James II of England (James VII of Scotland), James Stuart, (October 14, 1633 - September 16, 1701), was a King of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was the first Catholic monarch to reign over England since Mary I of England died in 1558 and over Scotland since the deposition of Mary I of Scotland in 1567.
The third son of King Charles I, James was born at St. James's Palace in 1633 and created Duke of York in January 27, 1644. He spent much of his early life in exile, following the execution of his father during the English Civil War. James himself was rescued from confinement at St. James's Palace in London in April 1648 and was taken, in disguise, to The Hague. In 1652, he became an officer in the French army and saw active service under the Vicomte de Turenne. James's exile on the continent exposed him to Roman Catholicism, and he and his first wife eventually converted to that religion. Unfortunately for him, the English people viewed Catholicism with great fear and mistrust.
Return from exile
Despite his Catholicism, James returned from exile with his older brother Charles II. There was at this time little prospect of his becoming king, Charles being still a young man and more than capable of fathering legitimate children (in view of the number of illegitimate ones he already had). James reclaimed the title Duke of York.
As Duke of York he was heavily involved in the slave trade, the British end of it being monopolised by the Royal African Company, of which he was head, and which the Stuart family set up when they retook the throne in 1660. Thousands of his slaves were branded on the forehead with the letters 'DY'. As Lord High Admiral he commanded the navy, and a little-known fact is that the city of New York was named after him following its capture by English forces in 1664. The following year, he commanded the defeat of Dutch forces at the Battle of Lowestoft.
He suffered when the king was forced to introduce the Test Act of 1673, removing Catholics from official positions. For a period between 1679 and 1681, he remained in Scotland, where the religious controversy was made even more complex by the strength of the Presbyterians. James's activities there resulted in his becoming extremely unpopular.
When Charles died without a legitimate child, in his fifties, James was next in line for the thrones of both England and Scotland.
He succeeded on the throne on February 6, 1685. He was crowned on April 23, 1685, at Westminster Abbey. However, he never took the Scottish coronation oath.
Many people in Britain were extremely concerned about a Catholic monarch. Attempts had already been made, unsuccessfully, to exclude him from the succession. The first challenge to his kingship came as soon as June 11, 1685, when the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of King Charles II and a Protestant, arrived in the West Country and proclaimed himself king. He was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 5 and executed at the Tower of London a few days later.
Despite the lack of popular support for Monmouth, the public's fears remained and were compounded by James's efforts to secure religious tolerance for all minorities, including Catholics, and by his apparent preference for Catholic officials, especially in Ireland. Public opinion became even more concerned when James tried to create a standing army. The activities of his officials, such as the notorious Judge Jeffreys (who had been responsible for rounding up Monmouth's supporters in the south-west), added to James's reputation for cruelty and thoughtlessness.
James married twice, firstly Anne Hyde in Breda on Nov 24, 1659. Anne has the distinction of being the last Englishwoman to marry the heir to the English throne before Lady Diana Spencer. She was the daughter of Edward Hyde, later Earl of Clarendon. Despite her respectable parentage, she was not considered a suitable wife, and the marriage was kept secret until Anne was visibly pregnant; in all they had eight children, but only two daughters survived.:
Charles Stuart, Duke of Cambridge (October 22, 1660 - May 5, 1661).
Queen Mary II of England, Scotland, and Ireland - (April 30, 1662 - December 28, 1694).
James Stuart, Duke of Cambridge- (July 12, 1663 - May 22, 1667).
Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland - (February 6, 1665 - August 1, 1714).
Charles Stuart, Duke of Kendal - (July 4, 1666 - June 20, 1667).
Edgar Stuart, Duke of Cambridge - (September 14, 1667 - November 15, 1669).
Henrietta Stuart - (January 13, 1669 - November 15, 1669).
Catherine Stuart - (February 9, 1671 - December 5, 1671).
When James became King, the fact that his heirs presumptive were his daughters Mary and Anne, who were both Protestants, made the prospect of a Catholic King more acceptable to the British public. His wife, the Duchess of York, however, died on March 31, 1671, and on November 21, 1673, James married Marie Beatrix d'Este, Princess of Modena (usually known as Mary of Modena), by whom he had six children.:
Catherine Laura Stuart - (January 10, 1675 - October 3, 1675).
Isabelle Stuart - (August 28, 1676 - March 2, 1681).
Charles Stuart, Duke of Cambridge - (November 7, 1677 - December 12, 1677).
Charlotte Maria Stuart - (August 16, 1682 - October 16, 1682).
James Francis Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales - (June 10, 1688 - January 1, 1766).
Louisa Maria Theresa Stuart - (June 28, 1692 - April 20, 1712.
James also had a number of illegitimate children, mostly by his long-standing mistress, Arabella Churchill. These included James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick and Henry FitzJames, 1st Duke of Albemarle.
The birth of Prince James, a Catholic male heir to the throne, greatly alarmed British Protestants. There were systematic attempts to prove that the Prince was not the King's child: it was alleged that he was "suppositious," a foundling who had been smuggled into the royal birth chamber in a warming pan. There was no evidence for this, and the legitimacy of the Prince could not be seriously challenged.
William of Orange
The dissatisfaction with James, coupled with alarm at the birth of a Catholic heir, led to a conspiracy to replace him with his estranged daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, both dedicated Protestants. In 1688 William landed in England (at Brixham) with a large Dutch army, the English army deserted to his side, and James was left with no supporters.On December 11, 1688 he was forced to flee Britain, an event that effectively ended his reign.
On January 28, 1689, the Parliament of England decided that James' flight was an abdication of the throne and therefore gave William and Mary the legal right to assume power. This coup d'état cemented the primacy of parliament over monarch and became known as The Glorious Revolution or the "Bloodless" Revolution - though it was not the latter. The Estates of Scotland followed this decision on April 11, 1689. James continued to reign in Ireland until the Battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690. His apparently cowardly behaviour during a succession of Jacobite defeats in the island had won him no friends.
After this final defeat, James fled to France. He was given a pension by King Louis XIV of France, and lived in the royal château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He never officially abdicated and continued to claim the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland until his death. However, he was reduced to little more than a pawn in the great series of intrigues between Louis and William.
On September 16, 1701, James died of a cerebral haemorrhage in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France. He is buried in the Church of Saint-Germain, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His son James (known as "the Old Pretender") took up the Stuart cause (see Jacobitism).