James II of England

King of Great Britain, 1685-88. Coming to the throne because his brother Charles II was officially childless, James was a Roman Catholic who had been abroad for many years. He might have been passed over in favor of his daughters Mary and Anne, especially as Mary’s husband, William of Orange, had strong claims in his own right. Respect for monarchy was strong, however, and James would have retained his position had he not pushed Catholic policies and ensured a Catholic succession. Though Parliament initially gave tangible sign of its goodwill and support, James overreacted to uprisings in his kingdom, alienated Parliament and influential Anglicans, and appointed his coreligionists to high office. As a political expedient he eventually courted the Nonconformists, but he failed to win them or to allay Anglican fears. In Scotland he intensified the persecution of the Covenanters.* The birth of a son in June 1688 precipitated the issue. William of Orange was ready, and the country ready to receive him. James fled and heard Mass in France as his people celebrated a Protestant Christmas.

See F.C. Turner, James II (1948), and J.P. Kenyon, The Stuarts (1958).