James II was the second son of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria and the king of England. After his brother Charles II’s murder, he ruled as James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland until the Glorious Revolution deposed him in France. Earlier, when his father was executed during the British Civil War, he and his sibling were forced to seek refuge in France. During his exile, he served in the French and Spanish armies and distinguished himself as a military commander. Upon his brother’s restoration to the English throne, he was created Duke of Albany in Scotland and granted command of the Royal Navy during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars. During his time in France, he was influenced by the Roman Catholic Church and discreetly converted before leaving the Church of England and marrying Mary of Modena after the death of his first wife. Soon after his coronation, he confronted two rebellions. In response, he increased his standing army and repealed laws punishing Catholics and Protestant dissenters, provoking conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican supporters. Prince William ultimately defeated him, and he was forced to escape to France, where he died at age 67.
Youth and Early Life
James II was born in St. James’s Palace, London, on October 14, 1633, to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France. He was the second son of his parents to survive, following Charles II. Along with his brother and the two sons of the Duke of Buckingham and Francis Villiers, he received a private education. At birth, he was named Duke of York, and at the age of three, he was appointed Lord of Admiral, making him the titular ruler of the Royal Navy as an adult.
In 1642, he was invested with the Order of the Garter, the most prestigious British order of chivalry at the time.
During the English Civil War, he accompanied his father to the Battle of Edgehill, where he was nearly captured by the Parliamentary army. In 1642, Oxford University awarded him a Master of Arts degree, and he served as Colonel of the volunteer regiment of Foot.
In 1946, the Parliamentary army confined him to St. James’s Palace, from which he escaped disguised as a woman and traversed the North Sea to The Hague in the western Netherlands. When his father was executed by rebels in 1649, his older brother Charles II was proclaimed King by loyalists. However, his brother was unable to secure the English throne, and they were forced to seek refuge in France.
James II’s Career
During his first real exposure to combat, he served in the French army under Turenne during the French Civil Wars, where he gave a valiant account of himself. In recognition of his service, he was given command of an Irish regiment in 1652 and promoted to lieutenant general in 1654.
James and his brother were exiled from France when Charles II allied with Spain in an attempt to regain the English throne. In 1658, he joined the Spanish army under Louis, Prince of Conde, and was granted command of six British volunteer regiments that fought against his former French comrades at the Battle of the Dunes.
In 1660, Charles II was reinstated to the English throne, and James was created Duke of Albany in Scotland. He was named Governor of Portsmouth and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports after being validated as Lord High Admiral and Governor of Portsmouth, respectively. He was also appointed governor of the Royal African Expedition.
During the Second Anglo-Dutch War from 1665 to 1667 and the Third Anglo-Dutch War from 1672 to 1674, he commanded the Royal Navy. During this time, he strengthened British control over the African coast in order to facilitate the slave trade.
In 1664, his brother put him in command of the Dutch-conquered American territory between the Delaware and Connecticut rivers. To honor James (Duke of York), the city of New Amsterdam was renamed New York. James was required by his brother to abandon England and relocate to Brussels due to his Catholic faith, as there was opposition to his becoming king if Charles failed to have a legitimate child.
However, after the discovery of a plot to murder him and his brother devised by Charles’s illegitimate son and supporters of a republican revolution, he gained sympathy and returned to England. James II has crowned King of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland on April 23, 1685, after Charles II’s death from apoplexy and lack of legitimate offspring. He worked harder than his brother and was less tolerant of advisors who disagreed with him on certain matters.
Soon after his coronation, he confronted two rebellions in southern England and Scotland, led by his nephew, the Duke of Monmouth. His army crushed both rebellions, and his opponents were sentenced to execution. Without taking the oath required by the Test Act, he allowed Roman Catholics to command regiments and occupy important positions in his kingdom. This drew him into conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican supporters.
He abolished penal laws against Catholics and dispensed with laws that punished Catholic and Protestant dissenters. Additionally, he diminished the Anglican monopoly on education. The fact that he only had two daughters from his first marriage and the possibility that he would have a Catholic son from his second marriage as his successor fueled the Anglicans’ revolt, which was led by Prince William of Orange.
James declined to engage the invading army after his daughter joined Prince William and fled to France, where he was welcomed by his cousin Louis XIV. His daughter Mary was crowned queen, and her spouse William was crowned king of England and Scotland.
James moved to Ireland, was crowned king, and granted Catholics and Protestants religious freedom. In 1690, after being defeated by King William at the Battle of the Boyne, he was forced to seek refuge in France once more.
During his final days, he resided in the French regal chateau of Saint Germain-en-Laye with his wife and a few devoted followers. On September 16, 1701, he perished from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 67.
Awards & Achievements
James held the titles ‘The Duke of York’ (14 October 1633 – 6 February 1685), ‘The Earl of Ulster’ (10 May 1659 – 6 February 1685), ‘The Duke of Albany’ (31 December 1660 – 6 February 1685), and ‘His Majesty The King’ (06 February 1685 – 11 December 1688). On April 20, 1660, he was presented with the Knight of the Garter honor.
James’s Personal Life
James courted Anne Hyde, a commoner, and vowed to marry her after he conceived a child with her. This caused controversy following his brother’s restoration to the throne, as a prince was not expected to marry a commoner. He married Anne despite all opposition in September 1660.
The birth of his first child occurred two months after his marriage, but he perished as an infant. Only two of his eight offspring reached maturity. He was devoted to his family and enjoyed playing with his children, which was unusual for nobility in those days. Anne Hyde’s influence on his decisions lasted until her death in 1671.
During his time in France, the Roman Catholic Church had an influence on him. He followed the faith in secret until 1673 when he officially abandoned the Church of England and converted. In September 1673, he married the Roman Catholic Italian princess Mary of Modena, who was fifteen years old.
Only two of their twelve offspring survived to adulthood. It is documented that James had numerous mistresses, including Catherine Sedley and Arbella Churchill, with whom he fathered children.
Estimated Net Worth
James is one of the wealthiest and most popular monarchs. According to our investigation of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, James II has a net worth of $5 million.
James won the hearts of the people of London with his valor during the Great Fire of 1666, when he was put in command of the firefighting operations. Following the reign of James II, the British parliament enacted a law prohibiting Roman Catholics from becoming kings of England or marrying English monarchs.