Commemoration of 250th anniversary of funeral of James Francis Edward Stuart
On 8 January, with the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart at St. Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his State funeral.
James Francis Edward Stuart was the son of King James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland and Queen Mary of Modena. He was also known as “the Old Pretender” and claimed the throne as “James III of England and Ireland, VIII of Scotland”. He died in exile in Rome on 1 January 1766 and was given the unprecedented honour of a State funeral by the Pope on 8 January in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. The Pope recognised him as King, but did not extend that title to his sons in tacit, and later explicit recognition of the Hanoverian succession.
The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying and the appropriate Collect (in English) by HM Ambassador Baker, the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by HE Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the sung Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.
HM Ambassador was accompanied by the Rt Rev Monsignor Charles Burns, Ecclesiastical Advisor at the British Embassy to the Holy See. H.E. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Holy See Secretary for Relations with States, and H.E. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, attended from the Holy See. Other participants included Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, the Polish and Irish Ambassadors to the Holy See, the Rectors of the Pontifical Beda, Scots, Irish and Venerable English Colleges, and ecumenical representatives.
“Our simple wreath-laying ceremony was, in a way, one of historical reconciliation,” said UK Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker.
“The Chevalier always considered himself a patriot, and his court in exile welcomed Britons of all political and religious stripes. His younger son, Henry Benedict, Cardinal York, received a pension from the British Crown after his lands had been seized by Napoleon, and the Prince Regent offered to contribute to the magnificent Stuart monument by Canova that can still be seen in St Peter’s.
“The tomb in the crypt where I laid the wreath was restored by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, through the good offices of my predecessor, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, in the early 1940’s. And in 2012 HRH The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a restored Coat of Arms of Cardinal York in the Pontifical Scots College, where the original Stuart gravestones had been transferred.
“Memory runs deep in Rome. Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica (and, as such, a successor of Cardinal York) participated in the wreath-laying ceremony. The Holy See Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Gallagher, also attended alongside a number of other senior Holy See officials,” said Mr Baker.
“The Rectors of the Irish, Scots and Venerable English Colleges – whose predecessors were fired by Clement XIII in 1766 for their untimely enthusiasm for the Stuart cause – attended alongside the Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, representing the British and Irish seminaries in Rome. As did Anglican, Methodist and Church of Scotland guests.
“The Chevalier was known for his deep faith, but I hope would have been pleased to have seen participants across the ecumenical divide at this occasion. The presence of the Irish ambassador to the Holy See also reminded us of the importance of commemorating together, rather than remembering apart. The past leaves many wounds. But do not underestimate the healing power of history and remembrance, done well.”