Ambassador Nigel Baker commemorated the 250th anniversary of James Francis Edward Stuart's state funeral

Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See has laid a wreath at the tomb of the Old Pretender, the Stuart pretender who attempted to win back the British crown.

Ambassador Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart last Friday at St Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his state funeral.

“Our simple wreath-laying ceremony was, in a way, one of historical reconciliation,” the ambassador said.

“(James Stuart) was known for his deep faith, but I hope would have been pleased to have seen participants across the ecumenical divide at this occasion.”

James Stuart was the son of King James II of England, and VII of Scotland, and Queen Mary of Modena. His birth in 1688, which ensured a Catholic successor to his father, led to the so-called “Glorious Revolution” and the overthrow of King James by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange.

Subsequently the Stuarts were barred from the succession and in their place Sophia of Hanover became heir apparent, leapfrogging 57 Catholic candidates for the throne. Her son became George I after Queen Anne, James II’s younger daughter, died childless in 1714.

James Stuart, known as the Old Pretender to distinguish him from his son Charles, led a Jacobite Rising in the Highlands of Scotland in 1715 but it ended in defeat at the Battle of Preston on November 14.

He died on January 1, 1766, and was given state funeral by Pope Clement XIII on January 8 in St Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. He was recognised by the pope as King, but the papacy later came to accept the Hanoverian succession.

The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying and the Collect by Baker, the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by HE Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the sung Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.

Baker was accompanied by the Rt Rev Monsignor Charles Burns, Ecclesiastical Advisor at the British Embassy to the Holy See. HE Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Holy See Secretary for Relations with States, and HE Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, attended from the Holy See.

Other participants included Lord Nicholas Windsor, the most senior Catholic member of the British royal family.