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Scottish Florence

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After his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to France and then to Italy, where he married Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern in 1772. The couple lived happily in Rome for two years, despite the difference in their ages (he was fifty-two and she was only twenty).

Louise had been promised that if she gave birth to a son and heir, the Pope would help Charles in his efforts to claim the British throne and she would be crowned queen. But she remained childless and soon became the target for the anger of her increasingly drunken and abusive husband.

In 1774, Charles and Louise moved to Florence, where they began to use the title of Count and Countess of Albany. They lived at the Palazzo di San Clemente or Casino Guadagnia. The building, which is said to be haunted, still stands today on the corner of Via Micheli and Via Gino Capponi.

Count Vittorio Alfieri, the poet and founder of Italian tragedy, was presented at the palace in 1776. He became a frequent visitor and, sometime in 1778, he also became Louise’s lover. Alfieri died in Florence in 1803 and was buried in the Basilica di Santa Croce, between the tombs of Machiavelli and Michelangelo, in a monument commissioned by Louise from Antonio Canova in 1810.

Charles died in Rome in 1788 and was buried next to his brother and father in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in 1807. Louise died in Florence in 1824 and was buried in the Cappella Castellani, which is in the right arm of the transept of the Basilica di Santa Croce.

The Cappella Castellani was frescoed by Agnolo Gaddi and depicts the lives of St Antonio Abate, St John the Baptist, St John the Evangelist and St Nicholas of Bari. The tabernacle is by Mino da Fiesole, while the painted cross is by Niccolò Gerini. The statues of the Robbiana school represent St Francis and St Domenic. Louise’s Neo-Renaissance tomb was sculpted by Luigi Giovannozzi and Emilio Santarelli after a design by French architect Charles Percier (circa 1824).

The Church of Scotland met at Via Lungarno Guicciardini 19. The adjoining building was once part of the Palazzo Medici-Soderini, which hosted at various times Lord Byron, Napoleon Bonaparte and Sir Walter Scott during his visit to the city in May 1831. In 1765, it was modified and turned into a church for the Scottish community in Florence. The building is now home to the business of Italian fashion designer Enrico Coveri.

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