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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
James II

King of Scotland from 1437; son of *James I and Joan Beaufort; married Mary of Gueldres (1449).

His reign was dominated by struggles with the powerful Douglas family. James proved more than a match for them, stabbing one earl of Douglas to death himself in spite of a safe conduct and relieving them of much of their land and wealth. He died from the explosion of a cannon when he was besieging the English in Roxburgh castle, and was succeeded by his son *James III (see the *royal house of Scotland).

King of England, Scotland (as James VII) and Ireland 1685–8; second surviving son of *Charles I and Henrietta Maria; married Anne Hyde (1660) and Mary of Modena (1673).

James was known for most of his life as the duke of York, the title given him soon after birth. During the Commonwealth he lived abroad, like his elder brother *Charles II, and fought with distinction in the French army. After the Restoration he had a successful public life, concerning himself in particular with naval and colonial matters (New York was named after him in 1664).

His brother's lack of legitimate children meant that attention increasingly focused on James as the likely heir to the throne. In the tense religious atmosphere of the period there was alarm when he became a Roman Catholic (in about 1669, though he continued to attend Anglican services until 1676). But his two daughters by Anne Hyde (both future queens, *Mary II and *Anne) were being brought up as Protestants, and the crisis did not become urgent until James married the Roman Catholic Mary of Modena in 1673 (Anne Hyde had died in 1671).

In the hysteria following the *Popish plot (1678) there were demands that James be excluded from the succession to the throne. (It was the clash between his supporters and their opponents which formed Britain's two first political parties, the *Tories and the Whigs.) Nevertheless he succeeded his brother peacefully in 1685, though the rebellion of the duke of *Monmouth followed later in that year. In 1687, with the Declaration of Indulgence, he suspended the laws which prevented Roman Catholics and Nonconformists from holding office – a gesture of religious toleration with partisan motives.

Two events in June 1688 provoked the final crisis. Mary of Modena gave birth to a boy (widely suspected at the time of being a *warming-pan baby), which meant that the heir to the throne was now Roman Catholic; and seven bishops, including the archbishop of Canterbury, were acquitted of the charge of libel brought against them by the king because of a petition which they had published against his policies. In the resulting *Revolution of 1688 so many of James's Protestant officers deserted to *William III that battle was never joined. James, with Mary and the baby prince (James *Stuart), escaped in December to France.

In 1689 James landed in Ireland, where a parliament summoned in Dublin acknowledged him as king, but his defeat the following year at the Battle of the *Boyne ended any chance of recovering the throne. He died in France. For two more generations his *Jacobite followers remained passionate in their support of his descendants (see the *royal house).

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