His birth immediately precipitated fears of a Roman Catholic succession in England, and on 9 December that same year, his mother disguised herself as a laundress, wrapped up the baby like a bundle of washing, and escaped with him to France.
The exiled royal family was allowed to stay in the Palace of St Germain, and there James was brought up. When his father, the deposed James II, died after a stroke in 1701, Louis XIV publicly recognised his son as James VIII and III. However, in 1713 Louis made peace with Britain and James was forced to leave France, settling first in Avignon, then in Bologna and finally in Rome.
The following year, his half-sister Queen Anne died leaving no surviving children. However, under the Act of Settlement, James' Roman Catholicism ruled him and more than 50 other Catholic claimants out of the succession and instead the crown went to George, the Protestant Elector of Hanover, whose great-grandfather had been James VI and I.
An intellectual rather than a man of action, James Francis Edward tried twice to win back his inheritance, making an unsuccessful attempt to land in Scotland in 1708 and spent five weeks taking part briefly in the Earl of Mar's failed rising in 1715-16.
James' French allies failed to give assistance, the British government had plenty of warning, diversionary risings in England fizzled out, and Mar's troops began to desert after an indecisive battle at Sheriffmuir in November 1715.
James' friends were desperate for him to marry and have sons, and so in 1719 he took as his wife the Polish princess, Clementina Sobieska. The marriage lasted only a few years, but the birth of their two children, Charles Edward and Henry Benedict, encouraged James' supporters. A
Although he himself felt deeply responsible for the crowd of exiled Jacobites who made up his court in Rome, he had long since given up hope of leading a successful invasion of Britain.
Called 'the Old Pretender' (Claimant) and 'Old Mr Melancholy' by his enemies, he died in Rome in 1766.