Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History: The Not-So-Merry Monarch

James & Anne

      James II of England and VII of Scotland was born in 1633.  He was the son of the executed King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Marie.  He succeeded his “Merry Monarch” brother, Charles II at his death in 1685.  He was the last Catholic King of England in a country that was Protestant and a pro-French absolute monarch in a country where Parliament was unwilling to relinquish power.

     James accompanied his family into exile.  He fought with the French and German military but accompanied his brother on his return to England in 1660 when Charles was restored as King.  While in exile James had met and seduced Anne Hyde, a daughter of  one of Charles’ minister.  On the return to England, the couple married secretly, announced their marriage and then delivered a child in a few months—a son who died in infancy.  After five children died early, Anne delivered two daughters who survived to adulthood.  Diarist Samuel Pepys related that James was fond of his children and played with them.  Anne, who was reported to have great influence over him, died of breast cancer in 1671.  She was the last English woman to marry a monarch until Princess Diana.

 James maintained several mistresses and had several bastards who were rewarded with honors and titles.  The plain Arabella Churchill who was his mistress for 10 years (starting when she was 17) had four children.  The witty Catherine Sedley who became his mistress when she was sixteen said:  “It cannot be for my beauty because he can see that I have none.  And it cannot be for my wit because he has not enough to know that I have any.” 

Queen Mary of Modena

     While still married to Anne and the heir presumptive, James converted to Catholicism which he’d been exposed to in France.  Charles was ticked with his brother and ordered that his two daughters be raised as Protestants.  It really hit the fan when James refused to take an oath under the Test Act, which revealed his conversion to Catholicism to Parliament and the English people.  His marriage to the Catholic Princess Mary of Modena who was fifteen further angered and scared the English.  When Charles failed to father legitimate children, the fearful Parliament and two later Parliaments attempted to enact laws to exclude James from the succession but failed. 

WiJames succeeded King Charles at his brother’s death in 1685.  His bastard nephew, the Duke of Monmouth, proclaimed himself King.  The rebellion was put down and Monmouth was executed.  James began to replace his Protestant Councilors with Catholics and set about changing the laws against Catholics.  He also attempted to change electoral processes to pack Parliament with his own supporters.  A disgusted Parliament invited William of Orange to intervene. William invaded and James fled to France.

William & Mary

 During the Glorious Revolution, he was deposed in 1688.  He was succeeded in 1689 by his Protestant daughter and son-in-law, William III of Orange (also his nephew) and Mary under the English Bill of Rights.  James’ daughters were declared successors above his young son.  His son, also James, became known as “The Old Pretender” of the 1715 rebellion in Scotland.  James’grandson was the Bonnie Prince Charlie of the rebellion of 1745, the last legitimate descendent of King James.  James died in France in relative poverty in France in 1701 of a brain hemorrhage.

     The New Act of Succession provided that, if there was no children born to Mary or Anne, Sophie (the Electress of Hanover and the daughter of Charles II’s sister) and her heirs would inherit the English throne.  Though both Mary and Anne ruled well, neither produced heirs.  When Queen Anne died in 1714, the Elector of Hanover who couldn’t speak English inherited the English throne as George I.  Next week, the Georges.  YOU’RE INVITED:  Author  Cara Lynn James is blogging on High Society in the Gilded Age over at today.  Rita


4 Responses

  1. I still find these fascinating posts. My little brain can not grasp the statment, “She was the last English woman to marry a monarch until Princess Diana.”
    I’m looking forward to reading more about this.

    • Thanks so much, Ciara. Closest to an English bride was the present Queen Elizabeth’s mother–the extremely popular Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) who lived to be 101 who was Scottish. Same goes for the two British queens who married European princes. Surprising, King George’s third son also married a Scot–Alice who was a direct descendent of one of Charles II Ducal bastards. The British family was VERY Germanic and even changed their family name from Hanover to Windsor during WWII. Rita Bay

  2. Your posts enlighten and intrigue, Rita. You literally make Monday worth getting up for!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge — we learn things NEVER taught in a history class! And it’s a shame, because sutdents would certainly pay attention.

    • Thank you, Runere. Parents would be beating the doors down if their darlings brought this into home. I always use references-usu my books-so I couldn’t write about why James always had ugly mistresses. His approximate reply was “All kittens are grey at night.” Too funny,but couldn’t put my hands on the reference. Even funnier, I believe he said that to his mother. Rita Bay

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