The Cook, a Journey, the Queen, and Her Husband—a Snippet from Exiled Jacobite Court History

By Julia de Mowbray

Julia de Mowbray is a publisher at Gale, a Cengage Company. She finds her job, working with academics, librarians, and colleagues in-house to research and define new online archives of primary sources, endlessly interesting. When not at work, she can be found in her garden in the country, weeding, digging, or simply sitting in the sun and reading.


While reviewing the content in the online archive The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives Windsor Castle, one document caught my eye: a plan of a journey with daily stops for meals or a night’s rest. Descriptions of journeys and itineraries, plotting out where someone traveled at a particular time, especially from earlier centuries, can transport me back to that time—placing my feet on that road or piazza, in that carriage or train—to experience the same journey in my imagination.


But what did this document tell us? There’s a date at the top with the title of the document, “Parti de Rome pour Bologna le 6 Juillet 1727” (Departure from Rome for Bologna, 6 July 1727). The document is now bound in a volume of The Stuart Papers, the papers of the Stuart Court of James II in exile and his heirs.


RA SP Main 108 f.47.

The Journey

The itinerary starts:
“6 July: Dinner at Castelnuovo; Supper and Bed at Civita Castelana.
7 July: a stop at Otricoli, Dinner at Narni” and so forth.

It lists stops and meals for every day until July 15, traveling through Terni, Montagne de Somme, Spoleti, Foligno, Castel Mario, Seravalle, Valcimara, Tolentino, Macerata, Loretto, Olmo d’Ancona, Senegaglia, Pesaro, Rimini, Savignano, Sesana, Forli, Imola, and Castel San Pietrò (outside Bologna). I plotted the route on a map. It shows the journey avoided the shortest route via Florence in favor of one from Rome through the Apennines to the Adriatic coast at Ancona, following the coast up to Rimini before moving inland again to Bologna. This route would’ve ensured the travelers stayed within the Papal States.


The journey plotted on a map.

What was this journey? Who was traveling and why? We have two main clues: the route and its direction and the date.

The Queen

James III, son of the exiled James II and VII of Great Britain, had left the Palazzo del Re in Rome on September 27, 1726, and transferred his court temporarily to Bologna. At this point, the queen, Clementina Sobieska, was lodging in the convent of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome. She’d moved out of the Palazzo del Re in protest at not having control over her own household—the usual arrangement for a queen—or over the education of her two sons, and against the dominance of John and Marjory Hay and James Murray over both households.

By January 1727, James hadn’t returned to Rome, nor had he resolved the dispute with his wife, who remained in the convent. The Pope, who’d been funding James’s court, decided to reduce his pension and make over two-fifths directly to Clementina. This move pressured James into making concessions to his wife. The Hays left the court and moved to Pistoia on April 5. However, it took until June for James to agree on the queen’s household.

Finally reconciled, the plan was for Clementina to travel to Bologna to join her husband and take charge of her household there. In early July, James made arrangements for the household himself, without consulting her.1 It would be led by Lord Nithsdale, the Catholic senior member of the court, who served as first gentleman of the queen’s bedchamber from 1719‒35.2 His wife, Lady Nithsdale, governess to Henry, Duke of York, was sent from Bologna to Rome to meet the queen and accompany her to Bologna.3 The date Clementina left Rome is variably recorded as either July 7 or 8. She was given money for the journey by the Pope and accompanied to the Porta del Popolo by the principessas di Piombino and Pamphili.

An intelligence report to London by “John Walton” (alias Baron von Stosch, a Prussian antiquarian employed by Walpole’s government to spy on the Jacobite court in Rome) written on July 10 stated that the Pope had received a letter from James on the evening of July 6 informing him of the death of George I, news that had just been received from Paris, and asking him to visit Clementina to inform her and ask her to hasten her journey to Bologna to take care of the education of their sons in his absence, while he, James, departed to take possession of his kingdom.4 Von Stosch continues remarking that the king’s (George I’s) death on June 11 was publicly known in Rome three weeks previously. However, he reports that, in response to James’s letter, the Pope sent dispatches on July 7 to Madrid, Paris, and Vienna to exhort the Catholic monarchs to join forces to put James on the throne of Great Britain.

A letter from James Murray, Earl of Dunbar, then Governor of Prince Charles, to James III dated the evening of Monday, July 14, provides evidence of Clementina’s arrival in Bologna. He writes that the queen “surprised us by her unexpected arrival at the Villa [Villa Alamandini outside Bologna] on Sunday at one in the morning. She is, blessed be God, in good health but much fatigued by her journey. She is inclined to live here and not in town, and as I am told, intends to live very retiringly and see little or no company . . . and as to the accidents and circumstances of her journey the bearer can give you full information.”5

Further information on Clementina’s journey is supplied by Baron von Stosch’s intelligence report of July 17 from Rome, which doesn’t describe “accidents,” but provides a picture of some of the circumstances: “The Princess Sobieska received two express letters from her husband between Rome and Bologna, showing that the Pretender is not that far from Italy.6 She was put in one of the most ordinary post chaise, poorly dressed, with a mask over her face. Accompanying her in the carriage was a chambermaid. Escorting the convoy were Irish officers including the Colonel of the Irish militia from Pistoia, MacMahon.”

The Cook

Returning to our original itinerary: There’s an endorsement on the back of the document that states that these are Mr. Creagh’s accounts. The reference number of this document has been added to the author index card in the Royal Archives for Matthew Creagh, and consequently his name is on the metadata title for the document. Matthew Creagh is listed in the documents as an employee of the exiled Stuart Court in Italy. He worked in the kitchens and was responsible for arranging meals. A letter to his wife, dated nine years earlier on November 10, 1718, from Ferrara, contains Creagh’s explanation that he’d been sent there “to make the necessary preparation for food” for the arrival and stay of the queen (Clementina Sobieska) before her marriage to the king. Other documents citing Matthew or Mathieu Creagh’s name are receipts for silver plate or materials for the kitchens. The handwriting of our document doesn’t closely resemble that of his letter to his wife, but it is nine years later, so it’s possible it’s in his hand or that this account was written for him. There was another Creagh at the court, the clerk of the queen’s chamber, Robert Creagh, recorded in the household at St-Germain onward, but would he have written up the account? The itinerary shows the total costs for the journey were 42.59 Scudi(?).

RA SP Main 108 f.47v.

A Second Journey

The Stuart Papers also include the costs of Clementina’s return journey to Rome with her younger son, Henry Benedict, from May 18 to June 5, 1729.7 This second expense account is considerably more detailed, listing items such as meat, sugar, artichoke, asparagus, eggs, salt, and flour. The total costs are also higher, at 912.38. If the currency is the same, this would suggest that either our itinerary isn’t a record of the expenses of Clementina’s journey, or they are, but the journey was undertaken more simply and cheaply (as is suggested by Baron von Stosch’s description). When she returned to Rome, she was accompanied by her son, Lord and Lady Nithsdale, and all members of her chamber, her servants, and the servants of the king—a party of at least 25 people.8 This return journey is also better documented, with several sets of accounts for the servicing of the travelers, the gentlemen accompanying them, and the horses. Furthermore, Clementina sent eight letters to her husband during the journey, the last from Civita Castellana on June 4, receiving six from him.9 However, the first journey did receive a notice in London’s Evening Post of July 25, 1727, while the second was reported in the London Monthly Chronicle in May 1729.


RA SP Main 128 f.133.

We started our inquiry examining one document, pursuing the questions it raised in other documents in the same collection or in the State Papers. In doing so, we’ve glimpsed the structure and dynamics of the Jacobite Court in exile in Italy.10 The Stuart Papers provide an enormous amount of information on that court, particularly during its residence in Italy. These documents inform us on a court’s structure, control, administration, and impact; on communications and relationships between courts across Europe; on individual figures within a working and social environment; and on daily life, devotion, eating habits, dress, furnishings, travel, and commerce. I chose just one document that intrigued me; now that I understand its significance, I find myself compelled to undertake that journey in a more concrete manner than via my imagination.

Note: The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle was published in March 2018.


Further reading:
See the essays by Dr. Gillespie, Dr. Genet-Rouffiac, and Professor Corp in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle.
Edward Corp, A Court in Exile: The Stuarts in France, 1689‒1718 (Cambridge: 2004); The Jacobites at Urbino: An Exiled Court in Transition (Basingstoke: 2009); and The Stuarts in Italy, 1719‒1766 (Cambridge: 2011).

1. RA SP Main 108 ff. 19 and 20. All documents are published in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle or State Papers Online: Eighteenth Century, Part III.
2. Edward Corp, The Stuarts in Italy, 1719‒1766, (Cambridge: 2011), 362.
3. Confirmed in a letter of July 4, 1727. RA SP Main/108 f.15.
4. SP 85/16 f.281.
5. RA SP Main 108 f.81.
6. SP 85/16 f.285.
7. RA SP Main 128 f.133. James had returned in February, Prince Charles in April. The queen’s return was the final stage of the return of the court to Rome. Further accounts drawn by William Ellis can be seen at RA SP Main 128 ff. 159‒161.
8. RA SP Box 3 Part 1, f. 78 and 84, and Corp, op. cit, 208.
9. RA SP Main 128 ff. 16, 35, 66, 121, 122, 139, 141, and 156. From James, SP Main 128 ff. 13, 33, 64, 87, 106, 138, and 142.
10. The documents for the earlier period at St.-Germain-en-Laye were mostly lost during the French Revolution, as explained in Professor Corp’s essay on the Jacobite government in exile in The Stuart and Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle.

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