La Cloche, James (DNB00)

LA CLOCHE, JAMES (fl. 1668), natural son of Charles II, was born in Jersey in 1647, when his father was just seventeen. According to Charles, the boy's mother was ‘a young lady of one of the noblest families in his dominions.’ Her name is unknown. He was brought up as a protestant in France and Holland. In 1665 he was removed secretly to London; but his equivocal position caused him much disquietude there, and he returned of his own accord to the continent in 1667. He carried with him a formal acknowledgment of his parentage, signed and sealed by the king on 27 Sept. 1665, and a deed of settlement, dated 7 Feb. 1667, assigning to him a pension of 500l. In the first document Charles writes of him as ‘our natural son James Stuart,’ and states that he has borne various feigned names, and was now to take that of ‘De La Cloche du Bourg de Jersey.’ A few months afterwards he was received into the Roman catholic church at Hamburg, under the auspices, it would seem, of Queen Christina of Sweden, and in the latter part of the same year he entered the novitiate of the Jesuit Society at Rome under the name of James La Cloche, apparently with the knowledge and approval of Charles. In August 1668 the king, in search of some secret means of entering into communication with Rome, wrote to the general of the jesuits, F. Oliva, requesting that La Cloche should be sent to him in London. At the same time he sent a letter to La Cloche to the same effect (Giuseppe Boero, Istoria della Conversione alla Chiesa Cattolica di Carlo II, 1863). La Cloche set out in October, travelling under the name of Henri de Rohan. Arrived in London, he obtained, in pursuit of the king's instructions, audience of the queen and the queen-mother, and was by them secretly brought to his father. No details of La Cloche's mission are accessible. The last of the king's letters to Oliva is dated 18 Nov., and suggests that some important determination had been arrived at. La Cloche finally returned to Rome as his father's ‘secret ambassador to the father-general,’ charged with commissions only to be explained orally, and with a stipulation that so soon as he had fulfilled them he was to return to England.

Further notice of La Cloche is wanting. Probably owing to the repeated change of name, his later career cannot be traced in the registers of the society, but he doubtless continued a member until his death. Boero is of opinion that after his return to England he remained there under an assumed name, that he continued secretly to visit his father at intervals, and that he was, in fact, the ‘foreign ecclesiastic’ who was sent for by the Duke of York, but who ‘could not be found,’ in the last illness of the king.

[Gent. Mag. 1866, i. 26–8, 226–7, 531; Boero's Istoria della Conversione … di Carlo II, 1863.]

G. G.