Jacobite Relics

Two fascinating Jacobite ‘relics’ from the collection of the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library were recently loaned to the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. The exhibition, the first major display on this theme in over 70 years, traced the ambitions of the Stuarts and their Jacobite supporters from the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 to the downfall of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746. It was a spectacular, ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ gathering of over 350 items: paintings, costumes, jewellery, documents, weapons and glassware loaned from a wide range of private and public collections such as the Musée du Louvre, V&A,  Royal Collection, British Museum, as well as the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Image credit the National Museums of Scotland

The loan of these manuscripts sparked further research into their provenance which forms the subject of an article in the current Jan/Feb 2018 issue of History Ireland magazine by this author.

When the last member of the Stuart dynasty, Henry, Cardinal Duke of York (brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie) died in Rome in 1807, many of the state papers held in his possession were purchased by the English crown. But the more personal family documents were retained by members of the Cardinal’s circle who then sold them off, piecemeal, to eager visitors taking the grand tour. Among these was the Irish collector Blayney Townley Balfour (1799-1882) of Townley Hall near Drogheda. While in Rome in 1842, he purchased, among other miscellaneous Jacobite souvenirs, the two manuscripts loaned by Trinity to the Edinburgh exhibition.

TCD MS 3529

The first of these (TCD MS 3529) is the Book of Private Devotions of James II. This is a small, confessional volume of letters, prayers and memoirs written in James’s own hand and mostly dated 1698-1700. Written around eight years on from his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, James was then nearing the end of his life, in exile in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where he was subsidised by Louis XIV of France. The volume provides a window into the deposed King’s psychological state and pious obsessions. At one point he proffers advice on how best to spend one’s leisure time: through prayer, meditation and good books. Also admissible as leisure-time pursuits are matters of business, (moderate) hunting, shooting, and tennis (but only for exercise and the desirable company it could afford). James particularly advises against attending balls, operas and plays but concedes that ‘if obliged at any time to go to any of them, to governe one’s [eyes] with discretion, and to let one’s thoughts be of the vanity of them’.  In the Edinburgh exhibition the volume was displayed underneath two wall sconces and alongside a service book (belonging also to James, and his queen, Mary of Modena) loaned from the Royal collection. Also in the case were his spectacles case, along with a pair of contemporary spectacles, loaned by the V&A – in short, the personal effects that the exiled king would have likely kept on his bedside table.

TCD MS 7574

The second manuscript on loan from Trinity (TCD MS 7574) is the marriage certificate of James II’s son, James III (the ‘Old Pretender’) and the 17-year-old Polish princess Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702-1735) – the parents of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Its elaborate frontispiece bears the combined Stuart and Sobieski coats of arms above a hilltop village probably intended to represent Montefiascone, near Lake Bolsena, north of Rome – the  venue for the wedding, and summer residence of the then Pope, Clement XI. That the union took place at all is nothing short of remarkable given the events that led up to it played out like a Hollywood blockbuster: the couple were pursued across Europe by the agents of King George and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI leading to an ambush, an imprisonment, and a jailbreak, with a maid in disguise, lost jewels, false identities, forged passports, broken axles, and the spiking of some hapless pursuers’ drinks all thrown in for good measure.

TCD MS 7574

One advantage in gathering together so many items from different institutions is that manuscripts can be displayed alongside other objects related to the same event. Accordingly, the Edinburgh exhibition also featured a silver medal struck to commemorate the tumultuous rescuing of Maria Clementina Sobieska en route to her wedding, as well as portraits of the bride and groom, and a print of the marriage ceremony itself. The whole affair caused a sensation throughout Europe, but did not furnish its well-deserved fairy tale ending as the couple separated soon after their two sons were born.

International loans of manuscripts are never undertaken lightly; they incur a number of complex arrangements and advance preparation. In this case, work began in the summer of 2016 when Trinity granted the initial loan request. Library staff then liaised with their counterparts at the National Museum of Scotland as well as with exhibition designers, conservators and art handlers in negotiating loan agreements, facilities reports, insurance documentation, export licences, courier itineraries and receipts.

The two manuscripts were also photographed in their entirety by Digital Resources and assessed and treated in Conservation ahead of their Scottish journey. When the day of installation finally dawns, however, a great sense of camaraderie shared between the colleagues from all the contributing institutions makes up for the lengthy practicalities that arise from such an ambitious undertaking. Such high-profile loans to well publicised exhibitions enhance the participating institutions’ international reputation as well as offering wider public access to the display items. Other major, recent loans from the Library include the papyrus fragment PAP.F.18 to the Nero exhibition in Trier and a selection of Oscar Wilde items to an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris.

The Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition ran at The National Museum of Scotland June-November 2017. https://www.nms.ac.uk/jacobites

Estelle Gittins

Scotland the Brave: Manuscripts from Scotland

TCD MS 226 f4r

TCD MS 226 f4r

As Scotland makes an historic decision today, this is a good opportunity to highlight some of the sources for the study of Scottish history within the M&ARL collections.

TCD MS 498 p320

TCD MS 498 p320

Displayed here is a page of a fifteenth-century copy of the earliest attempt to write a continuous history of Scotland: John de Fordun’s Scotichronicon (TCD MS 498). Fordun wrote his history in response to the removal and destruction of many national records by the English King Edward III, grandson of the infamous ‘Hammer of the Scots’, Edward I. The page shown features an account of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297, when the forces of William Wallace and Andrew de Moray defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 7th earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressynghame, near Stirling on the river Forth.

 

TCD MS 1289 p313

TCD MS 1289 p313

Also in the M&ARL collection are two copies of the Senchus fer n-Alban, (TCD MS 1289 and 1298), a genealogical text originating from the oral tradition and codified in later manuscripts. The Senchus provides both a mythical and historical record of the ‘history of the men of Scotland’ from their Dal Riata origins and, in a description of an encounter in 719 AD, includes the earliest reference to a naval battle off British shores.

 

TCD MS 226 f3r

TCD MS 226 f3r

TCD MS 226 is a beautiful twelfth-century religious manuscript of the sermons of St Augustine and other texts originating from Kelso Abbey in the Scottish Borders. The text is heavily decorated and as such is a rare survival among Scottish medieval manuscripts.

 

TCD MS 7574

TCD MS 7574

The M&ARL collection also contains what might be termed as ‘Jacobite relics’, including the elaborate marriage certificate of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s parents, ‘The Old Pretender’, James III to Maria Clementina Sobieski in 1719 (TCD MS 7574). There is also an early manuscript copy of Robert Burns’ poem ‘Address to the Deil [devil]’ (TCD MS 10664 p 95) contained in a volume of poems by William Young, curate of Magheraculmoney, Co Fermanagh, 1720-c1757.

M&ARL holds nineteenth-century tour journals of trips to Scotland and political papers including those of James Connolly (TCD MS 11074) executed in 1916. Connolly was born in Edinburgh and had links to the Scottish socialist movement. M&ARL also holds the papers of Michael Davitt (TCD MS 9535), who became involved in the Crofters’ war of the 1880s and toured Scotland in 1882.

Of course the most famous manuscript with a Scottish link is the Book of Kells, which may have been produced, in part, on Iona, off the coast of Scotland, by Irish monks in the ninth century.

Estelle Gittins