James II of England

From New World Encyclopedia

James II
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
Godfrey Kneller, 1684
Godfrey Kneller, 1684
Reign February 6, 1685—December 11, 1688
Coronation April 23, 1685
Predecessor Charles II
William III and Mary II
"James III and VIII"
Consort Mary of Modena (1673 –)
Lady Anne Hyde (1660 – 1671)
Mary II
James Francis Edward Stuart
HM The King
HM The Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Albany
The Earl of Ulster
The Duke of York
Prince James
Royal House House of Stuart
Father Charles I of England
Mother Henrietta Maria of France
Born October 14, 1633
Flag of England St. James's Palace, London
Died 16 September 1701 (aged 67)
[[Image:{{{flag alias-restauration}}}|22x20px|Flag of France|link=]] Saint-Germain-en-Laye

James II of England (also known as James VII of Scotland; October 14, 1633 – September 16, 1701) became King of England, King of Scots, and King of Ireland on February 6, 1685, and Duke of Normandy on December 31, 1660. [2] He was the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdom of Scotland, Kingdom of England, and Kingdom of Ireland. Many of his subjects distrusted his religious policies and supposed despotism, leading a group of them to depose him in the Glorious Revolution. He was replaced not by his Roman Catholic son, James Francis Edward, but by his Protestant daughter and son-in-law, Mary II and William III, who became joint rulers in 1689.

The belief that James — not William III or Mary II — was the legitimate ruler became known as Jacobitism (from Jacobus or Iacobus, Latin for James). James made one serious attempt to recover his throne, when he landed in Ireland in 1689. After his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in the summer of 1690, he returned to France, living out the rest of his life under the protection of King Louis XIV. His son James Francis Edward Stuart (The Old Pretender) and his grandson Charles Edward Stuart (The Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted to restore the Jacobite line after James's death, but failed. James' personal motto was "A deo rex, a rege lex," Latin for "From God comes the King, from the King comes the Law." James's abdication saw the end of the Catholic Church's role as the official state religion, and the establishment of what was called the "Protestant Constitution." James II's Declaration of Indulgence of 1684 granted greater religious liberty than did William and Mary's later Act of Toleration (1689). Although political prudence may have motivated James, his Declaration represents an important stage in the development of the modern understanding of religious liberty as an inalienable right.

Early Life

James, the second surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France, was born at St. James's Palace in 1633 and created Duke of York in 1644. During the English Civil War he stayed in Oxford, a Royalist stronghold. When the city surrendered during the siege of Oxford in 1646, the Duke of York was confined in St James's Palace by parliamentary command. In 1648, he escaped from the Palace, from there he went to The Hague in disguise. When Charles I was executed by the rebels in 1649, monarchists proclaimed the Duke of York's elder brother, Charles, as King Charles II. Charles II was recognized by the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of Ireland, and was crowned King of Scots at Scone, in Scotland, in 1651. He was, however, unable to secure the Crown of England, and consequently fled to France.

Like his brother, James sought refuge in France, serving in the French army under Turenne. In 1656, when his brother, Charles, entered into an alliance with Spain—an enemy of France—he joined the Spanish army under Louis, Prince of Condé.

In 1660, with Oliver Cromwell dead, Charles II was restored to the English Throne. Though James was the heir-presumptive, it seemed unlikely that he would inherit the Crown, for Charles was still a young man capable of fathering children. In September 1660, James (who was also created Duke of Albany in Scotland) wed Lady Anne Hyde, the daughter of Charles's chief minister, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon.

James was appointed Lord High Admiral and commanded the Royal Navy during the Second (1665–1667) and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars (1672–1674). Following its capture by the English in 1664, the Dutch territory of New Netherland was named New York in his honor. Fort Orange, 240 kilometres (150 miles) up the River Hudson, was renamed Albany in James' honor as well. James also headed the Royal African Company, which participated in the slave trade.


James was admitted to the Roman Catholic Church in about 1668 or 1669, although this was kept secret for some time. However, growing fears of Catholic influence at court, led to the introduction by Parliament of 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 Roman Catholic Church as "superstitious and idolatrous") and receive communion under the auspices of the Church of England. James refused to perform both actions, instead choosing to relinquish the post of Lord High Admiral. His conversion to Catholicism was now openly known.

Charles II opposed the conversion, ordering that James' children be raised as Protestants. Nevertheless, in 1673, he allowed James (whose first wife had died in 1671) to marry the Catholic Mary of Modena. Many English people, distrustful of Catholicism, regarded the new Duchess of York as an agent of the Pope.

In 1677, James attempted to appease Protestants by allowing his daughter, Mary, to marry the Protestant Prince of Orange, William III (who was also his nephew). Despite the concession, fears of a Catholic monarch persisted, intensified by the failed pregnancies of Charles II's wife, Catherine of Braganza. A defrocked Anglican clergyman, Titus Oates, falsely spoke of a "Popish Plot" to kill Charles and put the Duke of York on the Throne. The fabricated plot caused a wave of anti-Catholic hysteria to sweep across the nation. On the orders of the King, the Duke of York left England for Brussels. In 1680, he was appointed Lord High Commissioner of Scotland and took up his residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Statue of James II in Trafalgar Square, London. This dates from 1686 and is attributed to the studio of Grinling Gibbons. It is one of only two known public statues of the monarch - the other resides at University College, Oxford. (January 2006)

In England, attempts were made by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, a former government minister, and now the leading enemy of James and a Catholic succession, to have him excluded from the line of succession. Some even proposed that the Crown go to Charles II's illegitimate son, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. When, in 1679, the Exclusion Bill was in danger of passing, Charles II dissolved the English Parliament. (The Exclusion Bill crisis contributed to the development of the English two-party system; the Whigs were those who supported the Bill, whilst the Tories were those who opposed it.) Two further Parliaments were elected in 1680 and 1681, but were dissolved for the same reason.

The Rye House Plot of 1683, a Protestant conspiracy to assassinate both Charles and the Duke of York, failed utterly; it increased popular sympathy for the King and his brother. James once again found himself influential in government, and his brother restored him to the office of Lord High Admiral in 1684.


Charles died sine prole legitima (without legitimate offspring) in 1685, converting to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his brother, who reigned in England and Ireland as James II, and in Scotland as James VII. James was crowned at Westminster Abbey on April 23, 1685. At first, there was little overt opposition to the new Sovereign. The new Parliament which assembled in May 1685 seemed favorable to James, agreeing to grant him a large income.

James, however, faced the Monmouth Rebellion (led by Charles II's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth). James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth declared himself King on June 20, 1685, but was afterwards defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Monmouth was executed at the Tower of London soon afterwards. The king's judges—most notably, George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys (the "Hanging Judge")—punished the rebels brutally. Judge Jeffreys' Bloody Assizes provoked little comment at the time and were seen by many as an appropriate response to an armed rebellion.

Monarchical Styles of
King James II of England
Saint Edward's Crown.jpg
Reference style: His Majesty
Spoken style: Your Majesty
Alternative style: Sir

To protect himself from further rebellions, James sought to establish a large standing army. By putting Roman Catholics in charge of several regiments, the King was drawn into a conflict with Parliament. Parliament was prorogued in November 1685, never to meet again during James's brief reign.

Religious tension intensified from 1686. James controversially allowed Roman Catholics to occupy the highest offices of the Kingdom, and received at his court the papal nuncio, the first representative from Rome to London since the reign of Mary I. James's Jesuit confessor, Edward Petre, was a particular object of Protestant ire and when James ordered the suspension of several Anglicans from political office, including Henry Compton, the anti-Catholic Bishop of London, he lost much of his previous support.

Declaration of Indulgence

In the Declaration of Indulgence (1687), also known as the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, James suspended laws punishing Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters.[3]. It has been debated whether James issued the Declaration to gain the political support of the dissenters, or if he was truly committed to the principle of freedom of religion.) The King also provoked opposition by his policies relating to the University of Oxford. He offended Anglicans by allowing Catholics to hold important positions in Christ Church and University College, two of Oxford's largest colleges. Even more unpopularly, he dismissed the Protestant Fellows of Magdalen College, appointing Roman Catholics including Bishop Parker in their place. His Declaration applied to people of any faith, Jews and Muslims as well as to Christians:

We … declare, that it is our royal will and pleasure, that from henceforth the execution of all and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical, for not coming to church, or not receiving the Sacrament, or for any other nonconformity to the religion established, or for or by reason of the exercise of religion in any manner whatsoever, be immediately suspended; and the further execution of the said penal laws and every of them is hereby suspended[4].

The King continued: "we do freely give them leave to meet and serve God after their own way and manner, be it in private houses or in places purposely hired or built for that use."

He would rather "all people of" his 'dominions were members of the Catholic Church" but "it is and has of long time been our constant sense and opinion (which upon divers occasions we have declared) that conscience ought not to be constrained nor people forced in matters of mere religion."

Glorious Revolution

Half-Crown coin of James II, 1686. The inscription reads IACOBUS II DEI GRATIA (James II by the Grace of God)

In April 1688, James re-issued the Declaration of Indulgence, subsequently ordering Anglican clergymen to read it in their churches. When the Archbishop of Canterbury William Sancroft and six other bishops (known as the Seven Bishops) submitted a petition requesting the reconsideration of the King's religious policies, they were arrested and tried for seditious libel. Public alarm increased with the birth of a Catholic son and heir, James Francis Edward, to Queen Mary in June, 1688. (Some falsely charged that the son was "suppositious," having been substituted for a stillborn child.) Threatened by a Catholic dynasty, several influential Protestants entered into negotiations with William, Prince of Orange, who was James's son-in-law and nephew.

On June 30, 1688, a group of Protestant nobles, known as the "Immortal Seven," requested the Prince of Orange to come to England with an army. By September, it had become clear that William sought to invade. James refused the assistance of the French king Louis XIV, fearing that the English would oppose French intervention. Furthermore, he believed that his own army would be adequate. But the King was too complacent; when William arrived on November 5, 1688, many Protestant officers defected and joined William. His own daughter, Anne, left the court, leading to considerable anguish on the part of the King. On December 11, 1688, James attempted to flee to France, first throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames. He was, however, caught in Kent. Having no desire to make James a martyr, the Prince of Orange let him escape on December 23, 1688. James was received by Louis XIV, who offered him a palace and a generous pension.

William convened an irregular Convention Parliament. (The procedure of calling a Convention Parliament had been previously used when succession to the Throne was unclear; it was a Convention Parliament which restored Charles II to the Throne following the English Civil War and republican Commonwealth.) The Convention declared, on February 12, 1689, that James's attempt to flee on December 11, 1688 constituted an abdication of the government, and that the Throne had then become vacant (instead of passing to James II's son, James Francis Edward). Essentially, this was a Deposition Parliament. James's daughter Mary was declared Queen; she was to rule jointly with her husband William III. The Scottish Estates followed suit on April 11, 1689.

William and Mary subsequently granted their assent to an Act commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights. The Act confirmed the earlier Declaration of Right, in which the Convention Parliament had declared that James's flight constituted an abdication, and that William III and Mary II were to be King and Queen. The Bill of Rights also charged James II with abusing his power; amongst other things, it criticized the suspension of the Test Acts, the prosecution of the Seven Bishops for merely petitioning the Crown, the establishment of a standing army and the imposition of cruel punishments. The Bill also stipulated that no Catholic would henceforth be permitted to ascend to the English throne, nor could any English monarch marry a Catholic. The Act, furthermore, settled the question of succession to the Crown. First in the line of succession were the children of William and Mary (if any), to be followed by the Princess Anne and her children, and finally by the children of William by any subsequent marriage.

Act of Toleration

William and Mary signed the 1689 Act of Toleration into law. This gave freedom of worship and belief to Dissenters from the Church of England but not to Roman Catholics thus James' concession to the dissenters remained in place while Catholics lost the rights he had guaranteed. [5]

Later Years

With a French army on his side, James landed in Ireland in March 1689. The Irish Parliament did not follow the example of the English Parliament; it declared that James remained King. At James' urging, the Irish Parliament passed an Act for Liberty of Conscience which granted religious freedom to all Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. The king was, however, defeated at the Battle of the Boyne by William III on July 1, 1690. He fled to France after the defeat departing from Kinsale, his alleged cowardice leading to the dissolution of much of his support and earning him the nickname Séamus an Chaca ("James the Shit") in Ireland.

In France, James was allowed to live in the royal château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His supporters were not confined to Catholics. When the Anglican Bishop of Elphin visited him James II said "If, as I trust, what I have suffered has benefitted my soul, then even William of Orange will have proved my best friend." An attempt was made to restore him to the Throne by assassinating William III in 1696, but the plot failed. Louis XIV's offer to have James elected King of Poland in the same year was rejected, for James feared that acceptance of the Polish Crown might (in the minds of the English People) render him incapable of being King of England. Thereafter, Louis ceased to offer assistance to James.

During his last years, James lived as an austere penitent. He died of a brain hemorrhage on September 16, 1701 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His body was laid in a coffin at the Chapel of Saint Edmund in the Church of the English Benedictines in the Rue St. Jacques, Paris. However, during the French Revolution, his body was desecrated and the remains were lost,[6] however his brain survives in a bronze urn in a chapel at the Scots College in Paris. The official style of James II was "James the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." (The claim to France was only nominal, and was asserted by every English King from Edward III to George III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.)

James was created "Duke of Normandy" by King Louis XIV of France, December 31, 1660. This was a few months after the restoration of his brother Charles II to the English and Irish thrones (Charles II had been crowned King of Scotland in 1651), and probably was done as a political gesture of support for James - since his brother also would have claimed the title "Duke of Normandy."


His arms as King were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland).


James's younger daughter Anne succeeded to the throne when William III died in 1702. (Mary II had died in 1694.) The Act of Settlement 1701 provided that, if the line of succession established in the Bill of Rights were to be extinguished, then the Crown would go to a German cousin, Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and to her Protestant heirs. Thus, when Anne died in 1714 (less than two months after the death of Sophia), the Crown was inherited by George I, Sophia's son, the Elector of Hanover and Anne's second cousin.

The son of James II, James Francis Edward Stuart (known to his supporters as "James III and VIII" and to his opponents as the "Old Pretender"), took up the Jacobite cause. He led a rising in Scotland in 1715 shortly after George I's accession, but was defeated. Further risings were also defeated and since the rising of 1745 led by Charles Edward Stuart, no serious attempt to restore the Stuart heir has been made, although some individuals still adhere to the philosophy of Jacobitism.

James Francis Edward died in 1766, when he was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles Edward Stuart (known to his supporters as "Charles III" and to his opponents as the "Young Pretender"). Charles in turn was succeeded by his younger brother Henry Benedict Stuart, the Dean of the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church. Henry was the last of James II's legitimate descendants. At his death in 1807 the Jacobite claim devolved upon the senior descendant of King Charles I, King Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia. Presently, James II's heir is Franz, Duke of Bavaria. Although the Duke of Bavaria has not claimed the throne, he is recognized by Jacobites as "Francis II."


James II's ancestors in three generations
James II of England, Ireland, and Scotland Father:
Charles I of England
Paternal Grandfather:
James I of England
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Mary I of Scotland
Paternal Grandmother:
Anne of Denmark
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Frederick II of Denmark
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Sofie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Henrietta Maria of France
Maternal Grandfather:
Henry IV of France
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Antoine of Navarre
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Jeanne III of Navarre
Maternal Grandmother:
Marie de' Medici
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Francesco I de' Medici
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Johanna of Austria


Name Birth Death Notes
By Anne Hyde
Charles, Duke of Cambridge 22 October 1660 5 May 1661  
Mary II 30 April 1662 28 December 1694 married 1677, William III, Prince of Orange; no issue
James, Duke of Cambridge 12 July 1663 20 June 1667  
Anne 6 February 1665 1 August 1714 married 1683, Prince George of Denmark; no surviving issue
Charles, Duke of Kendal 4 July 1666 22 May 1667  
Edgar, Duke of Cambridge 14 September 1667 15 November 1669  
Henrietta 13 January 1669 15 November 1669  
Catherine 9 February 1671 5 December 1671  
By Mary of Modena
Catherine Laura 10 January 1675 3 October 1676 died of convulsions.[7]
Isabel 28 August 1676 2 March 1681  
Charles, Duke of Cambridge 7 November 1677 12 December 1677 died of smallpox[8]
Elizabeth 1678 c. 1678  
Charlotte Maria 16 August 1682 16 October 1682 died of convulsions[9]
James, Prince of Wales Old Pretender 10 June 1688 1 January 1766 married 1719, Mary Sobieski; had issue
Louise 28 June 1692 20 April 1712  
By Arabella Churchill
Henrietta FitzJames 1667 3 April, 1730 Married first Henry Waldegrave; had issue. Married secondly Piers Butler, 3rd Viscount Galmoye; no issue.
James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick 21 August, 1670 12 June, 1734
Henry FitzJames, 1st Duke of Albemarle August, 1673 December, 1702
Arabella FitzJames 1674 7 November 1704 Became a nun; no issue.
By Catherine Sedley
Catherine Darnley c. 1681 13 March 1743 Alleged daughter. Married firstly, James Annesley, 3rd Earl of Anglesey and had issue,
married secondly, John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby and had issue.
James Darnley 1684 1685


  1. His body was lain in a coffin in the Chapel of Saint Edmund in the Church of the English Benedictines in the Rue St. Jacques, Paris. However during the French Revolution, it was desecrated and destroyed. Parts of his bowel sent to the parish church of St. Germain-en-Laye were rediscovered in 1824 and are the only known remains left.
  2. An assertion found in many sources that James II died September 6, 1701 (September 17, 1701 New Style) may result from a miscalculation done by an author of anonymous "An Exact Account of the Sickness and Death of the Late King James II, as also of the Proceedings at St. Germains thereupon, 1701, in a letter from an English gentleman in France to his friend in London" (Somers Tracts, ed. 1809-1815, XI, 339-342). The account reads: "And on Friday the 17th instant, about three in the afternoon, the king died, the day he always fasted in memory of our blessed Saviour's passion, the day he ever desired to die on, and the ninth hour, according to the Jewish account, when our Saviour was crucified." As September 17, 1701 New Style falls on a Saturday and the author insists that James died on Friday, "the day he ever desired to die on," an inevitable conclusion is that the author miscalculated the date which later made it to various reference works. See Andrew Browning, (ed.) English Historical Documents 1660-1714. (London and New York: Routledge, 2001 ISBN 9780203195796), 136-138
  3. "Declaration of Indulgence of King James II, April 4, 1687," Jacobite Heritage Declaration of Indulgence of King James II, April 4, 1687 Retrieved September 10, 2007
  4. "Declaration of Indulgence of King James II, April 4, 1687," Jacobite Heritage Declaration of Indulgence of King James II, April 4, 1687 Retrieved September 10, 2007
  5. "Toleration Act, 1689" The Jacobite Heritage Toleration Act, 1689. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  6. "The Jacobite Heritage" The Jacobite Heritage. Retrieved August 28, 2007
  7. "Stuart, Catherine Laura," University of HullStuart, Catherine Laura Retrieved August 28, 2007.
  8. "Stuart, Charles of Cambridge," University of Hull Stuart, Charles of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge Retrieved August 28, 2007.
  9. "Stuart, Charlotte Maria," University of HullStuart, Charlotte Maria Retrieved August 28, 2007

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Ashley, Maurice. James II. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. ISBN 9780816608263
  • Belloc, Hilaire. James the Second. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1928. ISBN 9780836959222
  • Clarke, James S., Editor. The Life of James II. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1816.
  • Davis, Richard B., Editor. William Fitzhugh and His Chesapeake World, 1676-1701. Chapel Hill: The Virginia Historical Society by University of North Carolina Press, 1963.
  • "James II." Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press, 1911.
  • Miller, John James II, 3d. ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN 0300087284
  • McFerran, Noel S. "James II and VII." The Jacobite Heritgage, 2007. James II and VII Retrieved August 28, 2007.
  • Turner, Francis C. James II. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1948.

External links

All links retrieved March 16, 2018.

House of Stuart
Born: 14 October 1633; Died: 16 September 1701

Preceded by:
Charles II
King of England
6 February1685 –1688
Succeeded by: William III/II/I and Mary II
King of Scots
6 February1685 –1688
King of Ireland
6 February1685 –1688 (or 1690 )
Titles in pretence

New Title
Glorious Revolution
replaces government
with William III and Mary II
Jacobite King of England and Scotland
* Reason for Succession Failure: *
Succession overruled by English and Scots Parliament 
Succeeded by: James III
Jacobite King of Ireland
Political offices
Preceded by:
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by:
Charles II
Preceded by:
The Earl of Winchilsea
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by:
John Beaumont
Preceded by:
The Duke of Lennox
Lord High Admiral of Scotland
Succeeded by:
The Duke of Richmond and Lennox
Preceded by:
The Duke of Lauderdale
Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland
Succeeded by:
The Duke of Queensberry
Preceded by:
Charles II
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by:
William III
British royalty
Preceded by:
Charles II of England
Heir to the Thrones
as heir presumptive
January 30 1649-February 6 1685
Succeeded by:
Mary II of England
Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of York
Succeeded by: Merged in Crown
Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of Albany


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