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The Irish to the Rescue

The Tercentenary of the Polish Princess Clementina’s Escape

Edited By Richard Maher

In May 1719, the rescue and escape of Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska from her detention in Innsbruck was celebrated throughout Catholic Europe. It was a feat of painstaking planning, daring execution, and steel-nerved improvisation. Masterminded by Kildareman Charles Wogan, he and his Irish and French companions influenced the course of international relations, shocking King George I’s government in London, and providing a much-needed boon to the followers of the exiled Stuart claimant, James Stuart III.

This unique collection of essays does not merely recount the factual story of Maria Clementina’s rescue and subsequent marriage, it provides for the first time in any publication an authoritative analysis of its political and cultural significance and the full historical context in which the event took place. A full image of Europe at the time of the rescue is sketched out, including such topics as the question of the Irish in Europe in the eighteenth century; the illustrious Sobieski family and their origins; a short account of the rescue itself; the fate of Charles Wogan and

his followers after the rescue; the Habsburg-Hanoverian alliance and its context; the marriage of James Stuart III and Maria Clementina Sobieska; details of the collection of Stuart artefacts housed at Trinity College Dublin; and contemporary musical compositions which were written and dedicated to Maria Clementina.

This book is a follow-on publication from a public seminar titled The Irish the Rescue: The Tercentenary of the Polish Princess Clementina’s Escape. The seminar was held at Europe House in Dublin on 30th April 2019.

The seminar and the publication of its proceedings have been generously sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ireland and the Embassy of France in Ireland.

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Introduction (Mary Ann Lyons)



It has all the elements of a swashbuckling adventure. It is 1719 and all over Europe, from Ireland to Russia, loyal supporters of the House of Stuart (Jacobites) are feverishly engaged in all manner of intrigue and complex conspiracy aimed at restoring their exiled monarch, James Francis Edward Stuart (James III) to the kingdoms of Britain and Ireland. Seeking a bride for his exiled master, an Irish Jacobite officer named Charles Wogan travels incognito throughout central Europe and finally reaches Ohlau, residence of the illustrious Sobieski family. There he meets the beautiful young royal Polish Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska whose father agrees to the match. However, the reigning king of Britain and Ireland, George I, fearing that the marriage will produce a new generation of rival Stuart claimants to the throne, persuades the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to have the young princess arrested while en route to the Italian states to marry her prince: she is confined against her will in Innsbruck, deep within imperial territory. But then, having obtained the secret approval of both Maria Clementina and her father Prince James Louis, the heroic Jacobite officer, together with his companions, defies logistics and atrocious weather conditions, snatches the princess from her captors and spirits her away on treacherous mountain roads across the Alps to safety in Bologna. The couple are finally united and marry in Montefiascone, north of Rome, in September 1719. Afterwards, the newlyweds take up residence in Rome at the special invitation of Pope...

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