AMONG the illustrious dead in St. Peter’s it is startling to come upon a tomb marked King of England, and see beneath the British coat of arms, the well-known faces of “Bonny Prince Charlie,” his father and his brother. The question at once presents itself of by what chance these last of England’s Stuarts were buried so far from home?
James II., the Catholic King of England, had two daughters, Mary and Anne, who expected to succeed him, and one can understand their disappointment when their father married again and had by his second wife, a boy, the ill-fated James III. in the picture. The birth of that infant made the scandal of London, for his jealous step-sisters Mary and Anne, insinuated that the child was spurious, having been smuggled into the room in a warming-pan, hence he could never be an heir for a kingdom. Old English papers of the latter part of the seventeenth century have caricatures of and allusions to warming-pans, for the story of this one changed history. Then, too, the nation grew so incensed at James’ bigoted wish to make all England Catholic, that he was finally forced to flee for his life, and taking his young wife and the much slandered boy, he sought refuge of Louis XIV. in France, while his two faithless daughters carried out their plans and took their places in history as Queen Mary and Queen Anne of England.
James IT., “the football of fortune,” died in exile in France, and his son was given the title there of the “Pretendant,” a claimant for a throne, but the English, in a spirit of contempt, translated it as the Pretender, meaning a false aspirant, and by that ignominious title he lived and died. He made several unsuccessful attempts to recover his father’s kingdom, but owing to lack of energy, or courage, finally gave up the struggle. He had married the high-spirited Clementine Sobrieska, of Poland, who protested during a few years of neglect, and then betook herself and her trouble to a convent, leaving her two little boys with their fatherthe three heads pictured on the tomb. They had made their home in the Palace of the Apostles in Rome, as the Pope, in his eagerness to see a Catholic rule in England, gave the Pre-tender a pension, and befriended him at every turn until he proved unworthy of his bounty.
The two little boys, owing to the disputes between their parents, had their early education by spasmodic attempts, and consequently the older grew up narrow-minded, petulant and conceited, with so unstable a character that he collapsed under the pressure of adversity. Yet he was loved all the better for his faults, and was so magnetic and idealized that a halo of romance always surrounded him, and in his desperate efforts to regain the lost kingdom of his father he had such brilliant ventures that one always loves to hear the ballads and tales of “Bonnie Prince Charlie.”
Leaving his home in Rome, he landed with a few followers in Scotland, while his rival, King George II., was away. Edinburg was en fete in his honor, and received him with open arms. The small, but loyal party who had awaited the return of the Pretender, his father, swore undying allegiance to him, while the women made a god of the handsome young heir with such winning manners, who had come into his own again. England, however, cannot be won with a guinea and six thou-sand Highlanders, and in the famous battle of Culloden, in 1746, his cause was lost forever. His escape to the coast was most exciting; after defeat came desertion from all sides, and he fled for his life disguised sometimes as a clergyman, often as a woman and finally as the maid of the Scotch heroine, Flora Macdonald. Hardship and hunger followed him, and sickness came fast after them, yet there was always found some doting woman willing, fora smile from the dashing young adventurer, to risk her life nursing him. Wine, women and song were the undoing of “Eonnie Prince Charlie,” but he never lost his belief in himself, and the “divine right” of a Stuart king made him act, even in prison, like the ruler of the universe.
As with Napoleon, it is to be regretted that he could not have died on the battle-field, for he lived on thirty years after his defeat, and returned to Rome, that he had left a promising hero, a poor, old, forsaken, dissipated exile. The last of his life was the worst of all, for false to his adherents, he turned Protestant, and in order to provide an heir for his party, went through a marriage with Louise of Stolberg, called the Countess of Albany, whom he so abused in his drunken rages that she sought refuge with the poet Alfieri.
The exile died in Frascati, a suburb of Rome, where a monument in the church tells the story. The end is a striking contrast to the beginning, yet the memory of his early courage and ambition, makes the loyal Highlanders forget the darker side, and remembering only that he should by rights have been their king, they listen with a feeling of longing when the strains are played of “Will you no’ come back again?”
His younger brother inherited his rights, but had followed in the religious footsteps of his mother Clementine, and had become the Cardinal of York. He made no attempt to recover the lost throne, but con-tented himself by wearing a medal which said, “King of England by grace of God, but not by will of man!” When he died he was placed by the Pope in this tomb in St. Peter’s with his father and brother. It is the work of the celebrated sculptor Canova, and the marble figures of the angels of light with inverted torches have taken with time the hue of ivory and are rarely beautiful, while, as Hawthorne said, it is so impressive because it seems as if the last of a race had passed in, and then the door had closed’ forever.
On the other side of St. Peter’s rests another remarkable exile, Queen Christina of Sweden. As she was the daughter of their hero-king, Gustavus Adolphus, who died fighting for’ the Protestants in Germany, the world was electrified when she renounced the faith he had striven so long to promulgate, and proclaimed her conversion to the Catholic church. She was a woman of colossal intellect, but state duties became so obnoxious to her that she boldly announced she would rather see the devil than her secretary with his papers. Her entreaties to abdicate were refused until she plunged into such a career of vice and dissipation that the horrified Swedes were only too glad to give her up. After a great ceremony of abdication to her cousin, which is carved on the marble of her tomb, she donned man’s attire and went forth to see the world. She saw it very thoroughly from every side, but was an unwelcomed guest at all courts, and after she had one of her followers put to death at Fontainebleau, Louis XIV. hinted to her that her rooms were more desirable than her company.
She lived for many years in Rome in the splendid old Corsini Palace, enjoying a pension from the Pope, who thus showed his appreciation of so brilliant a convert to the faith, and she gathered about her there an unrivaled art collection. At picture sales today one often reads in the catalogue that such and such a painting was formerly in the possession of Christina of Sweden, and some of her precious manuscripts are now shown at the Vatican. In the Piazza del Popolo, where everyone goes to enter the park called the Pincio, stands the triumphal gate erected by Bernini in 1665, in honor of her arrival in Rome, for her advent made a red-letter day for the city, as this arch still testifies. She was masculine in all her ways, boasted she never spent more than a quarter of an hour at her toilet, and while her face al-ways inspired terror, her learning was the wonder of Europe. Famous men sought her salon, but respectable women feared to risk their reputations in her company. After her death the Pope placed her in St. Peter’s, and over her tomb hangs her medallionthat of a bold, eccentric woman, who defied all the world.
Far away in a quiet corner of Rome, called the Protestant Cemetery, lie two more noted exilesKeats and Shelley. The ashes of the latter were brought there in 1822, after his shipwreck, for he said once that “It might make one in love with death to be buried in so sweet a place.” Violets are growing now over his simple tomb, while his devoted friend, Trelawny, was laid beside him a few years ago with this inscription:
“These are two friends whose lives were undivided, So let their memory be, now they have glided Under the grave; let not their bones be parted For their two hearts in life were single-hearted.”
Here, too, are the graves of Constance Fenimore Woolson, William and Mary Howitt, and the tomb of Mrs. W. W. Story was her husband, the sculptor’s, last work before he was laid beside her in 1895. It is absolutely the most beautiful thing one could imagine in marble. A really heavenly angel, over-some with grief, lies prostrate across the tomb, while her exquisite arm falls over the edge, and it looks as though she had just dropped quietly the little white violets that are blossoming on the grave.
Keats’ resting place in the old part of the grounds tells a wonderful story. This poet, who wrote the oft-quoted line, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” died in great distress and poverty after a heartrending struggle for fame in a house on the Scala di Spagna in 1821. Underneath the broken lyre on his monument are these tragic words: “This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who, on his death-bed, in the bitterness of his heart at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraven on his tombstone: `Here lies one whose name was writ in water’.”
One is filled with pity and regret that he could not have foreseen how the house in Rome would be marked with a tablet because he had lived there, and that travelers from all over the world would come to pay tribute to his verse. Then one sees a little to the left of the grave a marble slab over which a curtain of ivy is draping itself, and these glowing words have been inscribed by his countless admirers:
“Keats, if thy cherished name be writ in water,
Each drop has fallen from some mourner’s cheek. A sacred tribute, such as heroes seek,
Though oft in vain, for dazzling deeds of slaughter. Sleep on! Not honored less for epitaph so meek.”
Then one realizes that time has avenged the memory of John Keats.