The Cook, a Journey, the Queen, and her Husband – a snippet from exiled Jacobite Court history

By Julia de Mowbray
Julia de Mowbray is Publisher at Gale. She finds her job, working with academics, librarians and colleagues in house to research and define new online archives of primary sources, endlessly interesting. When not at work, she can be found in her garden in the country, weeding, digging, or simply sitting in the sun and reading.

While reviewing the content recently loaded into the online archive The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle, one document caught my eye: a plan of a journey with daily stops for meals or a night’s rest. Descriptions of journeys and itineraries, plotting out where someone travelled at a particular time, especially from earlier centuries, can transport me back to that time – placing my feet on that road or piazza, in that carriage or train – to experience the same journey in my imagination.

But what did this one document tell us? There is a date at the top with the title of the document “Parti de Rome pour Bologna le 6 Juillet 1727” (Departure from Rome for Bologna, 6 July 1727). The document itself is now bound in a volume of Monthly Chronicle (p.17), the papers of the Stuart Court of James II in exile and his heirs.

(RA SP Main/108 f.47)

The Journey

The itinerary starts:
“6 July: Dinner at Castelnuovo; Supper and Bed at Civita Castelana.
7 July: a stop at Otricoli, Dinner at Narni …” and so forth.
It lists stops and meals for every day until 15 July, travelling through Terni, Montagne de Somme, Spoleti, Foligno, Castel Mario, Seravalle, Valcimara, Tolentino, Macerata, Loretto, Olmo d’Ancona, Senegaglia, Pesaro, Rimini, Savignano, Sesana, Forli, Imola, and Castel San Pietrò (outside Bologna). I plotted the route on a map. It shows the journey avoided the shortest route via Florence in favour of one from Rome through the Apennines to the Adriatic coast at Ancona, following the coast up to Rimini before moving inland again to Bologna. This route would have ensured the travellers stayed within the Papal States.

The journey plotted on a map

So what was this journey? Who was travelling and why? We have two main clues – the route and its direction, and the date.

The Queen

James III, son of the exiled James II and VII of Great Britain, had left the Palazzo del Re in Rome on 27 September 1726 and transferred his Court temporarily to Bologna. At this point the Queen, Clementina Sobieska, was lodging in the convent of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome. She had moved out of the Palazzo del Re in protest at not having control over her own household – the usual arrangement for a Queen – nor over the education of her two sons, and against the dominance of John and Marjory Hay and James Murray over both households.

By January 1727 James had not returned to Rome, nor had he resolved the dispute with his wife who remained in the convent. The Pope, who had been funding James’ Court, decided to reduce his pension and make over two fifths directly to Clementina. This move pressured James into making concessions to his wife. The Hays left the Court and moved to Pistoia on 5 April. However, it took until June for James to agree on the Queen’s household.

Finally reconciled, the plan was for Clementina to travel to Bologna to join her husband, and take charge of her own household there. In early July, James made arrangements for the household himself [1] without consulting her. It would be led by Lord Nithsdale, the Catholic senior member of the Court, who served as first gentleman of the Queen’s bedchamber from 1719-35.[2] His wife, Lady Nithsdale, governess to Henry, Duke of York [3], was sent from Bologna to Rome to meet the Queen and accompany her to Bologna. The date Clementina left Rome is variably recorded as either 7 or 8 July. She was given money for the journey by the Pope, and accompanied to the Porta del Popolo by the principessas di Piombino and Pamphili.

An intelligence report to London by “John Walton” (alias Baron von Stosch, a Prussian antiquarian employed by Walpole’s government to spy on the Jacobite Court in Rome) written on 10 July, stated that the Pope had received a letter from James on the evening of 6 July informing him of the death of George I, news which had just been received from Paris, and asking him to visit Clementina to inform her and ask her to hasten her journey to Bologna to take care of the education of their sons in his absence, while he, James, departed to take possession of his kingdom.[4] Von Stosch continues remarking that the King’s (George I’s) death on 11 June was publicly known in Rome three weeks previously. However, he reports that, in response to James’ letter, the Pope sent despatches on 7 July to the Madrid, Paris and Vienna to exhort the Catholic monarchs to join forces to put James on the throne of Great Britain.

A letter from James Murray, Earl of Dunbar, then Governor of Prince Charles, to James III dated the evening of Monday 14 July, provides evidence of Clementina’s arrival in Bologna. He writes that the Queen “surprised us by her unexpected arrival at the Villa [Villa Alamandini outside Bologna] on Sunday at one in the morning. She is, blessed be God, in good health but much fatigued by her journey. She is inclined to live here and not in town, and as I am told, intends to live very retiringly and see little or no company … and as to the accidents and circumstances of her journey the bearer can give you full information.”[5]

Further information on Clementina’s journey is supplied by Baron von Stosch’s intelligence report of 17 July from Rome [6], which does not describe “accidents” but provides a picture of some of the circumstances: “The Princess Sobieska received two express letters from her husband between Rome and Bologna, showing that the Pretender is not that far from Italy. She was put in one of the most ordinary postchaise, poorly dressed, with a mask over her face. Accompanying her in the carriage was a chambermaid. Escorting the convoy were Irish officers including the Colonel of the Irish militia from Pistoia, MacMahon”.

The Cook

Returning to our original itinerary; there is an endorsement on the back of the document which states that these are Mr Creagh’s accounts. The reference number of this document has been added to the author index card in the Royal Archives for Matthew Creagh, and consequently his name is on the metadata title for the document. Matthew Creagh is listed in the documents as an employee of the exiled Stuart Court in Italy. He worked in the kitchens and was responsible for arranging meals. A letter to his wife, dated nine years earlier on 10 November 1718 from Ferrara, contains Creagh’s explanation that he had been sent there “to make the necessary preparation for food” for the arrival and stay of the Queen [Clementina Sobieska] before her marriage to the King. Other documents citing Matthew or Mathieu Creagh’s name are receipts for silver plate or materials for the kitchens. The handwriting of our document does not closely resemble that of his letter to his wife but it is nine years later, so it is possible it is in his hand, or that this account was written for him. (There was another Creagh at the court: the clerk of the Queen’s Chamber, Robert Creagh, recorded in the household at St-Germain onwards, but would he have written up the account?). The itinerary shows the total costs for the journey were 42.59 Scudi (?).

(RA SP Main/108 f.47v)

A Second Journey

The Stuart Papers also include the costs of Clementina’s return journey to Rome with her younger son, Henry Benedict, from 18 May to 5 June 1729 [7]. This second expense account is considerably more detailed, listing items such as meat, sugar, artichoke, asparagus, eggs, salt and flour. The total costs are also higher at 912.38. If the currency is the same, this would suggest that either our itinerary is not a record of the expenses of Clementina’s journey, or they are, but the journey was undertaken more simply and cheaply (as is suggested by Baron von Stosch’s description). Whereas when she returned to Rome she was accompanied by her son, Lord and Lady Nithsdale, and all members of her Chamber, her servants and the servants of the king; a party of at least 25 people.[8] This return journey is also better documented with several sets of accounts for the servicing of the travellers, the gentlemen accompanying them, and for the horses. Furthermore, Clementina sent eight letters to her husband during the journey, the last from Civita Castellana on 4 June, receiving six from him.[9] However, the first journey did receive a notice in London’s Evening Post of 25 July 1727 while the second was reported in the London Monthly Chronicle (May 1729).

(RA SP Main/128 f.133)

We started our enquiry examining one document, pursuing the questions it raised in other documents in the same collection or in the State Papers. In doing so, we have glimpsed the structure and dynamics of the Jacobite court in exile in Italy [10]. The Stuart Papers provide an enormous amount of information on that court, particularly during its residence in Italy. These documents inform us on a court’s structure, control, administration and impact; on communications and relationships between courts across Europe; on individual figures within a working and social environment; and on daily life, devotion, eating habits, dress, furnishings, travel, and commerce. I chose just one document which intrigued me; now that I understand its significance, I find myself compelled to undertake that journey in a more concrete manner than via my imagination.

Note: The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle will be published in March 2018.

Further reading:
See the essays by Dr Gillespie, Dr Genet-Rouffiac and Professor Corp in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle.
Edward Corp, A Court in Exile: The Stuarts in France, 1689-1718 (Cambridge, 2004); The Jacobites at Urbino: An Exiled Court in Transition (Basingstoke, 2009); and The Stuarts in Italy, 1719-1766, (Cambridge, 2011).

[1] See RA SP Main/108 ff. 19 and 20. All documents are published in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle or State Papers Online: Eighteenth Century, Part 3.
[2] See Edward Corp, The Stuarts in Italy, 1719-1766, (Cambridge, 2011) p. 362.
[3] Confirmed in a letter of 4 July 1727. RA SP Main/108 f. 15.
[4] See SP 85/16 f. 281
[5] See RA SP Main/108 f. 81
[6] See SP 85/16 f. 285
[7] See RA SP Main/128 f. 133. James had returned in February, Prince Charles in April. The Queen’s return was the final stage of the return of the court to Rome. Further accounts drawn up by William Ellis can be seen at RA SP Main/128 ff. 159-161.
[8] See RA SP Box/3 Part 1, f. 78 and 84, and Corp, op. cit, p. 208.
[9] See RA SP Main/128 ff. 16, 35, 66, 121, 122 139, 141 and 156. From James, SP Main 128/ ff.13, 33, 64, 87, 106, 138, 142.
[10] The documents for the earlier period at St Germain-en-Laye were mostly lost during the French Revolution as explained in Professor Corp’s essay on the Jacobite government in exile in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle.