|King of England and Ireland
06 Feb 1685 - 11 Dec 1688 (deposed)
William III and Mary II
|King of Scots
06 Feb 1685 - 11 Dec 1688 (deposed)
William II and Mary II
James II and VII (14 Oct 1633 – 16 Sep 1701) Stuart was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland. He reigned from the death of his brother Charles II on 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in 1688, an event that became known as the Glorious Revolution.
James, named after his grandfather King James I and VI, was the second surviving son of Charles I and his wife Maria Henrietta of France. He was given the titles of Duke of York (England) and Duke of Albany (Scotland), and at age three named Lord High Admiral. 
His boyhood was dominated by the Civil War between King Charles I and Parliament, in which Charles lost his life in 1649. James was present at the September Battle of Edgehill but was afterward kept in safety at the royalist headquarters of Oxford. After Oxford surrendered in 1646, James was taken to London to join his younger siblings Elizabeth and Henry in the custody of Parliament. At age fourteen, he managed with the aid of a Royalist agent to escape and join his sister Mary, Princess of Orange.  He later spent time near Paris at the court of his overbearing mother.
Rumors came to James in 1651that his brother Charles had been killed in Scotland, attempting to take back the crown. This would have made James the next successor, but the rumors were false. James then decided that he would have to make a career for himself and in 1652, at age eighteen, he joined the French army.  By 1654, James, "full of reputation and honor",  had been commissioned lieutenant-general. However, in 1656 Charles made a treaty with Spain and ordered James to switch sides and join his own forces. James wished to continue in the French service but he obeyed his brother as king. The alliance was a failure, as in 1658 the Spanish-Royalist forces were defeated at the Battle of the Dunes. James was subsequently offered the post of Lord High Admiral in the Spanish navy,  which he declined in order to to serve his brother, who was restored to the throne of England in 1660 as King Charles II.
As Duke of York, James was heir presumptive to the throne, Charles being unmarried in 1660. James had, however, the previous year (24 November 1659) secretly contracted a marriage to commoner Anne Hyde, daughter of Charles' Chancellor Edward Hyde, raised to the peerage as Clarendon. At the Restoration, Anne was pregnant. The royalist faction was outraged, but the king eventually supported the marriage, calling Anne a woman of "good wit and excellent parts".   It was solemnized in secret on 3 September 1660, and a son, named Charles, was born in October but died the next year. More children followed, whose legitimacy could not be questioned, and two, Mary and Anne, survived to adulthood. The marriage could have been a happy one were it not for James' compulsive lechery and philandering. Yet it seems that Anne exercised a strong and generally positive influence on him, Samuel Pepys remarking "That the Duke of York, in all things but in his cod-piece, is led by the nose by his wife." It was generally acknowledged that James was mentally dull and needed leading by someone.
The deaths from smallpox in 1660 of brother and sister Henry Duke of Gloucester and Mary Princess of Orange made James' place in the line of succession even more significant, especially after Charles' marriage to the Portuguese infanta Catherine of Braganza produced no living children.
An important business of the Restoration was to secure income to the king and duke. James was well provided-for, receiving the estates of convicted regicides, the revenues of the post office, and the post of Lord High Admiral, by which he would receive the first portion of naval prizes. When in 1643 the English took New Amsterdam from the Dutch, it was granted to James and renamed New York in his honor. He was also one of the founding members of the monopoly Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa, established originally to search for gold on the West African coast but later finding slave-trading more lucrative. 
It was the Africa Company which precipitated the Anglo-Dutch War of 1665-1667, because the Dutch were already on the African coast (as the Portuguese had been before them) and did not intend to tolerate rivals. A captain of the Africa Company spent much of 1663 and 1664 attacking Dutch installations, and they Dutch struck back with a vengeance, as Pepys lamented: "the news of our being beaten to dirt at Guinny, by De Ruyter with his fleete. . . . it being most wholly to the utter ruine of our Royall Company . . ." 
On 3 June of 1665, the fleets of England and the Dutch United Provinces - both the strongest that each nation had ever sent out -  met off [Lowestoft with James as Admiral. Unfortunately, James' flagship was also filled with young scions of the nobility who thought their high birth entitled them to naval command.  The English fleet routed the Dutch, but the victory was incomplete, because one of these gentlemen took it upon himself to order the fleet to shorten sail and allow the Dutch to reach home waters. The king, learnng that three officers on the flagship's deck had been decapitated by a cannonball, ordered James to stand down in order to protect the succession.
The government lacked the money to carry on the war and the unpaid seamen rioted in the streets of London, which had already suffered two years of plague and then the Great Fire of 1666, in which the duke and king were praised for hauling buckets of water in the midst of the conflagration. Then in June 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway and attacked the English fleet laid up there for lack of money, burning ships and towing away the flagship Royal Charles. This loss almost collapsed the government, and James' father-in-law Clarendon was sacked as a scapegoat and sent into exile. James, closely associated with the disgraced Chancellor, was also a target.
In 1672, Charles embarked on a second Dutch war, this time in alliance with France. The first major naval engagement was fought on 7 June, near the location of the previous war's Battle of Lowestoft in Sole Bay. James was again in command of the combined allied fleets. He fought with conspicuous bravery, having two flagships shot out from under him, but he has to be held responsible for allowing the enemy to take his fleet unprepared and for the confusion in the signalling that separated the squadrons, allowing the Dutch an opening they exploited brilliantly. It was a Dutch victory on points, and the last major engagement of James' naval career.
By 1672, James had secretly converted to Catholicism, as had his Duchess Anne, who died in 1671,. While James thus fully approved the alliance with Catholic France, most of the members of Parliament were possessed by a national phobia against "Popery." In 1673 they refused to vote supply for Charles' war until he agreed to a Test Act excluding professed Catholics from public office. James refused to take the oath mandated by the Act, thus forfeiting his offices, including that of Lord High Admiral. He provoked Parliament further by marrying a Catholic, Mary of Modena, Italy.
For the next decade, members of Parliament who would eventually form the Whig party waged an unrelenting campaign to exclude James from the succession. Charles resisted them, but he did place James' daughters, his heirs presumptive, under protestant guardians, and in 1677 he married James' oldest daughter Mary to the protestant Willem of Orange, his nephew.   
In 1678, a troublemaker named Titus Oates spread false rumors of a Popish Plot to assassinate the king. While Charles did not want to take it seriously, the Whigs in Parliament spread anti-Catholic hysteria that sent five Catholic members of the House of Lords to the Tower, other innocents to the gallows, and threatened the Queen as well as James. Proposed measures involved forcing King Charles to divorce and beget children with a new, Protestant wife, and legitimating his illegitimate son James, Duke of Monmouth so that he could inherit. In 1679 the first Exclusion Bill was proposed, forcing Charles to dismiss Parliament. 
After a short time of exile as high commissioner in Scotland, James returned in 1682 to England, where he found the exclusion hysteria abated. In 1684, he was restored to some of his offices, including the admiralty. In February 1685, after the sudden death of his brother, he succeeded uneventfully to the throne.
James' reign began relatively well. Parliament, now with a Tory majority, initially supported him. His private practice of his religion aroused no real outrage. A brief uprising in Scotland and the threatened attempt of the Duke of Monmouth to seize the throne were easily dealt with.
But James, who had regretted his lost career with the French army, saw the troops he had used used to put down the Monmouth uprising as an opportunity to promote his joint goals of a permanent standing army and Catholic emancipation. But the English were alarmed when he began to appoint Catholic officers to command his army.  James doubled down and in 1688 issued a new Declaration of Indulgence, which he ordered to be read aloud in the churches. Seven bishops refused and were thrown into the Tower; they were quickly acquitted by the court, to great general rejoicing.  James did not heed this sign of popular discontent, which had spread far beyond the Whigs.
In that same month, 10 June 1688, the queen gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward. For James, this birth secured the succession to his throne. For the English, it meant the threat of a continued Catholic dynasty. Immediately, rumors began to spread that the birth was a hoax. The person most affected by the birth of a new Prince of Wales was James' daughter Mary, who lost her place as heir presumptive, and her husband Willem of Orange, who had his own legitimate claim to James' throne.
Mary was a zealous protestant, but Willem's own cause was the defense of the United Provinces against the threat of Louis XIV of France. Willem was convinced that a Catholic England led by James was planning to ally with Louis to crush the protestant Dutch. He deployed propagandists in England to spread rumors about the supposed alliance of James and Louis and about the hoax of a "warming pan baby" smuggled into the queen's bed. It is likely that his agents incited the invitation sent to WIllem by a small bipartisan group, urging him to invade and save England from "the Popish religion".
Willem landed at Torbay in Devon on 5 November 1688 with a well-equipped army. James' army, while numerically larger on paper, disintegrated at the approach of Willem, many of them deserting to him. After his own daughter Anne joined his enemies, James lost heart and ran for the shelter of France, throwing himself into the welcoming arms of Louis. 
Early in 1689, William called a Convention/Parliament, which ruled that James' flight from England constituted abdication and on 13 February offered the crown to Mary and Willem, as joint monarchs.
James may have wished to sink into the retirement of defeat, but Louis XIV was now threatened by Willem's hold on England. Thanks to James, most of Ireland was then in the hands of the Catholics, and Louis decided to send James to take Ireland and use it as an invasion base against Willem in England. Unfortunately for this plan, the Irish Catholic forces were largely untrained, undisciplined, and unsupplied. Neither James nor the French could remedy these fundamental faults, and on 1 July 1690, the armies met at the River Boyne. The Irish Jacobites were defeated but not routed by the more professional allied force, but James again lost his nerve and abandoned the fight to flee to the safety of France.
Louis made another attempt to remove Willem from the English throne in 1692, having obtained a rare naval victory on 30 June 1690, giving him (temporary) control over the English Channel. He assembled a large invasion force at Normandy, where James watched as the English navy destroyed the French fleet meant to carry him across.  That was the last of his military attempts to regain his throne, although he may have been involved in some of the Jacobite plots that persisted for the last decade of his life. He never forgave his daughter Mary for her part in his dethronement.
It soon became clear to Louis that James was not going to be of any use as an ally and let him sink into a state of resigned apathy that ended with his death on 5 September 1701 (16 September Old style). James was apparently considered as a saint and his remains distributed as relics. 
James had children with both of his wives and acknowledged children with two mistresses:
With first wife Anne Hyde: Only daughters Mary and Anne lived to adulthood; both became queens regnant. 
With second wife Mary of Modena: Only James and Louisa lived to adulthood; James became the Pretender James III; Louisa died unmarried at age twenty. 
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Categories: Monarchs of England 1284-1707 | Monarchs of Scotland to 1707 | Wales, Monarchs | Scotland, Monarchs | England, Monarchs | Jacobites | Diary of Samuel Pepys | Second Anglo-Dutch War | Third Anglo-Dutch War | England, Slave Traders | Royal African Company | Dukes of York | Dukes of Albany | Namesakes US Counties | Battle of the Boyne, 1690 | Governors of the Hudson's Bay Company | Governors of Portsmouth | Battle of Lowestoft | Battle of Solebay | Scotland, Royalty | House of Stuart