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Henry Benedict Stuart

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Henry Benedict Stuart

Henry Benedict Stuart
Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati
Henry Benedict Stuart, "Cardinal Duke of York"
Province Rome
Diocese Frascati
See Frascati
Appointed 13 July 1761
Installed 13 July 1761
Term ended 13 July 1807
Predecessor Camillo Paolucci
Successor Giuseppe Doria Pamphili
Other posts
Ordination 1 September 1748
Consecration 19 November 1758
by Pope Clement XIII
Created Cardinal 3 July 1747
Personal details
Birth name Henry Benedict Mary Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart of York
Born (1725-03-06)6 March 1725[1]
Rome, Papal States
Died 13 July 1807(1807-07-13) (aged 82)
Frascati, Rome, Papal States
Buried St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post
Coat of arms

Henry Benedict Thomas Edward Maria Clement Francis Xavier Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York (6 March 1725 – 13 July 1807) was a Roman Catholic Cardinal, as well as the fourth and final Jacobite heir to claim the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland publicly. Unlike his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, and brother, Charles Edward Stuart, Henry made no effort to seize the throne. After Charles's death in January 1788 the Papacy did not recognise Henry as the lawful ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland, but referred to him as the Cardinal Duke of York.[2]

He spent his life in the Papal States and had a long career in the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, rising to become the Dean of the College of Cardinals and Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. At the time of his death he was (and still is) one of the longest serving Cardinals in the Church's history.

In his youth, Henry's father made him Duke of York (in the Jacobite peerage), and it was by this title that he was best known. Upon the death of his brother in 1788 Henry became known by Jacobites, and within his personal entourage, as Henry IX of England and Ireland and I of Scotland, although publicly he referred to himself as Cardinal-Duke of York nuncupatus.

Early life

Henry Benedict Stuart, age 13, by Louis Gabriel Blanchet (1738)

Henry was born in exile at the Palazzo Muti in Rome on 6 March 1725[3] and baptized on the same day by Pope Benedict XIII, 37 years after his grandfather James II and VII lost the throne, and ten years after his father's failed attempt to regain it. His father was James Francis Edward Stuart, known to his opponents as "the Old Pretender". His mother was the Princess Maria Klementyna Sobieska, granddaughter of the Polish King, John III Sobieski.

A young Henry Benedict Stuart (painted ca. 1729–1732), bearing a striking resemblance to his elder brother Charles Edward Stuart

Henry went to France in 1745 to help his brother, Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie", or "the Young Pretender") prepare the Jacobite campaign of that year. After its defeat, Henry Stuart returned to Italy. On 30 June 1747 Pope Benedict XIV conferred him with tonsure and created him Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria in Portico in a special consistory held on the 3 July 1747.[3] On 27 August 1747 he was promoted to the four minor orders by the Pope. He received the subdiaconate on 18 August 1748 and diaconate on 25 August 1748. He was ordained priest on 1 September 1748 and consecrated titular Archbishop of Corinth on 2 October 1758.

He was advanced to the order of Cardinal Priest in 1748,[3] maintaining title to S. Maria in Portico. In 1752 he transferred to the titulus of Ss. XII Apostoli. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati on 13 July 1761, and eventually succeeded to the See of Ostia and Velletri on his appointment as Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals on 26 September 1803. He lived and worked in Frascati for many years, descending each afternoon in his carriage to Rome, where his position as vice-chancellor entitled him to the Palazzo della Cancelleria.

His revenues from the many ecclesiastical preferments he enjoyed were enormous. His income from abbeys and other pluralities in Flanders, Spain, Naples and France amounted to 40,000 Pounds in British money at the time. He also held sinecure benefices yielding revenues in Spanish America. He owned territory in Mexico, which contributed largely to his income.[4]

Henry was the last claimant to the British throne to touch for the King's Evil.

French Revolution and later life

Henry Benedict Stuart by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1746/47), long thought to be of Charles Edward Stuart

At the time of the Jacobites considered it to be a first installment on the money which was legally owed to him. (For many years the British government had promised to return the English dowry of his grandmother, Mary of Modena, but never did so.)

Henry returned to Frascati in 1803. In September of that year he became the Dean of the College of Cardinals and hence Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri,[5] though he still lived in the episcopal palace at Frascati. He died there on 13 July 1807, aged 82.

Personal relationships

Henry Benedict Stuart by Anton Raphael Mengs (1756)

Historians have drawn upon contemporary perceptions to explore the suggestion that Henry was homosexual.[1] These accounts include the writings of Hester Lynch Thrale[6] (1741–1821), and the diplomat and writer Giuseppe Gorani[7] (1740–1819). Gorani admitted to having gathered evidence insufficient to confirm his suspicions either way, but drew attention to the number of handsome clerics that were to be found in Henry's palace. The historian Andrew Lang alluded to James's comment that his younger son would never marry although many marriages had been planned for him.[8]

The writer Gaetano Moroni[9] provides the lengthiest account of Henry's close attachment with Monsignor Giovanni Lercari (1722–1802), his majordomo who Henry was said to have "loved beyond measure". This closeness led to serious tensions between the cardinal and his father who in 1752 eventually tried to have Lercari dismissed from service and sent from Rome. Henry reacted by attempting to separate his household finances from those of his father, and refused himself to return to Rome from Bologna without Lercari by his side. A public scandal was only narrowly avoided after the personal intervention of Pope Benedict XIV who acted as peace-maker.[10] It was agreed that Lercari would leave the household and due to Henry's influence was later made Archbishop of Genoa.

Things became easier after the death of James in 1766. From 1769 onwards Henry remained close to Monsignor Angelo Cesarini, a nobleman from Perugia, who thanks to Henry's protection, won various honours, was made canon of the cathedral in Frascati, and finally in 1801 became Bishop of Milevi. When Henry died, Cesarini was still at his side, as he had been for 32 years. Cesarini was later buried in the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella.

Caution should nevertheless be given against assuming any active sexual relationships, even if they may have had a romantic element, because equally clear in contemporary sources is York's horror of all impropriety.[11]

Post mortem

Under his will, which he signed as "Henry R", he was succeeded in all his claimed British rights by his friend and nearest blood-relative, Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia. Charles neither asserted nor renounced his Jacobite claims, nor have any of his successors to this day.

Contrary to popular belief, he did not leave the Crown Jewels to the Charles I at his execution, and now at Windsor Castle) and a St Andrew's Cross (now at Edinburgh Castle), which are insignia of the orders of the Garter and the Thistle, and also a ruby ring.

Henry Benedict, his brother, his father and his mother are buried in the crypt of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Cardinalatial titles

During his life, Cardinal Stuart was assigned the following Diaconia and Tituli:

In March 1774 he became Sub-dean, and on 15 September 1803 – Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals.

He was a cardinal elector in the papal conclaves of 1758, 1769, 1774-75 and 1799–1800.


During the pretence of his father and brother, Henry claimed a coat of arms consisting of those of the kingdom, differenced by a crescent argent[12] or white crescent.


See also


  1. ^ a b Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Henry Benedict (1725–1807)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010, accessed 24 June 2013.
  2. ^ MacLeod (1999); 347–348
  3. ^ a b c Cheney, David M., "Henry Benedict Mary Clement Cardinal Stuart of York", Catholic Hierarchy
  4. ^ James Lees-Milne, The Last Stuarts London: Chatto & Windus, 1983. p. 157
  5. ^ a b Burton, Edwin. "Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 12 Oct. 2013
  6. ^ Piozzi (1951); 874-875
  7. ^ Gorani (1793); 100-102
  8. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
  9. ^ Angeli (1931); 98-108
  10. ^ F. J. McLynn, Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts, London, 1988
  11. ^ Schofield (2002); 98
  12. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family


  • Angeli, Diego (1931) Storia romana di trent'anni, 1770–1800, Milano : Treves, 276 p.
  • Gorani, Giuseppe, Count (1793) Mémoires secrets et critiques des cours, des gouvernemens, et des mœurs des principaux états de l'Italie, v. 2, Paris
  • Piozzi, Hester Lynch (1951) Thraliana : the diary of Mrs. Hester Lynch Thrale (later Mrs. Piozzi), 1776–1809, (Katharine C.Balderston; ed.), v. 2: 1784–1809, 2nd ed., Oxford : Clarendon Press in co-operation with the Huntingdon Library, 611-1191p.
  • Bindelli Pietro ed. 1982 "Enrico Stuart Cardinale duca di York" Frascati, Associazione tuscolana Amici di Frascati – Stampa Poligrafica Laziale.
  • Schofield, N. (ed.) (2002) A Roman miscellany : the English in Rome, 1550–2000, Leominster : Gracewing, ISBN 0-85244-575-X
  • MacLeod, John (1999) Dynasty, the Stuarts, 1560–1807, London : Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-70767-4.
  • Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Henry Benedict (1725–1807)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010, accessed 24 June 2013. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12964

External links

  • Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Henry Benedict Stuart at Catholic-Hierarchy Retrieved on 21 May 2011.
Henry Benedict Stuart
Born: 11 March 1725 Died: 13 July 1807
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Camillo Paolucci
Cardinal-bishop of Frascati
13 July 1761 – 26 September 1803
Succeeded by
Giuseppe Maria Doria Pamphili
Preceded by
Gian Francesco Albani
Cardinal-bishop of Ostia
26 September 1803 – 13 July 1807
Succeeded by
Leonardo Antonelli
Preceded by
Giovanni Albani
Dean of the College of Cardinals
26 September 1803 – 13 July 1807
Succeeded by
Leonardo Antonelli
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Charles Edward Stuart
Jacobite succession
Succeeded by
Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia
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