Francis V of Modena, photographed c. 1868-70, who was the last Duke of Modena and an heir in the Jacobite succession

On this day in history: Birth of Francis V, Duke of Modena

History of Italy News

Francis V, Duke of Modena, was born on 1st June 1819, into the House of Habsburg-Este. His life was marked by political upheaval, personal tragedy, and an enduring legacy tied to both Italian and Jacobite history.

Francis ruled the Duchy of Modena and Reggio from 1846 until 1859, when his reign was interrupted by the unification of Italy. In addition to his role as Duke, Francis V is notable for being a Jacobite claimant to the British throne, tracing his lineage back to the deposed Stuart kings.

Early Life of Francis V

Francis Ferdinand Geminianus Maria was born to Francis IV of Modena and Maria Beatrice of Savoy. His father was the Duke of Modena, Reggio, and Mirandola, and Prince of Carrara making young Francis heir to these titles.

His mother, Maria Beatrice, was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia, further embedding him in European aristocracy. It was through her that he held the Jacobite claim to the throne of Great Britain.

Interestingly, Francis also descended from four popes, as the geneaology tree shows.

Family tree showing Francis V's ancestry back to four popes
Family tree showing Francis V’s ancestry back to four popes. Useful charts via Reddit

Upon his father’s death in 1846, Francis V ascended to the dukedom. His reign coincided with a period of great political instability in Italy.

The Risorgimento, the movement for Italian unification, was gaining momentum, and Francis V faced mounting pressure from nationalist forces seeking to dissolve the patchwork of independent states on the Italian peninsula.

The Duke’s Struggle Against Unification

As Duke, Francis V was a staunch conservative, opposed to the liberal and nationalist movements sweeping through Europe. He maintained a strong alliance with Austria, under whose protection his duchy had long existed. However, his resistance to change made him a target for revolutionaries.

During the 1848 revolutions in Italy, Francis V was compelled to flee Modena following an uprising. However, with the support of Austrian troops, he was able to regain control of his duchy the following year.

In 1859, Francis faced another forced exile when the armies of France and Piedmont invaded the duchy. By March 1860, Victor Emmanuel II, the new King of Italy, decreed that Modena be incorporated into the newly unified Kingdom of Italy.

Francis lived the rest of his life in exile in Austria. Despite his displacement, he continued to style himself as Duke of Modena and never relinquished his claim.

Jacobite Claimant to the British Throne

Apart from his role as Duke of Modena, Francis V held a significant, albeit largely symbolic, position in British history as a Jacobite claimant. The Jacobite succession traces back to James II of England and VII of Scotland. James was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Jacobite cause sought to restore James and his descendants to the British throne.

Upon his mother’s death, Francis became the Jacobite’s claimant to the throne of Great Britain. His maternal grandmother, Maria Theresa of Savoy was the daughter of Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia and Maria Antonia of Spain.

Maria Antonia, in turn, was a granddaughter of James Francis Edward Stuart, the “Old Pretender” and son of James II. This lineage places Francis V in the line of succession according to Jacobite principles, making him a direct descendant of the Stuart kings.

The chart below shows the actual succession (red) versus the alternatove Jacobite succession (blue).

Actual succession of stuart monarchs versus alternative Jacobean succession #apeuro
Genealogy tree shows how Francis V figured in the Jacobite succession.

Legacy and Death

Francis V married Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria in 1842. The couple had one daughter, Anna Beatrice, who tragically died in infancy. The lack of an heir brought an end to the direct male line of the House of Habsburg-Este.

Despite his exile and the loss of his duchy, Francis V continued to play a role in the politics of European aristocracy. He was known for his patronage of the arts and his support for conservative causes throughout Europe.

Francis V died on November 20, 1875, in Vienna, Austria. His body lies in the Capuchin Church in Vienna, the traditional resting place of Habsburg royalty. His death marked the end of an era for the Duchy of Modena. Maria Theresa of Austria Este, his niece, became the new Jacobite claimant.

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