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Welsh History Review

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Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 1996-97

The Stuart court in exile and the Jacobites. Book review.

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THE STUART COURT IN ExiLE AND THE JACOBITES. Edited by Eveline
Cruickshanks and Edward Corp. Hambledon Press, London, 1995. Pp.
xxiv, 167. £ 25.00.
Conference proceedings are generally fun to read and hell to review. This
set has an advantage over the run in that it is concerned with a subject
which is at once well-defined, topical, and relatively neglected: the
relationship between the Stuart court at St Germain and its supporters
during the first phase of its exile, from 1689 to 1715. It cannot, however,
escape the drawback of the genre, that the contributions vary considerably
in length and in focus so that if an overall impression is built up, then this is
largely by a process of hit and miss. In this case the difficulty is
compounded by the fact that the papers are so short, some never managing
to rise above mere sketches an introduction to an interesting collection
of papers, the outline of the career of a not very successful Jacobite envoy
which may be filled out by subsequent research. Several of the pieces
display the quality of the authors Paul Hopkins for diligent archival
research, John Childs for swashbuckling literary style, Paul Monod for a
readiness to ask big questions but most are too cramped to show it to
best advantage.
What the collection does demonstrate is that Jacobite studies now
provide some of the finest examples of a history which truly integrates the
history of the whole of the British Isles with that of Europe, and spans the
boundaries of academic disciplines. The editors represent British and
French universities respectively, and their contributors derive from four
different nations. One essay alone (that of Hopkins) draws upon collections
in London, Paris, Oxford and Aberystwyth, to illuminate the career of a
Scottish politician. The sources drawn upon for the book range from the
usual state and family papers and political tracts, to poetry, plays, sonatas,
and The Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection. Yeats and Burns make their
appearance alongside authors more commonly associated with the Stuart
cause; the dispossessed royal family is currently inspiring some of the most
truly modern kinds of history.
The meat of the book lies in its treatment of the 1690s, and some of the
best of it is provided while the pages are still in Roman numerals, by the
editors' survey of the Stuart base at St Germain. They turn Churchill's
'phantom court' into a flourishing centre of the arts which had a direct
impact upon French music in particular. It also, arguably, played a vital
role in the transmission of Freemasonry to the Continent. Contrary to
received notions, honours were given sparingly there and the little
information which required secrecy was handled with discretion. Only in
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