The lost Jacobite Princess

September 30 2011

Image of The lost Jacobite Princess

Picture: Philip Mould Ltd

Bit of a plug this one, but art history news nonetheless. Above is a c.1701 portrait of Princess Louise-Marie Stuart (1692-1712) by Francois de Troy. She was the youngest daughter of James II, and was born in exile in France after her Catholic father was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The supporters of James II, and his descendants the 'Old Pretender' James III and the 'Young Pretender' Bonnie Prince Charlie, were known as the Jacobites. 

We recently bought the picture in France, where, like so many Jacobite portraits, the identity had been changed to a French sitter. The portrait is known in an engraving, and at least two other variants, one in the Fleming Collection, and that sold recently at Sotheby's, which may have been painted a little earlier. The Sotheby's picture had an interesting provenance - it belonged to Princess Sophia of Hanover, the 'rival' Protestant Stuart descendant and mother of George I - the man the Jacobites tried repeatedly to depose.

There was some talk of the young George I marrying Louise-Marie, to unite the two branches of the family. But she died unmarried of smallpox at the age of 19. Her life must have been a sad and strange one - feted as a royal princess, but with none of the power, wealth or dignity of a real one. She lived at the Chateau of Saint-Germain-en-Laye outside Paris. I went there this summer - it is a grim place, not unlike Wandsworth Prison (where I haven't been).

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