THE long and contented life of the last member of that tragic family had begun eightytwo years earlier in the Muti Palace in Rome; this palace had been given by Pope Clement XI to the Old Pretender, "James III " and his Polish queen, Clementine. There Henry was born and baptised by the reigning Pope, Benedict XIII, and there he and his elder brother, Prince Charles Edward, spent their childhood days. It was 8 somewhat stormy childhood, bedevilled by constant friction between the parents and poisoned by the atmosphere of plotting and intrigue to regain the throne which James II had been forced to relinquish in 1688. Queen Clementine died in 1735 and was generally regarded as a saint: her two sons, however, were never quite sure whether they were supposed to be Catholic or Protestant.
Their father was the most devout of Catholics, but their upbringing after the death of their mother was sometimes left in the hands of priests and sometimes in the bands of ambitious politicians. The young princes became very popular in Roman society for both were well endowed with the charm that characterised their family.
The Muti Palace was at that time the centre of countless intrigues to rid England of the usurping House of Hanover and in 1743 it seemed as though some of these plans might bear fruit when a strong ally of the Jacobites, Cardinal Tencin, was appointed Prime Minister of France.
Sure enough, the elder Prince, a hand some and gallant youth, was soon summoned to Paris. In January 1744 he had his last interview with the King his father: " I go, sir, in search of three crowns. If fail, your next sight of me shall be in my coffin."