James II of England and VII of Scotland (14 October 1633 – 16 September 1701) became King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 6 February 1685. He would prove to be the last Catholic monarch to reign over England, Scotland or Ireland. His subjects distrusted his religious policies and alleged despotism, leading a group of them to depose him in the Glorious Revolution. He was replaced not by his Roman Catholic son, James Francis Edward, but by his Protestant daughter and son-in-law, Mary II and William III, who became joint Sovereigns. The belief that James-not William III or Mary II-was the legitimate ruler became known as Jacobitism (from Jacobus or Iacobus, Latin for "James").
James lived the rest of his life under the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV. He was a mere pawn in the intrigues betweeen Louis and William III. His son, James Francis Edward Stuart, and afterwards his grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, attempted to restore the Jacobite line after James's death, but failed.
James is also known by his earlier title, Duke of York. His brother, Charles II, named the North American colony of New York (now a part of the United States) in his honour.
Charles died without sine prole legitima in 1685, converting to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his brother, who reigned in England and Ireland as James II, and in Scotland as James VII. James was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1685. At first, there was little overt opposition to the new Sovereign; many conservative Anglicans even supported him. The new Parliament which assembled in May 1685 seemed favourable to James, agreeing to grant him a large income.
James, however, faced the Monmouth Rebellion (led by Charles II's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth). James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth declared himself King on 20 June 1685, but was afterwards defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Monmouth was executed at the Tower of London soon afterwards. Despite the lack of popular support for Monmouth, James began to distrust his subjects. His judges-most notably, George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys (the "Hanging Judge")-punished the rebels brutally. Judge Jeffreys' Bloody Assizes led the public to see their King as a cruel and barbarous ruler. To protect himself from further rebellions, James sought to establish a large standing army. By putting Roman Catholics in charge of several regiments, the King was drawn into a conflict with Parliament. Parliament was prorogued in November 1685, never to meet again during James's reign.
Religious tension intensified in 1686. In the collusive case of Godden v. Hales, a panel of judges of the Court of King's Bench were coerced by the King into declaring that the King could dispense with the religious restrictions imposed by the Test Acts. Taking advantage of the dispensing power, James controversially allowed Roman Catholics to occupy the highest offices of the Kingdom. These policies caused the King to lose the support of his former allies, the Tories.
James then ordered the suspension of Henry Compton, the anti-Catholic Bishop of London; several other Anglicans in political office were dismissed. In the Declaration of Indulgence (1687), he suspended laws punishing Roman Catholics and other religious dissenters. (It is unclear if James issued the Declaration to gain the political support of the dissenters, or if he was truly committed to the principle of freedom of religion). James also dissolved Parliament in 1687, afterwards reforming the government so as to reduce the power of the nobility.
The King also provoked opposition by his policies relating to the University of Oxford. He offended Anglicans by allowing Catholics to hold important positions in Christ Church and University College, two of Oxford's largest colleges. Even more unpopularly, he dismissed the Protestant Fellows of Magdalen College, appointing a wholly Roman Catholic board in their place. Controversially, James accredited the Papal Nuncio and granted public offices to four Catholic bishops.
In April 1688, James foolishly re-issued the Declaration of Indulgence, subsequently ordering Anglican clergymen to read it in their churches. When the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops submitted a petition requesting the reconsideration of the King's religious policies, they were arrested and tried for seditious libel, but were acquitted. Public alarm increased with the birth of a Catholic son and heir, James Francis Edward, to Queen Mary in November 1687. (Some charged that the son was "suppositious", having been substituted for a stillborn child. There is, however, no reliable evidence to support such an allegation.) Threatened by a Catholic dynasty, several influential Protestants entered into negotiations with William III, Prince of Orange, who was James's son-in-law. William had been hailed as a Protestant champion, having fought with the powerful Roman Catholic King of France, Louis XIV.
On 30 June 1688-the same day the bishops were aquitted-a group of Protestant nobles, known as the Immortal Seven, requested the Prince of Orange to come to England with an army. By September, it had become clear that William sought to invade; yet, James refused the assistance of Louis XIV, fearing that the English would oppose French intervention. James, furthermore, believed that his own army would be adequate, but proved too complacent; for when the Prince of Orange arrived on 5 November 1688, all of the King's Protestant officers defected. His own daughter, Anne, joined the invading forces, leading to considerable anguish on the part of the King. On 11 December, James attempted to flee to France, first throwing Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames. He was, however, caught in Kent. Having no desire to make James a martyr, the Prince of Orange let him escape on 23 December. James was received by Louis XIV, who offered him a palace and a generous pension.
When James left the Realm, no Parliament was in session. Although a Parliament could normally be called by the reigning monarch, the Prince of Orange convened an irregular Convention Parliament. (The procedure of calling a Convention Parliament had been previously used when succession to the Throne was unclear; it was a Convention Parliament which restored Charles II to the Throne following the English Civil War.) The Convention declared, on 12 February 1689, that James's attempt to flee on 11 December constituted an abdication of the government, and that the Throne had then become vacant (instead of passing to James II's son, James Francis Edward). James's daughter Mary was declared Queen; she was to rule jointly with her husband William III. The Scottish Estates followed suit on 11 April of the same year.
William III and Mary II subsequently granted their assent to an Act commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights. The Act confirmed the earlier Declaration of Right, in which the Convention Parliament had declared that James's flight constituted an abdication, and that William III and Mary II were to be King. The Bill of Rights also charged James II with abusing his power; amongst other things, it criticised the suspension of the Test Acts, the prosecution of the Seven Bishops for merely petitioning the Crown, the establishment of a standing army and the imposition of cruel punishments. The Act, furthermore, settled the question of succession to the Crown. First in the line of succession were the children of William and Mary (if any), to be followed by the Princess Anne and her children, and finally by the children of William by any subsequent marriage.