JAMES by Peggy Miller


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A sentimentalized lament for The Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, who ""plucked the bitter rue of adversity"" as he tried and failed three times to regain his lost throne. Related from an ardently Jacobite vantage point (Miller refers to William of Orange as ""the usurper"" throughout), this longish biography follows James' European peregrinations from his early home at St. Germain -- where the royal family lived on a stipend from Louis XIV -- to the bungled Scottish expeditions and finally to his last exile at the Palazzo Muti in Rome. Miller, whose sources consist chiefly of ultra-royalist memoirs from Saint Simon to the Duke of Berwick, paints the undistinguished James in extravagantly golden hues and berates the Scots for failing to discern the ""fires (that) smouldered too deeply for them to see the flame"" just below the reserved, lackluster surface. The archvillains of the drama are the French whose failure to provide James with a mighty military backup doomed the risings of 1708 and 1715. Much of the book is given over to disputes and recriminations within the Stuart entourage which followed hard on the heels of the abortive risings; Miller exonerates James' shabby treatment of Bolingbroke, and Berwick, the Pretender's intelligent and attractive bastard half-brother, is scorned as a renegade. Responsible paterfamilias that he was, financial worries -- the care and feeding of the Jacobite exiles -- caused James endless distress as he wandered hat in hand, soliciting aid from all the monarchs of Europe. Oddly for so devoted a follower of the Stuart banner, Miller makes almost no attempt to assess the actual strength of James' Scottish support. Champions of lost causes may be won over; others will find the travails of ""the bonny Blackbird"" lachrymose going.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1972
Publisher: St. Martin's Press