The Stuart family’s fate and their association with Catholicism in Scotland played a vital part in the development of Scotland’s history. The Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust holds many fascinating artefacts relating to this period.

James Francis Edward Stuart (1688 – 1766), the great great grandchild of Mary Queen of Scots, was the first of the Stuart descendants to attempt to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which saw his Catholic father James II & VII deposed in favour of his Protestant Daughter Mary I. Living in exile in France, James travelled to the island in 1715 to reclaim his thrones with the assistance of his Jacobite supporters. His bid was ultimately unsuccessful and he returned to Europe to live out the rest of his life in exile. 

The painting Portrait of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart in our collection dates from 1723, after his unsuccessful campaign. It is a propaganda painting, one of many commissioned by the exiled Jacobite Court in Rome and sent to remaining supporters in Britain. In it, James is shown standing in armour, pointing his baton to a map of Britain. He stands by the sea, which is filled with a flotilla of ships. This suggests that the portrait is intended to say to Jacobite supporters that the ‘King over the water’ will return.

James married Maria Clementina Sobieska, a Polish princess with a sizable dowery, in 1719. As seen in our Portrait of Maria Clementina Sobieska, she was known for her beauty and charm. She soon gave birth to Charles Edward Stuart (1720 - 1788) and Henry Benedict Stuart (1725 – 1807). 

Better known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, Charles Edward Stuart was prepared from birth to reclaim the thrones of Britain. Throughout his childhood, the Jacobite Court commissioned numerous portraits of him to send to their Jacobite supporters. We hold four distinct portraits of the young prince, including a copy of Antonio David's handsome portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aged 12, found in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. 

Charles returned to Britain to instigate the Jacobite Rising in 1745. After finding initial success in capturing Edinburgh and at the Battle of Prestonpans, Jacobite forces made it as south as Derbyshire before returning to Scotland where they faced a crushing and definitive defeat against government forces at the Battle of Culloden. ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ fled through the Scottish Highlands with government forces in hot pursuit. He was assisted by Angus Macdonald of Barrowdale, who provided him shelter during his flight to Skye. Macdonald’s assistance was rewarded through the gift of a silver snuff box and ring containing Charles Edward Stuart’s hair, both in the possession of the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust.

The defeat at Culloden effectively ended the Stuart claim to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. As seen in our Portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, he became a bitter old man, unable to let go of his failure to his family and cause. Charles’ daughter Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany, whose childhood portrait is showcased on Charles’ pocket watch, was unable to claim the throne due to her illegitimacy. The claim was also abandoned by his brother Prince Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, who entered the Catholic Church and became a Cardinal as well as Dean of the College of Cardinals. His portrait can also be found with in our collection.