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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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3 The Rescue and Escape of Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska (Richard K. Maher)



It can be a rare occasion to find an episode of history as audacious and spectacular as the one described in the title of this paper. Accounts of the rescue and escape of Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska have been retold and reproduced in many forms over the years since the events themselves. Space considerations have ruled out the reproduction of one of the original accounts in this volume; it is, however, important to include a version of the events themselves to contextualise the other papers for our readers, but also to help bring the extraordinary events to renewed public attention. The author here offers a condensed but no less dramatic version which is based entirely on Sir Charles Wogan’s Mémoires sur l’enterprise d’Innsbruck en 1719, which he had written and presented to Queen Marie Leszczyńska of France, cousin of Queen Clementina, in Paris on 4 March 1745. Cathy Winch translated and published this version in a bilingual format in 2008, which has been immensely useful in the preparation of this paper.1 The paper is almost the same as was recounted on the occasion of the public seminar held on 30 April 2019 at Europe House ←61 | 62→in Dublin to commemorate the tercentenary of Clementina’s rescue and escape, with minor stylistic adaptations suitable for its transmission in a printed format. The author forgoes the opportunity to expand and contextualise the events and provide an analysis of the various versions of the rescue here, but encourages interested...

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