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James II of England

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James II of England (James VII of Scotland) Stuart, (October 14, 1633 - September 16, 1701), was a King of England, Scotland and Ireland. He succeeded on the throne on February 6, 1685. On December 11, 1688 he fled Britain, an event that effectively ended his reign there. The Parliament of England declared his abdication on January 28, 1689. The Estates of Scotland followed on April 11, 1689. He continued to reign in Ireland until the Battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690. He never officialy abdicated and continued to claim the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland until his death on September 16, 1701. He was born at St. James's Palace[?] and died in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France.

James II
King of England, Ireland
James VII
King of Scotland

The third son of King Charles I, James was 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.

Despite his Catholicism, James returned from exile with his older brother Charles II to great popular joy. 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 Lord High Admiral, he commanded the navy and defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Lowestoft[?] (1665). However, 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 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 James, 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.

This dissatisfaction led to a conspiracy to replace James with his estranged daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, both dedicated Protestants. When James's queen gave birth to a living male heir, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the matter became urgent.

In 1688 William landed in England with a large Dutch army, the English army deserted to his side, and James was left with no supporters and forced to flee the country. Parliament decided that James's flight was an abdication of the throne, and it 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.

James was allowed to escape from England, was given a pension by King Louis XIV of France, and lived in the royal château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. For the rest of his life, James fought in France and Ireland, attempting to retake his throne. He was little more than a pawn in the great series of intrigues between Louis and William. His apparently cowardly behaviour after a succession of Jacobite defeats in Ireland (culminating in the Battle of the Boyne) won him no friends.

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.:

Lady Anne died on March 31, 1671. On November 21, 1673, James married Marie Beatrix d'Este, Princess of Modena, by whom he had six children.:

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[?].

King James II died on September 6, 1701, and is buried in the Church of Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.


Preceded by:
Charles II
List of British monarchs Succeeded by:
William III & Mary II jointly

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