7 May 2010
King James II of Stuart (1685-1688)
Reign 6 February 1685 – 11 December 1688
Coronation 23 April 1685 (England)
Predecessor Charles II
Successor William III & II and Mary II
Spouse Anne Hyde
m. 1660; dec. 1671
Mary of Modena
m. 1673; wid. 1701
Anne of Great Britain
James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick
James, Prince of Wales
Louisa Maria Teresa Stuart
House House of Stuart
Father Charles I of England
Mother Henrietta Maria of France
Born 14 October 1633(1633-10-14)
St. James’s Palace, London
Died 16 September 1701 (aged 67)
James II & VII (14 October 1633 – 16 September 1701) was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Increasingly Britain’s political and religious leaders opposed him as too pro-French, too pro-Catholic, and too much of an absolute monarch. When he produced a Catholic heir, the tension exploded and the leaders called on William III of Orange (his son-in-law and nephew) to land an invasion army from the Netherlands. James fled England (and thus abdicated) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was replaced by William of Orange who became king as William III, ruling jointly with his wife (James’s daughter) Mary II. Thus William and Mary, both Protestants, became joint rulers in 1689. James made one serious attempt to recover his crowns, when he landed in Ireland in 1689 but, after the defeat of the Jacobite forces by the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne in the summer of 1690, James returned to France. He lived out the rest of his life as a pretender at a court sponsored by his cousin and ally, King Louis XIV.
James is best known for his belief in absolute monarchy and his attempts to create religious liberty for his subjects. Both of these went against the wishes of the English Parliament and of most of his subjects. Parliament, opposed to the growth of absolutism that was occurring in other European countries, as well as to the loss of legal supremacy for the Church of England, saw their opposition as a way to preserve what they regarded as traditional English liberties. This tension made James’s four-year reign a struggle for supremacy between the English Parliament and the Crown, resulting in his deposition, the passage of the English Bill of Rights, and the Hanoverian succession.
Birth and early life
James, the second surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France, was born at St. James’s Palace in London on 14 October 1633. Later that same year, James was baptized by William Laud, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. James was educated by tutors, along with his brother, the future King Charles II, and the two sons of the Duke of Buckingham, George and Francis Villiers. At the age of three, James was appointed Lord High Admiral; the position was initially honorary, but would become a substantive office after the Restoration, when James was an adult.
James was invested with the Order of the Garter in 1642, and created Duke of York on 22 January 1644. As the King’s disputes with the English Parliament grew into the English Civil War James stayed in Oxford, a Royalist stronghold. When the city surrendered after the siege of Oxford in 1646, Parliamentary leaders ordered the Duke of York to be confined in St. James’s Palace. In 1648, he escaped from the Palace and from there he went to The Hague in disguise. When Charles I was executed by the rebels in 1649, monarchists proclaimed James’s older brother Charles II of England. Charles II was recognized by the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of Ireland and was crowned King of Scotland at Scone in Scotland in 1651. Although he was proclaimed King at Jersey Charles was unable to secure the crown of England and consequently fled to France and exile.
Exile in France
Like his brother, James sought refuge in France, serving in the French army under Turenne against the Fronde, and later against their Spanish allies. In the French army, James had his first true experience of battle where, according to one observer, he “ventures himself and chargeth gallantly where anything is to be done”. In 1656, when his brother, Charles, entered into an alliance with Spain—an enemy of France—James was expelled from France and forced to leave Turenne’s army. James quarrelled with his brother over the diplomatic choice of Spain over France. Exiled and poor, there was little that either Charles or James could do about the larger diplomatic situation, and James ultimately travelled to Bruges and (along with his younger brother, Henry) joined the Spanish army under Louis, Prince of Condé, fighting against his former French comrades at the Battle of the Dunes. During his term of service in the Spanish army, James became friendly with two Irish Catholic brothers in the Royalist entourage, Peter and Richard Talbot, and began to be somewhat estranged from his brother’s Anglican advisers. In 1659, the French and Spanish made peace. James, doubtful of his brother’s chances of regaining the throne, considered taking a Spanish offer to be an admiral in their navy. Ultimately, he declined the position; by the next year the situation in England had sufficiently changed, and Charles II was proclaimed King.
After Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658 and the subsequent collapse of the Commonwealth in 1660, Charles II was restored to the English throne. Although James was the heir-presumptive, it seemed unlikely that he would inherit the Crown, as Charles was still a young man capable of fathering children. Upon his brother’s restoration, James was created Duke of Albany in Scotland, to go along with his English title, Duke of York. Upon his return to England, James produced an immediate controversy by announcing his engagement to Anne Hyde, the daughter of Charles’s chief minister, Edward Hyde, Charles’s adviser. In 1659, while attempting to seduce her, James promised he would marry Anne. Anne became pregnant in 1660, but following the Restoration and James’s return to power, no one at the royal court expected a prince to marry a commoner, no matter what he had pledged beforehand. Although nearly everyone, including Anne’s father, urged the two not to marry, they did so. The couple was married secretly, then went through an official marriage ceremony on 3 September 1660, in London. Their first child, Charles, was born less than two months later, but died in infancy, as did five further sons and daughters. Only two daughters survived: Mary (born 30 April 1662) and Anne (born 6 February 1665). Samuel Pepys wrote that James was fond of his children and his role as a father, writing that he played with them “like an ordinary father”, a contrast to the distant parenting common to royals at the time.James’s wife was devoted to him and influenced many of his decisions. Even so, he kept a variety of mistresses, including Arabella Churchill and Catherine Sedley, and was reputed to be “the most unguarded ogler of his time.” With Catherine Sedley, James II had a daughter, Catherine Darnley (so named because James II was a descendant of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley). Anne Hyde died in 1671.
Military and political offices
After the Restoration, James was confirmed as Lord High Admiral, an office that carried with it the subsidiary appointments of Governor of Portsmouth and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. James commanded the Royal Navy during the Second (1665–67) and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars (1672–74). Following the raid on the Medway in 1667, James oversaw the survey and re-fortification of the southern coast. The office of Lord High Admiral, combined with his revenue from post office and wine tariffs (granted him by Charles upon his restoration) gave James a sufficient salary to keep a sizeable court household.
Following its capture by the English in 1664, the Dutch territory of New Netherland was named the Province of New York in James’s honour. After the founding, the duke gave the colony to proprieters, George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. Fort Orange, 240 kilometres (150 miles) north on the Hudson River, was renamed Albany after James’s Scottish title. In 1683, he became the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but did not take an active role in its governance. James also headed the Royal African Company, a slave trading company.
Conversion to Catholicism
Mary of Modena, James’s second wife
James’s time in France had exposed him to the beliefs and ceremonies of Catholicism; he and his wife, Anne, became drawn to that faith. James took Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church in 1668 or 1669, although his conversion was kept secret for some time and he continued to attend Anglican services until 1676. In spite of his conversion, James continued to associate primarily with Anglicans, including John Churchill and George Legge, as well as French Protestants, such as Louis de Duras, the Earl of Feversham.
Growing fears of Catholic influence at court led the English Parliament to introduce a new Test Act in 1673. Under this Act, all civil and military officials were required to take an oath (in which they were required not only to disavow the doctrine of transubstantiation, but also denounce certain practices of the Catholic Church as “superstitious and idolatrous”) and to receive the Eucharist under the auspices of the Church of England. James refused to perform either action, instead choosing to relinquish the post of Lord High Admiral. His conversion to Catholicism was thereby made public.
Charles II opposed the conversion, ordering that James’s daughters, Mary and Anne, be raised as Protestants. Nevertheless, he allowed James to marry the Catholic Mary of Modena, a fifteen-year-old Italian princess. James and Mary were married by proxy in a Catholic ceremony on 20 September 1673. On 21 November, Mary arrived in England and Nathaniel Crew, Bishop of Oxford, performed a brief Anglican service that did little more than recognise the Catholic marriage. Many of the English, distrustful of Catholicism, regarded the new Duchess of York as an agent of the Pope.