Britroyals Menu

Britroyals Home Britroyals Home

Kings & Queens Kings & Queens

Royal Family Trees Royal Family Trees

Royal Family Royal Family

Line of Succession Line of Succession

Timeline Timeline

Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

Quiz Quiz


King James II (1685 - 1688)

Name: King James II
Full Name: James Stuart
Born: October 14, 1633 at St. James Palace
Parents: Charles I and Henrietta Maria
Relation to Charles III: 1st cousin 10 times removed
House of: Stuart
Ascended to the throne: February 6, 1685 aged 51 years
Crowned: April 23, 1685 at Westminster Abbey
Married: (1) Anne Hyde, (2) Mary, Daughter of Duke of Modena
Children: Eight by his first wife Anne, of whom only Mary and Anne survived, and Five by his 2nd wife Mary of whom only a son James (Old Pretender) and Louise Maria survived.
Died: September 6, 1701 at St Germain-en-Laye, France, aged 67 years, 10 months, and 21 days
Buried at: Chateau de Saint Germain-en-Laye, Near Paris,
Reigned for: 3 years, 10 months, 3 days, Abdicated: December 11, 1688
Succeeded by: his daughter Mary and son-in-law William of Orange

James II was the second surviving son of Charles I and younger brother of Charles II. He was created Duke of York, and was in Oxford during the Civil War. After the defeat of the Royalists he escaped with his mother and brother to The Hague and then exile in France. His father was executed in 1649. James served in the French army and later in the Spanish Army. After the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy he returned to England where his brother had been crowned Charles II.

James was created Lord High Admiral and warden of the Cinque Ports, and commanded the Royal Navy during the 2nd and 3rd Anglo-Dutch wars. He created controversy when in 1660 he married Anne Hyde a commoner and daughter of Charles’s chief minister Edward Hyde. They had 7 children but only two survived infancy - Mary (later Queen Mary II) and Anne (later Queen Anne). His daughters were raised as Protestants but, influenced by his time in France and Spain, James converted to Catholicism in 1670. Following Anne Hyde’s death in 1671, he married Mary of Modena a 15 year old Italian Catholic princess. James’s critics described her as ‘an agent of the Pope’.

Parliament became alarmed at the prospect of Catholic succession and in 1673 passed the Test Act which excluded Catholics from political office. In 1679 Shaftesbury attempted to introduce an Exclusion Bill to exclude James from the succession and substitute Charles’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth, but this was rebutted by Charles who dissolved Parliament. James became King James II on the death of his brother in 1685. He soon faced two rebellions intent on removing him in Scotland by the Duke of Argyll, and from an army raised by the Duke of Monmouth which was defeated by John Churchill (6th great grandfather of Winston Churchill) in July 1685 at the Battle of Sedgemoor in Somerset. The Monmouth rebels were brutally punished by Judge Jeffrey’s Bloody Assizes. James, believing his Divine Right as King, issued the Declaration of Indulgence to suspend the Test Act and promote his Catholic supporters in Parliament. The Archbishop of Canterbury and seven other bishops were arrested and tried for sedition. Amidst widespread alarm, the birth in 1688 of his Catholic heir James (James Edward Stuart) prompted a group of nobles to invite Prince William of Orange (who had married James daughter Mary) from the Netherlands to England to restore Protestantism and democracy.

William of Orange landed at Torbay on 5 November 1688 in 463 ships unopposed by the Royal Navy, and with an army of 14,000 troops which gathering local support grew to over 20,000 and advanced on London in what became known as ‘The Glorious Revolution’. Many from James’s army including Churchill and James’s daughter Anne defected to support William. James lost his nerve and fled to France throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames. His daughter Mary was declared Queen, but she insisted on joint rule with her husband and they were crowned King William III and Queen Mary II. James and his wife and son lived in exile in France as guests of Louis XIV. James landed in Ireland in 1689 with French troops in an attempt to regain the throne and advanced on Londonderry, but was defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. He lived the rest of his life in exile. His son James Edward Stuart (The Old Pretender) and grandson Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie) made unsuccessful attempts to restore the Jacobite throne in 1715 and 1745.

King James II's Signature


‘The Duke of York in all things but in his codpiece, is led by the nose by his wife’- Samuel Pepys (writing about James II, before he became king, and the influence of his wife Anne Hyde)

‘As very papist as the pope himself’ – Earl of Lauderdale (speaking at the time about James II becoming a Catholic)

’Dismal Jimmy’ – Scottish nickname for King James II

Timeline for King James II

Year Event
1685James succeeds his brother, Charles II.
1685Rebellion of the Earl of Argyll in Scotland designed to place the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II's illegitimate son, on the throne is crushed and Argyll is executed.
1685The Duke of Monmouth rebels against James, but is defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor in Somerset.
1685Edict of Nantes allowing freedom of religion to Huguenot Protestants is revoked in France, resulting in thousands of Huguenot craft workers and traders settling in England.
1686Following their defeat at Sedgemoor, Monmouth and many of the rebels are hanged or transported by the 'The Bloody Assizes' under Judge Jeffreys.
1686James takes first measures to restore Catholicism in England, and sets up a standing army of 13,000 troops at Hounslow to overawe nearby London.
1686Edmund Halley draws the first meteorological map showing weather systems
1687Isaac Newton publishes Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
1688James, believing his Divine Right as King, issues the Declaration of Indulgence to suspend all laws against Catholics and Non-Conformists and repeal the 1673 Test Act. He seeks to promote his Catholic supporters in Parliament and purge Tories and Anglican clergy .
1688James’ wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a son and Catholic heir. His daughters Mary, married to Dutch Stadtholder William of Orange, and Anne by his first wife Anne Hyde are Protestant.
1688Following discontent over James attempts to control politics and religion, seven leading statesmen invite William of Orange, son-in-law of James, to England to restore English liberties.
1688The 'Glorious Revolution'. William of Orange lands at Torbay with an army of 20,000 and advances on London. Many Protestant officers in James' army including Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and James' own daughter Anne defect to support William and his wife Mary.
1688James abdicates and flees to exile in France.