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Chapter 5
This webpage reproduces part of
Roehenstart
A Late Stuart Pretender

by George Sherburn


published by
The University of Chicago Press
1960

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 7

p51 Chapter Six

The Memorial (1816)

Roehenstart spent most of the early months of 1816 on the Continent, in the sort of wandering life that Prince von Hohenlohe had thought unpleasant. He visited Florence, Ascoli, Venice, and Vienna, spending some time in the last-named city. He had appealed to the Duchess of Württemberg with no success. A Venetian banker sent him £50 in May on the supposition that a credit on Russia for £150 would be forthcoming, though at the time no word had come from St. Petersburg. Toward the end of 1816 from London Roehenstart sent another appeal to Duchess Antoinette — with no response.

During the fortnight spent at Ascoli in an attempt to get sight of Countess Norton's papers, he may have received official notification from the Grande Chancellerie of the Legion d'Honneur in Paris of a new distinction. Translated from the French the document reads as follows:

Paris   17 May 1816

I have the honor to inform you, Monsieur le Comte, that upon my report, the King on 16 May 1816 has deigned to authorize you to wear the decoration of the Grand Cross of the chapitral Order of the Ancient Nobility and of the Four Emperors and that of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Holstein.

Receive, Monsieur le Comte, assurance and perfect consideration

The Marshal Duke of Tarantoº

Minister of State

Grand Chancellor of the Royal Order of the Legion of Honor

(Signed) Macdonald

At the moment this may have meant little or much; later Roehenstart became mildly active in attempts to revive such orders, which had since the Revolution been in a sad decline.

p52 Late in May he left Ascoli, presumably for Venice; in July he was in Vienna, where possibly he had some source of income. A letter from him to a literary lady of Corfu whom he had known and esteemed in Venice tells us that he had been very ill in Vienna, but that he was on the point of leaving for Prague, Dresden, and finally Hamburg, from which port he intended to embark for England. In leaving Vienna he had one of those trying experiences that were always so excessively annoying to him. In his luggage he carried some sealed letters. It was forbidden to take sealed papers out of the country, and to Roehenstart's exasperation the police insisted on opening and examining the papers, whereupon with an apology they sealed them again, and gave him a certificate to that effect. Small bureaucrats could infuriate Roehenstart always.

In Vienna he had been friendly with the Barone di Carnea, chamberlain at the imperial court, who spoke well of Roehenstart as an interesting person — "un uomo il quale aveva veduto il Ganges ed il Mississippi." It is fairly certain that Roehenstart had never seen either river.

In September Roehenstart left Hamburg for London, where finally he was to make a formal request for aid as a grandson of the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward. The appeal was made about the middle of October. Roehenstart's planned procedure was to ask for a personal audience with the Prince Regent himself. His belief in the effect of personal appeal was great; it had worked with various personages, and instinct might well lead one royal personage to recognize at sight another who shared the blood royal. But there was no readiness on the part of the Regent to grant such an audience. Roehenstart had to work through the numerous secretaries or legal agents and ministers, and his plans were thus totally upset. Everything had to be done in writing, and not with the secrecy that Roehenstart had hoped for. His request to a secretary named Watson, of Carlton House, for an audience with the Regent, made on October 14, was evidently denied. Two days later Roehenstart, as directed, stated his case in writing. This he did in the document that he preserved, called his Memorial. When the document was actually prepared we do not know. It is dated October 5, and that may mean something. It is here given entire, in spite of its length, exactly as Roehenstart preserved it in his own hand. Readers need hardly be advised against taking many details as having any connection with truth.

p53 The Memorial

Il se fit un jour un alliance entre le

Malheur et la Fortune, et ce fut sur la

Famille des Stuarts que leurs coups

allérent frapper!

In the year 1746, Prince Charles Edward, during his stay in Scotland, took his headquarters at the Castle of Banockburn,º near Sterling, at the Baronet Paterson's, who presented to H. R. H. his family, consisting of his son and daughters, and Lady Clementina Walkinshaw, his niece, afterwards known under the name of Countess of Albestroff.

The Prince knowing that the Queen, his mother, was the Countess's Godmother, and had the intention to attach her to her person, was induced, for this reason, to take a particular notice of her, and she being young, and of exquisite beauty, he soon became deeply enamoured of her, and that feeling was increased by a great service which the Countess rendered him, at the peril of her life. — Their affection soon became reciprocal: the Prince offered to marry her, and she consented to change her religion.

After the battle of Culloden, Prince Charles Edward, compelled during several months to wander in the mountains of Scotland, alone, reduced to a state of the most dreadful misery, and continually exposed to fall into the hands of those who pursued him in order to get the high price put upon his head, was at last too happy to go on board a small vessel, and to pass over to France in the month of September 1746.

Six weeks afterwards, he wrote to the Countess in the most pressing manner, and sent to her one of his Attendants with a lady to accompany her to Paris.

Relying on the Prince's promise, and following the impulse of her own heart, she complied with his desire, and went to France where she was received with all the rapture of the most sincere love. — They soon set out for Gand, and there were united by a secret marriage, 'tis true, but still the act was drawn with all the regular formalities. She was then acknowledged and considered in public as the Prince's legitimate wife. From that time she constantly lived with him, and then they took their residence in Liege, under the name of Count and Countess Johnson. It was in this town that the Count was brought to bed of Lady Charlotte Stuart, whose birth transported her father with joy: He went himself to the Church with the child, and presented her to be baptized.

They resided at Bouillon, when Lady Charlotte being nearly seven years of age, King James sent word to the Countess that it was high time to think of beginning her daughter's education; the wandering & fugitive life, which the Prince was compelled to lead, being a great obstacle to this end, he desired her to leave her husband, and come to Paris where every thing would be prepared to receive them. Before she complied with the King's order, she tried a last effort on the Prince to induce him to consent to their separation, but seeing him p54quite averse to it, and having received another letter, of which Lord Alfort was the bearer, she thought that her duty as a tender mother agreed with this order, and in consequence left Bouillon, at 12 o'clock at night, on the 21st July, and arrived at Paris on the 25th. — The Archbishop received and conducted her to the Convent of the Visitation, in the duBacq Street.

This separation deeply affected the Prince who sent immediately several expresses, with orders to bring back to Bouillon his wife and daughter, and to make the best enquiries after them. But the King of France answered, that the Countess was under his protection, and placed in the Convent to begin Lady Charlotte's education. — King James wrote to his son to inform him that the Countess had acted in conformity to his express order, that it was a necessary separation, and that he would himself take care that his Grand-daughter should receive an education suitable to her rank. This promise was fulfilled on the part of H. M. who often saw the child, and was much attached to her. Sometime before his death, he sent Lord Alfort to the Countess to give her the assurance that, by his will, he had secured to herself a fortune, and also made a separate establishment from that of her father to his Grand-daughter.

Prince Charles Edward in the meantime exasperated at the state in which he had been left, and seeing all his efforts to recover his daughter ineffectual, had resolved not to see his wife any more, to whom he solely attributed the cause of his disappointment. — His brother, the Cardinal Duke of York, contributed to make him take such an unjust resolution, and the atrocious conduct he subsequently evinced is a sufficient proof of his hatred against the Countess, which originated in her having repulsed with horror and contempt the Cardinal's shameful proposition he dared to make when he first saw her.

King James died in 1766, and from this fatal moment the Countess's fate was sensibly altered. Her husband having forsook her, she applied to the Cardinal Duke to know what were the King's last dispositions in her favor. The Cardinal's answer was that from this moment he withdrew the pension she received before, and that she must be satisfied with a sum of 5,000 livres annually paid. "As for the will," added he, "you may rest assured that you shall never come to the knowledge of it."

A short time after, the Cardinal having formed with the Court of France the plan of a new marriage for his brother, and knowing too well the obstacle which the Countess was to it, sent one of his Agents to her with a declaration ready drawn, purporting to acknowledge that the Prince, her husband, having no longer an affection for her, and that the celebration of her marriage not having been performed according to the rites of the Catholic Church, she considered it as void and of no force &c. — The Cardinal insisted upon her signing this declaration immediately, and that, in this case, she should have a perpetual pension of 50,000 livres, including that left her by the King. — The Agent used the most threatening expressions to make her yield, — showed her a "Lettre de Cachet" to shut her up for life, if she would not consent by signing to remove the only obstacle which opposed the political marriage which was p55about to take place: in short he went so far as to say, that the Prince himself would declare his daughter illegitimate! — The Countess who was of an extremely weak mind, was terrified, and forgot herself so far as to sign this fatal declaration, monument of her eternal shame; but the first moment of agitation over, she wrote the same day to the Cardinal to complain of the cruelty and cunning which he had practised: it was too late!

Who could ever believe that the Cardinal's answer was, that he was satisfied with her submission, and as she had signed the act of separation, she might henceforth rely on the exact payment of her pension of 5,000 Livres? thus cruelly and treacherously defrauding her of 45,000 Livres, having originally promised to secure her a perpetual pension of 50,000 Livres, if she signed the act of separation.

The new marriage of the Prince with the Princess of Stolberg was effected, and the means the Cardinal employed to obtain his views are well known. His brother, being extremely religious, could not be brought easily to give his consent: they availed therefore of a moment when the Prince was intoxicated, a vice in which, since his last misfortune, he indulged too much, — they put a pen in his hand, and thus compelled to sign, He was much surprised in the morning to find near him, his second wife, the present Countess of Albany. — Seeing however, the evil irreparable, the Prince chose to be silent, and continued to drink, in order to drown his sorrows. — As for his wife, she did not even take the trouble to draw a veil over her conduct; — twice Count Alfieri was surprised by the Prince in his wife's arms, and the last time he would have run him through with his sword, had not the Count had the presence of mind to jump out of the window. Then she found it more convenient to leave her husband entirely, in order to be in perfect liberty with her lover.

The Prince who had always the tenderest affection for his daughter, which the Cardinal's dark & malicious aspersions had not been able to lessen, had sent for her: she lived with him; and by her virtues, attention, and tender cares, she was the consolation of her unfortunate father, and soothed his griefs. — He created her Duchess of Albany, gave her the Order of the Thistle, and acknowledged her for his only heir: the public Acts which were drawn in consequence are registered at the Chanceries of the Courts of Versailles & Madrid, and were communicated to all the Catholic Courts.

Nothing can equal the animosity and despair which transported the Cardinal of York when he heard this news, for thinking that his brother could not live long, he expected to get all his diamonds, which he coveted with great anxiety. He employed successively all the resources which power & money could procure, to oppose his brother's measures. The memorials which he wrote on the subject, still exist, and are more than sufficient to prove the horrible wickedness of a person to whom the Priests at Rome give the title of an holy man! — Perceiving however, that his efforts were without effect, he felt that dissimulation was the only means left him: his hatred for the poor p56Duchess was increased to the highest pitch, and still he affected then, all at once, to have a great attachment for his niece.

The Duchess of Albany had married, without her father's knowledge, Mr Roehenstart, to whom she was tenderly attached, and with whom she first became acquainted at Paris, where he came to travel through France. — His Grand-father, born in Bavaria, but from a Swedish family, the Baron Roehenstart, Count of Korff, came over to England in the year 1715, and served in the English army; he afterwards left the military service, and married Miss Sophia Howard, by whom he had two daughters and one son, born in London on the 2d of May 1740.

Mr. Roehenstart saw Lady Charlotte, loved her, and obtained her affection: he tryed in vain to persuade her to go to England with him, but as she would not consent to this, they were united, and being both afraid of the consequences of such a step, if known to the Prince, they waited a favourable opportunity for disclosing the transaction to him. — The Duchess was delivered of a son on the 11th June 1784, and she soon afterwards confessed to her father her marriage. She not only obtained her pardon from the Prince, but he acknowledged his grand-child by an Act. — It was according to his desire that she sent from Italy her son to her mother, the Countess of Albestroff, as she could not possibly keep him near her, without making her marriage publicly known, and wishing not to give fresh cause of irritation to the Cardinal, they feared the effect this communication might produce upon him who had done his utmost to prevent her being recalled, and whose pride would be deeply wounded by this alliance.

Prince Charles Edward died January 31st 1788, and the Duchess of Albany inherited his fortune, which chiefly consisted in diamonds of the Crown, amounting to a large sum. — Knowing too well how her Uncle envyed this fortune, she thought to have won his friendship by acceding to a most extraordinary proposition which he made her then: it was to make her will in his favor, and that he would, on his part, do the same, and appoint her his only heir. — She consulted however with her husband, who not having the most distant idea that her will would ever be of any use, and unaware of the snare, left entirely to her own discretion how to act, in order to please the Cardinal Duke, whose ridiculous pride was so far increased, that he had taken the most absurd title of Henry IX, King of Great Britain, Ireland, France, &c &c. —

In the meantime they agreed that the Baron should go to London to settle his affairs, and then return to Munich to prepare his house for the reception of the Duchess and her son, as they had determined to settle in Germany.

Soon after her father's death the Duchess had complyed with her uncle's request to go and live with him at Frascati and Albano. The Cardinal then lavished on his niece marks of the greatest tenderness. — But the unfortunate Duchess was all at once seized with violent pains in the bowels, and immediately left her uncle. She did not communicate her fears to her husband, but only wrote to him to hasten his return. She also wrote to the Countess of Albestroff, p57from Albano, in the date of May the 6th 1789, a french letter, in which she told her, that she was going to the Baths of Nocera, near Foligno, and added: "Si je n'étais aimée de tous ceux qui m'entourrent, ma chère maman, si je doutais de la sincérité de celui dont tu as tant à te plaindre, je me croirais empoisonnée! &c."

She set out for the Baths, but finding no relief to her unabating colics, she proceeded to Ancona, and from thence to Bologna, where she put up at the Palace of the Princess Lambertini. She felt so ill, that she was carried to her bed, and all the resources of art, assisted by the most able Physicians were unable to destroy the fatal effects of the poisonous drink which was given to her.

She wrote both to her husband and mother, stating the reasons which had induced her to make a first will in favor of her uncle, but that finding her approaching death unavoidable, that she destroyed it of course, and had made a second will, in which she leaves her fortune to her son, and that a copy of it should be soon forwarded to them: in another letter which she wrote again to her mother, two hours before her death, she says: "je me suis occupée, chère maman, d'assurer ton sort d'une manière convenable. Adieu, pour la dernière fois, les forces me manquent, et je souffre des douleurs inouis! — Recommande bien à mon mari, et surtout à Charles, de ne jamais faire aucune recherche sur ma mort. Je connais mon état, et mes premiers soupçons ne se sont que trop réalisés." —

Thus died the unfortunate Duchess of Albany, at Bologna, on the 17th November 1789! — I can not refrain from making some remarks on the manner of her death, although I am bound by a sacred engagement never to disturb her ashes by researches which would reach the illustrious name of her Family; but in recommending me to be silent, my poor mother thought she had secured her fortune to her son! — Several persons of the first respectability, and Mr Weck, told me she died poisoned: both my father and grand-mother were persuaded of this sad circumstance: I heard it confirmed at Rome, and repeated at Bologna! —

I have been to pray on her grave, and pay her the tribute of my bitter tears! — O my mother! may the tear of every feeling Englishman console your departed spirit! Heaven now rewards your sufferings. — Ah yes: this is a sweet and sacred idea which pours balm upon the wounds of sorrow, and saves from despairing of our Creator, supports, and makes us bow with a pious submission!

The Duchess dead, the Cardinal before my father could arrive at Bologna, took possession of all her papers, amongst which was her second will, which he destroyed, and being almost the Sovereign of the country, the whole of my mother's diamonds and fortune passed into his hands, without the least opposition. — My father however, soon arrived, and went immediately to Rome to see the Cardinal, and claim his son's fortune. — A most violent altercation took place between them, as the Cardinal told him that he had married p58his niece with views of interest, and that he might apply to the law if he chose; but my father whose feelings were cruelly outraged, reproached him with his baseness, and swore that neither he, nor his son, should ever make the least claims upon the Duchess' fortune, which he might keep: — at last this contest rose so high that my father was compelled to leave Rome in the greatest haste, being pursued by a legion of Ibires,a sent after him by the Cardinal; — but he was fortunate enough not to be overtaken, or I think that no human power could have saved him from the Duke's resentment.

Notwithstanding all the repeated applications made by the Countess of Albestroff to the Cardinal to receive what was due to her by King James's will, as she was confident (according to Lord Alfort's assurances) that a handsome allowance was bequeathed to her, still it was with great difficulty that she could get a small pension of 5,000 Livres. — The Cardinal Duke, one of the first Ministers of the Church, had the cruelty, soon after the Duchess's death, not only to stop, and refuse the payment of those 5,000 Livres, but that of the pension made by her daughter's first will. — A man who carries the indignity of his proceedings to such a point is capable of every thing! — These facts are known to all those who approached the Cardinal, and I have seen at Rome some poor servants whose pension, left by the Prince and my mother, he refused to pay, and who bitterly complain of his injustice. — I have several letters from Mr Thomas Coutts, the Banker, with whom my Grand-mother was in correspondence, and, amongst other reflexions on his inhumanity, he says: "The Cardinal Duke must have outlived all sense of shame!" The Countess died at Fribourg on the 27th September 1802, having before refused all my father's pressing solicitations to come and settle with him: she insisted on my being brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, and my father would never consent to it: she was for this reason much irritated against him.

When I received the news of my grand-mother's death, I availed myself of that event to write a respectful letter to the Cardinal, speaking only of the distressing state to which the Countess was reduced in her last moments: my letter is from Munich, April the 29th 1803, and I avoided making any demand for myself, hoping that time might bring the Cardinal to some feelings of justice respecting his grand-nephew. — My father, whose health was much impaired by sorrow, had forbidden me ever to pronounce the Cardinal's name, as he had taken a sacred engagement never to claim any thing from my mother's fortune. — I have however every reason to believe that my letter was intercepted by persons attached to the Cardinal, and whose interest of course was not to put him in mind of me. — I had no answer, and from that moment I renounced the hope of ever recovering what was mine. — The fact is, that, with my ideas, the education I have received, and the sufficient fortune I enjoyed, such a resolution might easily be taken.

I had before me a most brilliant prospect as a private Gentleman. — Attached, at the Court of St. Petersburgh, to the Duke and Duchess of Wurtemberg, whose Chamberlain I had been appointed, I was on the point to p59make, under their Royal Highnesses's auspices, a marriage which answered all that I could wish. — But adverse fortune seems to have brought me to a state of prosperity, merely to throw me headlong into an abyss of miseries, and by that fatality which constantly weigh'd with an iron hand upon the Family of the Stuarts, I was also marked to experience the bitterest misfortunes. — I received the news that a Merchant, Mr Forbes, in whose hands was placed the greatest part of my fortune, had become bankrupt, and was gone to the United States of America. — This was to me a thunderbolt! — If I had not been so foolishly scrupulous, my marriage might still have taken place, notwithstanding my severe loss, but I could never be brought to expose myself to the reproaches which might have fallen on me, to have been guided by views of interest; and this shocking idea, so strongly pronounced in my father, also governed me. — From these sad circumstances, I resolved no longer to remain in my situation: I left the service of Their Royal Highnesses; and it will ever be to me subject of the deepest gratitude, to recollect, with how much kindness they opposed my departure, and all the proofs of benevolence which they bestowed upon me. — Arrived in London, finding confirmed the news of my losses, and being miserable in the extreme, I did not hesitate to pass over to America, where a short time after my arrival at Philadelphia, I had the satisfaction to recover a part of my money. — I devoted my whole time to study, and travelled in the south to form a precious Collection of all the natural productions of that fine country. — I was on the point of returning to Europe, when the war broke out between England and the United States. My friends advised me to take advantage of this event to try some speculations, and I was too easily persuaded to this step, knowing the necessity of an independant fortune, and being in some measure compelled to it, having received in payment a pretty large quantity of goods. — The Russian Minister at Washington, Mr Dashkoff, had the goodness to give me a great facility to my scheme — I applied myself to business, and undertook a bold speculation which answered my most sanguine expectations. — Then I purchased, at a very low price, a fine American Brig, put her under Russian Colors, and sailed with a cargo of flour from the West Indies, having on board my collection: my intention was from thence to return to Europe with Colonial produce. The result of this speculation was to all appearance extremely advantageous, and would have secured to me a fortune more than sufficient for my wants. — I was in the greatest haste to put to sea, for fear of the embargo law which was expected to take place at every moment, and I sailed for Jamaica, full of hope, happy, and planning the most brilliant schemes on my return to Europe; but how soon they vanished! — The wind was favorable, and I was only ten miles distant from Kingston, when at 4 o'clock in the evening, on the 3d September 1813, a Carthaginian Pirate came, took my Brig, and spoiled me of all my property. — The morning of the following day, they put me on board a small sloop, heartbroken, the edifice of my happiness entirely overthrown, and regretting not to have shared the fate of three of my men, whom the Spaniards murdered at my side. — The p60loss of my collection is a more severe one than that of my Brig, since indeed no money can replace what I had: — bringing with me some Phoenician Inscriptions and Monuments which I had had the good fortune to find in a field distant six miles from Mexico! The Privateer gave us a very small quantity of bread and water, but owing to a fair breeze, we arrived at St Barts before we haveº suffered much from want of nutriment. Then I returned to the United States 35 days after I had left New‑Haven: the strictest inquiries after my Brig proved of no use whatever. — I went to Boston, where I embarked on board a Flag of truce for Halifax, and from there on board H. M.'s Brig the Rowley, Captn Hopner, and arrived at Plymouth on the 4th February 1814. — Soon after my return to Europe I received the distressing intelligence that, Two Thousand Dollars in bills of exchange, had been protested, and which I was compelled to repay immediately: with the greatest exertions and sacrifices I effected this payment. I had drawn those bills at the time of my last speculation, upon a wretch who had engaged himself to pay me at New York, on the 1st May of that year, 600 Pounds Sterling in part of a sum of 3,000 which he had received for me, as a deposit; he used to pay the interest of my money with some exactitude, but I could never bring him to repay the Capital: he died leaving hardly one Shilling in the pound to satisfy his creditors.

Having been informed, at this most distressing period, that the Cardinal, Duke of York, in his last moments had repeatedly said that his Niece, the Duchess, was married and had a son, acknowledged by his brother, that he wanted to see this son before his death, and that he expired, continually asking for his grand-nephew, this consideration determined me to undertake a voyage to Italy, in order to ascertain the actual state of the things, and take all the necessary measures for establishing claims which I might bring forward. I confess I flattered myself that my Grand-father's Widow would be glad to assist me, and to atone in some measure for her past conduct; but I was much deceived.

I saw the Countess of Albany, at Florence; she received me well, and it was rather pleasing for me to hear that before I had let her know the object of my coming to Italy, she observed, and told me that I had a striking resemblance to the Prince, her husband. — I found her however excessively selfish, and notwithstanding her great age, she has not renounced her former habits: Count Alfieri has for successor a french painter, of the name of Fabre, whom she is said to have married, and who rules her entirely. — "Mon Douaire," said she to me, "est seulement assuré sur la succession du Cardinal, ainsi je ne peux pas vous servir dans votre affaire; après ma mort, je consens volontiers à ce que vous ayez tout!" — I have been besides inform'd, from good authority, that she wrote against me to the Pope's Minister, the Cardinal Gonsalvi. — This same Lady, whose conduct is but too well known, receives from the Court of England a pension of Two Thousand Pounds a year, generously granted to her, as the Pretender's Widow. — I have no proof against her; but I merely say that she was my poor mother's bitterest enemy, and warmly joined the p61Cardinal to indispose the Prince against his Daughter, by whose death she also profited. — I easily perceived that my presence put her in mind of her wrongs which she could not have forgotten. When I spoke to her of the Countess of Albestroff's marriage, she made use of these expressions: "Ah ! on l'a bien attrapée !"

At Rome I was detained for a considerable time, waiting with great anxiety for the Cardinal Gonsalvi's return from Vienna, where he was then at the Congress; but the Neapolitan Army advancing under Murat's command, the war compelled me to leave Italy.

The Cardinal Duke of York, I have been told, has not altered his will, in which, under certain restrictions, he leaves the greatest part of his fortune to his Agent, a Bishop of the name of Cesarini, who had a very active part in my misfortunes, and whose family, from a state of extreme poverty, enjoys now great affluence. The lands of Frascati remain untouched in the Pope's hands, and a considerable sum of money is due to the succession by the Court of Madrid. The will is in the hands of H. M. the King of Sardinia, the Executor of it, and is only to be opened in two years, I believe. — Poor Cardinal! what a dreadful situation he must have been in, at the moment of his death, when the remorses of a guilty conscience came to torment him.

In this forlorn and pitiable condition I am come to England in the hope of gaining some support in furtherance of my views. — My earnest wish is, not to give publicity to this very unfortunate business, out of respect for my Grandfather's name. But by merely proving that the Cardinal had no right to enjoy my mother's fortune, to show that I am the first creditor of hiss succession, and then I may recover something. — I am well aware of the great difficulty of bringing the Priests at Rome to an account, and nothing but a powerful protection can make me obtain this happy end. — In my distressing and forlorn situation, may I indulge the pleasing hope that H. R. H. the Prince Regent, whose generosity is so well known to all the world, and having granted a pension of Two Thousand Pounds Sterling to the Countess of Albany, that He will graciously condescend to extend his protection to the last of the Stuarts.

London   October the 5th

1816

This astonishingly naïve and melodramatic document drew its material largely from the fantasy that had been long building in the imagination of the author. The portions dealing with the early life of the Countess of Albestroff are almost verbatim translation from Clementine's own account of herself printed in the Oeuvres complettes of Louis de Saint-Simon ([Strasbourg, 1791], XI, 144‑59). Other sections may have printed sources as yet unidentified. Roehenstart had very little firsthand information about his Stuart relatives: the Korffs or whoever brought him up did not talk about his family. His prejudice p62against Cardinal York may be due to early prejudices imparted by his grandmother. It would also increase from the thought that upon his death the Cardinal had bequeathed his property to Bishop Cesarini, when (as a Stuart might feel) it should have gone back to the family.

There is no reason to think that Roehenstart gives a true account of the relations of Prince Charles Edward and Clementine, or that his lurid story of the "second" marriage of the Prince has any truth in it. Doubtless Charlotte Stuart's father knew nothing of her children; if the Cardinal knew of them, the knowledge came only from his niece's deathbed. She died of cancer, and was not poisoned. It is unthinkable that the dying Cardinal expressed a wish to see Roehenstart. The American episode of the "Alexander" has now been told twice. In the form printed in 1824 there is no mention of financial problems; in the form given in the Memorial, which as a document is merely a device for begging funds, the financial aspects of the adventure are stressed, even tediously.

From the Memorial one gathers that Roehenstart truly believed himself to be the grandson of Prince Charles, and that he felt that if the Cardinal and the unfaithful Countess of Albany got pensions, something ought to be due to a grandson. But he was no threat to the Hanoverians, and his pathos was too extremely proclaimed. His Swedish father, invented in such detail, was doubtless easily exploded by the Regent's advisers. His long covering letter, sent with his Memorial, which he naïvely believed would go straight to the Regent — and to the heart of that "sacred person" is painfully obsequious and flattering. It certainly did not help.

Twelve days passed after the presentation of the Memorial, and Roehenstart became nervous at getting no reply. So on October 17 he wrote a hedging letter, which still exaggerated his indigence. In part it reads:

Rather than seeing my sad story become the subject of the public papers, since my Memorial has been given to H. L. the Secretary of State, I prefer renouncing my claims for the present, and wait for a more favourable opportunity, if there is no other way left for redress. — But reduced now in a situation of total despair, not by misconduct, as I can prove it, I will not make an appeal to Your Royal Generosity: — if you think however that the late Pretender's Grandson in a state of such a wretchedness, is an object capable of moving Your compassion and pity, I heartily beseech Y. R. H. to grant me only a temporary support to extricate me out of the horrible situation I labour under; its magnitude must indeed overwhelm me. . . .

p63 Other letters to court secretaries followed. In one (October 20) Roehenstart laments "being deceived in a most shameful manner by a clergyman [John Audain] who does not keep his engagement with me"; and in two others he expresses regret that his Memorial has been passed to the Secretary of State. One of these has, mixed with the customary pathos, some significant statements:

. . . the answer I got is "that my case and situation rest now with Lord Sidmouth to whom I must refer for the determination of Government." If one may suppose that I am base enough to bring forward such claims as mine without a just ground, then I have nothing more to say! — Too well I knew that I was not in proper measure to stand the present turn which my business has taken and never intended it should be so. . . . My whole history has been kept so strictly secret both by my father & grand-mother, that it appears indeed difficult to explain this enigma: still I have stated nothing but the truth, and a time will certainly come when more than my statement shall be fully proved.

On October 28 he was told that if he would call at the chambers of N. C. Litchfield in Lincolns Inn the next day he might have his papers back. Litchfield goes on to say that as for the documents mentioned by Roehenstart as supporting his claims:

The documents are obviously most important. They are according to your statement in the hands of a person who could immediately produce them. It deeply concerns the interest of that person, as well as of yourself to produce them, the reason assigned for not doing it has no weight and therefore the production of them is considered as indispensable. I should not conclude without informing you that Lord Sidmouth is satisfied of the accuracy of the greatest part of your statement, but this must be considered to be the exception of that part which relates personally to your father & to yourself, which the enquiries which have been made respecting the Duchess of Albany do not serve to confirm, and of which therefore his Lordship waits for the proofs which you have to produce.

To this letter Roehenstart promptly replied with strange assurance: "I do say with confidence that in less than a fortnight I can produce the documents which I have told you I would deliver, and without which, I am well aware, Lord Sidmouth will not have the goodness to interfere in my favour for promoting my success in Italy." He would like £25 to relieve his present distress, but he paints a picture of his future financial resources that is far less grim than had before been given. On October 31 he got his papers back from Litchfield, and so ended the official appeal of Roehenstart, which, so far as we know, he never renewed.

p64 His confident assurance as to producing his pièces justificatives in a fortnight is puzzling. He can hardly have expected to get anything from the Rohans. Did he hope to get the papers from the long-sought tin box in the Coutts archives? He was, during this visit to England, making himself a pestilent nuisance to the whole Coutts family. The four ladies of the family searched high and low, and produced (uninteresting) papers said to come from the tin box, but they never showed Roehenstart the box. A formal note from the second Mrs. Coutts dated "Holly Lodge; Decr 17, 1816," probably ended his aid from that family:

Mrs Coutts is ashamed and distressed that the enclosed letters have not been returned sooner, but illness in the family engaged all her attention and she really forgot them, for which she is very sorry and hopes to be pardoned.

Roehenstart felt so keenly aggrieved at the lack of real aid from the Coutts family that he meditated a suit against them.1 He at some time fabricated a list of desirable documents, which included birth certificates, marriage certificates, letters, etc., not one of which he had ever seen or had reason to believe existed. They rather had to exist if he was to prove his case.

He had but little of the shrewdness of the imposter. His Memorial was clothed in self-pity and naïveté. His reiterated dislike of publicity in his sad case — which if his Memorial was authentic was hardly sad at all — is puzzling. One can conjure up hypotheses about it, such as that possibly he had been granted a small fortune by his actual father on condition that he never mention or seek aid from the family of his mother. More than once he speaks of the "sacred engagement" never to press his claims. It seems possible that his finances were assured only upon observance of this engagement. Such a condition would explain somewhat the secrecy he wished for in his formal application; it would account for his fear of publicity and his frequent later assertions that he could now do nothing but must drift with the tide and await a government decision such as could not be furthered by efforts of his own. A public application might thus in 1816 have been dangerous, and later applications suggested by active friends are at times discouraged by Roehenstart. This reluctance is puzzling.


The Author's Note:

1 See Appendix I.


Thayer's Note:

a So the text as printed; I strongly suspect this should be sbires, by misreading of the initial long S. (Prof. Sherburn has already made a similar transcription error in this chapter, much more definite — and less excusable — in calling Macdonald the duke of "Savente" instead of Tarente: which in English is usually rendered by the original Italian placename Taranto.)

At any rate, sbire is a (French) pejorative term, much commoner in the 16c and 17c than today, for private police or hatchet‑man, especially in Italy: see the entry at CNRTL.


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