Finding the Stuarts in St. Peter’s Basilica after my trip to Scotland to experience their historic vote was like finding that elusive pot of gold. I was instantly enamored – for much of my trip – but this truly touched my heart.
The Jacobites were the Scots who dreamed of and fought for the return of the Catholic James VII and then his descendants as ruler of Scotland instead of the English. Much like these many great people I met on my trip. I treasure and appreciate each and every Scot (and occasional Englishman) for allowing me to be a part of their experience for just a little while. The Jacobites and their supporters fought valiantly and repeatedly until the bloody Battle of Culloden where they were soundly defeated. What I didn’t realize is just how much support they received from the Catholic Church at the time. It makes sense seeing as how the Scottish Catholics were oppressed, fined, had their lands seized, were thrown in jail, and sometimes even killed for about 200 years with what were called recusancy acts. Had the Jacobites won, this would have ended.
During the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobites followed Charles Edward Stuart who was also known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ or ‘The Young Pretender’ depending upon which side you were on. By all accounts he was probably ill suited to such a state in life but those are the woes of succession with royals. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to the highlands to live out the rest of his life in hiding. His wife, however, is one of the four women buried in St. Peter’s Basilica along with the Pope. It is my understanding that she fled to Rome when there was nowhere else for her to go and lived her life out in service of the Church.
That is her portrait with the statues in the upper left. That might be a statue of her as well but I’m not sure. It looks to me like her name was Maria Clementine. Her rendering is just across from the Stuart’s Jacobite memorial. I believe, based on my best rendering of my conversation with the nearby guard, that it is just a memorial and none of the other Jacobites are buried in St. Peter’s. Never did I expect to see the whole of my trip connected in such a way. St. Peter’s Basilica is full of so many more treasures than I ever imagined.