Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown

Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown

by Maureen Waller



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780340794616
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Canada
Publication date: 01/01/2002
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.53(h) x 1.77(d)

About the Author

Maureen Waller was educated at University College London, where she studied medieval and modern history. She received a master's degree at Queen Mary College, London, in British and European History 1660-1714. After a brief stay at the National Portrait Gallery, she went on to work as an editor at several prestigious London publishing houses. Her first book was the highly acclaimed 1700: Scenes from London Life. She lives in London with her husband, who is a journalist and author.

Read an Excerpt

Ungrateful Daughters

The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown

By Maureen Waller

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Maureen Waller
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8209-2


Queen Mary Beatrice

* * *

'It is strange to see how the Queen's great belly is everywhere ridiculed, as if scarce any body believed it to be true'

– Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon

In the balmy late summer of 1687 Bath received a royal visit. Every morning, to the strains of an Italian orchestra, the pale Queen Mary Beatrice and her attendants, wearing voluminous yellow canvas gowns to disguise the female shape, entered the sulphurous warmth of the Cross Bath for treatment. In the balconies above, men in cumbersome periwigs and women sporting black patches, mouchoirs held to noses to ward off the noxious fumes of the bath, leaned forward to watch the royal consort submerging herself in the waters believed to be so conducive to fertility. In the afternoons the Queen amused herself riding in her coach around the pleasant countryside bordering the River Avon, accompanied by her red-coated guards and a military tune. At her early evening drawing rooms, the gentry flocked to see the tall, willowy Italian Queen, who received them very graciously and allowed them to kiss her hand.

This pleasant interlude was interrupted in the first week of September by the arrival of King James II. He had been on a progress through the western counties, pausing with his Catholic priests to touch for the King's Evil, running his fingers over the swollen necks of those subjects suffering from scrofula – bovine tuberculosis – who flocked to the churches for the royal cure. As God's representative on earth, the monarch was believed to have the healing touch first manifested by his forbear, the Saxon King, St Edward the Confessor. The power of suggestion was obviously efficacious, because many believed they were cured by the royal touch. James, too, needed divine intervention. He had made a detour to St Winifrede's Well at Holywell in Flintshire to pray for a son.

Conception must have taken place almost immediately after the reunion. By the time the Queen returned to London in late October, she knew that the miracle had indeed occurred, and that she was expecting a child in either June or July 1688; the physicians thought the latter. News of the pregnancy began to leak out before Christmas. The Tuscan ambassador, Terriesi, heard the rumours. 'There is a strong hope that the reported pregnancy of the Queen will soon be confirmed,' he wrote, adding ominously: 'it would be impossible to describe the passion of those who do not desire it, nor the schemes and reflections of both parties, in case it should be true.'

The King and Queen, as devout Catholics, were convinced that the pregnancy was a miracle, and as such it was sure to bring the longed-for son and heir. The Roman Catholics could not conceal their glee, encouraged that the King's efforts to bring them into the political establishment and allow them freedom of worship would be perpetuated by a Catholic dynasty. The Protestants were seriously depressed for the same reason. They felt that the Catholics seemed a little too confident that the child would be a boy and survive. This attitude raised suspicions in some Protestant minds that the pregnancy was a hoax, a Catholic plot to foist a changeling on the nation and deny the true Protestant heirs the throne. Even if they did not believe such an absurd fabrication, it was convenient to pretend to do so.

The Protestant heirs were the King's two daughters by his previous marriage to Anne Hyde, the Princess Mary of Orange and her younger sister, the Princess Anne of Denmark, as well as his nephew and son-in-law, Prince William of Orange. William's claim as third in line was bolstered by his marriage to Princess Mary, but some argued that as the son of the eldest daughter of Charles I he had a better claim than James's daughters, whose mother was only a commoner. None of them was pleased at the news of the impending birth. As Terriesi told his master the Grand Duke of Tuscany: 'the Orangists, therefore, refuse to believe it ... or impudently declare it to be a fiction.'

Of all those who stood to lose by the birth of a Catholic heir, no one was more visibly affronted than the King's younger daughter, the Princess Anne, who was afraid for her beloved Anglican Church, and eaten up with jealousy and dislike for her stepmother. Terriesi noted during the Christmas festivities: 'No words can express the rage of the Princess of Denmark at the Queen's condition, she can dissimulate it to no one; and seeing that the Catholic religion has a prospect of advancement, she affects more than ever, both in public and in private to show herself hostile to it, and [to be] the most zealous of Protestants, with whom she is gaining the greatest power and credit at this conjunction.'

Rumours spread and pamphlets spilled out of presses – many of them in the Dutch Republic – questioning the reality or legitimacy of the royal baby. The die-hard core of opposition to James and his Catholic religion had used the same technique during the Queen's previous pregnancy in 1682, although their efforts were wasted on that occasion. The baby had been a daughter, so had not posed any threat to her sisters' place in the succession, and she had died within a few weeks of her birth. Now, in the winter of 1687, Mary Beatrice was understandably 'afflicted at hearing of the satires (which are already being published) against her; and indeed,' concluded the admiring Tuscan ambassador, 'most innocent in all her actions, she has never given cause to any one save to worship her.'

At Christmas 1687 the Queen's pregnancy was officially announced and a proclamation in the New Year appointed two days of public prayer for her: Sunday, 15 January in London and 29 January in the rest of the kingdom. That fervent Anglican and loyal supporter of the Crown, Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, uncle to the Princesses Mary and Anne, attended church at St James's Piccadilly, and was shocked at the behaviour of the congregation. Hardly anyone had bothered to bring the service sheet issued by the government with the order of prayers to be said for the Queen. Even worse, as Clarendon confided in his diary: 'it is strange to see how the Queen's great belly is everywhere ridiculed, as if scarce any body believed it to be true. Good God, help us!'

* * *

It was ridiculous for the Queen's detractors to infer that she was past her childbearing years. She was only twenty-nine years old. At the same time, it is hard to see how anyone could be sanguine about the outcome of the royal pregnancy. By 1688 Mary Beatrice had been married nearly fifteen years and had no surviving children to show for it. James had despaired many times that none of his sons would live. Those Protestants who chose to believe the rumours of a hoax did so out of a combination of fear and political expediency. Suspicion of Catholic intentions was so fierce by the third year of James's reign that some might genuinely have thought that the Catholics would stop at nothing to advance their religion. But no one who knew the Queen – least of all her stepdaughters, to whom she had always been kind – could seriously believe that she would perpetrate a lie.

James had still been Duke of York and a widower for two years when he married Princess Maria Beatrice Eleanora D'Este of Modena in the autumn of 1673. When Parliament got wind of the Catholic match, they angrily demanded that it be annulled. No good had ever come of a member of the royal family marrying a Catholic, they argued; such a marriage disturbed the minds of the King's Protestant subjects, encouraged alliances abroad detrimental to the Protestant religion, and increased the numbers of Catholics in the kingdom. This Princess was especially worrying, because her family was reported to be so close to the papal court.

As head of state and head of the family, Charles II refused to compromise his honour by reneging on his brother's marriage. It was too late. The marriage had taken place by proxy in Modena and the bride was on her way. Charles would not ask her to return to Modena. In truth, there were probably few eligible royal princesses in Europe who were not Catholic. And as a secret convert himself, it was understandable, although politically suicidal, that James wished to marry a fellow Catholic.

On a lighter note, James had also stipulated that his new bride must be beautiful. During his first marriage to Anne Hyde, James had been flagrantly unfaithful and, as his sworn enemy Gilbert Burnet observed, he was not always 'very nice in his choice'. The King maintained that his brother's mistresses were so ugly that his priests must have given them to him as penance. Charles was a cynic and found it hilarious that James wanted his wife to be beautiful. What did a wife's face matter when you saw it so often you ceased to notice it?

Henry Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough, was despatched to scour the courts of Europe, encumbered by a cache of jewellery worth £20,000, the Duke's wedding present to his bride. When Peterborough saw the portrait of the young Princess Maria Beatrice D'Este at the Paris home of her late aunt the Princess de Conti, he knew he had found his future Queen. As he recalled in his memoirs:

The Princess Mary of Este appear'd to be at this time about fourteen years of age; she was tall, and admirably shaped, her complexion was of the last fairness, her hair black as jet, so were her eyebrows and her eyes; but the latter so full of light and sweetness so they did dazzle and charm too. There seemed given unto them from nature, sovereign power; power to kill and power to save; and in the whole turn of her face, which was of the most graceful oval could be framed, there was all the features, all the beauty, and all that could be great and charming in any humane creature.

At the ducal court of Modena, Peterborough met with an unexpected rebuff. The prospective bride told him that she had never heard of England, nor of the Duke of York, and that she had no wish to marry. As soon as age permitted, she intended to take her vows as a nun in the convent next door. It was now that Pope Clement X intervened, the first time a papal brief had been addressed to one so young. He wrote in Latin, which the Princess understood well:

Ever since it reached Our ears that it was the intention of the Duke of York to make an alliance with your Nobility, We have been giving thanks to the Father of Mercies, Who ... is preparing for Us, in the Kingdom of England, an ample harvest of joy ... You will therefore understand, dear daughter in Christ, the anxiety which filled Us when We were informed of your repugnance for marriage. For although We appreciated that this was due to your desire, most laudable in itself, to embrace religious discipline; in the present circumstances it hinders the progress of religion, and We were sincerely grieved ... We therefore earnestly exhort you ... to reflect upon the great advantage which would accrue to the Catholic faith in the aforementioned Kingdom through your marriage, and trust that, inflamed with zeal for the good which may result, you will open to yourself a field of merit wider than that of the virginal cloister.

The reluctant Princess bowed her head in resignation. Peterborough stood in for the Duke of York when the proxy marriage took place at the ducal palace on 30 September 1673 before a vast crowd of nobility, followed by a sumptuous reception.

Peterborough immediately dashed off a letter assuring Charles II that he would find his new sister-in-law worthy of the honour he had done her. 'Sire, you will find this young princess to have beauty in her person and in her minde, to be faire tall, well-shap'd and very healthfull.' He also noted that the Italian Princess had beautiful white teeth, a rarity among the English. He warned the King that the widowed Duchess of Modena – Cardinal Mazarin's niece, the former Laura Martinozzi, whom Charles had known as a young man in exile in Paris – would be accompanying her daughter to England. She promised her stay would be short, however, and certainly planned to leave before the Parliament 'infuriato' - so hostile to the marriage – reconvened after Christmas.

According to Rachel, Lady Russell, James was in the drawing room at Whitehall with a group of courtiers when the French ambassador, Colbert de Croissy, brought in the letters announcing that the proxy marriage had taken place. James turned to his companions saying, 'Then I am a married man.' He immediately sent off a message to his elder daughter the Lady Mary that 'he had provided a playfellow for her.' Mary at eleven was barely four years younger than her new stepmother. From the mullioned windows of St James's Palace the Duke's daughters, Mary and Anne, might have seen the angry bonfires lit to protest at the marriage of their father to a Catholic.

The new Duchess of York began her journey to England on her fifteenth birthday, 5 October 1673. In France Louis XIV, who had done much to promote the marriage, gave her a splendid reception and took her on a tour of his new palace at Versailles. One of the reasons that the marriage was so unpopular with the English Parliament was that it was deemed to be part of the hated French alliance, and, indeed, Louis XIV was providing a proportion of the dowry. While Parliament was raging against the marriage in England, the bride was delayed in France owing to a bout of dysentery.

Eventually, on 21 November, she sailed to Dover on the yacht Catherine. James, with a small party of attendants, stood on the shore to meet her. As the young Duchess, tired and shaken by the rough crossing, stepped out of the boat, James came forward to greet her. She promptly burst into tears. To the fifteen-year-old girl, her forty-year-old bridegroom must have looked impossibly old. James was tall and fair like his grandmother Anne of Denmark, but his once handsome face betrayed years of debauchery and there was a sneer, a cruel curl to his lip. If she was disappointed, he was delighted with her. At a private house in the town, the Bishop of Oxford hastily read aloud the marriage contract, the Duke placed a ruby ring on her finger, and, as he so succinctly put it in his little red morocco-bound notebook with the engraved silver clasp, the bride was bedded that same night.

During the early days of her marriage, the new Duchess had a disconcerting habit of bursting into tears whenever she looked at her bridegroom, but she immediately liked her brother-in-law the King, who came in the royal barge to meet her at Greenwich. Charles II had the black eyes, the swarthy skin and saturnine features of his Medici ancestors and Mary Beatrice must have derived some comfort from this Italian affinity. Charles was always charming and gracious to women and he was full of admiration for his new sister-in-law's youth and beauty and good manners. He decided she was worth all the trouble she had caused him with his fractious Parliament.

As they progressed up the river, Mary Beatrice's uncle, Prince Rinaldo D'Este, was impressed by the number of ships acknowledging their passing, and Charles proudly showed the bride the magnificent city that had taken shape after the Great Fire of 1666. When they arrived at Whitehall Palace, he took her by the hand and led her inside, where Queen Catherine waited to greet her at the top of the stairs. The two women should have been friends if only because of their shared religion, but Catherine was less than welcoming to her new sister-in-law, seeing her as a young and beautiful woman who would probably bear an heir to the throne where she herself had failed.

After the sunlit ducal palace at Modena, Mary Beatrice would have found Whitehall dark, damp and depressing. Later she described it as the largest and most uncomfortable house in the world. The palace complex consisted of a rambling warren of buildings housing the royal and state apartments, private quarters and government offices, which stretched for half a mile along the River Thames. The only architectural splendour it could boast was Inigo Jones's Banqueting House with its Rubens ceiling depicting the divine status of the Stuart monarchy. The Banqueting House was a cruel reminder to the royal family of the fate of Charles I, for he had stepped from its balcony on to a public stage erected for his execution.


Excerpted from Ungrateful Daughters by Maureen Waller. Copyright © 2002 Maureen Waller. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Genealogical Tablexiv
Cast of Characters in the Royal Familyxvii
Author's Notexxiii
Part 1The Family
1.Queen Mary Beatrice11
2.Princess Anne of Denmark47
3.Princess Mary of Orange83
4.King James II119
5.Prince William of Orange159
Part 2The Revolution
6.The Birth of James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales189
9.The Takeover260
Part 3Consequences
10.The Quarrel293
11.An Untimely Death321
12.The Succession340
13.Broken Promises368

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