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Henry Benedict Thomas Edward Maria Clement Francis Xavier Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York (6 March 1725 – 13 July 1807) was a Roman Catholic Cardinal, as well as the fourth and final Jacobite heir to claim the thrones of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland publicly. Unlike his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, and brother, Charles Edward Stuart, Henry made no effort to seize the throne. After Charles's death in January 1788 the Papacy did not recognise Henry as the lawful ruler of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but referred to him as the Cardinal Duke of York.
He spent his life in the Papal States and had a long career in the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, rising to become the Dean of the College of Cardinals and Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. At the time of his death he was (and still is) one of the longest serving Cardinals in the Church's history.
In his youth, Henry's father made him Duke of York (in the Jacobite Peerage), and it was by this title that he was best known. Upon the death of his brother in 1788 Henry became known by Jacobites, and within his personal entourage, as Henry IX of England and Ireland, and I of Scotland, although publicly he referred to himself as Cardinal-Duke of York nuncupatus.
Historians have drawn upon contemporary perceptions to explore the suggestion that Henry was homosexual. These accounts include the writings of Hester Lynch Thrale (1741–1821), and the diplomat and writer Giuseppe Gorani (1740–1819). Gorani admitted to having gathered evidence insufficient to confirm his suspicions either way, but drew attention to the number of handsome clerics that were to be found in Henry's palace. The historian Andrew Lang alluded to James's comment that his younger son would never marry although many marriages had been planned for him.
The writer Gaetano Moroni provides the lengthiest account of Henry's close attachment with his majordomo Monsignor Giovanni Lercari (1722–1802), whom Henry was said to have "loved beyond measure". This closeness led to serious tensions between the cardinal and his father who in 1752 eventually tried to have Lercari dismissed from service and sent from Rome. Henry reacted by attempting to separate his household finances from those of his father, and refused himself to return to Rome from Bologna without Lercari by his side. A public scandal was only narrowly avoided after the personal intervention of Pope Benedict XIV who acted as peace-maker. It was agreed that Lercari would leave the household and due to Henry's influence was later made Archbishop of Genoa.
Things became easier after the death of James in 1766. From 1769 onwards Henry remained close to Monsignor Angelo Cesarini, a nobleman from Perugia, who thanks to Henry's protection, won various honours, was made canon of the cathedral in Frascati, and finally in 1801 became Bishop of Milevi. When Henry died, Cesarini was still at his side, as he had been for 32 years. Cesarini was later buried in the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella.
Caution should nevertheless be given against assuming any active sexual relationships, even if they may have had a romantic element, because equally clear in contemporary sources is York's horror of all impropriety.
Henry Benedict, his brother, his father and his mother are buried in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. There is a monument to the Royal Stuarts on one of the columns in the basilica proper, designed by Antonio Canova. The monument was originally commissioned by Monsignor Angelo Cesarini, executor of Henry Benedict's estate. Among the subscribers, curiously, was King George IV, who became an admirer of the Stuart legend.
The monument was restored within living memory, at the expense of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
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