A Jacobite Gazetteer - Rome

Palazzo Balestra

Facade on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli
Facade on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli

This palace is located at the north end of Piazza dei Santi Apostoli (no. 49). It was formerly called Palazzo Muti-Papazurri (and sometimes Palazzo dei Santi Apostoli or Palazzo Stuart).

This palace was part of the complex provided in 1719 by Pope Clement XI to King James III and VIII as his Roman residence. The palace was owned at that time by the Marchese Giovanni Battista Muti, nephew-in-law of Cardinal Pietro Marcellino Corradini. 1 The annual rent was paid by the Apostolic Camera, an administrative department of the Holy See; one source says that it was 1,600 scudi per year, 2 another that it was 12,000 scudi per year. 3 The palace rented for King James included not only that fronting on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli, but also two other palazzi and two houses adjoining it. 4 One of the adjoining palaces is the Muti-Papazurri palace which fronts on Piazza della Pilotta and now houses the Pontificio Istituto Biblico; it was in fact this palace which was the centre of the Stuart court.

King James III and VIII lived in this palace complex for over forty years. Here Queen Clementina gave birth to her sons: King Charles III December 31, 1720, and King Henry IX and I March 21, 1725. Queen Clementina died here January 18, 1735, and King James III and VIII January 1, 1766.

In 1766 Charles returned to Rome and used the palace as his major residence. After his marriage to Princess Louise of Stolberg he and his wife lived here until they moved to Florence in 1774. Charles returned to the palace in December 1785 and lived here with his daughter, Charlotte, Duchess of Albany. He died here January 30/31, 1788. At Charles' death, the tenancy of the palace passed to his brother Henry; the Apostolic Camera continued to pay the rent of £435. 5

The piano nobile (first floor above the ground floor) retains much of the decoration from the period of Stuart occupancy although some of this is hidden above drop-ceilings. In 1719 Pope Clement XI paid for the redecoration of the palace to prepare it for its new royal tenant. 6 From 1628 to 1631 Charles Mellin had painted the vaults of the Galleria, the windows of which face directly onto Piazza Santi Apostoli. 7 Giovanni Angelo Soccorsi restored the Mellin frescoes and added some of his own. 8 One author has noted the presence among these frescoes of the "half moon heraldic symbol of the Stuarts", but this is based upon a misunderstanding. 9

On most days of the week (but not on Sunday) it is possible to enter through the large door which fronts on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli, and walk down the corridor into the courtyard. On the left wall of the corridor there is an Italian inscription:

There lived in this palace
Henry, Duke later Cardinal of York
who, surviving son of James III of England
took the name of Henry IX.
In him in the year 1807
the House of Stuart expired.
Memorial to King Henry IX and I
Memorial to King Henry IX and I

The palace is now occupied by a number of different offices.


1 Calendar of the Stuart Papers, Historical Manuscripts Commission (London: 1904), VII, 645-646.

2 Ibid., VII, 662. This was the agreed sum for each of the first three years commencing January 15, 1719. 1,100 scudi were paid to the Marchese Giovanni Battista Muti, while the remaining 500 scudi were paid to his mother the Marchesa Alesandra Millini Muti.

3 Felice Guglielmi, "Gli Ultimi Stuart ad Albano", Castelli Romani: Vicende, Uomini, Folklore 28 (Marzo 1983): 38. This may have been the annual rent at a later date.

4 The first of these palazzetti was at the time occupied by Count Musignani. The lower part of the second of these palazzetti was occupied by the Marchese Giovanni Battista Muti, and the upper part by the Abbé Millini (presumably the brother, or at least a relative, of Muti's mother). The two houses seem not to have been the property of the Marchese Giovanni Battista Muti, but to have been leased by him; the Apostolic Camera paid an additional annual rent of 36 scudi for the first house to Signor Giacinto Manni, and an additional annual rent of 60 scudi for the second house to the Marchese Girolamo Muti.

5 Francis John Angus Skeet, The Life and Letters of H.R.H. Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany, Only Child of Charles III, King of Great Britain, Scotland, France and Ireland (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1932), 127.

6 Rossella Pantanella, "Palazzo Muti a Piazza SS. Apostoli, Residenza degli Stuart a Roma", Storia dell' Arte 84 (1995): 307-328. There are a number of documents in the Archivio di Stato di Roma and in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano which record payments made for this work; a number of these are reprinted as an appendix to this article.

7 Doris Wild, "Charles Mellin ou Nicolas Poussin", Gazette des Beaux-Arts IIème période, 68 (octobre 1966): 177-214. Charles Mellin was born in Nancy about 1597, and died in Rome in 1649.

8 Pantanella, 308, 312-314.

9 In Rome the most common renderings of the Royal Arms are those of King Henry IX and I when he was still Duke of York, i.e. the Royal Arms differenced with the crescent, the standard mark of cadency for a second son. Pantanella seems to have misinterpreted this mark of cadency for an actual heraldic charge.

Image 1 (Facade on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli): Ferruccio Lombardi, Roma: Palazzi, Palazzeti, Case, Progetto per un Inventario, 1200-1870 (Rome: Edilstampa, 1991), 83.

Image 2 (Memorial to King Henry IX and I): © Noel S. McFerran 2001.

This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran (noel.mcferran@rogers.com) and was last updated January 5, 2006.
© Noel S. McFerran 2000-2006.