion. Her expression was gay and espiegle, and not without a spice of irony, on the whole more French than German. She was enough to turn all heads. The Pretender was tall, lean, good-natured, talkative. He liked to have opportunities of speaking English, and was given to talking a great deal about his adventures—interesting enough for a visitor, but not equally so for his intimates, who had probably heard those stories a hundred times over. After every sentence almost he would ask, in Italian, 'Do you understand?' His young wife laughed heartily at the story of his dressing up in woman's clothes." A dull, garrulous husband, boring people with stories of which they were sick; a childish little wife, trying to make the best of things, and laughing over the stale old jokes; this is what may be called the idyllic moment in the wedded life of Charles Edward and Louise. What would she have felt, that strong, calm lady, growing old far off in the Isle of Skye, had she been able to see what Bonstetten saw; had she heard the Count and Countess of Albany laughing, the one with the laughter of an old sot, the other with the laughter of a giddy child, over the adventures of that heroic Prince Charlie whose memory was safe in her heart as the sheets he had slept in were safe in her closet, waiting to be her grave-clothes?
Forty-four years later, when the Queen of Hearts was a stout, dowdy old lady, with no traces of beauty, and himself a flighty, amiable old gossip of seventy, Karl Victor von Bonstetten wrote to the Countess of Albany from Rome: "I never pass through the Apostles' square without looking up at that balcony, at that house where I saw you for the first time."
In 1765 Horace Walpole, mentioning the now-ascertained fact of the Pretender's abjuration of Catholicism, informed his friend Mann that a rumour was about that Charles Edward had declared his intention of never marrying, in order that no more Stuarts should remain to embroil England. This magnanimous resolution, which was a mere repetition of an answer made years ago by the Pretender's father, did not hold good against the temptations of the Cabinet of Versailles. There is something particularly disgusting in the thought that, merely because the French Government thought it convenient to keep a Stuart in reserve with whom, if necessary, to trip up England, the once magnanimous Charles Edward consented to marry in consideration of a certain pension from Versailles; to make money out of any possible or probable son he might have. This, however, was the plain state of the case; and Louise of Stolberg had been selected, and married to a drunkard old enough to be her father, merely that this honourable bargain between the man outraged in 1748, and the Government which had outraged him, might be satisfactorily fulfilled.
The Court of Versailles wasted its money: the officially-negotiated baby was never born. Nay, Sir Horace Mann, the English Minister at Florence, whose spies watched every movement of the Count and Countess of Albany, was able to report to his Government, in answer to a vague rumour of the coming of an heir, that the wife of Charles Edward Stuart had never, at any moment, had any reasons for expecting to become a mother. And when, in the first years of this century, Henry Benedict, Cardinal York, the younger brother of Charles Edward, was buried where the two melancholy genii of Canova keep watch in St. Peter's, opposite to the portrait of Maria Clementina Sobieska in powder and paint and patches, a certain solemn feeling came over most Englishmen with the thought that the race of James II. was now extinct.
But the world had forgotten that the children of Edward IV. were resuscitated; that the son of Louis XVI., whose poor little dead body had been handled by the Commissary of the Republic, had returned to earth in the shape of five or six perfectly distinct individuals, Bruneau, Hervagault, Naundorff, whatever else their names; that King Arthur is still living in the kingdom of Morgan le Fay; and Barbarossa still asleep on the stone table, waiting till the rooks which circle round the Kiefhaeuser hill shall tell him to arise; and the world had, therefore, to learn that a Stuart still existed. The legend runs as follows.
In 1773, a certain Dr. Beaton, a staunch Jacobite, who had fought at Culloden, was attracted, while travelling in Italy, by the knowledge that his legitimate sovereigns were spending part of the summer at a villa in the neighbourhood, to a vague place somewhere in the Apennines between Parma and Lucca, distinguished by the extremely un-Tuscan name of St. Rosalie. Here, while walking about "in the deep quiet shades," the doctor was one day startled by a "calash and four, with scarlet liveries," which dashed past him and up an avenue. During the one moment of its rapid passage, the Scotch physician recognised in the rather apocalyptic gentleman wearing the garter and the cross of St. Andrew, who sat by the side of a beautiful young woman, "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." Towards dusk of that same day, as Dr. Beaton was pacing up and down the convent church of St. Rosalie, doubtless thinking over that "eagle-featured royal bird," whom he had seen driving in the calash and four, he was startled in his meditations by the jingle of spurs on the pavement, and by the approach of a man "of superior appearance."
This person was dressed in a manner which was "a little equivocal," wore a broad hat and a thick moustache, which, joined with the sternness of his pale cheek and the piercingness of his eye, must indeed have suggested something extremely eerie to a well-shaven, three-corner hat, respectable man of the eighteenth century; so that we are not at all surprised to hear that the doctor's imagination was crossed by "a sudden idea of the celebrated Torrifino," who, although his name sounds like a sweetmeat, was probably one of the many mysterious Italians, brothers of the Count of Udolpho and Spalatro and Zeluco, who haunted the readers of the romances of the latter eighteenth century. This personage enquired whether he was addressing "il Dottor Betoni Scozzere."
The physician having answered this question, asked, for no conceivable reason, in bad Italian of a Scotchman by a Scotchman (for we learn that the unknown was a Chevalier Graham), the mysterious moustached man requested him to attend at once upon "one who stood in immediate need." Dr. Beaton's enquiries as to the nature of the assistance and the person who required it, having been answered with the solemn remark that "the relief of the malady, and not the circumstances of the patient, is the province of a physician," and the proposal being made that he should go to the sick person blindfolded and in a shuttered carriage, the doctor's prudence and the thought of the famous Torrifino dictated a flat refusal; but the mysterious stranger would not let him off. "Signor," he exclaimed (persistently talking bad Italian), "I respect your doubts; by one word I could dispel them; but it is a secret which would be embarrassing to the possessor. It concerns the interest and safety of one—the most illustrious and unfortunate of the Scottish Jacobites." "What! Whom?" exclaimed Dr. Beaton. "I can say no more," replied the stranger; "but if you would venture any service for one who was once the dearest to your country and your cause, follow me." "Let us go," cried Dr. Beaton, the enthusiasm for Prince Charlie entirely getting the better of the thought of the famous Torrifino; and so, blindfolded, he was conveyed, partly by land and partly by water (what water, in those Apennine valleys where there are no streams save torrents in which even a punt would be impossible, it is difficult to understand), to a house standing in a garden. That it did stand in a garden appears to have been a piece of information volunteered by the mysterious Chevalier Graham, for Dr. Beaton expressly states that it was not till the two had passed through a "long range of apartments" that the bandage was removed from his eyes.
The doctor found himself in a "splendid saloon, hung with crimson velvet, and blazing with mirrors which reached from the ceiling to the floor. At the farther end a pair of folding doors stood open, and showed the dim perspective of a long conservatory." The mysterious Chevalier Graham rang a silver bell, which summoned a little page dressed in scarlet, with whom he exchanged a few rapid words in German. The communication appeared to agitate the Chevalier; and after dismissing the page, he turned to the doctor. "Signor Dottore," he said, "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 under your charge. Her accouchement is over, apparently without any result more than exhaustion; but of that you will be the judge."
It was only at the mention of the carriage and the accident that Dr. Beaton, whose wits appear to have been wool-gathering, suddenly guessed at a possible connection between these "most illustrious and unfortunate of Scottish Jacobites," to whose house he had been thus mysteriously introduced, and the lady and gentleman in whom he had that same afternoon recognised Charles Edward and his wife. The page reappeared, and conducted Dr. Beaton through another suite of splendid apartments, till they came to an ante-room decorated with the portraits of no less remarkable persons than the rebel Duke of Perth and King James VIII., a fact which shows that the Stuarts must have carried their furniture with them, from Rome to a Lucchese villa hired for a few months, with more recklessness than one might have imagined likely in those days of post-chaises. Out of this ante-room the physician was ushered into a large and magnificent bed-room, lit with a single taper. From the side of a crimson-draped bed stepped a lady, who saluted Dr. Beaton in English, and led him up to the patient, while a female attendant nursed an infant enveloped in a mantle. The lady drew aside the curtain, and by the faint light the doctor was able to distinguish a pale, delicate face, and a slender white arm and hand lying upon the blue velvet counterpane. The lady in waiting said some words in German, in answer to which the sick woman feebly attempted to stretch out her hand to the physician. Having ascertained that the patient was in a dangerous condition, Dr. Beaton asked for pen and paper to write out a prescription, which, in that Apennine wilderness, would doubtless be made up with the greatest exactness and rapidity. By the side of the writing-desk was a dressing-table; and on what should the doctor's casual glance not rest but a miniature, thrown carelessly among the scent bottles and jewels, and in which he instantly recognised a portrait of Charles Edward such as he had seen him riding on the field of Culloden! But in a moment, when he glanced again from his writing to the toilet-table, the miniature was no longer visible.
The lady having apparently recovered, Dr. Beaton was dismissed, blindfolded as he had come, but only after having taken an oath upon the crucifix "never to speak of what he had heard, or seen, or thought, that night, except it should be in the service of King Charles," and also to quit Tuscany immediately. He repaired, therefore, to the nearest seaport, but was detained there three days before the departure of his ship. One moonlight evening, as he was walking on the sands, he was surprised by seeing an English man-of-war at anchor. In answer to his enquiries, she proved to be the Albina, Commodore O'Haloran. While he was lying in a sequestered corner, watching the frigate, he was startled by the sudden appearance of a small closed carriage and of a horseman, in whom, by the moonlight, he immediately recognised the moustached stranger of St. Rosalie. The cavalcade stopped at the water's brink, and the horseman blew a shrill whistle. Immediately a man-of-war's boat shot from behind some rocks and pulled straight towards them. A man with glimmering epaulettes sprang from the boat on to the beach, and helped into it a lady, who had alighted from the carriage, and carried something wrapped in a shawl. Dr. Beaton heard the cry of an infant, the soothing voice of the lady; and, a moment later, after a word and shake of the hand with the moustached man, the boat pulled off from shore. "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."
Such is the adventure of Dr. Beaton, and thus he is said to have related it, in the year 1831, eighty-five years after the battle of Culloden, where he had himself seen Charles Edward; whence it is presumable that the doctor was considerably over a hundred when he made the disclosure. This story of Doctor Beaton was published, not in a historical work, but in a volume entitled Tales of the Century; or Sketches of the Romance of History between the years 1746 and 1846, published at Edinburgh in 1847. But although this book might pass as a work of imagination, and could, therefore, scarcely be impugned as a historical document, there is every reason for supposing that, while not officially claiming to reveal the existence of an heir of the Stuarts, it was deliberately intended to convey information to that effect; and as such, an anonymous writer (either Lockhart or Dennistoun) made short work of it in the Quarterly Review for June 1847, from which I have derived the greater part of my knowledge of this curious "romance of history."
Nay, the Tales of the Century were undoubtedly intended to insinuate a further remarkable fact: not merely that there still existed heirs of Stuarts in the direct male line, but that these heirs of the Stuarts were no others but the joint authors of the book. The two brothers styling themselves on the title-page John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, but whose legal names were respectively John Hay Allan and Charles Stuart Allan, had been known for some years in the Highlands as persons enveloped in a degree of romantic mystery, and claiming to be something much more illustrious than what they were officially supposed to be, the grandsons of an admiral in the service of George III. According to the information collected by Baron von Reumont, the joint authors of the Tales of the Century had made themselves conspicuous by their affectation of the Stuart tartan, to which, as Hay Allans, they could have no right; by a certain Stuart make-up (by the help of a Charles I. wig which was once found and mistaken for a bird's-nest by an irreverent Highlander) on the part of the elder, and by a habit of bowing to his brother whenever the King's health was drunk on the part of the younger. Moreover the family circumstances of these gentlemen's father coincided exactly with those of the hero of this book, of the supposed son of Charles Edward Stuart and Louise of Stolberg. Their father, Thomas Hay Allan, once a lieutenant in the navy, was known before the law as the younger son of a certain Admiral Carter Allan, who laid claims to the earldom of Errol; and the Jolair Dhearg (for such was the Keltic appellation of the hero of the Tales of the Century) was the reputed son of a certain Admiral O'Haloran, who laid claim to the Earldom of Strathgowrie, to which curious parallel the writer in the Quarterly adds the additional point that Errol, being in the district of Gowrie, the Earldom of Strathgowrie claimed by the imaginary Admiral O'Haloran was evidently another name for the Earldom of Errol claimed by the real Admiral Carter Allan, two names, by the way, O'Haloran and Carter Allan, of which the first seems intended to reproduce in some measure the sound of the other. The father of Messrs. John Hay and Charles Stuart Allan, was married in 1792, and the hero of the Tales of the Century was married somewhere about 1791, both to ladies more suited to the sons of an admiral than to the sons of the Pretender. Taking all these circumstances into consideration it becomes obvious that when the two brothers Hay Allan assumed respectively the names of John Sobieski and Charles Edward Stuart, they distinctly, though unofficially, identified themselves with the sons of the Jolair Dhearg of their book, with the sons of that mysterious infant at whose birth Dr. Beaton had been present, who had been conveyed by night on board the Albina and educated as the son of Admiral O'Haloran; in other words, with the sons of the child, unknown to history, of the Count and Countess of Albany.
Now, not only are we assured by Sir Horace Mann, whose spies surrounded the Pretender and his wife, and included even their physicians, that there never was the smallest or briefest expectation of an heir to the Stuarts; but, added to this positive evidence, we have an enormous bulk of even more convincing negative evidence by which it is completely corroborated. This negative evidence consists of a heap of improbabilities and impossibilities, of which even a few will serve to convince the reader. The Pretender married, and was pensioned for marrying, merely that the French Court might have another possible Pretender to use as a weapon against England; is it likely, therefore, that such an heir would be hid away so as to lose his identity, and be completely and utterly forgotten? The Pretender, separated from his wife in consequence of circumstances which will be related further on, called to him, as sole companion of his old age, his illegitimate daughter by Miss Walkenshaw, after neglecting and apparently forgetting both her and her mother for twenty years; is it likely he would have done this had he possessed a legitimate son? Cardinal York assumed the title of Henry IX. immediately on the decease of his brother; is it likely that he, always indifferent to royal honours, always faithful to his brother, and now almost dying, would have done so had he known that his brother had left a son? The Countess of Albany, who never relinquished her Stuart position, and who was extremely devoted to children, left her fortune to the painter Fabre; is it likely she would have done so had she been aware that she possessed a child of her own? But there is yet further evidence—I scarcely know whether I should say positive or negative, but in point of fact perhaps both at once, since it is evidence that the word of one, at least, of the joint authors of the Tales of the Century cannot outweigh the silence of all other authorities. Five years before the brothers Allan, or Stuart, whichever they should be called, mysteriously informed the world of the adventures of the Jolair Dhearg, the elder of the two, once John Hay Allan, now John Sobieski Stuart, had brought out a magnificent volume, price five guineas, entitled Vestiarium Scoticum, and purporting to be a treatise on family tartans written somewhere in the 16th century, and now edited for the first time. The history of this work, as stated in the preface, was well-nigh as complicated and as romantic as the history of the Jolair Dhearg. The only reliable copy of three known by Mr. Sobieski Stuart, of which one was said to exist in the library of the Monastery of St. Augustine at Cadiz, and another had been obtained from an Edinburgh sword-player and porter named John Ross, was in the possession of the learned editors, and had been given by the fathers of the Scots College at Douay to Prince Edward Stuart, from whom it had, in some unspecified but doubtless extremely romantic manner (probably sewn in the swaddling clothes in which the Jolair Dhearg was consigned to Admiral O'Haloran) descended to Mr. John Sobieski Stuart. This venerable heraldic document appears, if one may judge by the review in the Quarterly, to have been well-deserving of publication, owing to the extremely new and unexpected information which it contained upon Scottish archaeology. Among such information may be mentioned that it derived several clans from other clans with which they were well known to have no possible connection; that it extended the use of tartans to border-families who had never heard of such a thing; that it contained many words and expressions hitherto entirely unknown in the particular dialect in which it was written; and, moreover, that it multiplied complicated and recondite patterns of tartans in a manner so remarkable that Sir Walter Scott, to whom part of Mr. Sobieski Stuart's transcript of the ancient MS. was submitted, was led to suspect "that information as to its origin might be obtained even in a less romantic site than the cabin of a Cowgate porter (or the Scots College at Douay), even behind the counter of one of the great clan-tartan warehouses which used to illuminate the principal thoroughfare of Edinburgh."
This important and well-nigh unique document was apparently never submitted in its original MS. to anyone; the copy from the Scots College at Douay, and the copy from the old sword-player of Cowgate, remained equally unknown to everyone save their fortunate possessor. But transcripts of some portions of the work were submitted, at the request of the Antiquarian Society, to Sir Walter Scott, and as he dismissed the deputation which had met to hear his opinion upon the Vestiarium Scoticum, the author of Waverley was pleased to remark by way of summing up: "Well, I think the March of the next rising" (alluding to the part of the Highlanders in the '45) "must be not 'Hey tuttie tattie,' but 'The Devil among the Tailors.'"
However, perhaps the Vestiarium Scoticum may have come out of the Scots College at Douay, and perhaps also the son of Charles Edward Stuart and of Louise of Stolberg may have been born in the room hung with red brocade, and have been handed over to a British Admiral one moonlight night, in the presence of the venerable Dr. Beaton, whom Providence permitted to attain the unusual age of a hundred years or more, in order that, with unimpaired faculties and unclouded memory, he might transmit to posterity this strange romance of history.
It is quite impossible to tell the precise moment at which began what Horace Mann, most light-hearted and chirpy of diplomatists, called the Countess of Albany's martyrdom. As we have seen, Charles Edward had momentarily given up all excessive drinking at the time of his marriage. Bonstetten thought him a good-natured garrulous bore, and his wife a merry, childish young woman, who laughed at her husband's oft-told stories. This was the very decent exterior of the Pretender's domestic life in the first year of his marriage. But who can tell what there may have been before beneath the surface? Who can say when Louise d'Albany, hitherto apparently so childish, became suddenly a woman with the first terrible suspicion of the nature of the bondage into which she had been sold? Such things are unromantic, unpoetical, coarse, common-place; yet if the fears and the despair of a guiltless and charming girl have any interest for us, the first whiff of brandy-tainted breath which met the young wife in her husband's embraces, the first qualms and reekings after dinner which came before her eyes, the first bestial and unquiet drunkard's sleep which kept her awake in disgust and terror, these things, vile though they be, are as tragic as any more ideal horrors. At the beginning, most probably, Charles Edward drank only in the evening, and slept off his drunkenness over-night; nor does Bonstetten appear to have guessed that there was any skeleton in the palace at the Santissimi Apostoli. But the spies of the English minister soon reported that Charles Edward was returning to his old ways; that the "nasty bottle," as Cardinal York called it, had got the better of the young wife; and when, two years after their marriage, the Count and Countess of Albany had left Rome and settled in Florence, Charles Edward seems very soon to have acquired in the latter place the dreadful notoriety which he had long enjoyed in the former.
Circumstances also had conduced to replunge the Pretender into the habits to which the renewed hope of political support, the novelty of married life, and perhaps whatever of good may still have been conjured up in his nature by the presence of a beautiful young wife, had momentarily broken through. The French Government, after its sudden pre-occupation about the future of the Stuarts, seemed to have completely forgotten the existence of Charles Edward, except as regarded the payment of the pension granted on his marriage. The child that had been prepaid by that wedding pension, who was to rally the Jacobites round a man whose claims must otherwise devolve legitimately in a few years to the Hanoverian usurpers, the heir was not born, and, as month went by after month, its final coming became less and less likely. Nor was this all. Charles Edward seems to have expected that the sudden interest taken by the Court of Versailles in his affairs, and his new position as a married man and the possible father of a line of Stuarts, would bring the obdurate sovereigns of Italy, and especially the Pope, to grant him those royal honours enjoyed by his father, but hitherto obstinately denied to the moody drunkard whose presence in the paternal palace had been occasionally revealed only by the rumour of some more than ordinarily gross debauch, or the noise of some more than ordinarily violent scene of blackguardly altercation.
Charles Edward, as I have already had occasion to remark, while absolutely callous to the rights which self-sacrifice and heroism might give others over him, was extremely alive to the rights which, as a Stuart and as an obstinate and wilful man, he imagined himself to possess over other folk; and, while it never occurred to him that there might be something slightly ungentlemanly in a prince who had secretly abjured the Catholic faith for political reasons continuing to live in a house and on a pension granted him by the unsuspecting sovereign Pontiff in consideration of his being a martyr for the glory of the Church, he was fully persuaded of the cowardly meanness which prevented Clement XIV., whose interest it was to jog on amicably with England, from acknowledging the grandson of James II. as a legitimate King of Great Britain and Ireland. It is therefore easy to conceive the accumulation of disappointment and anger with which Charles Edward saw his hopes deluded. He had, immediately on his return to Rome, officially announced to Clement XIV. the arrival in the Eternal City of King Charles III. and his Queen, and the Pope had condescended no answer save that he had hitherto been unaware of the existence of such persons, and that he would suffer none such to live under his jurisdiction. He had, for more than a year, imposed upon his wife (despite Cardinal York's and her own entreaties, if we may credit Sir Horace Mann) the title and etiquette of a Queen, and had flaunted his scarlet liveries along the Corso day after day, with no result save that of making the Roman nobles keep carefully out of the way wherever he and his wife might go; nay, more, he had replaced over the doorway of his residence the royal escutcheon of Great Britain, only to return from the country one day and find that the Pontifical police had taken it down during his absence. After this we can understand, as I said, the disappointment and rage which must have accumulated in his heart, and which, fifteen months after his wedding, made him abandon the base town of the popes and seek sympathy and dignity in the capital of Tuscany. But he was destined only to further disappointment. The Grand Duke, Peter Leopold, the practical, economical, priest-hating, paternally-meddlesome, bustlingly and tyrannically-reforming son of Maria Theresa, was not the man to console so mediaeval and antiquated and unphilosophical a thing as a Stuart. The arrival, the presence of Charles Edward in Florence, was absolutely ignored by the Court, and no invitations of any sort were sent out either to King Charles III. or to the Count of Albany. Except the Corsinis, old friends of the Stuarts, who had known Charles Edward in his brilliant boyhood, and who politely placed at his disposal their half-suburban palace or casino, opening on to the famous Oricellari Gardens, no one seemed inclined to pay any particular respects to the new-comers. There was, indeed, no pressure from the Government (as had been the case in Rome), and the Florentine nobles, whose exclusiveness and pride had been considerably diminished by the inroad of swaggering Lorenese favourites under the Grand Duke Francis, and of cut and dry Austrian officials under his son Peter Leopold, showed a sort of lukewarm willingness to receive the Count and Countess of Albany on equal terms into their society. But Charles Edward wanted royal honours; he forbade his wife demeaning her queenly position by returning the visits of Florentine ladies, and the nobles of the Tuscan Court gradually left the would-be King and Queen of England to their own resources.