Louis XIV of France placed this château at the disposal of King James II and VII when he retired to France in 1689. 1 James' daughter Louise was born here in 1692 and was baptised in the château's chapel. James died here in 1701. His wife Queen Mary Beatrice died here in 1718.
Since 1862 the château has been a museum. Today it houses the Musée des antiquités nationales with prehistoric, Roman, and Merovingian artefacts.
Next to the château stands the parish church. The present edifice, completed in 1827, replaces the one built by Louis XIV of France.
In 1824 during the digging of the new foundations three small lead boxes were discovered. The first of these had upon it an inscription identifying the contents as the praecordia of King James II and VII. The second and third boxes are presumed to contain the praecordia of his wife Queen Mary Beatrice and of their daughter Princess Louise.
On September 9, 1824, while the church was still only partially built, the remains of King James, his wife, and daughter were solemnly re-interred in what is now the first chapel on the right as one enters the church. For the occasion the Elector Georg IV of Hanover erected a Latin inscription: 2
JUSSU GEORGII IV.
MAGNAE BRITANNIÆ ETC REGIS
ET CURANTE EQUITE
EXC. CAROLO STUART
REGIS BRTIANNIÆ LEGATO
CÆTERIS ANTEA RITE PERACTIS
ET QUO DECET HONORE
IN STIRPEM REGIAM
HIC NUPER EFFOSSÆ
RECONDITÆ SUNT RELIQUIÆ
QUO IN SECUNDO CIVITATIS
GRADU CLARIS TRIUMPHIS
IN PRIMO INFELICIOR
POST VARIOS FORTUNÆ CASUS
IN SPEM MELIORIS VITÆ
ET BEATÆ RESURRECTIONIS
HIC QUIEVIT IN DOMINO
V. IDUS SEPTEMBRIS.
Sometime before 1840 this inscription was removed and replaced with a white marble monument with three inscriptions. 3 The centre inscription on the monument reads:
FERALE QUISQUIS HOC MONUMENTUM SUSPICIS
RERUM HUMANARUM VICES MEDITARE
MAGNUS IN PROSPERIS, IN ADVERSIS MAJOR
JACOBUS II ANGLORUM REX
INSIGNES AERUMNAS DOLENDAQUE FATA
PIO PLACIDOQUE OBITU EXSOLVIT
IN HAC URBE
DIE XVI SEPTEMBRIS ANNI MDCCI
ET NOBILES QUAEDAM CORPORIS EJUS PARTES
HIC RECONDITAE ASSERVANTUR.
To royal remains, royal piety.
Whoever you are who look upon this funerary monument
think upon the changes of human fortune.
Great in prosperity, greater in adversity,
James II, King of England
loosened the signs of hardship and sad destiny
by a pious and quiet death
in this city
September 16, 1701.
Some of the more noble parts of his body
are here preserved hidden.
QUI PRIUS AUGUSTA GESTABAT FRONTE CORONAM
EXIGUA NUNC PULVEREUS REQUIESCIT IN URNA
QUID SOLIUM QUID ALTA JUVANT?
TERIT OMNIA LETHUM.
The man who formerly wore a crown on his august head
now rests as dust in a small urn
What good is a throne or noble birth?
Death wears away all things.
VERUM LAUS FIDEI AC MORUM HAUD PERITURA MANEBIT
TU QUOQUE SUMME DEUS REGEM QUEM REGIUS HOSPES
INFAUSTUM EXCEPIT TECUM REGNARE JUBEBIS.
But the glory of his faith and character remain forever.
You too, All Highest God, bid reign with you
an unlucky king whom a royal host received.
On August 25, 1855, Princess Albrecht of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha visited Saint-Germain en Laye. 4 She subsequently paid for further decorations around the monument to King James II and VII. The walls of the chapel were decorated by the painter Blanchin. There are lions, unicorns, the crowned letter "J", and the royal arms. In the half-dome above there is a painting of Saint George fighting the dragon.
On the right side of the church (as one faces it) there are two modern signs in both French and English notifying people of the memorial to James II and VII.
1 For a full account of the Stuart residence see Edward Corp, "The Château-Vieux de Saint-Germain", in A Court in Exile: The Stuarts in France, 1689-1718 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004): 76-103.
2 "The Disinterment Of James II" The Times (September 15, 1824): 2. Cf. J. Reynell Wreford, "Remains of James II", Notes and Queries 2, no. 56 (November 23, 1850), 427.
3 Wreford, 427. Cf. John Heneage Jesse, Memoirs of the Court of England During the Reign of the Stuarts, Including the Protectorate (London: Richard Bentley, 1840), IV, 444-445.
4 "Her Majesty's Visit to France" The Times (August 28, 1855): 12.
Image 1 (Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye): jice77, www.flickr.com.
Image 2 (Parish Church): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
Image 3 (Funerary chapel of King James II and VII): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
Image 4 (Memorial to King James II and VII): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
Image 5 (Coat-of-arms atop the memorial): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
Image 6 (Decoration of the walls): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
Image 7 (Signs outside the church): © Noel S. McFerran 2018.
This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran (email@example.com) and was last updated March 10, 2019.
© Noel S. McFerran 2000-2019.