James II

(James II of England)


James II was the brother of Charles II of England and shared in his government and many of his adventures. They were exiled to France during the Commonwealth, and during this time James served in both the French and Spanish armies. Soon after Charles II came to the throne, James was appointed Lord High Admiral and served in the Anglo Dutch Wars. Of the two brothers he was far more interested in military matters, and a competent and respected administrator.

James II
The popularity of James however, was severely tried in 1673 after he publicly declared his conversion to the Catholic faith. This was a remarkable development because Charles II's wife was known to be barren, and James was next in line for the throne. By declaring himself to be a Catholic he threatened the succession not only of himself but also of his children. He attempted to repair the damage by marrying his eldest daughter, to William of Orange, a highly regarded Protestant Prince. This partially appeased Parliament, but James was stripped of his Admiralty and even exiled for a time to Brussels.

Charles II, however, continued to support his brother and was able to fend off the 'exclusionists' in parliament that sought to deny James the right to the throne. Since James had not produced a male heir, and his daughters were both reliable Protestants, he was restored to his position as Lord High Admiral and permitted to ascend to the throne on the death of Charles. In his short reign as king, James sought to pass laws permitting religious tolerance, hoping to attract the support of protestant dissenters as well as Catholics. The Puritans however, were too rabidly anti-catholic to fall for such measures and preferred to support the Anglicans who opposed James, rather than permit the toleration of Catholics. Instead of dividing his protestant opponents therefore, his efforts at "toleration" ended up united them against him.

The situation did not become a crisis however, until his Catholic second wife produced a male heir, in 1688. This precipitated a succession crisis and James was quickly deposed in favor of his daughter and son in law, William III and Mary II. Although Ireland declared in his favor, he deserted their cause after the Battle of the Boyne, because he recognized that the Irish were too disorganized and ill-equipped to stand against William's forces. He spent the rest of his life in exile in France.

It is interesting to note that neither his son, nor his grandson was willing to renounce their Catholic faith as a condition of making good their claim to the English throne. The Stuart claim was far stronger than that of any of their Hanoverian cousins, and there were many factions in England that would gladly have supported their claim had they been willing to renounce their faith.

Key events during the life of James II of England:

Birth of James II to Charles I and Henrietta.
Created Duke of York.
Escaped to Holland after capture during English Civil War.
  Served in French army under Turenne.
Marriage to Anne Hyde
Charles II restored to throne of England.
Lord High Admiral during Anglo-Dutch Wars.
Secretly converted to Catholicism.
Marries Mary of Modena, a Catholic Princess.
Daughter Mary, marries William of Orange, a Protestant Prince.
  Protestant conspiracies against James fail.
Ascends to the throne of England
Monmouth mounts a rebellion to depose James II, but fails.
Declaration of Indulgence grants freedom of religion to Catholics and dissenters.
Birth of son precipitates a succession crisis.
Deposed in England, in favor of daughter Mary II. Declared King of Ireland.
Departs Ireland after the Battle of Boyne.
Death of James II.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
James II. and the 'Glorious Revolution'  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Institution of the Penal Code  in  Ireland: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Fiery Cross  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
James VII.A Forlorn Hope  in  Scotland's Story  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
William's Invitation  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
James II and the Glorious Revolution  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

James II. receiving the News of the Landing
 in  The Story of the English

James II. landing at Kinsale
 in Ireland: Peeps at History

James II
 in Ireland: Peeps at History

The flight of James II.: After the Battle of Boyne
 in Ireland: Peeps at History

Short Biography
Charles II Restored to the throne after death of Cromwell. Presided over the great fire and plague of London.
William III King of Netherlands, called to be king of England when James II, his father-in-law, was deposed.
Anne of England Last of the Stuart queens, lived during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Mary II Daughter of James II, Queen of England with her husband William III of Orange.
Duke of Marlborough Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Old Pretender Son of James II, led Jacobites in a bid to restore Stuarts to the throne of England.
Henrietta Daughter of Henry IV of France, and Queen of Charles I, and mother of Charles II and James II.