Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs of the Jacobites

No. I.

This letter was addressed by the Rev. Joseph Spence, author of "Polymetus," and of "Spence's Anecdotes,'" and prebend cf Durham, to his father, who had forbidden him to enter into the society of the Chevalier, at Rome.

The Rev. Joseph Spence left this letter, with other MSS. and books, to the late Mrs. Coltman, mother of Samuel Coltman, Esq.. of Darley Dale. It is not dated, but undoubtedly refers to the Chevalier, James Stuart.


"About a month ago, Mr.---and I being in search of some of the antiquities of your place, we became acquainted with an English gentleman, very knowing in this kind of learning, and who proved of great use to us; his name is Dr. Cooper, a priest of the Church of England, whom we did not suspect to be of the Pretender's retinue, but took him to be a curious traveller, which opinion created in me a great liking for his conversation. On Easter eve, he made us the compliment, that as he supposed us bred in the profession of the said Church, he thought it incumbent on him to invite us to divine service, next day-being Easter Sunday. Such language, at Rome, appeared to me a jest. I stared at the Doctor, who added that the Pretender (whom he called king), had prevailed with the late pope, to grant licence for having divine service according to the rules of the Church of England, performed in his palace, for the benefit of the Protestant gentlemen of his suite, his domestics, and travellers; and that Dr. Perkley and himself were appointed for the discharge of this duty; and that prayers were read as ordinarily here as in London. I should have remained of St. Thomas's belief, had I not been a witness that this is a matter of fact, and as such, have noted it down, as one of the greatest wonders of Rome. This was the occasion of my first entrance into the Pretender's house: I became acquainted with both the Doctors, who are sensible, well-bred men I put several questions to them about the Pretender, and, if credit can be given them, they assure me he is a moral, upright man, being far from any sort of bigotry, and most averse to disputes and distinctions of religion, whereof not a word is admitted in his family. They described him in person very much to the resemblance of King Charles II., which they say he approaches more and more every day, with a great application to business, and a head well turned that way, having only some clerks, to whom he dictates such letters as he does not write with his own hand. In some days after, my friend and I went to take the evening air, in the stately park called Villa Ludovici, there we met, face to face, on a sudden, with the Pretender, his Princess, and court; we were so very close before we understood who they were, that we could not retreat with decency, common civility obliged us to stand side-ways in the alley, as others did, to let them pass by. The Pretender was easily distinguished by his star and garter, as well as by his air of greatness, which discovered a majesty superior to the rest. I felt at that instant of his approach, a strange convulsion in body and mind, such as I never was sensible of before, whether aversion, awe, or respect occasioned it, I can't tell: I remarked his eyes fixed on me, wMch, I confess, I could not bear—I was perfectly stunned, and not aware of myself, when, pursuant to what the standers-by did, I made him a salute; he returned it with a smile, which changed the sedateness of his first aspect into a very graceful countenance; as he passed by I observed him to be a well-sized, clean-limbed man. I had but one glimpse of the Princess, which left me a great desire of seeing her again; however, my friend and I tumed off into another alley, to reason at leisure on our several observations: there we met Dr. Cooper, and, after making some turns with him, the same company came again in our way I was grown somewhat bolder, and resolved to let them pass as before, in order to take a full view of the Princess: she is of a middling stature, well-shaped, and has lovely features: wit, vivacity, and mildness of temper, are painted in her look. When they came to us, the Pretender stood, and spoke a word to the Doctor, then looking at us, he asked him whether we were English gentlemen; he asked us how long we had been in town, and whether we had any acquaintance. He then told us he had a house, where English gentlemen would be very welcome. The Princess, who stood by, addressing herself to the Doctor in the prettiest English I think I ever heard, said, 'Pray, Doctor, if these gentlemen be lovers of music, invite them to my concert, tonight; I charge you with it; which she accompanied with a salute in the most gracious manner. It was a very-hard task, sir, to recede from the honour of such an invitation, given by a princess, who, although married to the Pretender, deserves so much in regard to her person, her house, and family. However, we argued the case with the Doctor, and represented the strict orders we had to the contrary; he replied, there would be no prohibition to a traveller against music, even at the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church; that if we missed this occasion of seeing this assembly of the Roman Royalty, we might not recover it while we stayed n Rome; and, that it became persons of our age and degree to act always the part of gentlemen, without regard to party humours. These arguments were more forcible than ours, so we went, and saw a bright assembly of the prime human ability, the concert composed of the best musicians of Rome, a plentiful and orderly collation served; but the courteous and affable manner of our reception was more taking than all the rest. We had a general invitation given us whilst we stayed in town, and were desired to use the palace as our house, we were indispensably obliged to make a visit next day, is order to return thanks for so many civilities received;—those are things due to a Turk. We were admitted without ceremony; the Pretender entertained us on the subject of our families as knowingly as if he had been all his life in England: He told me some passages of myself and father, and of his being against the followers of King Charles I. and II., and added, "that if you, sir, had been of age before my grandfathers death, to learn his principles, there had been little danger of your taking party against the rights of a Stuart.''

He then observed how far the prejudices of education and wrong notions of infancy are apt to carry people from the paths of their ancestors: he discoursed as pertinently on several of our neighbouring families as I could do, upon which I told him I was surprised at his so perfect knowledge of our families in England; his answer was, that from his infancy he had made it his business to acquire the knowledge of the laws, customs, and families of his country, so that he might not be reported a stranger when the Almighty pleased to call him thither. These and the like discourses held until word was brought that dinner was served; we endeavoured all we could to withdraw, but there was no possibility for after he had made us this compliment, "I assure you, Gentlemen, I shall never be for straining man's inclinations; however, our grandfathers, who were worthy people, dined, and I hope there can be no fault found that we do the same." There is every day a regular table of ten or twelve covers well served, unto which some of the qualified persons of his court, or travellers, are invited: it is supplied with English and French cooking, French and Italian wines; but I took notice that the Pretender eat only of the English dishes, and made hi» dinner of roast-beef, and what we call Devonshire-pie: He also prefers our March beer, which he has from Leghorn, to the best wines: at the dessert, he drinks his glass of champagne very heartily, and to do him justice, he is as free and cheerful at his table as any man I know; he spoke much In favour of our English ladies, and said he was persuaded he had not many enemies among them; then he carried a health to them. The Princess with a smiling countenance took up the matter, and said, "I think then. Sir, it would be but just that I drink to the cavaliers.' Sometime after, the Pretender begun a health to the prosperity of all friends in England, which he addressed to me. I took the freedom to reply, that, as I presumed he meant his own friends, he would not take it ill that I meant mine. "I assure you, Sir," said he, "that the friends you mean can have no great share of prosperity till they become mine, therefore, here's prosperity to yours and mine." After we had eat and drank very heartily, the Princess told us we must go see her son, which could not be refused; he is really a fine promising child, and is attended by English women, mostly Protestants, which the Princess observed to us, saying, that as she believed he was to live and die among Protestants, she thought fit to have him brought up by their hands; and that in the country where she was born, there was no other distinction but that of honour and dishonour. These women, and particularly two Londoners, kept such a racket about us to make us kiss the young Pretender's hand that to get clear of them as soon as we could, we were forced to comply: the Princess laughed very heartily, and told us that she did not question but the day would come that we should not be sorry to have made so early an acquaintance with her son. I thought myself under a necessity of making her the compliment, that being hers, he could not miss being good and happy. On the next post day, we went, as commonly the English gentlemen here do, to the Pretender's house for news. He had received a great many letters, and after perusing them he told us that there was no great prospect of amendment in the affairs of England; that the Secret Committee and several other honest men were taking abundance of pains to find out the cause of the nation's destruction, which knowledge, when attained to, would avail only to give the more concern to the public without procuring relief; for that the authors would find means to be above the reach of the common course of justice: he bemoaned the misfortune of England groaning under a load of debts, and the severe hardships contracted and imposed to support foreign interests: he lamented the ill-treatment and disregard of the ancient nobility; and said it gave him great trouble to see the interest of the nation abandoned to the direction of a new set of people, who must at any rate enrich themselves by the spoil of their country; "some may imagine," continued he, "that these calamities are not displeasing to me, because they may, in some measure, turn to my advantage; I renounce all such unworthy thoughts."

Return to the Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus