Church Monuments Society

Benedict VII's monument to James III and his sons

The tomb of King James III of England and his sons, Rome

Month: November 2023
Type: Stone carving  
Era: 19th Century

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St Peter's Basilica
Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City

More about this monument

Nineteenth-century memorial to the last direct line of the Stuart dynasty

King James II & VII’s abdication in 1688 was followed by two generations of exiled, impecunious and frustrated Stuarts wandering the Catholic royal courts of Europe while plotting their restoration.  His only surviving son, James Francis Edward Stuart, was born that same year, and is known to history as the Old Pretender: after his father’s death in 1701 he styled himself James III & VIII.

James III had two sons, Charles Edward (the Young Pretender, born 1719) and Henry Benedict (born 1725).  Following the disastrous failure of the ’45, Henry decided that his vocation lay in the Church.  Given his connections, he was duly ordained and appointed a Cardinal.  When his older brother died in 1788, Henry styled himself Henry IX, though he seemed content to remain a cleric.  Henry died, the last of the Stuart Pretenders, in 1807.

In 1819 Pope Benedict VII transferred the bodies of James III’s sons to St Peter’s to join their father, and commissioned Canova to erect a monument over them – a monument to dead hope.  The future George IV contributed £50!

Andrew Sargent