Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Court in Exile

Author Stephanie Mann has reviewed a book about the Stuarts that happens to be on my Wish List. Her scholarly assessment of the merits of A Court in Exile by Edward Corp is greatly appreciated. According to Mrs. Mann:
A Court in Exile offers a revisionist view of the Jacobite community at St. Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris. Guests of King Louis XIV, King James II and Queen Mary of Modena established their court in exile at the Old Chateau in 1689, and the court remained there until the death of the last Catholic queen of England during the "reign" of James III.

The revisionist aspect of this study corrects the Whig view that this court in exile was dismal, poor, and inconsequential. With the assistance of three colleagues--Edward Gregg, Howard Erskine-Hill, and Geoffrey Scott--Edward Corp traces the history of the courts of the Kings Over the Water through the Jacobite attempts to regain the throne, the relationships between Louis XIV and James II and between Louis and James III, and the transitions between St. Germain to Lorraine to Avignon to Rome after France recognized the Georgian succession in England and James III could not remain in France.

To reassess the court of St. Germain-en-Laye, the author and his three contributors describe the organization of the household and the court, its finances and its relationship to the court and government of France, the practice of the arts of portraiture, poetry, music, opera, and theatre, the education of James III, and the devotional life of James II.

Father Geoffrey Scott addresses this last topic, recounting the faithful piety of James II, influenced by both Jesuit and Salesian spirituality. James came to regard his expulsion from the throne as just punishment for his infidelities and affairs, especially those occurring after his conversion to Catholicism. He assiduously attended daily Mass and practiced many devotions (attending Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, Forty Hours, and the Canonical hours of prayer), counseling his son and heir to remain absolutely true to the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, James II certainly offered religious freedom to his Anglican supporters at Court, even though Louis XIV forbade them to hold religious services. James III continued his father's practice, free to hire Anglican chaplains at his courts after the death of Louis.

James III's education highlights the divisions between Jesuit and Jansenists in France at the time; his formation was definitely in view of his succession to the throne, emphasizing character, linguistic facility, and proper deportment.

After both James III and Mary of Modena left St. Germain (and Corp explains how much a catalyst the death of Princess Louise-Marie in 1712 was in this regard) the Jacobite community did suffer from penury and neglect. As Corp notes, this is the image the Whig school used to depict the earlier Court, quite unjustly in his view.

Sometimes the details seem almost superfluous, as when Corp analyzes and diagrams the arrangement of rooms and the location of the court and household staff--but the details are indeed important to depict the munificence of the Court. Both James II and James III maintained these Courts in the expectation of their return as rightful monarchs of England, and that hope was demonstrated by Court etiquette and organization until those expectations met their ultimate failure.

I regret the paucity of portraiture and the black and white reproductions of the portraits included. A map of France and a map of Europe and England at the time would also have been helpful to understand the movements of James III from St. Germain-en-Laye to Lorraine to Avignon to the Papal States. Those minor regrets aside, this book provides excellent context and significance to a comparatively unfamiliar circumstance in English history--a Court in Exile awaiting return.


Stephanie A. Mann said...

Thank you for posting my review. I highlighted the chapter on James II because I found it so fascinating. Father Scott also discusses James' conversion to Catholicism, and its similarity in pattern to "many late Stuart converts to Catholicism," noting that James and others were attracted to Catholic devotion and moral teaching, and not to "rationalist apologetic". James had a particular devotion to the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross (September 14) and thoroughly appreciated "The Imitation of Christ". Scott says that James's conversion, which we still can not accurately date, was certainly motivated by more than comfort with hierarchy and order (a common explanation). One other interesting aspect of his devotional life was his frequent reception of Holy Communion. In this, wasn't he rather unusual at that time? (This material is found on pages 241 through 245.) It all gave me a greater appreciation for James II, who has seldom received very favorable treatment.

elena maria vidal said...

I really want to read this book, since I am planning a future novel about Prince Charles Edward.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Somewhat off point, but I have often thought that both Louis XIV and Louis missed a couple of chances to recoup the French investment in supporting thte Stuarts (Louis XIV by not contributing troops and more money to James's effort in Ireland in 1689, Louis XV by not doing more to support "James III's" son Prince Charles in 1745).

In particular, I have always thought "Bonnie Prince Charlie's" military chances were rather greater than generally understood, had he but had some French support.

elena maria vidal said...

The prince made it within two days march from London. I think the lack of English support hindered him even more than the lack of French support.