The curious circumstances surrounding the birth of  a son to James II. As told by Bishop Gilbert Burnett in "A History of My Own Times".

Burnett was born in Edinburgh in 1643 ( d 1715) and rose through the episcopal Church of England to become Bishop of Salisbury . A very learned and widely travelled man, he was a prodigious author and renowned for both his style ( written as if he were a witness to events) as well as a penchant for what his opponents regarded as `tittle tattle`. He was in exile in Holland for much of the reign of  James II but had very close contacts with both the Court in London and that of William of Orange.

 "Things were now come to that pass, and the King, by assuming to himself a power to make laws void, had so broken the government and legal administration of it, that it was high time for the nation to look to its preservation. Admiral Russell had a sister in Holland, and under pretence of coming to see her, he was desired by some men of great power and interest in England to wait on the Prince, to acquaint him with the disposition of the nation, and to know his resolutions what he proposed to do. And the thing was pressed with greater earnestness at that time, because the Queen’s confinement of a son, which was generally thought to be an imposture, had dissatisfied people’s minds more and more.

 The Queen had been for six or seven years in such an ill state of health, and had long relinquished all prospect of such an increase, that those who were about her were very well assured she would have no more children. She was at Bath when the King went his progress, and at his return he called upon her in September, and stayed some few days with her. On the 6th of October, she came to the King at Windsor, and it was at that lime that her mother, the Duchess of Modena, made a vow to the Lady of Loretto, that her daughter, by her means, might have a son ; and the daughter, it was said, believed in the vitality of the child the very moment her mother made that vow. After she had expressed this belief, all things about her person were managed with a mysterious secrecy, into which none were admitted but a few Papists. The Princess of Orange was not acquainted with it; the Princess of Denmark, with all her inquisitiveness, could get no certain knowledge of it; and, when it came to be suspected and bantered in some libels as a cheat and imposture, the turn the Queen gave it was, that she scorned to satisfy those who suspected her capable of so black a contrivance.

On Monday in Easter week the Queen, being apprehensive of a miscarriage, sent for the King, who was then at Rochester viewing some naval preparations. The Countess of Clarendon was in the bedchamber that same day, and both heard the Queen often bemoan herself, saying, “Undone, undone,” and saw some signs of a miscarriage (as Dr. Walgrave testified the same), when the Countess of Powis ordered her to withdraw, and a woman of the bedchamber charged her to speak nothing of what she had seen that day. The King at this time pressed the Princess of Denmark, with a more than usual importunity, and contrary to the opinion of her friends and physicians, to go to Bath. But she had not long been there before, pretending that the waters did not agree with her, she sent word of her intentions to return within a few days.

The Queen had no sooner notice of this, but she was for going the very next day to be confined at St. James’s (for those about her had now altered her reckoning to the time the King was with her at Bath), and was accordingly carried at night from Whitehall, not through the park, as usual, but by Charing Cross and along the Mall, with a sort of affectation; her train giving it out that she was going to be confined some saying it would be next morning, and others affirming it would be of a boy. There was no mistake in the conjecture, if it was one, for next morning, about nine o’clock, she sent word to the King that she was in labour. The Queen’ Dowager, the Countess of Sunderland, and the lady Belasyse came in time; but, it being Trinity Sunday, all the Protestant ladies about Court were gone to church before the news was let go abroad. The King brought with him a great many peers and Privy Councillors; and, while they stood at the further end of the room, the ladies within the alcove, and the Queen, with the curtains close drawn, and none within them but the mid. wife and an under-dresser, lay in bed. A warming-pan was brought in, which, not being looked into, was thought a matter of suspicion afterwards, and, in a very short time (a little before ten), the Queen cried out as in a strong pain, and the midwife said aloud she was happily delivered, and gave some indication to Lady Sunderland, who touched her forehead, a sign previously agreed upon by which the King was assured that it was a son.

The child was not heard to cry, nor was he shown to any in the room; but the under-dresser huddled away something in her arms, pretending more air was necessary, into a dressing room hard by, that had communication with other apartments; and the King, delaying some minutes to follow her, made it seem as if he had been minded to give time for some clandestine management. No satisfaction, in the meantime, was given to the ladies who came in that the birth was real: the Princess, when she returned from Bath, had no sure conviction of it; and Chamberlain, the man-midwife, not having been called in to the labour, as usual, heightened the probability of an imposture. If there was no imposture the matter, in short, was so unaccountably managed as to give sufficient grounds of suspicion, and might therefore an excuse the nation for being so cold in their expressions of joy and so formal in their congratulatory addresses upon this occasion.

But if a child was born, there are further presumptions that it soon died, and another was put in his room. The Queen’s children were all naturally very weak, and died young. That very night a man*  of credit overheard it said in an eminent Papist’s house (Brown, brother to the Viscount Montacute), that “the Prince of \\‘ales is dead.” Next morning all access was denied to the young Prince, and the Countess of Clarendon herself was not admitted. However, two days after this, a child was produced, that looked too strong, as most thought, for one so newly born. And that child, again, fell into such fits, some weeks after, that four physicians were sent for, and all looked upon him as dead; but when, after dinner, they were called in again, they were shown a sound lusty child, that had no kind of illness on him, whom they could not think the same, though they durst not speak their minds."

 *Hemings, an eminent apothecary in St. Martin’s Lane.

This allegation rather undermines the arguement for the subsequent Jacobean claims to the throne and the attempts in the 1715 and 1745 rebellions to return a Catholic Stuart King to the throne. The constitutions of both England and Scotland as well as that for the newly created United Kingdom specifically precluded a Catholic king. Yet seldom if ever, is the fact brought out in the emotive and sentimental blather about Bonnie Prince Charlie. Had either of the Stuart pretenders got as far as London the probability was that a new religious war would have broken out. The certainty is that they would not have been able to hold onto the throne(s) without the exertion of long term military might to control the masses. It is highly improbable that they would ever have had the support of the majority of the people, nor the finances (even with the help of France and Spain) necessary for prolonged subjugation of the nation.

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