Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Escapes > Chapter 11 The Escape of Princess Clementina
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Chapter 11 The Escape of Princess Clementina

IN the year 1718 the Chevalier de St. George, or, as some called him, the Old Pretender, after the defeat of his hopes in Scotland, had retired to Rome. At the age of thirty he was still a bachelor, but the unhappiness of his condition was due not to his celibacy but to his misfortunes. The Jacobite campaign of 1715 had proved a disastrous failure; and although he still retained the courtesy title of James HI., he was a king without a realm. While the royal exile was twiddling his thumbs in the Italian capital, waiting for a better turn of luck, his friends, seeing that nothing further was to be gained by the pursuit of Mars, sought the aid of Cupid. They laid before the Chevalier the flattering proposal of a marriage with a Princess of beauty and race. This move was inspired less by romance than by polities, for a suitable marriage would not only encourage the waning Jacobite hopes, but might raise up an heir to the Cause.

The Chevalier readily concurred in the scheme, and a certain Mr. Charles Wogan was dispatched to the various European courts to report on a suitable bride for the Chevalier. Wogan’s choice fell on the little Polish Princess Clementina Sobiesky, daughter of James Sobiesky of Poland and Edwige Elizabeth Amelia of the house of Newburgh, and grand-daughter of the famous John Sobiesky, the “ deliverer of Christendom.”

The chronicles of the time are loud in the praises of this lady, her illustrious birth, her qualities of heart and mind, “ her Goodness, Sweetness of Temper, and other Beauties of a valuable character.” She is said to have been “ happy in all the Charms, both of Mind and Body, her Sex can boast of “; “ the Agreeableness of Seventeen and the Solidity of Thirty.” Her accomplishments included Polish, High Dutch, French, Italian, and English, all of which she spoke so well that it was difficult to distinguish which of these languages was the most familiar to her. She was also a young woman of exemplary piety, and therefore a suitable bride for a king in exile. Princess Clementina was only sixteen when the Chevalier and his friends laid siege to her affections.

It was no ordinary business, for there were many hazards and difficulties in the way. The Chevalier had given his consent to the proposed alliance; it was for his friends to see it brought to a successful issue, and the plan of campaign was left entirely in their hands. The bridegroom was a mere pawn a willing pawn in the game. The real difficulty was the House of Hanover, the inveterate enemy of the Stuart cause, which was by no means inclined to look with indulgence on the proposed alliance. Although the affair was kept a profound secret, the matter gradually leaked out; and George I. of England protested with such vigour to the Emperor on the folly and danger of the impending marriage, threatening among other things to break up the Quadruple Alliance, that Princess Clementina was arrested at Innsbruck with her mother and kept there under strict surveillance.

The Chevalier and his friends were in a quandary. Obviously a man built in the heroic mould was necessary to extricate them from the dilemma. They bethought them of Wogan, who had been recalled from his delicate mission on the pretext that it was impolitic to entrust the matter further to an Irish Catholic. Wogan was well adapted for this sort of adventure. He was, besides being something of a poet, a cavalier and a courtier. He had shared the hard fortunes of the Chevalier in Scotland, and had suffered imprisonment for his devotion to the Stuart cause. Once more the soldier of fortune was called upon to prove his devotion in a cause no less hazardous.

The Pope, who had been taken into the secret, had provided Wogan with a passport in the name of the Comte de Cernes, and forth he fared like a fairy-tale knight to rescue a distressed princess. Never had d’Artagnan and his Musketeers a more difficult task. Wogan duly arrived at Innsbruck in the disguise of a merchant, and obtained an interview with the Princess and her mother, who heartily concurred in the proposed plan of a secret “ elopement.” We next find him at Ohlau in quest of the Prince Sobiesky, the lady’s father. Here he met with a rebuff. Prince Sobiesky, a practical man of the world, viewed the whole affair as midsummer madness, and absolutely refused to lend his aid or consent to Wogan’s scheme.

Wogan was in a quandary, but he did not lose heart. He had nothing to complain of during his stay with Prince Sobiesky, for he was well lodged and treated with the most flattering attentions, but the real business of the mission hung fire. Still he waited he had long learned the game of patience and, being a courtier, was used to waiting. At length a happy accident turned the scale in his favour. On New Year’s Day, Prince Sobiesky, as a mark of his esteem, presented his guest with a magnificent snuff-box, formed of a single turquoise set in gold, a family heirloom, and part of the treasure found by John Sobiesky in the famous scarlet pavilion of Kara Mustapha. Wogan, with a charming gesture, declined the gift on the plea that, although he was sensible of the high honour shown Mrq by the Prince, he could not think of returning to Italy with a present for himself and a refusal for his master. The Prince was so touched that he finally yielded, and furnished Wogan with the necessary instructions to his wife and daughter. Wogan set out once more on his adventures in high spirits, carrying not only the precious instructions, but the snuff-box, which Prince Sobiesky had pressed on him as a parting gift.

The next thing was to establish secret communication with the Princess. This was more easily said than done. The garrulity of Prince Sobiesky, who in his parental agitation had babbled the whole story to a certain German baron, and the suspicions of the Countess de Berg, a noted intriguante and spy of the Austrian court, almost brought Wogan’s mission to an inglorious end. The baron was bought over at “ considerable expenditure,” but the Countess was a more difficult matter. While Wogan was the guest of honour of Prince Sobiesky she had been puzzled at the attentions shown to him, which she argued could be for no good end, and set her spies on his track. Wogan escaped by the skin of Ms teeth, and only evaded capture by ostentatiously announcing his departure for Prague. Then by a skilful detour he gave his pursuers the slip and posted on to Vienna, where he vainly tried to enlist the sympathy of the Papal Nuncio, Monseigneur Spinola.

Then came a thunderbolt, for suddenly Prince Sobiesky changed his mind. He dispatched an urgent message to Wogan saying that both the Princess and her mother, alarmed at the dangers that encompassed them, had resolved to proceed no further in the business, and that he forthwith cancelled his previous instructions.

Here was a pretty kettle of fish I Wogan was a stout-hearted fellow, but this new blow almost unmanned him. In his dilemma he wrote to the Chevalier and told the whole story, asking him at the same time to send a confidential servant to obtain fresh powers from Prince Sobiesky. The Chevalier promptly dispatched one of Ms valets, a Florentine called Michael Vezzosi, who, when attached to a Venetian Embassy in London, had been instrumental in aiding the escape of Lord Nithsdale from the Tower. The Chevalier reminded Prince Sobiesky that by his f oolish behaviour he was not only needlessly endangering the lives of Wogan and his friends, but adding to the difficulties of the captives at Innsbruck. He also gave the most explicit instructions to Wogan to proceed with the enterprise.

Wogan accordingly set out for Sehlettstadt, where he met his three kinsmen, Major Gaydon and Captains Misset and O’Toole, who were to lend their aid in the now difficult mission. Mrs. Misset accompanied her husband, together with her maid Jeanneton, but neither of the women was told the real nature of the undertaking. Jeanneton was to play a conspicuous part in the escape of Clementina. Wogan’s plan was that the maid should change places with the Princess and generally impersonate her till she had made good her escape. The light-headed girl was told a cock-and-bull story about O’Toole having fallen violently in love with a beautiful heiress, and Wogan played to such a tune on her sense of the romantic that she gleefully entered into the plot of the “ elopement.”

Wogan, however} was not yet out of the wood, So far he had succeeded, but he had now to deal with the whims and caprice of the ladies wlio liad been pressed into the enterprise. Jeanneton, whose importance to the success of the venture was paramount, proved especially troublesome. First of all she refused point-blank to wear the low-heeled shoes wMch had been specially ordered for her, so as to reduce her height to conformity with that of the Princess; and not only screamed and swore, but went so far in her tantrums as to knock the shoemaker down. She had once been a camp-follower, and her manners were those of the tented field. It was not until Mrs. Misset, in an excess of despair, had thrown herself imploringly at her feet, a ceremony in which the gentlemen of the party were constrained to join, that the maid relented, and the party set forth at last in a ramshackle berline for Innsbruck.

So far so good. At an inn between Nassereith and Innsbruck, while the other members of the party regaled themselves with a banquet of wild boar and sauerkraut, Wogan stole out in the rain to keep an important appointment with a certain M. Chateaudoux, gentleman............

Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved