James II (England) (1733–1701; Ruled 1685–1688)

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JAMES II (ENGLAND) (17331701; ruled 16851688)

JAMES II (ENGLAND) (17331701; ruled 16851688), king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. James II was born on 14 October 1633, the second son of Charles I (ruled 16251649), and was created duke of York and Albany in January 1634. Following his father's defeat in the civil war, James spent 16481660 in exile on the Continent, where he fought in the service of the French and Spanish crowns, earning a reputation for bravery. Returning to England in 1660 with the Restoration of the monarchy under his brother, Charles II (ruled 16601685), he became lord high admiral and oversaw a period of expansion for the navy. He converted to Catholicism sometime in the late 1660s and was forced to resign all of his offices in 1673 following his noncompliance with the Test Act of that year. In 16791681 the parliamentary Whigs launched an attempt to exclude him from the succession on the grounds of his religion (he was next in line to the throne due to his brother's failure to father any legitimate children). Exiled to Scotland by his brother while the exclusion crisis unfolded, James had two successful stints as head of the government there, where he showed himself a firm friend of the Episcopalian interest against the Presbyterian menace.

Recalled to England in 1682, James enjoyed a surge of popularity during the Tory reaction that followed the defeat of the exclusion movement. His accession in February 1685 was greeted with numerous loyal addresses and widespread rejoicing across England, Scotland, and Ireland. A few diehard radicals rose with Archibald Campbell (16291685), earl of Argyll (in Scotland), and James Scott (16491685), duke of Monmouth, Charles II's eldest illegitimate son (in England), that summer, but both rebellions failed miserably for lack of support.

James made a public commitment at the beginning of his reign to rule by law and protect the Protestant establishment, but he soon proved that his word could not be relied upon. He began issuing Catholics dispensations from the Test Act so they could hold commissions in the army, prompting the ire of his newly elected Parliament (an overwhelmingly Tory-Anglican body), which he dismissed in November 1685. He achieved a judicial ruling in favor of the dispensing power in the feigned action of Godden v. Hales in June 1686 (though only after removing six of the twelve judges), which allowed him to bring Catholics into his privy council. He encouraged Catholics to celebrate Mass openly, promoted Catholic schools, and used the press to try to convince people of the merits of converting, though his missionary efforts met with limited success. When the Anglican clergy refused to heed his demand that they refrain from anti-Catholic sermonizing, James set up an Ecclesiastical Commission to discipline recalcitrant clergymen. Realizing that the Tory-Anglican interest would not assist him in his efforts to help his coreligionists, he tried to forge an alliance with the Protestant Nonconformists, hiring former Whig publicists, such as Henry Care and the Quaker William Penn, to promote the cause of religious toleration in the press. In April 1687 he issued his first Declaration of Indulgence, suspending all the penal laws against Nonconformists by dint of his royal prerogative, and embarked upon a campaign to secure the return of a packed Parliament so he could turn this toleration into law.

James also built up a sizable standing army, increasing the less than nine thousand troops he inherited from his brother to twenty thousand by the end of 1685 and adding a further fourteen to fifteen thousand over the course of 1688. On the foreign policy front, he tried to adopt a middle position between the French and Dutch interests, though his failure to take a stance against the aggressions of Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) toward the Protestant interest on the Continent led to widespread suspicions that he was in cahoots with the French king.

James made a serious miscalculation in trying to force the clergy to read his second Declaration of Indulgence of April 1688. Seven bishops petitioned against the royal suspending power, and though charged with sedition by the crown, were found not guilty by a King's Bench jury. When James's second wife, Mary of Modena (16581718), gave birth to the Prince of Wales on 10 June 1688, raising the prospect of a never-ending succession of Catholic kings, a group of seven Whig and Tory politicians invited William of Orange (William III, ruled 16891702) to come from Holland to rescue English liberties and the Protestant religion. William landed at Torbay on 5 November, meeting little resistance. James fled the country for France in December 1688, after first throwing the great seal into the River Thames, thereby effectively abdicating the government (although his first attempt at leaving the country was foiled by fishermen in Kent, and it took a second attempt later that month before he made it to the Continent).

James's pursuit of similar pro-Catholic policies in Scotland and Ireland alienated Protestant opinion in his other two kingdoms, though Jacobite sentiment remained strong in Ireland, where 80 percent of the population was Catholic. Hence James went to Ireland in March 1689 to launch a bid to reclaim his British thrones, but he was defeated by William at the battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690) and withdrew again to France. He died at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, outside Paris, on 6 September 1701.

See also Charles II (England) ; Glorious Revolution (Britain) ; Jacobitism ; William and Mary .


Primary Source

Beddard, Robert, ed. A Kingdom without a King: The Journal of the Provisional Government in the Revolution of 1688. Oxford, 1988.

Secondary Sources

Childs, John. The Army, James II, and the Glorious Revolution. Manchester, U.K., 1980.

Miller, John. James II: A Study in Kingship. London and New Haven, 2000.

Pincus, Steven. "'To Protect English Liberties': The English Nationalist Revolution of 16881689." In Protestantism and National Identity: Britain and Ireland, c. 1650c. 1850, edited by Tony Claydon and Ian McBride, pp. 75104. Cambridge, U.K., 1998.

Speck, W. A. James II. Harlow, U.K., 2002.

. Reluctant Revolutionaries: Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688. Oxford, 1988.

Turner, Francis Charles. James II. London, 1948.

Western, J. R. Monarchy and Revolution: The English State in the 1680s. Basingstoke, U.K., 1985.

Tim Harris

James II

views updated May 29 2018

James II (1430–60), king of Scots (1437–60). James II is the first Scottish king of whose appearance we can be fairly certain. An Austrian visitor to the Scottish court in 1458, Jörg von Ehingen, had a portrait made of the king, presumably for the edification of James's sister Eleanor of Austria. King James is portrayed as a confident young man, his hands on a dagger at his belt, with the whole of the left side of his face from forehead to chin disfigured by a livid vermilion birthmark described by the French poet François Villon and the contemporary Scottish ‘Auchinleck chronicler’. The confidence and ruthlessness suggested by this face are an accurate reflection of the king's character and policies. In a short life—he died at 29—and extremely short period of personal rule, he followed the path taken by his father, broke the power of the greatest magnate house, the Black Douglases, secured a sizeable increase in royal power at home and a formidable reputation abroad.

James was the younger of twin sons born to James I and Joan Beaufort at Holyrood in October 1430. (The elder twin, Alexander, died in infancy.) His father's assassination at Perth in 1437 thrust James into the kingship aged only 6 and necessitated a long minority (1437–49), in the first part of which he was controlled by the rump of his father's supporters, headed by the queen. He was crowned (March 1437) by Michael Ochiltree, bishop of Dunblane, a close associate of James I but hardly the premier ecclesiastic in Scotland. The disappearance of many major noble families, either through forfeiture and execution or failure of heirs in the male line, meant that by 1437 there were very few earls left in Scotland; and the political imbalance which resulted from this caused an enormous concentration of power in the hands of the Black Douglas family, with its head, the young William, 8th earl of Douglas, becoming lieutenant-general for James II (probably in 1444) and—together with the Livingston of Callander—using the office to acquire earldoms and other honours for his brothers and allies.

In July 1449 James II married Mary of Gueldres, only daughter of Duke Arnold of Gueldres and niece of Philip the Good of Burgundy (who paid his niece's dowry in instalments). Four of James's sisters had already made prestigious European marriages— Margaret to the Dauphin Louis in 1436, Isabella to Francis of Brittany in 1442, Mary to the Lord of Veere in 1444, and Eleanor to Sigismund of Austria in 1449. Thus the Scottish king threw off the frustration of being under tutelage with confidence and ruthlessness. He arrested and forfeited the Livingstons in 1449–50, driving the young earl of Ross (who was James Livingston's son-in-law) into rebellion in 1451.

However, James II's real target was the Black Douglases. Various motives have been suggested for his attack on the family—royal financial difficulties, linked to the king's determination, from 1451, to secure the Douglas earldom of Wigtown; James II's perception of Douglas weakness in Galloway as a result of the ‘Black Dinner’ of 1440; the bond (probably of friendship) between Douglas, Crawford, and the rebel Ross of 1451–2, bringing together former rivals in a potentially dangerous combination; or simply the issue of authority, with Douglas's predominance at court (in spite of his having relinquished the lieutenant-generalship by 1450) unacceptable to an adult Stewart king. The outcome was an attack on Douglas estates by James II, a policy apparently urged by Chancellor Crichton, Admiral Crichton, and Bishop Turnbull of Glasgow during Earl William's absence in Rome in Jubilee Year 1450. There followed a temporary reconciliation (indicating royal weakness), and the great crime of the reign, James's murder of Douglas at Stirling castle on 22 February 1452, following a two-day conference which Douglas attended under a royal safe conduct.

Civil war followed, with the 9th earl of Douglas pitted against a determined James II. The king was lucky to escape from Stirling with his life when the Douglases arrived to confront him a month after the murder. Thereafter the situation improved. A male heir was born to Mary of Gueldres at St Andrews (May 1452); a royalist Parliament justified the Douglas murder; and the king walked the political tightrope of satisfying his own supporters and negotiating with the Douglases until he was strong enough to deliver the killer punch. Events in England—the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses—assisted James by depriving the Douglases of the possibility of armed support. In 1455 the king's sieges of Abercorn and Threave, and a skirmish at Arkinholm on the river Esk, completed the ruin of the Black Douglases.

James II's five remaining years reveal no let-up in the king's energy and aggressiveness—organizing an abortive attack on the Isle of Man; leading border raids; playing off Lancaster against York; restocking the Scottish peerage with earls, including royal Stewarts; adopting an astonishingly high-handed attitude towards the Danes in his demand for a marriage alliance for his son ceding Orkney and Shetland to Scotland; and receiving from Philip of Burgundy the gift of the huge cannon ‘Mons Meg’ in 1457. James II died as he had lived, the eternal warrior, mortally wounded by the explosion of one of his own guns at the siege of Roxburgh castle in August 1460.

Norman Macdougall


Donaldson, G. , Scottish Kings (1967);
Grant, A. , Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306–1469 (1984);
McGladdery, C. , James II (Edinburgh, 1990);
Nicholson, R. , Scotland: The Later Middle Ages (Edinburgh, 1974).

James II

views updated May 14 2018

James II

James II (1633-1701) was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1685 to 1688. Britain's last Stuart and last Catholic monarch, he granted religious minorities the right to worship. He was deposed by the Glorious Revolution.

Since the Declaration of Rights of 1689 charged him with attempting to "subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of the kingdom," James II has traditionally been treated as a would-be tyrant by older historians. Recent writers have pointed out that his failures were more personal than political. In 1679, in lofty concept of his office, James stated that "the monarchy, … I thank God, yet has had no dependency on parliaments nor on nothing but God alone." And within the strict letter of the constitution, James was not wrong. James's Catholicism, to which he was converted about 1670, is viewed as a major impediment, for in its cause he committed most of his excesses.

Born in October 1633, the second son of Charles I, James was created Duke of York at baptism. He mastered the rudiments of soldiering and seamanship. He emulated his older brother, Charles II, to the point of matching him in number of mistresses. However, he turned increasingly to religion in his later years.

After his father's execution in 1649, James wandered into foreign military service during the Commonwealth period (1649-1660). With the restoration of the Stuarts, he served his brother as lord high admiral, administered colonies in Africa and New York, and fought at sea in two wars against Holland, in 1665 and 1672.

After his conversion to Catholicism, James's religion, his pro-French policies, and his antiparliamentarian sentiments attracted the hostilities of the emerging Whig party. The Test Act (1673), which deprived Catholics of government office, was aimed largely at James. Though he resigned from the Admiralty, the Whigs hounded him between 1679 and 1681 with the Exclusion Bill, designed to remove him totally from the succession to the throne. Charles crushed this opposition and reinstated James in the Admiralty and the Council in 1682.

In February 1685 James became king upon his brother's death and began a troubled reign of nearly 4 years. The Monmouth Rebellion (1685), led by his illegitimate nephew, was put down so severely by Judge Jeffreys that James's popularity was impaired. He attempted to master opposition by controlling local elections, expelling Protestant university officials and replacing them with Catholics, reviving the Anglican Church's High Commission, which removed the critical bishop of London, and maintaining a standing army outside London. While granting toleration to Catholics and to Protestant Dissenters, he did so by decree and not by parliamentary statute. When the archbishop of Canterbury refused to promulgate the decree, he and six bishops were arrested in June 1688. The occasion caused even passive observers to resent James's autocracy, and when a few ardent opponents summoned William of Orange, James's son-in-law, to save England's "religion, liberties and properties" by invasion, most of the nation willingly allowed the so-called Glorious Revolution to run its course. James fled England in December 1688, never to return.

Louis XIV gave asylum to James. Until July 1690 French military and naval units aided the efforts of James's English supporters, the Jacobites (from the Latin Jacobus, James), in Ireland, but at the battle of the Boyne River (July 1, 1690) James was defeated. Upon his return to France, James withdrew from active leadership of his own cause, demoralized still further by Louis's recognition of William and Mary's legitimate rule in the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). He died in September 1701.

Two marriages, to Anne Hyde (1660) and to Mary of Modena (1673), produced 15 children; two of James's daughters later became queens of England, and a son became the "Old Pretender" of the Jacobite cause.

Further Reading

The only reliable biography of James is Francis C. Turner, James II (1948). The best study of his reign is David Ogg, England in the Reigns of James II and William III (1955).

Additional Sources

Ashley, Maurice, James II, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

Miller, John, James II: a study in kingship, Hove: Wayland, 1978.

Trevor, Meriol, The shadow of a crown: the life story of James II of England and VII of Scotland, London: Constable, 1988. □

James II

views updated Jun 11 2018

James II (1633–1701) King of England (1685–88), second son of Charles I, brother of Charles II. Following the English Civil War, James fought for the French and Spanish, before returning as lord high admiral after the Restoration (1660). He converted to Roman Catholicism (1669) and was forced to resign all his offices. As king, James was confronted by Monmouth's Rebellion (1685). His pro-Catholic policies inflamed popular opinion and the birth of a son, James Stuart, precipitated the Glorious Revolution. His daughter, Mary II, and her husband, William III (of Orange), acceded to the throne, and James was forced to flee to France. With French aid, James invaded Ireland but was defeated by William at the battle of the Boyne (1690). See also Jacobites

James II

views updated May 18 2018

James II (1430–60) King of Scotland (1437–60), son and successor of James I. His minority was dominated by aristocratic factions, particularly the Douglases. In 1452, he killed the Earl of Douglas and seized control. During the Wars of the Roses, James supported the Lancastrians against the Yorkists, and was killed by an exploding cannon at Roxburgh.

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James II (Scotland)

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