In the past three decades there has been a resurgence of Jacobite studies. This has been a steady progression, beginning with major works by Eveline Cruickshanks and Bruce Lenman and continued by the likes of Allan Macinnes, Éamonn Ò Ciardha, Murray Pittock and Daniel Szechi. The Jacobite Studies Trust, which published its first collection of essays in 2010 (to which Edward Corp contributed), is scheduled to host its third biannual conference this year. One reason for the growing recognition of the importance of Jacobitism is that the focus of the new wave of three-nations historians has succeeded in demonstrating Jacobitism as a continuous movement in the British Isles. Elsewhere, research of the Jacobite diaspora has shown the international reach of adherents of the house of Stuart and their integration into transnational politics. To put it bluntly, there has been a deliberate deviation from the traditional view of Jacobitism as an extension of the Jacobite court. That traditional view regarded the Stuarts as an Italianized relic of an outdated form of sovereignty. A primarily Whiggish narrative, it presented the Jacobites as being locked in a state of suspended animation – but for the successive plots – yet it retained a morbid sense of fascination with the Stuart court. This received intelligence is one which earlier historians of the Stuarts preferred to dwell on rather than dismiss. So, Edward Corp's chosen subject is not new, and it is due a fresh overhaul. The challenge for Corp, as this reviewer sees it, is to provide an examination of the Jacobite court in a way that is relevant to the study of the Jacobite movement.
The structure of this monograph is designed to deliver such a product. It is split into three sections: the decade in Rome, 1719–29; the period in Bologna, 1726–9; and the residence in Rome from 1729 until the death of James III (the Old Pretender) in 1766. The two parts of the book which are focused on Rome are further subdivided into eminently readable chapters on the various areas of the life of the court. Corp's portrayal of the relationship between the court and the papacy deserves particular credit. Although the analysis, inevitably, is concerned most with the personal relationships James (and to a lesser extent his queen, Clementina) had with successive popes, Corp is adept at placing the Jacobite court's proximity to the Vatican in the context of European diplomacy. These chapters also demonstrate the financial implications of papal patronage.
Of particular value is the excellent study of the Palazzo del Re, the Jacobite residence in Rome. Corp dispels previous misunderstanding of the whereabouts and the layout of the Jacobite palace and provides considerable detail in explaining the function, the advantages, disadvantages and prestige associated with the property, which was never intended to be a permanent residence. The practicalities of the building as a place of political opposition illuminate the challenges facing the exiled king; the role of the Jacobite court as a de facto British embassy in Rome reveal the enduring importance of James as a Briton. Corp emphasizes the exalted status of the Stuarts in Rome, a point which is reinforced in the chapters on culture, which show James had considerable influence over the musical and theatrical trends of the period. Those who appreciate irony may enjoy learning that George Frederic Handel, whose work is synonymous with Hanoverian coronation, was almost directly influenced by the Stuart exile's personal musical preferences, with several of his operas being reworkings of libretti dedicated to King James in Rome. The chapters on Roman music and painting are admirably detailed. Indeed, the monograph as a whole is representative of diligent research and will undoubtedly prove valuable to scholars looking to identify those associated with King James III. The thorough re-examination and utilization of the correspondence of Baron Von Stosch, an informer to the British government who spied on the Jacobite court throughout the period, returns much fresh information. Corp also freely draws on the worthy research of Alistair and Henrietta Tayler, whose extensive study of Jacobite archival sources has largely been ignored by scholars outside Scotland.
However, Corp may draw fire for devoting so much of this volume to the cultural legacy of the court and less space to the mechanism of the court as a political organ charged with the management of Jacobite affairs and, ultimately, a Stuart restoration. How exactly did James interact with his supporters in Britain and on the continent? For too great a proportion of this book this important question goes unanswered. The importance of Jacobite networks beyond the court is not fully explored. Even though Corp devotes a chapter to Freemasonry and Jacobite networks he passes on the opportunity to detail the ways in which these channels were used to build and disseminate Jacobite influence, choosing instead to reflect the internal politics of the court. The result is a fine synthesis of the negative influence of James Murray, earl of Dunbar, on the court, but this does not serve to balance the preceding focus on the structure, means and local impact of the court. Corp appears to have little interest in assessing the importance of the Stuart court as the leviathan of its active and latent supporters in the British Isles and amongst the diaspora. While, indeed, this may accurately reflect the diverging interests of Jacobites in Rome and opponents of the house of Hanover elsewhere, Corp's failure to engage this theme will leave students of the Jacobite movement frustrated. As a study of the Royal Stuarts in Rome, however, this book offers a thorough and readable perspective on the economy, culture and diplomacy of an exiled king and his court.