Vetralla & Montefiascone-two English towns in central ItalyJuly 10th , 2012 Tagged with: Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge • English in Italy • exiled English kings in Italy • Montefiascone • northern Lazio • Stuarts, exiled English kings in Italy • Vetralla
Vetralla, an hour north of Rome and the airports of Fiumicino and Ciampino, is a small town known for its olive oil, Etruscan sites and excellent climate. It is the only town in Italy (and perhaps the world) that can boast the historic protection of the English crown for almost 500 years.
Visitors from England will feel doubly at home when they arrive here and see the town banner fluttering from the city hall for it is emblazoned with the red St. George Cross on a white background. Climbing up the city hall’s staircase they will note the large marble plaque dated 1512 sculpted with three majestic heraldic crests. Flanking the arms of Pope Julius II (under whose direction Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel) are those of Henry VIII Tudor and of his ambassador, Christopher Cardinal Bainbridge.
Ambassador Cardinal Bainbridge sent shipments of local food back to England including olive oil, wine and huge forms of cheese of which the king was particularly fond.
Hundreds of letters conserved in Windsor Castle’s archives make up part of the correspondence between the Stuart rulers and Vetralla’s town fathers during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The last of the Stuarts in exile, Cardinal Henry, the Duke of York, visited the town in October 1776 during one of his month-long holiday voyages to Tuscany and northern Lazio.
His elegant marble portrait bust donated to the town in 1802 can be admired in the city council chamber where nostalgic Jacobites often leave bouquets of heather carried from the Scottish highlands.
The diaries of the Stuart Cardinal’s voyages form the basis for the
recently published book “Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio” and contain descriptions of Lucca, Bologna, Florence, Orvieto, Pisa and other towns visited by the Cardinal and his entourage during the years 1763 to 1776. There are only 10 copies left , which can be ordered directly from the author through this website’s Contact page.
A small pamphlet “Vetralla: The English Connection, Un frammento ritrovato di storia vetrallese” was published in 2001. It is now out of print.
There is more information in my later books which are available directly or in numerous bookshops in central Italy (listed on the website) or through Amazon.com.
Montefiascone is also described in great detail for it was another important town for the royal exiles of the Stuart family. Here James Stuart and Clementina Sobieska were married and spent part of their honeymoon . Here the baptism of their first son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, was celebrated. The church of Santa Margherita boasts a collection of magnificent church paraments handstitched in gold and silver thread by Clementina.
UPDATE A new museum is being opened soon (2016) in Montefiascone .
Hopefully these vestments and other Stuart memorabilia will be put on display.