Despite his Catholicism, James returned from exile with his older brother Charles II to great popular joy. There was at this time little prospect of his becoming king, Charles being still a young man and more than capable of fathering legitimate children (in view of the number of illegitimate ones he already had). James reclaimed the title Duke of York. As Lord High Admiral, he commanded the navy and defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Lowestoft (1665). However, he suffered when the king was forced to introduce the Test Act of 1673, removing Catholics from official positions. For a period between 1679 and 1681, he remained in Scotland, where the religious controversy was made even more complex by the strength of the Presbyterians. James's activities there resulted in his becoming extremely unpopular.
When Charles died without a legitimate child, in his fifties, James was next in line for the thrones of both England and Scotland. He was crowned on April 23, 1685, at Westminster Abbey. However, he never took the Scottish coronation oath.
Many people in Britain were extremely concerned about a Catholic monarch. Attempts had already been made, unsuccessfully, to exclude him from the succession. The first challenge to his kingship came as soon as June 11, 1685, when James, Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of King Charles II and a Protestant, arrived in the West Country and proclaimed himself king. He was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 5 and executed at the Tower of London a few days later.
Despite the lack of popular support for Monmouth, the public's fears remained and were compounded by James's efforts to secure religious tolerance for all minorities, including Catholics, and by his apparent preference for Catholic officials, especially in Ireland. Public opinion became even more concerned when James tried to create a standing army. The activities of his officials, such as the notorious Judge Jeffreys (who had been responsible for rounding up Monmouth's supporters in the south-west), added to James's reputation for cruelty and thoughtlessness.
This dissatisfaction led to a conspiracy to replace James with his estranged daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, both dedicated Protestants. When James's queen gave birth to a living male heir, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the matter became urgent.
In 1688 William landed in England with a large Dutch army, the English army deserted to his side, and James was left with no supporters and forced to flee the country. Parliament decided that James's flight was an abdication of the throne, and it therefore gave William and Mary the legal right to assume power. This coup d'état cemented the primacy of parliament over monarch and became known as The Glorious Revolution or the "Bloodless" Revolution - though it was not the latter.
James was allowed to escape from England, was given a pension by King Louis XIV of France, and lived in the royal château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. For the rest of his life, James fought in France and Ireland, attempting to retake his throne. He was little more than a pawn in the great series of intrigues between Louis and William. His apparently cowardly behaviour after a succession of Jacobite defeats in Ireland (culminating in the Battle of the Boyne) won him no friends.
James married twice, firstly Anne Hyde in Breda on Nov 24, 1659. Anne has the distinction of being the last Englishwoman to marry the heir to the English throne before Lady Diana Spencer. She was the daughter of Edward Hyde, later Earl of Clarendon. Despite her respectable parentage, she was not considered a suitable wife, and the marriage was kept secret until Anne was visibly pregnant; in all they had eight children, but only two daughters survived.:
- Charles Stuart, Duke of Cambridge (October 22, 1660 - May 5, 1661).
- Queen Mary II of England, Scotland, and Ireland - (April 30, 1662 - December 28, 1694).
- James Stuart, Duke of Cambridge- (July 12, 1663 - May 22, 1667).
- Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland - (February 6, 1665 - August 1, 1714).
- Charles Stuart, Duke of Kendal - (July 4, 1666 - June 20, 1667).
- Edgar Stuart, Duke of Cambridge - (September 14, 1667 - November 15, 1669).
- Henrietta Stuart - (January 13, 1669 - November 15, 1669).
- Catherine Stuart - (February 9, 1671 - December 5, 1671).
- Catherine Laura Stuart - (January 10, 1675 - October 3, 1675).
- Isabelle Stuart - (August 28, 1676 - March 2, 1681).
- Charles Stuart, Duke of Cambridge - (November 7, 1677 - December 12, 1677).
- Charlotte Maria Stuart - (August 16, 1682 - October 16, 1682).
- James Francis Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales - (June 10, 1688 - January 1, 1766).
- Louisa Maria Theresa Stuart - (June 28, 1692 - April 20, 1712.
King James II died on September 6, 1701, and is buried in the Church of Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
|List of British Monarchs||Succeeded by:
William III & Mary II jointly