Biography of JAMES II - Archontology


b. 14 Oct 1633, London, England
d. 5/6 [16/17] Sep 1701, Château of St. Germain-en-Laye, France

Title: By the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. (Dei Gratia, Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae et Hiberniae Rex, Fidei Defensor, etc.) (see note)
Term: 6 Feb 1685 - 23 Dec 1688
  6 Feb 1685, succeeded his brother, Charles II
  23 Apr 1685, crowned, Westminster Abbey
  23 Dec 1688, ceased to reign de-facto with departure from England
  12 Feb 1689, declared to have abdicated the Government and left the throne vacant, Declaration of Rights, passed by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons of England
  12 Mar 1689, invaded Ireland (recognized king in Ireland only until Jul 1690)
  11 Apr 1689, declared to have forfeited the throne of Scotland, Claim of Right, passed by the Estates of Scotland
Names/titles: Duke of York [from 27 Jan 1643]; Earl of Ulster [from 10 May 1659]; Duke of Normandy [from 31 Dec 1660]; styled James VII as King of Scotland [from 6 Feb 1685]

James was the second surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France. Created Duke of York in January 1643, he escaped to the Continent in April 1648 during the Civil Wars. He served in the French and Spanish armies and was made Lord High Admiral upon the restoration of Stuarts (1660). James' conversion to the Roman Catholic faith forced him to resign all offices under the Test Acts in 1673. On 21 Nov 1673 he married Mary Beatrice of Modena, a Roman Catholic. Although the House of Commons attempted to prevent James' accession, he acceded to the throne of England (as James II) and Scotland (as James VII) after the death of his brother Charles II in 1685.

Shortly after his coronation, James faced a revolt led by his nephew, Charles' illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, easily crushed after the battle of Sedgemoor (6 Jul 1685). However, a series of repressive trials, the Bloody Assizes, and savage punishments imposed by the Lord Chief Justice, Judge Jeffrey, alienated many supporters. The Declaration of Indulgence (1687) aimed at winning the support of the Dissenters and the Roman Catholics increased the religious tensions. When James' wife gave birth (10 Jun 1688) to a son, James Francis Edward, it paved way to a Roman Catholic succession. The Protestant opposition asked James' son-in-law, the Prince of Orange (later William III), to invade England. William landed at Torbay in Devon in November 1688 and marched on London marking the beginning of the "Glorious Revolution". On 11 Dec 1688 James attempted to flee to France but was intercepted in Kent; twelve days later, on 23 Dec 1688, he was allowed to leave the English soil. On 12 Feb 1689 the Convention Parliament, assembled at Westminster, adopted the Declaration of Rights, which proclaimed that James II "abdicated the Government" and therefore the throne became vacant. The Estates of Scotland approved the "Claim of Right" and declared that James had "forfeited" the throne (11 Apr 1689). William III and Mary II were declared joint sovereigns in England and Scotland.

On 12 Mar 1690, aided by King Louis XIV, James landed in the harbor of Kinsale in Ireland in an attempt to regain his throne. He presided at the opening of Parliament in Dublin on 7 May 1690, which was summoned under his authority. However, the army of James was defeated in the Battle of the Boyne (1 Jul 1690) and he returned to France, where he remained in St. Germain-en-Laye until his death. [1; 2; 3]

[1] Handbook of British Chronology (1986)
[2] "The Glorious Revolution of 1688," by Maurice Ashley (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1966).
[3] "The Declaration of Rights," by Lois G. Schwoerer (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1981).
  Image: portrait of James II by Sir Godfrey Kneller, c. 1685.