King James VIII's Reasons for not Assisting at the Te Deum, January 1716

King James VIII landed in Scotland in December 1715 and remained there until the following February. In January he issued this text explaining his reasons for not attending a Protestant religious service at Perth.

A printed version of the text can be found on pages 648 and 649 of English Historical Documents, 1714-1783, edited by D.B. Horn and Mary Ransome (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1957).

I cannot well understand why some people have laid so much stress on my assisting once at a Te Deum joined to the daily service of the Church of England, except they think by it that the people will be imposed on and conclude that I am either a Protestant or in a fair way towards it, and in that case it cannot be wondered I should decline that step, in which, conscience apart, there would be so manifest a dissimulation, and which would at the same time only serve to excite people's expectation, and to make the disappointment of my not changing my religion at last the greater. For it is not to be supposed that men of sense or honour could believe me to play the hypocrite so notoriously as to be a Protestant in exterior and a Catholic in my heart, or to think o the other hand that once going to church and that alone could quiet people's minds in relation to religion, when they would see by my future conduct that I was not less a Catholic for that.

All this being, it is very manifest to me that the point aimed at is an absolute change, at least according to reason it ought to be so, and that I should no sooner have yielded one thing but another would be pressed, the same arguments would be used for one as for the other, and to think that less than an absolute change would entirely satisfy, I believe, nobody does believe, all the rest, as I may well call it, is but chicane, much unbecoming both my character and dignity and that reputation of sincerity my interest as well as honour engages me to maintain, and, if I were well known, people would not be so mealy mouthed but speak plain, which, I am sure, I should neither wonder at nor take ill, there being nothing so natural as for all men to desire others should be of the same religion as they, nor more becoming a loyal Protestant than to wish I should condescend to what is so manifestly my interest. But, as my resolution in that respect may be easily concluded, and that except that one main point I have given sufficient proofs of my moderation, of my kindness for my Protestant subjects, and of the happiness they may enjoy under me, the whole of the question must come to this dilemma, either they have and will receive me as a Catholic, or they will not. If the first, why speak more of the matter? If the last, why not tell me so plainly and send me back, since, though I have and am yet willing to venture my life to relieve them, yet I cannot betray my conscience on any account whatsoever?

It was not, I am sure, either ambition or the prospect of future greatness and happiness that determined me to this undertaking, reputation was the only private view I had in it, and their delivery was my principal object, towards the effecting of which, if they will not join with me, it will be their misfortune more than mine and more sensible to me than my own, but can never be my fault. After this I must appeal to any reasonable man, if I have not on this head done all that was possible for me towards quieting people's minds, or if my conduct can be said to have anything of harshness or bigotry in it. The bare re-presentation of the Jesuits being disagreeable in England made me part with them as a thing indifferent in itself to religion and what might be pleasing to the generality of my friends. Did not I promise to hear what the Protestants had to say for themselves in due time and place? Did not I send for Mr. Leslie out of England to assist my Protestant servants abroad? I gave them a place to pray in and assemble in my own house, and that they did with less mystery than I have Mass here; I had all my Protestant servants with me at Bar, and all favour and distinction was shown them.

As to myself, since my coming here everybody knows I had not so much as a priest with me nor have not now any living constantly at this place. I hear not Mass so much as every day, and, when I do, it is in so private a manner that the last Catholic subject I have could not do it with more caution; and what are the returns I receive for all this, when even that liberty, which in a king would be looked upon as tyranny to refuse to his subjects, is grudged by them to me, who give me in my own person but a sad example of that leniency and moderation in religious matters they preach so much and practise so ill, but which they shall never make me desist from showing to them.

If, therefore, people would but think seriously of the matter, I am persuaded they would let that matter fall, and in my present unfortunate circumstance not increase my mortifications by pressing upon me what I cannot comply with, and what it is, therefore, for my interest more than my ease should not be mentioned, at least at this time, nay, I may say more, that my affairs being as uncertain as they now are, were I even resolved to change, it would be against my interest to do so now, as must be visible to all thinking men.

This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran ( and was last updated October 26, 2003.
© Noel S. McFerran 2000-2003.