Duke of Monmouth

James Crofts, later Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch (April 9, 1649 – July 15, 1685) recognised by some as James II of England and James VII of Scotland, was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter, who had followed him into continental exile after the execution of King Charles I.

In 1678 Monmouth was commander of the Anglo-Dutch brigade, now fighting for the United Provinces against the French. He distinguished himself at the battle of St Denis, further increasing his reputation. The following year, after his return to England, he commanded the small army raised to put down the rebellion of the Scottish Covenanters. Despite being heavily outnumbered, he decisively defeated the rebels at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on June 22, 1679. By this time it was becoming apparent that Charles II would have no legitimate heir, and Monmouth was regarded by many as preferable to the Duke of York.

Following the discovery of the so-called Rye House Plot in 1683, Monmouth was obliged to go into exile in the Dutch United Provinces. On his father's death Monmouth led the "Monmouth Rebellion", an attempt to take the throne from his uncle. He declared himself King on June 20, 1685 at Bridgwater. On July 6, 1685 the two armies met at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the second last to be fought on English soil. Monmouth's makeshift force could not compete with the regular army, and was soundly defeated. Monmouth himself was captured and arrested. Despite begging for mercy, he was executed on July 15, 1685, on Tower Hill. It is said that it took eight blows of the axe to sever his head.

Following his execution, according to tradition, it was realised only too late that there was no portrait of him in the National Portrait Gallery in London. For someone who had claimed the throne, allbeit in vain, this was unheard of. So his body was exhumed, the head placed back on the body, and it was sat for its portrait to be painted.

One theory states that the Duke of Monmouth was in fact The Man in the Iron Mask. Reasoning is that James II could not get it over his heart to execute his own nephew and that someone else was executed instead. James II then arranged to get Monmouth to France were he was put in the keeping of Louis XIV.

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