Sobieski, Clementina (1702–1735)

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Sobieski, Clementina (1702–1735)

Polish princess. Name variations: Mary, Marie, or Maria Sobieska; Clementine or Clementina Sobiewski; Clementina Sobieska; Maria Clementina Stewart or Stuart. Born Marie Casimir Clementina on July 18, 1702, in Silesia; died of scurvy on January 18, 1735, at the Apostolic Palace, Rome; interred in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican; daughter of Prince James Sobieski (son of John III, king of Poland, and Marie Casimir) and Hedwig Wittelsbach; married Prince James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766), duke of Cornwall, known as the Old Pretender, on September 1, 1719; children: Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788), known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender; Henry Stuart (1725–1807), cardinal of York.

Born in 1702, Clementina Sobieski was descended from the ruling houses of Poland and the Holy Roman Empire; she was the daughter of Prince James Sobieski (son of John III, king of Poland, and Marie Casimir ) and Hedwig Wittelsbach . She was raised at her parents' court at Ohlau, in her mother's native province of Silesia. In 1718, Clementina's parents agreed to a marriage for her with the English prince James Edward Stuart (later known as the Old Pretender). Stuart, the exiled son of Mary of Modena and the deposed Catholic king James II, was struggling to win back the throne; marriage to the wealthy Sobieski princess would bring a large dowry which he badly needed. However, the English king George I hoped to stop the marriage and persuaded the Holy Roman emperor to have Clementina and her party arrested as they passed through Austria on the way to her fiancé in Italy. Clementina was imprisoned for several months near Innsbruck. When diplomacy failed to free her, the princess resorted in April 1719 to a desperate plan of escape in which she fled her castle prison dressed in a maid's clothes. She and her party hurried through Austria to the Papal States, where she and James Stuart were married on September 1. The pope, a strong proponent of the Stuart claim to England, gave the couple the Palazzo Muti in Rome and paid their expenses. The Stuart supporters, known as Jacobites, were overjoyed with the birth of Clementina's first child, the new Stuart prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, in December 1720.

By 1722, however, Clementina's marriage had begun to fail under the stress of their exiled, uncertain position, the tedium of court life, and the couple's personality conflicts. James Stuart was 14 years her senior, somber and concerned only with the military efforts needed to try to secure his throne. He had little time to devote to his young wife, who suffered from homesickness and loneliness. In response, Clementina turned more and more to her religious devotions. Domestic quarrels erupted over their son's education and James Stuart's toleration of Protestant courtiers at their court. In November 1725, believing that her husband was an adulterer and that she had enemies in their household, Clementina left the Palazzo Muti and entered a convent. She remained there for two years. Her actions caused a major scandal across Europe, and served to weaken the Stuart cause abroad.

In 1727, she was reunited with her husband and sons, and settled in Bologna. She refused to participate in social activities, however, spending her time in prayer and working among the poor. The Stuarts returned to Rome in 1730. Clementina's strenuous efforts to help the unfortunate and her ascetic lifestyle combined with long periods of fasting to destroy her health. The so-called queen of England died of scurvy in January 1735, at age 32. The pope ordered a state funeral and had her buried at St. Peter's in Rome. In her will, Clementina left little to her sons and husband. The majority of her immense Sobieski wealth in money and jewels was given to the Catholic Church in Rome. Some of her priceless bequests may still be seen in the Sobieski Room at the Vatican.

sources:

Kybett, Susan M. Bonnie Prince Charlie. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1988.

McLynn, Frank. Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts. London: Routledge, 1988.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California