JAMES II  1685 - 1688  (J2)  Lived  1633 - 1701


The Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, rebels against the new Roman Catholic king, but his forces are defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor, and Monmouth is beheaded. About 1,000 rebels are hanged or transported.

LouisxXIV of France revokes the Edict of Nantes (1598 L1), depriving Huguenots of their surviving religious and political rights. Hundreds of thousands flee to Protestant states.


Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor of India, advances further south in the Deccan. He conquers the Muslim kingdom of Bijapur, and captures Golconda the following year.

Alarmed by France's growing power, the League of Augsburg is formed between the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Sweden, the Palatinate, and the electors of Saxony and Bavaria.


The brilliant English scientist Isaac Newton publishes The Principia, one of the greatest scientific works ever written. Defining the three standard laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation, it provides the basis for future advances in physics, astronomy and engineering.

The Holy League attacks the Ottoman Turks. Charles of Lorraine defeats them at the Second Battle of Mohacs, and the Venetians invade Greece and bombard Athens, virtually destroying the ancient Parthenon temple.


Louis XIV invades the Palatinate, an area astride the middle Rhine, but is met by troops of the League of Augsburg. The conflict lasts for nine years and ends inconclusively.

In order to save the country from a return to Roman Catholicism, seven eminent lords invite the Dutch William of Orange (the king's Protestant son-in-law) to invade England and seize the throne.

William III lands at Brixham, Devon, and brings about the “Glorious Revolution”. James flees to France, vowing to return and regain his throne, and William is warmly welcomed in London without a shot being fired.


James II: by the French painter Nicolas de Largilière (1656-1746) – National Maritme Museum, Greenwich, London. Gallows: date and artist unknown. William of Orange: detail, attributed to the Dutch/English painter Peter Lely (1618-1680) – Royal Armouries, Tower of London. Coat of Arms (James II): licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan – https: //commons.wikimedia.org.  Coat of Arms  (William of Orange):   licensed under  Creative Commons.  Author: Sodacan  –  https:// commons.wikimedia.org.

xxxxxAs Duke of York (the second son of Charles I) James was forced into exile at the end of the English Civil War, but returned to England when his brother was restored to the throne. He served as lord high admiral, taking part in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, and helping to improve the organisation and efficiency of the navy. An avowed Roman Catholic since 1671, he became king of Great Britain on the death of his brother, meeting only limited opposition, in spite of his religious beliefs.

xxxxxAs we have seen, during the reign of Charles II, opposition to a Roman Catholic monarch had been clearly demonstrated and acted upon. The uncovering of the Popish Plot - allegedly designed to put James on the throne - deeply alarmed the Protestant community, and was followed by the proposed Exclusion Bill, specifically designed to ban the Duke of York from the succession. When this failed, there followed the Rye House Plot of 1683, an unsuccessful attempt to kill both Charles II - a Roman Catholic at heart - and his brother James, his rightful heir.

xxxxxIt was against this background that James II came to the throne in February 1685. He had hardly had time to sit on it before he was confronted by the Monmouth Rebellion. James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, having landed at Lyme Regis on the south coast, moved inland with a force of some 4,000 men and, capturing Taunton in the June, was proclaimed King of England. Fortunately for James II, his army remained loyal to him as the rightful heir, and Monmouth's ragged force was soundly beaten. Severe "justice" was then meted out to the rebels by the infamous Judge Jeffreys via what came to be known as the "Bloody Assizes". Monmouth was beheaded - as was the Earl of Argyll who had led an unsuccessful rising in Scotland - and over one thousand of his supporters were either hanged or transported into slavery.

xxxxxThe relatively easy defeat of the usurper Monmouth gave the king a false sense of security, and he thus failed to appreciate the strength of Protestant opinion in England. In fact, the heavy-handed reprisals against Monmouth and his protestant supporters infuriated the majority of his subjects. And their anger was increased the more in November of that year when James dismissed Parliament and began to use his revenue to raise a standing army. Many Tories joined with the Whigs in opposition to the king. Furthermore, having promised to defend the Church of England, in 1687 James issued his Declaration of Indulgence which, by granting freedom of worship to all religions, enabled him to appoint Catholics to high office. Catholics joined his privy council, assumed command of the army and navy, and took up top appointments in the Universities.

xxxxxSuch actions were viewed with alarm by the Protestants, and matters came to a head in May 1688 when, having reissued his Declaration of Indulgence, James II ordered that it be read out in churches throughout the land. This dictate proved highly unpopular, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and six of his bishops petitioned the king to withdraw the order. They were taken to court on a charge of seditious libel, but were acquitted amid widespread rejoicing. Meanwhile the birth of a son to the king threatened the continuation of a Catholic monarchy, and added to the need for urgent action. Secret plans were set in motion to dethrone the king. Seven leading Englishmen invited the Dutch and Protestant William of Orange (illustrated), husband of James II's daughter Mary, to invade England and seize the crown. He landed at Brixham in Devon in November and, meeting no opposition, arrived in London the following month. In the meantime, James II, deserted by his army, was allowed to escape to France, where he vowed to return to regain his throne. As we shall see, he did return in 1689 (W3), but his cause was lost. The “Glorious Revolution”, achieved without a shot being fired, was here to stay and was to prove a major step towards constitutional monarchy.

xxxxxIncidentally, when the birth of the royal prince was announced, a rumour went the rounds that the baby was not James's and had been smuggled into the Queen's bedroom in a warming pan! ...... The invitation to William to "invade" England was delivered personally by Admiral William Herbert. In order to keep this matter secret he went dressed as a common seaman. ...... Before departing for the continent, James II made a will, witnessed, among others, by the diarist Samuel Pepys, then serving as first lord and secretary of the Admiralty.










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