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Portrait of King James II. Victoria and Albert Museum

King James II of England (1633-1701)

JAMES II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, second surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, was born at St James's on the 15th of October 1633, and created Duke of York in January 1643.

During the Civil War James was taken prisoner by Fairfax (1646), but contrived to escape to Holland in 1648. Subsequently he served in the French army under Turenne, and in the Spanish under Conde, and was applauded by both commanders for his brilliant personal courage. Returning to England with Charles II in 1660 he was appointed Lord High Admiral and warden of the Cinque Ports. Pepys, who was secretary to the navy, has recorded the patient industry and unflinching probity of his naval administration. His victory over the Dutch in 1665, and his drawn battle with De Ruyter in 1672, show that he was a good naval commander as well as an excellent administrator. These achievements won him a reputation for high courage, which, until the close of 1688, was amply deserved.

His private record was not as good as his public. In December 1660 he admitted to having contracted, under discreditable circumstances, a secret marriage with Anne Hyde (1637-1671), daughter of Lord Clarendon, in the previous September. Both before and after the marriage he seems to have been a libertine as unblushing though not so fastidious as Charles himself. In 1672 he made a public avowal of his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Charles II had opposed this project, but in 1673 allowed him to marry the Catholic Mary of Modena as his second wife. Both houses of parliament, who viewed this union with abhorrence, now passed the Test Act, forbidding Catholics to hold office. In consequence of this James was forced to resign his posts. It was in vain that he married his daughter Mary to the Protestant Prince of Orange in 1677. Anti-Catholic feeling ran so high that, after the discovery of the Popish Plot, he found it wiser to retire to Brussels (1679), while Shaftesbury and the Whigs planned to exclude him from the succession. He was Lord High commissioner of Scotland (1680-1682), where he occupied himself in a severe persecution of the Covenanters. In 1684 Charles, having triumphed over the Exclusionists, restored James to the office of High Admiral by use of his dispensing power.

James ascended the throne on the 16th of February 1685. The nation showed its loyalty by its firm adherence to him during the rebellions of Argyll in Scotland and Monmouth in England (1685). The savage reprisals on their suppression, in especial the "Bloody Assizes" of Jeffreys, produced a revulsion of public feeling. James had promised to defend the existing Church and government, but the people now became suspicious. James was not a mere tyrant and bigot, as the popular imagination speedily assumed him to be. He was rather a mediocre but not altogether obtuse man, who mistook tributary streams for the main currents of national thought. Thus he greatly underrated the strength of the Establishment, and preposterously exaggerated that of Dissent and Catholicism. He perceived that opinion was seriously divided in the Established Church, and thought that a vigorous policy would soon prove effective. Hence he publicly celebrated Mass, prohibited preaching against Catholicism, and showed exceptional favour to renegades from the Establishment.

By undue pressure he secured a decision of the judges, in the test case of Godden v. Hale (1687), by which he was allowed to dispense Catholics from the Test Act. Catholics were now admitted to the chief offices in the army, and to some important posts in the state, in virtue of the dispensing power of James. The judges had been intimidated or corrupted, and the royal promise to protect the Establishment violated. The army had been increased to 20,000 men and encamped at Hounslow Heath to overawe the capital. Public alarm was speedily manifested and suspicion to a high degree awakened. In 1687 James made a bid for the support of the Dissenters by advocating a system of joint toleration for Catholics and Dissenters. In April 1687 he published a Declaration of Indulgence - exempting Catholics and Dissenters from penal statutes. He followed up this measure by dissolving parliament and attacking the universities. By an unscrupulous use of the dispensing power he introduced Dissenters and Catholics into all departments of state and into the municipal corporations, which were remodelled in their interests.

Then in April 1688 he took the suicidal step of issuing a proclamation to force the clergy and bishops to read the Declaration in their pulpits, and thus personally advocate a measure they detested. Seven bishops refused, were indicted by James for libel, but acquitted amid the indescribable enthusiasm of the populace. Protestant nobles of England, enraged at the tolerant policy of James, had been in negotiation with William of Orange since 1687. The trial of the seven bishops, and the birth of a son to James, now induced them to send William a definite invitation (June 30, 1688). James remained in a fool's paradise till the last, and only awakened to his danger when William landed at Torbay (November 5, 1688) and swept all before him. James pretended to treat, and in the midst of the negotiations fled to France. He was intercepted at Faversham and brought back, but the politic Prince of Orange allowed him to escape a second time (December 23, 1688).

At the end of 1688 James seemed to have lost his old courage. After his defeat at the Boyne (July 1, 1690) he speedily departed from Ireland, where he had so conducted himself that his English followers had been ashamed of his incapacity, while French officers had derided him. His proclamations and policy towards England during these years show unmistakable traces of the same incompetence. On the 17th of May 1692 he saw the French fleet destroyed before his very eyes off Cape La Hogue. He was aware of, though not an open advocate of the "Assassination Plot," which was directed against William. By its revelation and failure (February 10, 1696) the third and last serious attempt of James for his restoration failed. He refused in the same year to accept the French influence in favour of his candidature to the Polish throne, on the ground that it would exclude him from the English. Henceforward he neglected politics, and Louis of France ceased to consider him as a political factor. A mysterious conversion had been effected in him by an austere Cistercian abbot. The world saw with astonishment this vicious, rough, coarse-fibred man of the world transformed into an austere penitent, who worked miracles of healing. Surrounded by this odour of sanctity, which greatly edified the faithful, James lived at St Germain until his death on the 17th of September 1701.

The political ineptitude of James is clear; he often showed firmness when conciliation was needful, and weakness when resolution alone could have saved the day. Moreover, though he mismanaged almost every political problem with which he personally dealt, he was singularly tactless and impatient of advice. But in general political morality he was not below his age, and in his advocacy of toleration decidedly above it. He was more honest and sincere than Charles II, more genuinely patriotic in his foreign policy, and more consistent in his religious attitude. That his brother retained the throne while James lost it is an ironical demonstration that a more pitiless fate awaits the ruler whose faults are of the intellect, than one whose faults are of the heart.

By Anne Hyde James had eight children, of whom two only, Mary and Anne, both Queens of England, survived their father. By Mary of Modena he had seven children, among them being James Francis Edward (the Old Pretender) and Louisa Maria Theresa, who died at St Germain in 1712. By one mistress, Arabella Churchill (1648-1730), he had two sons, James, Duke of Berwick, and Henry (1673-1702), titular Duke of Albemarle and grand prior of France, and a daughter, Henrietta (1667-1730), who married Sir Henry Waldegrave, afterwards Baron Waldegrave; and by another, Catherine Sedley, Countess of Dorchester (1657-1717), a daughter, Catherine (d. 1743), who married James Annesley, 5th Earl of Anglesey, and afterwards John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham and Normanby.




      Excerpted from:

      Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XV.
      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 142.




Other Local Resources:



Books for further study:

Callow, John. King in Exile: James II: Warrior, King and Saint.
           Sutton Publishing, 2005.

Miller, John. James II.
           New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

Speck, W. A. James II.
           New York: Longman, 2002.

Vallance, Edward. The Glorious Revolution: 1688—Britain's Fight for Liberty.
           New York: Pegasus Books, 2007.

Van der Kiste, Stephen. James II and the First Modern Revolution.
           Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2021.

Womersley, David. James II: The Last Catholic King.
           London: Penguin Books, 2015.




James II on the Web:


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Portrait of James II as Duke of York by Samuel Cooper, 1661. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Site copyright ©1996-2022 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on January 24, 2007. Last updated August 16, 2022.










Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

Medieval Cosmology
Prices of Items in Medieval England

Edward II
Piers Gaveston
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Thomas of Woodstock, Gloucester
Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
The Good Parliament, 1376
Richard II
Lords Appellant, 1388
Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Thomas de Beauchamp, E. Warwick
Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Ralph Neville, E. of Westmorland
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Edmund Mortimer, 3. Earl of March
Roger Mortimer, 4. Earl of March
John Holland, Duke of Exeter
Michael de la Pole, E. Suffolk
Hugh de Stafford, 2. E. Stafford
Henry IV
Edward, Duke of York
Edmund Mortimer, 5. Earl of March
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Sir Henry Percy, "Harry Hotspur"
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
Owen Glendower
The Battle of Shrewsbury, 1403
Archbishop Richard Scrope
Thomas Mowbray, 3. E. Nottingham
John Mowbray, 2. Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Fitzalan, 5. Earl of Arundel
Henry V
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
John, Duke of Bedford
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Montacute, E. Salisbury
Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
Sir John Fastolf
John Holland, 2. Duke of Exeter
Archbishop John Stafford
Archbishop John Kemp
Catherine of Valois
Owen Tudor
John Fitzalan, 7. Earl of Arundel
John, Lord Tiptoft

Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
Louis XI, King of France
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy
The Battle of Agincourt, 1415
The Battle of Castillon, 1453



The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
The House of York
The House of Beaufort
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The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
George, Duke of Clarence

Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
George Neville, Archbishop of York
John Beaufort, 1. Duke Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2. Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort, 3. Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 4. Duke Somerset
Margaret Beaufort
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
Humphrey Stafford, D. Buckingham
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
John Mowbray, 4. Duke of Norfolk
John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 3. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 4. E. Northumberland
William, Lord Hastings
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Thomas de Clifford, 8. Baron Clifford
John de Clifford, 9. Baron Clifford
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Thomas Grey, 1. Marquis Dorset
Sir Andrew Trollop
Archbishop John Morton
Edward Plantagenet, E. of Warwick
John Talbot, 2. E. Shrewsbury
John Talbot, 3. E. Shrewsbury
John de la Pole, 2. Duke of Suffolk
John de la Pole, E. of Lincoln
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Richard de la Pole
John Sutton, Baron Dudley
James Butler, 5. Earl of Ormonde
Sir James Tyrell
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James Touchet, 7th Baron Audley
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Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns
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John, Lord Lovel and Holand
Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
William Catesby
Ralph, 4th Lord Cromwell
Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1450


Tudor Period

King Henry VII
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Lambert Simnel
Perkin Warbeck
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King Ferdinand II of Aragon
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King Henry VIII
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King Edward VI
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Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
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The Battle of Flodden Field, 1513
James V, King of Scotland
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Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Louis XII, King of France
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The Battle of the Spurs, 1513
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
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The Siege of Boulogne, 1544

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
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Henry Grey, D. of Suffolk
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George Talbot, 4. E. Shrewsbury
Francis Talbot, 5. E. Shrewsbury
Henry Algernon Percy,
     5th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Algernon Percy,
     6th Earl of Northumberland
Ralph Neville, 4. E. Westmorland
Henry Neville, 5. E. Westmorland
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Nicholas Carew
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Sir Geoffrey Pole
Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland
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Henry Bourchier, 2. Earl of Essex
Robert Radcliffe, 1. Earl of Sussex
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George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter
George Neville, Baron Bergavenny
Sir Edward Neville
William, Lord Paget
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William Fitzwilliam, E. Southampton
Sir Anthony Browne
Sir Thomas Wriothesley
Sir William Kingston
George Brooke, Lord Cobham
Sir Richard Southwell
Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre
Sir Francis Weston
Henry Norris
Lady Jane Grey
Sir Thomas Arundel
Sir Richard Sackville
Sir William Petre
Sir John Cheke
Walter Haddon, L.L.D
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Sir John Mason
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John Taylor
Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
Cardinal Reginald Pole
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Archbishop William Warham
Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham
Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford

Pope Julius II
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Pope Clement VII
Pope Paul III
Pope Pius V

Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Martin Bucer
Richard Pace
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Tallis
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
Assize
Attainder
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer
Praemunire


The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster
"Sanctuary"


Images:

Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London




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