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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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6 Clementina Sobieska at the Jacobite Court (Edward Corp)



The marriage of Clementina Sobieska with the exiled King James III produced two Stuart princes, Charles, Prince of Wales (the future Bonnie Prince Charlie) and Henry, Duke of York (the future Cardinal York)*. In all other respects it was a complete failure, and in January 1726, a little over six years after her wedding, Clementina informed her father that for the last six years she had been neglected and scorned, and had suffered a kind of living death.1

To understand what went wrong it is necessary to know about the leading personalities at the exiled court when the marriage was negotiated in 1718, and in particular to examine the frame of mind of James III himself. Until that has been done one cannot begin to understand the predicament which Clementina faced when she joined the Stuart court at Rome.

By 1718 James had suffered a series of terrible disappointments. A planned Franco-Jacobite invasion of Scotland had failed in 1708. His expectation of succeeding his half-sister Anne when she died in 1714 had come to nothing. The Jacobite risings in Scotland and northern England in 1715–1716 had been defeated. He had been forced to leave France, then Lorraine and Avignon, and take refuge in the Papal States, because the French court had withdrawn its support, especially after the death of Louis XIV. And by 1717 he was living in the relatively remote city of Urbino, feeling cut off from direct contact with any princes...

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