Protest of the Cardinal called Duke of York, November 4, 1792

Although in 1766 at the death of King James III and VIII, the Holy See had declined to recognise his elder son, Charles Edward, Prince of Wales, as King Charles III, yet, she had not thereby given any positive recognition to the Elector of Hanover. In 1792, however, for the first time the Elector George III was referred to in a pontifical brief as "King of Great Britain and Ireland". This change of policy on the part of the Holy See brought forth the following protest from the Cardinal called Duke of York.

A printed version of the text can be found on pages 212 through 214 of Herbert M. Vaughan, The Last of the Royal Stuarts: Henry Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York (London: Methuen, 1906).

Amidst the continual sorrows and bitter trials that my Royal House has been decreed to suffer for over a century, two circumstances gave it, by way of compensation, a special degree of comfort and support. The first was the reflection that our every sacrifice was made for God, for the Faith, and for that unshaken loyalty we have ever displayed towards the Primacy of Peter and the Holy See. The second was our own sense of the Holy See's devotion to our Royal House, a devotion that began long before the days of Clement XI, although it was this Pope who in his glorious pontificate first absolutely refused to acknowledge any sovereigns of England save those of our own legitimate Catholic succession, and came in course of time to regard such a policy in the light of a maxim of the Holy see that could never be abrogated.

. . .

Nor in truth has the Holy See ever yet denied this same maxim, nor substantially disregarded its principles; so we cannot deny that this second circumstance was a source of help to us in our long series of misfortunes. It was certainly only too true that in the reign of Clement XIII we were forced to drink of a bitter cup when we found ourselves negatively deprived of the royal recognition which seemed but the natural result of the decrees of so many former popes; but on the other hand it is true that it was at that time clearly admitted as impossible to acknowledge any king of England whatever outside our own Royal House, without breaking a maxim of the Holy See that was at once fully recognised, intact, established and irrevocable. And for a clear proof of this statement, it is alone sufficient for me to mention a custom that has never been deviated from; namely that in the public almanacs of Rome one finds under the heading of "Hannover" the account of that prince and his family, put with the greatest care, and inserted in such a manner as not to infringe in the lest degree upon this maxim concerning my own Royal House of which I am the last survivor.1

1 The official Notizie for the year 1794, published by the Cracas in Rome, lists under the heading of "Inghilterra" only the Cardinal called Duke of York and his sister-in-law, the Countess of Albany. Under the heading of "Hannover" are listed the Elector-Duke George III and his family.

. . .

But, O God, what a blow! what anguish of soul for me to note in a pontifical brief, which must of necessity fall before mine own eyes, that, by a stroke of the pen, as it were, I myself have been betrayed and deprived of the benefit of that maxim, which had been upheld by the Holy See with unswerving fidelity for upwards of a century!

Under these circumstances it would be useless for me to deny that the wound rankles in me, since it has been dealt me by the hand of a father whom I love and venerate - and shall love and venerate whilst my life continues. I confess that I used to flatter myself that during these very few last remaining years of my life my Royal House would be allowed to expire in me without this fresh act of humiliation, but (inasmuch as we ought always to ascribe every event to the operation of the Divine Will) it seems that I did wrong in resting so certain that the Holy Father would never dream of snatching from me the possession of that which in one sense can be termed a natural right, a right of compensation that protected me from many indignities.

Now, as in consequence of this abjuration of a maxim of the Holy See, I should be obliged to suffer insult on any occasion that I might venture to enter Rome, henceforth I intend to pass my last few years of life in deep retirement amongst my flock at Frascati.

. . .

Frascati, November 4th, 1792

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