King James II was born in London on October 14, 1633. He was the second son of Charles I and the French princess Henrietta Maria. Upon the death of his brother, James was proclaimed king in February 1685 and ruled for nearly four years. Using a standing army stationed outside of London, he attempted to subdue the Anglican Church’s High Commission, which he used to remove the city’s bishop. He also tried to dominate local elections and replace Protestant university leaders with Catholics. He abdicated the throne on December 11, 1688. He was England’s last Catholic monarch.
King James II was born on October 14, 1633. He ruled England, Scotland, and Ireland for almost four years. He ascended the throne on February 6, 1685, but abdicated on December 11, 1688. As the country’s final Stuart and Catholic ruler, he allowed religious minorities to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or persecution. He converted to Catholicism in 1670 largely through the effort of his first wife Anne Hyde.
James’ pro-French policies and anti-parliamentarian beliefs drew the ire of some politicians known as the Whigs. Aimed primarily against James, the 1673 Test Act barred Catholics from holding government positions. However, between 1679 and 1681, Whigs pursued him relentlessly with their Exclusion Bill, which aimed to remove him completely from the monarchy’s line of succession. It wasn’t long before Charles quelled the uprising and reassigned James to the Admiralty and the Council of State.
After his brother died in 1685, James began a turbulent rule. James’ popularity suffered after Judge Jeffreys crushed his nephew’s Monmouth Rebellion (1685). James controlled local elections, expelled Protestant university officials, and replaced them with Catholics. He subdued the Anglican Church’s High Commission and maintained a permanent army outside London. He granted Catholics and Protestant Dissenters toleration by edict, not by law. The Archbishop of Canterbury and six bishops were jailed in June 1688 for refusing to pronounce the order. James left England forever in 1688 and lived the rest of his life in exile in France under the protection of King Louis XIV. James II died on September 6, 1701, in St. Germain-en-Laye in France. His marriages (to Hyde and Mary of Modena), produced 15 offspring. Two of James’ daughters became queens of England.
He is praised for his bravery and skill by a prominent French commander following his military service in France.
For his military prowess and valor on the battlefield, he is named Lieutenant General.
James becomes Duke of Albany a year after his brother Charles II was restored to the English throne.
James II's sway over state affairs grows to such an extent that when he ascends the English throne, there is little overt opposition or dissent.
He grants religious minorities the right to worship.
Why We Love King James II
James II was a peacemaker
In some respects, King James II knew how to foster peace. History tells us that he achieved peace and prosperity by ending England’s war against Spain in 1604.
A first in England’s history
After Mary I, King James II was the first English monarch to roll out the red carpet for Ferdinando d'Adda, the papal nuncio at the time. For more than 100 years, the latter was the first Roman Catholic cardinal, bishop, and diplomat to visit London.
His faith was his refuge
Though he was known to have many mistresses, James II turned increasingly to Catholicism in his later years. Dying in exile far from one’s native land, he probably was very close to God at that time.
5 Surprising Facts
His first rift with Protestantism
James’ initial break with Protestantism occurred when he served in the Spanish army.
His offer to marry Anne Hyde
In 1659, while James was seeing Anne Hyde, he offered to marry her if she gave in to his charms.
Their eight children
James and Anne had eight children, but six died in infancy.
The royal but plain mistress
James' first prominent mistress, Arabella Churchill was once described as “pale-faced and nothing but skin and bone.”
He was a chief firefighter
During the Great Fire of London in 1666, James acted as the chief firefighter in the absence of the lord mayor.
King James II FAQs
What was King James II known for?
King James II was known for converting to and embracing Catholicism, and for allowing religious minorities to practice their faith openly at the monarch’s court.
Was King James II a good father?
King James II was a doting father to Mary and Anne (his daughters with Anne Hyde).
How powerful and wealthy was King James II?
King James II was one of the world’s most powerful leaders at the time, commanding an army of 20,000 soldiers and having an income of roughly 2.3 million USD.
King James II’s birthday dates