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Calendar of the Stuart Papers
Belonging to His Majesty the King, preserved at Windsor Castle


The papers included in the following Calendar belong to his Majesty the King, and are preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor. They were formerly the property of the titular King James III, otherwise the old Pretender, and his sons, Charles Edward, and Henry, the Cardinal Duke of York.

Account of the Acquisition of the Papers.

They were acquired by the Prince Regent on two different occasions. The first collection was procured from the Abb6 James Waters, the Procureur General of the English Benedictines at Rome, through Sir John Coxe Hippisley, who had been for some years employed in the capacity of an unofficial medium of communication between the British Government and the Papal Court. Charles Edward had bequeathed the greater part of his property and all his papers to his daughter by Miss Walkin-shaw, whom he had legitimated and created Duchess of Albany. According to the statement of Waters, Charles Edward’s papers were at his death in his library at Florence, and were afterwards removed to Rome by himself, and lodged in the Cancellaria, which, according to the article in the Quarterly Review hereafter mentioned, was the Cardinal Duke’s usual residence at Rome, and after the death of the Duchess in 1789, by virtue of her will, of which he was the sole executor, he brought them to his own house.

In 1804 Sir. J. C. Hippisley by the command of the Prince of Wales, communicated in a letter from Mr. Fox dated 5 Oct., concluded a negotiation with the Abb6 for the purchase of the papers in his possession. (Preface to the Life of James II, p. ix.)

In a letter dated 12 Jan., 1805, from the Abbe to Sir J. C. Hippisley, part of which is printed in the above preface, he gave some account of the Life, and of some others of the papers, prefixing to it a sort of catalogue, which he described “asa general, genuine and candid account of the papers in my possession.”

According to the minute, dated 4 June, 1819, of the Commissioners appointed in 1819 to examine the Stuart Papers, their Secretary received from the Rev. Stanier Clarke, Librarian to the Prince Regent, the following documents :—

1. The Life of James II with his original will, dated 17 Nov., 1688.

2. The King’s instructions for the Prince of Wales, 1692.

3. Five volumes of Entry Books.

4. Historia della Reale Casa Stuarda composta da Giovanni MacEgan di Kilbaran.

5. The King of Great Britain’s Case impartially stated, 1692.

6. Historical account of some remarkable matters concerning King James Il’s succession, &c., by Thomas Sheridan, written in 1702.

7. Proposal for a regular militia.

8. Memoire touchant l’ancienne alliance entre la France et l’Ecosse.

9. Political reflexions on the History and Government of England, &c., written in 1709.

10. Register of letters from 1769 to 1774 and copies and minutes of commissions, warrants, &c., 1719 to 1773.

11. Several copies of the Stuart pedigree.

12. Declaration of Charles Edward of his right to the Throne, &c., and a copy thereof.

13. Testamento politico dell’ Inghilterra nel 1780.

14. A green portfolio containing an account signed by Sir J. C. Hippisley dated 28 Feb., 1813, of the manner in which the Stuart Papers in the possession of the Abbe Waters were obtained and a list of those papers, with sundry letters and memoranda on the subject. (This green portfolio now contains nothing but the letter of Waters and the catalogue already mentioned and a memorandum by Sir J. C. Hippisley that the letter and catalogue are in the handwriting of Waters.)

Most of these documents can be recognized in Waters’ catalogue, and I think there is little doubt that all of them were included in the purchase from Waters, as the catalogue does not profess to be complete. .

Sir J. C. Hippisley evidently believed that he had purchased, and Waters professed to sell, all the documents mentioned in the Catalogue, the latter at the same time assuring Sir John that the collection contained the whole of the Stuart Papers then extant, but the documents handed over by the Rev. Stanier Clarke form a very small portion of those mentioned in the Catalogue. Four of them, viz., the letters of James III in 1743, to the Universities, to the Army and Navy, and to the Corporation of London, are mentioned among the papers purchased by Dr. Watson in 1816, as hereafter mentioned, but from their nature it is probable that duplicates of them existed. According to Watson’s account (whose veracity, however, seems not to have been above suspicion), on the death of Charles Edward the greater part of the Stuart Papers, including most of those of importance, was sent to the Cardinal of York, the Duchess of Albany retaining only those of little value.

It appears, however, from a minute of the Commissioners to be quoted hereafter, that the first collection contained many other documents besides those mentioned as handed over by the Bev. Stanier Clarke, since they describe it, though less voluminous, as being more curious and important than the second, and remark that the portion brought over by Sir J. C. Hippisley “ was in itself a most material diminution of its contents.” Sir J. C. Hippisley also speaks of the first collection as extremely bulky, which implies that it contained a good deal more than the documents handed over by the Bev. Stanier Clarke. On some of the letters noticed in this Calendar there are endorsements in the handwriting of Waters, showing that they were formerly in his possession.

The cases of papers purchased from Waters were in 1805, at Sir J. C. Hippisley’s request, deposited by the Treasurer General of the English Benedictines in the custody of Mr. Bichard Bartram, who was acting as English Consul at Civita Vecchia, to await an opportunity of transmitting them to England. Sir J. C. Hippisley had been authorized by the Prince of Wales to concert with Lord Nelson such measures as best promised to secure the papers, and after Lord Nelson’s death Lord Collingwood wrote to Sir John, in Jan., 1806, that he would endeavour to carry out the plan which had been settled with him. He accordingly, early in July, 1806, sent a brig of war under Capt. Baitt to Civita Vecchia, but unfortunately, twelve days before, the French had unexpectedly occupied the town and the brig’s boats were not allowed to land. Another attempt in September by Capt. Baitt to communicate with Mr. Bartram was also unsuccessful. Two days after the occupation of the town Mr. Bartram was arrested and thrown into a dungeon, with threats of being shot, if he did not disclose any property he might have or knew to be at Civita Vecchia belonging to England or to Englishmen. He had fortunately secreted the papers previously, and for several years preserved them safely, though with the greatest personal risk to himself. Mr. Paul Macpherson, the Principal of the Scots College at Rome, frequently communicated with Mr. Bartram with the view of removing the papers from Civita Vecchia, and they were ultimately delivered to the order of Sir J. C. Hippisley, brought to Mr. Bartram by Mr. Macpherson. {Foreign Office Papers, Italian States, No. 8.) A Mr. Bonelli, to whom Sir John had been authorized by the Prince of Wales to confide the commission for obtaining the papers, succeeded, with Mr. Macpherson’s assistance, though with considerable risk, in shipping them to Leghorn, from which they were embarked in a Tunisian vessel to Tunis. They were forwarded from thence to Malta, and finally arrived in England in or about 1810, and were placed in the library of Carlton House.

Mr. Horner, of Mells Park, a descendant of Sir. J. C. Hippisley, has most kindly allowed me to inspect two volumes of letters in his possession which were addressed to Sir John while in Italy, but in notes on some of these letters Sir John states that he had bound up all the correspondence relating to the acquisition of the Stuart Papers in a third volume. This volume unfortunately cannot now be found, and Mr. Horner does not know what may have become of it, if indeed it is still in existence. Sir John’s above-mentioned letter of 28 Feb., 1813, is also now missing. These letters, if discovered, would probably clear up the obscurities about the contents of the first collection, and their relation to those of the second.

An article in the Quarterly Revieiv for Dec., 1846, said to be by Mr. Dennistoun, states that the Duchess desired Waters to hand over all her father’s papers to the Cardinal Duke, but that after her death they remained in his possession with the Cardinal’s sanction, and that, as his consent had not been obtained to the sale, Waters insisted on a pledge of secrecy during his life.

It is now impossible, except in a few cases, to distinguish the contents of the collections, as they have been mixed and arranged chronologically, and, except as a matter of curiosity, it seems immaterial to which collection any document originally belonged.

The history of the acquisition of the second collection is much clearer. A volume of Foreign Office Papers in the Public Record Office entitled Italian States, Stuart Papers, No. 16, is composed of correspondence on the subject, and there are a few incidental notices in Foreign Office Papers, Italian States, Nos. 10 and 11.

The greater part of the Cardinal of York’s own papers and of the remainder of the Stuart Papers, whether they had been placed in his hands after the death of Charles Edward, or had otherwise come into his possession, after his death in 1807 was removed in several boxes to the Palazzo Monseratto. They lay there for many years in an open garret with unglazed windows exposed to the rats and mice, and were supposed to consist merely of tradesmen’s bills and similar documents of no value.

A certain Dr. Robert Watson (on whom there is an article in the Dictionary oj National Biography), who had been a member of the Corresponding Society, and for whose apprehension a reward had been offered by the English government, and who had been appointed by Napoleon Principal of the revived Scots College at Paris, went to Italy about 1813 for the purpose of collecting information about the Stuart family. During his researches he discovered the collection and obtained from Monsignore Tassoni, who, on the death of Monsignore Cesarini, Bishop of Milevi, the executor of the will of the Cardinal of York, had been appointed administrator of the Cardinal’s estate, an order to the Abbe Lupi, a former amanuensis of the Cardinal, to permit him to inspect them, and spent two or three days in examining them. Watson apparently did nothing further till the end of 1816, when he offered Lupi 150 piastres or scudi for them. Lupi replied that they would fetch 200 if sold as waste paper, and finally the difference was split, and the bargain was concluded for 170, Lupi having represented to Tassoni that the papers were merely kitchen accounts of no value.

Watson, however, was unable to raise this sum from his own resources and applied to Mr. Brougham, afterwards the first Lord Brougham, who happened to be at Rome, to advance him the money, and understood that he would do so. On the evening of 15 December a meeting took place between Mr. Brougham, Watson and Mr. James Smith, a friend of Watson’s, which lasted three hours. Mr. Brougham declared that Watson had misconceived him, and that he would advance the money only on condition of the papers becoming his absolute property. According to Smith’s account Brougham spoke with great warmth, as if he had been in the House of Commons or at the Bar, to convince them that the papers were of no real importance, since the last of the Stuarts was no more; that the British public were glutted with those things; that nobody in England but the Prince Regent would attach importance to them; that once they got on the shelves of the library at Carlton House the Prince and Stanier Clarke would destroy the valuable part of them, viz., all those which held up Royal turpitude to public view; that they would be a valuable addition to his library as an M.P., a man of letters, and an editor of the Edinburgh Review for the purpose of exposing occasionally to the public the turpitude of Courts, kings, and ministers; that it would also be agreeable to him to present some to the Princess Charlotte ; that he would procure her patronage to Dr. Watson; that he would allow Dr. Watson to publish any he could of them during 18 months; that he would take some of the ten boxes they were in to London with him; that Lord King would take care of the rest; that Dr. Watson would have a room in Lord King’s apartments and should dine at his table; and that Lord King would convey Dr. Watson and the rest of the papers to London at a proper time. He concluded by observing that everything was ready for his departure, and that he had made arrangements for taking part of the papers with him.

Watson was extremely embarrassed by Brougham’s behaviour and replied that he would refer the business to Smith’s arbitration. Smith then declared that in his opinion the papers should be presented to their Sovereign, and that Watson was the proper medium through which they should pass, since, as he made the discovery and had expended considerable sums, besides presents as douceurs, the merit ought to be his with the rewards he had a right to expect; in short that they were his property as he had agreed for the purchase. To this decision Watson assented, and the conference broke up.

Early next morning, the 16th, Mr. Smith advanced the money, which was paid over to Lupi, and the key of the garret was delivered to Watson as the owner of the papers, which were removed at noon the same day in three carts to Watson’s lodgings at 149, Strada delle Tre Cannelle. Curiously enough this house is near the Palazzo Muti where the titular James III had lived and where a part of the papers had been for many years, as the palace is at one end of the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli, and the street runs out of the opposite end of the Piazza. Watson and Smith then employed themselves for some days in unpacking and examining the papers, which they showed to several M.P.s, the Duchess of Devonshire, Professor Playfair and others. It appears that Mr. Brougham, notwithstanding the refusal of his offer, did not break off all relations with Watson, as, when he left for England on the 22nd, he took with him what is described as a very interesting letter from Charles XII of Sweden to James III, in which he promised to conclude peace with the Czar, and to land in Scotland with 30,000 men to support his claims, and also a plan of general confiscation of the property of the enemies of James. Even after Brougham left Rome he commissioned one James Galiffe to treat for the purchase of the papers. Early in January (the 1st according to Smith, the 3rd according to Denis), Watson and Smith informed Mr. Charles Denis, the British consul at Civita Vecchia, who was then at Rome, of the discovery and purchase of the papers, and that Watson intended to present them to the Prince Regent, and requested that a frigate might be sent to convey them to England. Watson also addressed a letter to the same effect to the Consul at Naples. He invited Mr. Denis to call and see the papers, to which Denis replied, that, as he was unwell himself, he would send Mrs. Denis to examine them, and requested that specimens might be sent him to enable him to judge of their authenticity. Fourteen letters and papers were accordingly sent to Mr. Denis. Four of them, as mentioned above, occur in the list sent to Sir J. C. Hippisley by Waters, thus proving that (if they were not duplicates) some at least of the papers which Waters stated to be in his power to dispose of, either in reality belonged to the Cardinal of York or got into his collection after the sale by Waters.

Meanwhile the discovery and value of the papers came to the ears of Cardinal Consalvi, the Papal Secretary of State, who summoned Tassoni. The latter presented a petition to the Cardinal, demanding that the papers should be returned to him on the grounds (i) that the sale was null, as having been made under a mistake by the vendor; (ii) that there was a law which prohibited the sale of MSS. which might concern sacred or profane history without the permission of the government. I am inclined to think, though there is no statement to that effect, that this step was taken by Tassoni at the Cardinal’s instigation. The Cardinal referred the petition to Cardinal Pacca, the Governor of Pome, who, after Lupi and Watson had been examined, gave the latter the choice of either sending the papers to the palace of the Governor or of leaving them where they were, under seals and with a guard at the door of the room they were in. The latter course was adopted, and on 8 January seals and a guard were placed accordingly.

Finally under a sentence of the tribunal of the Governor the sale was declared illegal and therefore null and void, and the property in the papers was restored to Tassoni, a tender being made to Watson of the 170 piastres he had paid, which he refused to accept, and the papers on the 22nd were seized and removed from Watson’s apartments to the Governor’s palace. Watson and Smith in several interviews with the Governor and Cardinal Consalvi protested against these interferences with their rights, but, according to the Cardinal, Watson of his own accord promised to give up the papers, on condition that the Cardinal should write to Lord Castlereagh, saying that he had bought the papers for 170 piastres, for which the Cardinal had seen the receipt signed by Lupi with authority from the administrator, that therefore he had been guilty of no dishonesty, and that he had the merit of discovering the papers and preserving them from destruction. This the Cardinal promised to do, but retracted his promise on hearing from Mr. Denis that Watson had written to him, stating that he had protested against the removal of the papers and opposed with all his power being deprived of them till he had received an answer from the English government, and making no mention of his willingness to give up the papers on amicable terms.

On the 22nd, the day of the removal of the papers, Cardinal Consalvi wrote to Lord Castlereagh, giving a detailed account of what had taken place, and stating that, if the Prince Regent was desirous of having the whole or any part of them, Tassoni would consider it a duty and an honour to offer them to him. In February Lord Castlereagh signified to the Cardinal the Prince Regent’s acceptance of the offer, and informed him that his Royal Highness was ready to reimburse Watson’s expenses, and requested him to advance Watson 5001., which, it was considered, would far exceed his disbursements and leave him an ample remuneration for his trouble. This sum, however, does not appear to have been paid, as in the Cardinal’s opinion Watson, by his prevaricating conduct, had forfeited his claim, and the Cardinal added that his expectation of reward went far beyond that sum.

On 30 March the Cardinal wrote to Lord Castlereagh that the Pope had ordered him to inform Tassoni of his desire to be able to dispose of the papers so as to prove his sentiments towards the Prince Regent, and that Tassoni had accordingly placed them at the disposition of his Holiness. The Cardinal then handed them over to Consul General Parke. In his presence and in that of Mr. Denis the papers contained in such of ■ the boxes as were considered too weak for the voyage were placed in others, and all, to the number of nine, were handed over to the Consul General. His Holiness, the Cardinal added, had too much confidence in the wisdom and generosity of the Prince Regent to apprehend that any disagreeable effect would be caused to the persons and families mentioned in the papers, who might be compromised thereby.

By the directions of the Prince Regent to the Admiral commanding in the Mediterranean, the Satellite brig and the transport Ellice were sent to CivitaVecchia, where they arrived on 11 June. The papers were embarked, and the vessels sailed about the 22nd and arrived at Spithead on 31 July and in the Thames on 20 August. The Comtesse d’Albany, the widow of Charles Edward, in a letter to Sir J. C. Hippisley, dated 21 June, mentions the departure of the papers from Civita Vecchia.

Before the papers had been seized, Watson had requested the Rev. Edward J. Bury, the husband of the well-known Lady Charlotte Bury, who was returning to England, to communicate to Lord Castlereagh some particulars about the papers, and Mr. Bury brought some of them to England as specimens. The following year, when Watson was in England, he requested Mr. Bury to give up these papers, but it does not appear whether he did so.

In September Watson and Smith (to whom Watson had assigned a moiety of his interest in the papers) had an interview with Mr. Hamilton, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at which they stated their claims. Watson added that he had a clue for purchasing two “ other depots of valuable MSS., one in Paris, the other in Rome. The former consists of the undestroyed papers, about 6 or 700 in number, belonging to the old Scots College, being a collection of the most important part of the correspondence between the Royal families of Scotland and England, from the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the rebellion in the reign of Charles I, and their private agents in Paris. That of Rome is described as containing the private correspondence of the present King of France (Louis XVIII) from the flight of the noblesse in 1789-90 till his retreat into Russia, first with his brother and the Queen, and after their deaths with the sovereigns and principal ministers of Europe. These Watson states he can procure for money, and, if his claims on account of the Stuart Papers were satisfactorily arranged, he will engage to purchase the others, and will offer them on the same terms to the government.” Several allusions to these collections appear in the correspondence, but, neither was apparently purchased by Watson. It would be interesting to know if they are still in existence, and, if so, what has become of them.

In 1817 Watson was paid 600Z. as alimentary subsistence, and a further 500Z. was paid him in June, 1822, and finally on 21 Dec., 1822, a warrant was ordered for paying him 2,500Z. in final discharge of all claims on his behalf. As Watson had assigned a moiety of his rights to Mr. James Smith, presumably the latter received a moiety of these sums.

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The Stuart Papers at Windsor
Being Selections from Hitherto unprinted Royal archives with Introduction and Notes by Alistair & Henrietta Tayler (1938)

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