Here begins another romance. She was often visited by Vittorio Alfieri, the great Italian poet and dramatist. Alfieri was a man of wealth. In early years he divided his time into alternate periods during which he either studied hard in civil and canonical law, or was a constant attendant upon the race-course, or rushed aimlessly all over Europe without any object except to wear out the post-horses which he used in relays over hundreds of miles of road. His life, indeed, was eccentric almost to insanity; but when he had met the beautiful and lonely Countess of Albany there came over him a striking change. She influenced him for all that was good, and he used to say that he owed her all that was best in his dramatic works.
Sixteen years after her marriage her royal husband died, a worn-out, bloated wreck of one who had been as a youth a model of knightliness and manhood. During his final years he had fallen to utter destitution, and there was either a touch of half contempt or a feeling of remote kinship in the act of George III., who bestowed upon the prince an annual pension of four thousand pounds. It showed most plainly that England was now consolidated under Hanoverian rule.
When Cardinal York died, in 1807, there was no Stuart left in the male line; and the countess was the last to bear the royal Scottish name of Albany.
After the prince’s death his widow is said to have been married to Alfieri, and for the rest of her life she lived in Florence, though Alfieri died nearly twenty-one years before her.
Here we have seen a part of the romance which attaches itself to the name of Stuart—in the chivalrous young prince, leading his Highlanders against the bayonets of the British, lolling idly among the Hebrides, or fallen, at the last, to be a drunkard and the husband of an unwilling consort, who in her turn loved a famous poet. But it is this Stuart, after all, of whom we think when we hear the bagpipes skirling “Over the Water to Charlie” or “Wha’ll be King but Charlie?”
THE ROMANCE OF DEVOTION
Volume II of IV.
The empress Catharine and prince Potemkin
Marie Antoinette and count Fersen
the story of Aaron Burr
George IV. And Mrs. Fitzherbert
Charlotte corday and Adam Lux
Napoleon and Marie Walewska
the story of Pauline Bonaparte
the story of the empress Marie Louise and count Neipperg