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 James II and  VII (1633–1701), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1684 James II and VII (1633–1701), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1684
James II and VII (1633–1701), king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was born in St James's Palace, London, on 14 October 1633, the third surviving child and third (but second surviving) son of and his French queen, . At James's baptism, held in St James's on 24 November, one of his sponsors was Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, whose son William, , James's elder sister, was to marry. Their son, William [see ], was destined to be James's nemesis. The other two sponsors were his aunt, , and her son , the elector palatine, both of whom lived in exile as refugees in the Dutch republic. The European connections of the Stuart dynasty were thus well represented, albeit by proxy, at this ceremony. They were to influence his destiny more than any other contemporaries. James spent nearly a third of his life in two continental exiles. On the second occasion he was driven out of England by his nephew and son-in-law, William of Orange, the husband of his daughter Mary [see ].


At the time of his birth, such troubles seemed very remote. James's father was enjoying a relatively stable period between the turbulent encounters with parliament in the 1620s and the civil wars of the 1640s. Some of the assurance of stability can be detected in his making his young son duke of York and Albany shortly after his baptism, and appointing him lord high admiral in 1638. In that year, however, the first rebellion against Charles's rule broke out in Scotland, which brought the period of personal rule to an end. James's childhood was spent mostly in Richmond Palace, where his governor was William Seymour, marquess of Hertford. When in 1642 his father felt unable to remain in London and went to York he summoned Hertford to bring his younger son to join him, despite parliament's having prohibited it. James was subsequently sent to Hull to inform the governor, Sir John Hotham, that the king intended to dine with him the following day. Hotham decided to prevent Charles from entering Hull—a decisive step towards civil war. The king had no alternative but to ask the governor to allow his son to join him, which, in view of parliament's injunction on James's movements, he reluctantly conceded. Father and son then retreated to Beverley.

James was present when his father raised the royal standard at Nottingham, and also at the battle of Edgehill, where he and his brother Charles [see ] came close to being captured by parliamentarian forces. After the battle James accompanied his father to Oxford, where he attended the House of Lords in 1644 at the age of eleven. His two years in the university city were valuable for his education, for he was taught by several fellows of colleges, including Brian Duppa, the deprived bishop of Salisbury, who did more than most Anglican clergymen to keep the ideals of the church alive during the interregnum. How far James progressed in his education after its previous neglect is hard to assess. He seems to have been a reluctant scholar, preferring outdoor pursuits to studying. He did acquire fluent French and some proficiency in music. James does not, however, appear to have made much progress in acquiring knowledge of Anglican doctrine, judging by the basic reading he undertook later to understand it, when assailed by doubts raised by Catholics. After Oxford surrendered to the parliamentarians in 1646 James was taken to London, where his own servants were dismissed from service by his captors, ‘not so much as excepting a dwarf whom his Royal Highness was desirous to have retain'd with him’ (Life, 1.30). Along with his sister Mary and his younger brother, , he was placed under the guardianship of the earl of Northumberland at St James's Palace. On hearing that Charles I had been taken prisoner he protested ‘how durst any rogues to use his father after that manner’, and when his informant threatened to tell Northumberland of his outburst James had to be restrained from firing an arrow at him from a longbow (Turner, 15). He was allowed to visit the captured king, who urged him to be loyal to his elder brother, Charles, and to contrive to join him in France, where he had fled to be with their mother. After two abortive attempts the duke managed to escape in April 1648, despite having promised parliament not to endeavour it again. The undertaking was well planned by Colonel Joseph Bampfield, who advised James to pretend to be playing hide-and-seek with his siblings so that when seeking a hiding place he could slip out of the palace into St James's Park, where the colonel was waiting to escort him to a house near London Bridge. There Bampfield's fiancée, Anne Murray, was ready with girls' clothes specially made for the duke to wear, before boarding a boat to sail down the river to Tilbury. They then transferred to a Dutch ship which conveyed them to Middelburg. On 30 April James arrived at The Hague, to be greeted by his sister Mary and her husband, the prince of Orange.

First exile

James spent the rest of 1648 at The Hague. In June he was presented with an opportunity to be his father's lord high admiral in fact as well as in theory, when some parliamentarian seamen mutinied against their officers and put their ships under his command. He sent a message to his brother in Paris requesting his presence. To James's disappointment, after his arrival at The Hague Charles placed the small fleet under Prince Rupert. It was a wise decision, as the fifteen-year-old duke of York had proved unable to exercise authority over it.

At the beginning of 1649 James went to Paris, summoned there by his mother. En route he spent nearly a month at the Benedictine monastery at St Armand, his first experience of a Roman Catholic community, which he clearly enjoyed. When he arrived at St Germain-en-Laye in mid-February he learned that his father had been executed. Although his reaction is unknown, the news must have concentrated his mind wonderfully.

James's brother, now that he was Charles II, seems to have decided to assert his independence of their mother, for he moved from St Germain to the channel island of Jersey, one of the few possessions of the crown which remained nominally loyal. Charles took James with him, and when he himself went to the Netherlands early in 1650, en route for Scotland, he appointed his brother as governor of Jersey. This was the duke's first real experience of command, though he seems to have left its responsibilities to the deputy governor, Sir George Carteret. James's own government of the island ended in September when he returned via the Netherlands to Paris and his mother's court. There was considerable tension between Henrietta Maria and her son on his return. Whether she tried to convert him to Catholicism at this time is not clear. She did, though, try to persuade his younger brother, Henry, duke of Gloucester, to become a Catholic, despite James's protests. There was friction with his mother over his plans to marry the daughter of the duke of Lorraine, an enemy to her country. James ignored her command to stay in Paris and went to see the duke, but the negotiations failed. He then moved from Brussels to The Hague. However, he was refused hospitality from his sister Mary at their mother's instigation. Instead of returning to Paris as Henrietta demanded, he accepted the hospitality of his aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia, who lived at Rhenen in Gelderland. His mother then relented, perhaps because Mary had recently suffered the loss of her husband to smallpox and shortly after his death had given birth to a son, the future William of Orange. At all events James returned to The Hague in January 1651, but moved to Breda when he learned that agents from the English Commonwealth had arrived to negotiate an alliance with the Dutch republic. When he received an order from Charles to return to Paris and to obey their mother in all matters, except those involving religion, he had no option but to go back to St Germain in June. That September he learned that his brother had been defeated at the battle of Worcester and his fate was unknown. It must have seemed that James might have succeeded him as king already, when to the great relief of the exiled court Charles managed to make his way there from England.

The final collapse of the royal cause at home left the exiles despondent. James was desperately short of money. An attempt to improve his finances by marrying a French heiress failed. By 1652 he had decided that he had no alternative to enlisting in the French army, ‘being very desirous of making himself fit one day to serve the King his brother in a useful capacity’ (Memoirs of James II, 57). Even so, he had to borrow money to equip himself for his new career. The French army was commanded by the vicomte de Turenne, the great Huguenot general, whom James idolized, writing his military Memoirs to sing his praises. As a result his own role in the royal army is scarcely mentioned, and there are only occasional glimpses of him in these crucial years. Although they deal with campaigns in the Fronde and in the last stages of the Franco-Spanish war, the Memoirs make tedious reading. This is partly because they rarely rise above a detailed narrative of obscure manoeuvres. James delighted in such detail: his account of the revolution of 1688 has significantly more on its military than on its political aspects. He was more a soldier than a politician. Indeed, the question of his grip on politics is raised by the attention to military minutiae which his Memoirs and his autobiography document. They record a man who could not discern the wood for the trees.

When James joined the French army his first engagement was in an attack on Étampes, where the Frondeurs were entrenched. He ‘was present at this hot attack’ and according to Edward Hyde ‘behaved himself with extraordinary courage and gallantry’ (Memoirs of James II, 68; Ashley, 35). The enemy was forced to abandon Étampes and retreat towards Paris. Turenne contrived to outflank them and to install Louis XIII's court in Paris by the end of 1652. During this campaign James became closely attached to the vicomte, acting as lookout for him since Turenne's eyesight was poor.

In the following year James took part in the siege of Mouzon, where he was so conspicuous that he exposed himself to danger. He claimed to have escaped being shot from the walls only because the governor, ‘knowing me by my Starr, had forbid his men to fire upon the Company’ (Memoirs of James II, 48). The fall of Mouzon ended the campaign for that year, and James went back to Paris, again, in Edward Hyde's words, ‘full of reputation and honour’ (DNB). Turenne presumably shared this view, for before the next campaign James was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general.

During the lull between campaigns James was at the exiled Stuart court, which was riven with intrigue, with Henrietta Maria at loggerheads with Charles. James inclined to take his brother's side in the dispute, influenced by Sir John Berkeley, whose influence over him his mother disliked. She apparently persuaded Charles that Berkeley was untrustworthy, for he urged James to accept Henry Bennet, whom he felt was more reliable, as his secretary. In spring 1654 the French began to negotiate an alliance with the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, which led to Charles's leaving France in July. Before going he drew up a list of instructions for James, which indicate the tensions in the royal family. One commanded the duke to ‘let nobody persuade you to engage your own person in any attempt or enterprise without first imparting the whole design to me’. Another informed him that their mother had promised Charles not to try to convert their brother Henry to Catholicism. He clearly did not trust her, for he charged Henry to inform James ‘if any attempt shall be made upon him to the contrary; in which case you will take the best care you can to prevent his being wrought upon since you cannot but know how much you and I are concerned in it’ (Turner, 44). When Henry was sent to a Jesuit college he wrote to his older brothers asking for their help. By then Charles was in Cologne and James at the front. When he eventually returned to the court Henrietta Maria tried to prevent him from seeing Henry unless he promised not to discuss religion when she was not present. James was apparently more sympathetic to his mother's wishes in this regard than was Charles, who had Henry spirited out of her clutches to join him in Germany.

James was in the front line in 1654 at the siege of Arras, where he found himself amid the fighting, some men being killed close by him. He took part in the final assault on the town, which fell to Turenne's troops. At the end of the year James returned to Paris. In May 1655 he wrote to his brother Charles about a Catholic plot to assassinate Oliver Cromwell. Although Charles could not condone assassination James was apparently prepared to consider it, as he did again in the 1690s in the case of William III. So far from endeavouring to topple the English republic the French government concluded a treaty with it in 1655 ‘by virtue of which’, James wrote, ‘I was presently to leave the Country’ (Memoirs of James II, 217).

Yet although there was a clause to that effect, neither Cromwell nor Mazarin insisted on it. The protector would have allowed James to remain in France, and even to serve in the French army provided the service was not in Flanders. Cromwell calculated that such an arrangement would alienate Charles from his brother, which served his foreign policy of hindering a Stuart restoration with foreign arms. The cardinal for his part was anxious to retain the Irish forces under York's command, and sought to employ him in Italy as commander of the army of the duke of Modena. In the event it was at the insistence of Charles, who got Spain to agree to help restore him to the English throne, that James left France to join him in Bruges. James, acting on Turenne's advice, even wrote to Charles to suggest that he would be of more service to the Stuart cause staying in France than joining him in the Spanish Netherlands. Charles, however, ‘far from consenting to the Duke's request, immediately sent him an absolute order to come and join him in Flanders with all possible diligence. He at once obeyed, and the French Court consented’ (Memoirs of James II, 223). There was clearly disagreement between the two brothers over this and other issues at this time. One was the king's demand that the duke dismiss his secretary, Sir John Berkeley, whom Charles held responsible for James's reluctance to leave the French army. James refused, and though he obeyed Charles's summons to Bruges in September 1656 he insisted that Berkeley accompany him. After his arrival in Bruges he found that Sir Henry Bennet and other courtiers sided with the king in the quarrel, urging him to part with Berkeley. When his sister Princess Mary of Orange visited Bruges in December she took James's side. On this visit Mary was accompanied by her maid of honour Anne Hyde [see ], whom he was to marry. With Mary as his ally James determined to keep Berkeley, and left the court with him to return to France. However, when they found that it was not possible to traverse Flanders without being detected, they decided to go to The Hague. This was to be the only occasion when James defied Charles. He sent a letter to his brother apologizing for his defiance, for which he blamed ‘violent persons’ at court. It was ironic that he should blame evil counsellors for the breach between them, when in the case of their father's opponents he dismissed such arguments as hypocritical. Thus of Sir John Hotham's refusal to admit Charles I into Hull, James observed that he ‘fell upon the old common place of declaring against evil counsellors with such canting expressions as were generally in use amongst that party’ (Life, 1.3). Charles graciously accepted his brother's explanation, permitting him to keep Berkeley as his secretary and sending his rival Bennet to Spain as his envoy. But the gesture of reconciliation was calculated, for Charles made it conditional on James entering the service of Spain. Where previously he had been reluctant to do so and thereby to fight his former comrades in arms, following his return to Bruges early in 1657 he enlisted in the Spanish army.

When James became acquainted with Spanish officers he considered them to be excessively formal and, unlike their French counterparts, incapable of swift reactions to an attack. His preference for his former colleagues became apparent that summer when Turenne laid siege to Mardyck. James took some Horse Guards back to reconnoitre Mardyck, where he engaged in conversation for about an hour with some French officers, who realized who he was when they saw a big greyhound he had previously had with him in France. The duke claimed that this incident showed the civilities which were used between hostile forces on the continent. But it also illustrates his divided loyalties, and his regret that he was no longer serving under Turenne but was actually opposing him. After Mardyck was placed in the hands of an English garrison, under the terms of the Anglo-French treaty, James even contrived to have a conversation with its governor, who to his obvious delight addressed him as ‘Your Highness’.

The duke spent the winter of 1657–8 in the Spanish Netherlands. He found himself embarrassed by a proposition put to him by the earl of Bristol, who wished to ingratiate himself with the prince of Condé, that he should place himself under the Frenchman's command. Having commanded the English forces in the service of Spain he was reluctant to be Condé's subordinate, and also to antagonize the Spanish authorities. At the same time he had no wish to alienate Condé. He therefore stalled, even when put under some pressure by Charles. Fortunately Condé himself rejected the scheme.

The campaign of 1658 began with the French investing Dunkirk. The Spanish authorities in Brussels determined to raise the siege, though as James noted they were unable to do so by sea since the English navy controlled the approaches. They therefore resolved to advance towards the town and to camp on the sand dunes east of it. This decision really made them sitting ducks to Turenne's forces. James, who was not present when it was taken, was the first to realize that the Anglo-French army was advancing towards them in battle formation, which he recognized from having fought alongside Turenne. When he informed his Spanish superiors they did not believe him at first, but after Condé supported his opinion they hastily drew up their own forces to resist the attack. The subsequent battle of the Dunes was fought on 14 June. The duke took up a position on the right wing of the Spanish army, facing an onslaught of English troops, who, as he patriotically acknowledged, ‘came on with great eagerness and courage’ (Memoirs of James II, 263). James's cavalry counter-attacked but were beaten back. He rallied them for a second charge but again had to retreat. A similar fate visited the whole front line of the Spanish army, which fled, leaving the field to the French. Turenne went on to take Dunkirk ten days after the battle of the Dunes.

James spent the rest of the summer with the Spaniards putting in order the defences of Nieuport and other towns against a fresh attack from the enemy. He was at Nieuport when he learned that Cromwell had died on 3 September. This news transformed the morale of the Stuart court, which James joined in Brussels. Their hopes of restoration were roused, especially when in 1659 preparations were made for a concerted uprising in several parts of England. Charles and James were waiting to go back home when news came that the general insurrection had been postponed, while only one rising did take place—Sir George Booth's in Cheshire. On hearing of this Charles went to Calais while his brother went to Boulogne, hoping to learn that Booth had been successful, and that this had encouraged others to rebel after all. James was so sanguine that he procured a boat from the lieutenant-governor of Boulogne to convey him across the channel. But Charles brought him news that Booth's rising had not been accompanied by any other. Despairing of sufficient support at home, Charles went to Spain, hoping to get it from the king now that the Franco-Spanish war was coming to an end. Meanwhile James stayed in Boulogne, where Turenne approached him with an offer of French troops for the same purpose. James was delighted by this overture, and was even planning how to use this task force to make a beachhead in Rye when he learned that Booth's rising had been crushed. He therefore withdrew to Brussels in despond. In November he promised to marry Anne Hyde when he discovered that she was pregnant. Charles joined his brother for what must have been a most unmerry Christmas.

Early in 1660 their prospects looked so gloomy that James accepted from the king of Spain the post of high admiral. He was actually preparing to go to take it up ‘when that Voyage was happily prevented by the wonderfull changes which were almost daily produced in England’ (Memoirs of James II, 291). He was in fact destined to become lord high admiral not of Spain but of his native land. Along with his brother he sailed to England in May to a rapturous welcome. His first exile was over.

Lord high admiral, 1660–1673

The reputation of the restored court as a hotbed of intrigue and immorality was nourished by the scurrilous Memoirs of Count Grammont, in which the duke of York featured as a leading libertine. Despite his marriage to Anne Hyde he was no more faithful to her than Charles II was to his queen. On the contrary, he had a number of mistresses, among them Anne Carnegie, countess of Southesk; , the sister of John Churchill, duke of Marlborough; Frances Jennings, sister of Marlborough's duchess, Sarah; while his longest-lasting liaison was with . ‘I do not believe there are two men who love women more than you and I do’, Charles II confided to the French ambassador in 1677, ‘but my brother, devout as he is, loves them still more’ (Turner, 61). Apart from chasing women, hunting foxes appears to have been James's only regular pastime. He hunted at least twice a week, and kept up extensive stables for his hunting horses and kennels for his hounds. He accompanied Charles to Newmarket and other horse races, but apparently did not gamble, and was noted for rarely deviating from strict sobriety.

Nevertheless James's extravagant lifestyle strained the resources of his household to breaking point. At the Restoration he was set up in his own court by his brother. This was a microcosm of the royal court. James had his own treasurer, secretary, and even attorney- and solicitor-general. Below these was the usual retinue of servants associated with the departments of the household such as the bedchamber and the wardrobe. Despite his income from lands in England and Ireland, his investments in commercial enterprises, and his revenues from the Post Office granted by parliament in 1663 and other parliamentary sources and direct subsidies, the duke was chronically in debt. Sir Allen Apsley and Sir Thomas Povey, the household officials in charge of managing his finances, struggled in vain to bring them under control. The root cause was the extravagance of the duke and particularly of his first duchess, Anne. Both had experienced penury in their youth and seemed determined to live high off the hog when they got the chance.

Grammont was not the only observer to portray James as a pleasure-seeker. ‘The prince applies himself but little to the affairs of the country and attends to nothing but his pleasures’, observed a Venetian in 1661, ‘but he is a young man of good spirit, loving and beloved by the King, his brother, and he discharges the office of lord High Admiral’ (Turner, 60). Despite his easygoing image, James was no mere figurehead as lord high admiral, but took an active interest in naval affairs. He was assisted in this task by a small navy board of seven men: three commissioners, a treasurer, a surveyor, a comptroller, and a clerk of the acts. The first board included John, Lord Berkeley, Sir William Penn, and Sir Peter Pett as commissioners, Sir George Carteret as treasurer, and Samuel Pepys as clerk of the acts. Pepys indeed is the main source for the workings of this board and James's relations with it, and needs to be read with awareness that the author was by no means impartial. Such entries in his diary as that James was ‘concerned to mend things in the navy himself and not leave things to other people’ need to be treated with caution (8 July 1668, Pepys, Diary, 9.258). It is in fact virtually impossible to establish what initiatives, if any, the duke took in the activities of those responsible for naval affairs in these years, beyond the fact that he presided over them. Thus there are many letters signed by him in his own Memoirs of the English Affairs Chiefly Naval from the Year 1660 to 1673 (1729) which relate to the most minute details of administration. How far he did anything other than add his signature to these documents cannot be determined. James inherited from the republican regime a navy of over 130 ships, and his main concern was to ensure that it was properly equipped and manned. In selecting officers he preferred to appoint courtiers and gentlemen rather than to promote ordinary seamen or ‘tarpaulins’, whose loyalty to the restored monarchy was suspect. Their efficiency was to be tested in the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars.

James championed the navy's role in the second Dutch war, which broke out in 1664. While his antagonism towards the Calvinist Dutch republic stemmed perhaps mainly from his religious convictions, he was also convinced that it threatened England's trade. His concern for English commercial interests led him in 1664 to become governor of the Royal Fisheries Company and of the Company of Royal Adventurers trading into Africa. The latter company, having failed to exploit trade with the continent itself, was transformed in 1672 into the Royal African Company, whose principal concern was the slave trade. James became governor of the newly launched company. While these companies challenged the Dutch only indirectly, James fought them head on in 1664 when Charles II granted him colonial rights in America from New England to the Delaware River which encompassed New Netherland. A fleet under Captain Robert Nicholls captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York in honour of the duke. James became first proprietor of the colony, and allocated the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to his former colleagues in the Channel Island of Jersey, Lord Berkeley and Sir Edward Carteret, which they named East and West Jersey. Although the Dutch ceded these colonies to the English at the peace treaty in 1667 they retook them in the third and final war of 1672–4, but then they agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the king of England over them in the treaty of Westminster in 1674.

James was personally involved in the second Dutch war, being on board the Royal Charles at the battle of Lowestoft in June 1665. Although he was the nominal admiral of the English fleet, the real commander was Sir William Penn, who was also on board the duke's ship. During a close engagement with the ship of the Dutch admiral Obdam, James's old acquaintance Charles Berkeley, now earl of Falmouth, was killed so near to him that he was spattered with blood. The engagement lasted four hours, ending when Obdam's ship blew up. This brought the battle to an end, the Dutch deciding to retreat to a safe harbour in the Netherlands. The Royal Charles pursued them closely until, during the night, Henry Brouncker, a member of James's household staff, took it upon himself to order the crew to wait until the rest of the fleet caught up with them. As a result the Dutch fleet got safely to the Texel. James was so incensed with Brouckner for this that he dismissed him.

James took no further part in the hostilities, being forbidden by his brother Charles from taking such a risk. He did, however, remain as lord high admiral, and was therefore technically responsible for one of the biggest setbacks in English naval history, the burning of the fleet moored at Chatham by the Dutch in 1667. He was not singled out for blame, however, for the lord chancellor, , was held responsible. James was not on good terms with Clarendon, who was his father-in-law. Nevertheless he undertook his defence in the House of Lords, even though other peers attached to the court opposed him. James warned the king that their opposition to his chief minister was a dangerous game which could rebound against himself. Charles disregarded his brother's advice, and even sent him to tell Clarendon that he was dismissed. Relations between the two brothers were strained at this time. James disapproved of the secret treaty of Dover which Charles negotiated with Louis XIV in 1670. He was also chagrined by not being consulted when Charles nominated men to the Navy Board. And when England went to war with the Dutch for the third time in 1672 he was concerned that the cost would make the king too dependent upon parliamentary supplies.

James nevertheless took part in the war, being present at the battle of Southwold Bay in May 1672. The Dutch fleet attacked his own ship so fiercely that it was crippled. He transferred to another ship which also became so badly damaged that he had to transfer to a third. The battle ended in stalemate, and the two fleets disengaged. James never took part in a sea battle again. Charles was concerned that in doing so he endangered his life, and put Prince Rupert in charge of the fleet instead. He would have had to lay down his command in 1673 anyway, for James was obliged to resign as lord high admiral then after the passing of the first Test Act, which disqualified Catholics from holding office under the crown.

Catholic claimant

The date of James's conversion to Catholicism cannot be pinpointed. During his exile in France he had resisted his mother's attempts to convert him, and protested when she had made similar attempts on his younger brother. At the same time he was impressed by the exemplary lives of many Catholics he met on the continent, and was sympathetic to those in England after the Restoration. During the 1660s he at least outwardly conformed to the Church of England. By 1669, however, he was convinced that only the Roman Catholic faith could procure salvation. In the following summer he was seriously ill, which might have speeded up his conversion, while in August his wife disclosed to him her own. On her death in 1671 James protected her from attempts by Anglicans to declare her one of them, and he helped to preserve her commitment to the Catholic church. Even then he was not completely committed to it himself, for he kept her conversion a secret, not publishing her reasons for it until 1686. During 1672 he stopped taking communion in the Church of England, even refusing to communicate at Christmas when his brother requested that he join him at an Anglican service. Yet though he resigned as lord high admiral in 1673 when the Test Act made him as a Catholic ineligible to hold the office, he still attended services in the established church until 1676. In that year the pope acknowledged his conversion, and waived his objections to James's second marriage, to , which had taken place on 30 September 1673. After 1676 James was completely committed to the Catholic faith. According to his own testimony, what had converted him had been:
the divisions among Protestants and the necessity of an infallible judge to decide controversies, together with some promises which Christ made to his church in general that the gates of hell should not prevail against it and some others made to St Peter, and there being no person that pretends to infallibility but the Bishop of Rome. (Bodl. Oxf., Tanner MS 29, fol. 130)
‘He concluded the Catholic church to be the sole authoritative voice on earth’, observed his Catholic biographer Hilaire Belloc, ‘and thenceforward … he not only stood firm against surrender but on no single occasion contemplated the least compromise or by a word would modify the impression made. It is like a rod of steel running through thirty years’ (Belloc, 27–8).

Such rigidity alarmed protestants, especially when the hysteria over the so-called Popish Plot, allegedly to assassinate Charles II in order to have James succeed him, erupted in 1678. James was not directly implicated in the plot by Titus Oates, though some of his accomplices were prepared to accuse the duke of plotting the assassination of his own brother. Prospects of the apparent imminent accession of a Catholic to the throne led members of both houses of parliament to try to prevent his succession to the crown. Abortive attempts to pass a bill to that effect were made in three successive parliaments between 1679 and 1681, giving rise to the exclusion crisis. This forced his supporters onto the defensive. Some urged him to renounce Catholicism. On 21 February 1679 the archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, and the bishop of Winchester, George Morley, had a private meeting with him at St James's Palace and begged him to ‘quit the communion and guidance of your stepdame the Church of Rome and then return into the bosom of your true, dear and holy mother, the Church of England’ (State Letters of … Clarendon, 2.268–76). James declined to renounce his religion. Charles II then insisted that he should leave England in order to ease the political tension. In March James went to Brussels, his faith reinforced by this second exile. ‘If occasion were’, he wrote to a friend, ‘I hope God would give me his grace to suffer death for the true Catholic religion as well as banishment’ (Dartmouth MSS, 1.36).

James was exiled in Brussels until September, when a rumour that his brother was seriously ill had him rushing back to England. There he found that Charles had in fact recovered, and was so opposed to his return that he banished him again, not to the continent but to Edinburgh. The duke went to Scotland as the king's high commissioner from October 1679 to March 1682, spending the period in Edinburgh, apart from a brief return to England in 1680.

James's activities in Scotland, where he was virtual viceroy, earned him the criticism of whig historians who accused him of petty tyranny. Macaulay even depicted him as a brutal sadist who delighted in viewing the sufferings of prisoners undergoing the excruciating torture of the boot. Yet contemporary accounts painted a different picture of the duke acting humanely. Even Bishop Burnet, no admirer of James, observed that ‘he advised the bishops to proceed moderately, and to take no notice of conventicles in houses; and that would put an end to those in the fields’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 2.300). His consulting with the bishops was a continuation of the policy of his predecessor, John Maitland, duke of Lauderdale, who had upheld the episcopalians in Scotland. However, he broke with previous measures of repression against presbyterians, even with regard to the Cameronians, who had fought the king's forces at the battle of Bothwell Bridge shortly before James arrived in the northern kingdom. He even offered to pardon six condemned to death if they would only say the words ‘God bless the king’, but all but one declined.

‘We all remember with joy how well he left us’, observed the lord chancellor of Scotland in 1685 looking back on James's sojourn there, ‘and by what easie and gentle wayes he brought about the establishment of that unitie’ (Buccleuch MSS, 146). James in fact built up a considerable body of Scottish support. He employed the patronage at his disposal to foster the growth of the Royal College of Physicians, the Advocates' Library, and the Order of the Thistle. His efforts to encourage supporters of the Stuart monarchy yielded results when he presided over a session of the Scottish parliament in the summer of 1681. ‘The duke, finding that he was master of a clear majority’, observed Burnet, ‘drove on everything fast, and put bills on a very short debate to the vote, which went always as he had a mind to it’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 2.306). An act was passed making it high treason to attempt to alter the succession to the crown. Another obliged office-holders, members of parliament, and even electors to swear to uphold the protestant religion. James demanded that the oath should contain a commitment to renounce resistance, to defend all the king's prerogatives, and to repudiate attempts to alter the government in church or state. The ensuing form of words was very complicated, and according to some inconsistent. When the oath was taken it uncovered divisions which James had been anxious to conceal.

By the time he returned to England in March 1682 James felt that he had made a success of ruling Scotland. By contrast Charles had run into great difficulties in England from the exclusionists, which had obliged him to dissolve the third exclusion parliament after a brief session in 1681. James was convinced that the issue was not just about his own succession as a Catholic, but was a scarcely veiled attack on monarchy itself by those who preferred a republic. As he put it to Charles, ‘matters were come to such a head that the monarchie must be either more absolute or quite abolished’ (Life, 1.659–60). He determined to stiffen the king's resolve to get a firmer grip on the political situation following the dissolution of parliament. During the ‘tory reaction’ of the last four years of Charles's reign James played a major role. ‘He directed all our counsels with so absolute an authority’, claimed Burnet, ‘that the King seemed to have left the government wholly in his hands’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 3.5). Sir John Reresby agreed that the duke ‘did now chiefly manage affairs’ (Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, 329). James became lord high admiral again in all but name, thereby evading the Test Act. He was also appointed by Charles to a newly formed commission for ecclesiastical appointments, which supervised the promotion of clergymen to bishoprics. As a Catholic, James was not particularly interested in the well-being of the Church of England, but as a Stuart he was concerned to maintain the alliance between church and state which had stood his brother in good stead ever since his restoration. He worked closely with , the brother of his first wife, on the commission to elevate high-church clergymen to the episcopacy to ensure a loyal bench of bishops when he became king. The one aspect of the tory reaction which he did not endorse was the enforcement of the laws against Catholics and dissenters. While Charles gave his approval to their strict application James did not share his zeal. When he succeeded to the throne he released many Quakers from gaol, where they had been imprisoned under Charles, and later appointed commissioners to investigate the activities of those who had prosecuted dissenters in the years 1681 to 1685. Those who had acted as informers in order to profit from the fines imposed on nonconformists were obliged to reimburse their victims.

King James II and VII

James came to the throne following the death of Charles II on 6 February 1685. After the grim apprehensions of the exclusion crisis his accession came as something of an anticlimax. ‘Every thing is very happy here’, the earl of Peterborough reported to Sir Justinian Isham:
Never king was proclaimed with more applause … He has made a speech to the Councell that did charm everybody concerning his intentions of maintaining the Government as it was established in Church and State. I doubt not but to see a happy reign. (Northants. RO, Isham correspondence, 1379)
James's first speech to the privy council was extempore. A version of it was recorded by the earl of Nottingham and published with James's approval. He later wished that he had not approved the words ‘I shall make it my endeavour to preserve the government in Church and State as it is by law established’. He also regretted not amending the commitment to preserve the Church of England to an undertaking that he would not try to change it (Life, 2.4).

James's misgivings arose from the fact that he was intent on changing the status of the Anglican church. It was no longer to be the only established church since, as he told the French ambassador, he also wished to establish Catholicism in England. This went beyond mere toleration to putting it on the same footing as Anglicanism. Thus Catholics were not to enjoy just liberty of conscience and freedom of worship; they were also to be given positions of authority and even power in national and local government. Their proscription, which went back to the reign of Elizabeth I, and had been intensified as recently as that of Charles II, was to be completely lifted. At the outset of his reign, however, James was wary about how to achieve this goal. He hoped he could do so with the co-operation of Anglicans such as the earl of Rochester, whom he made lord treasurer and his chief minister. How difficult it was to be to achieve their acceptance of his schemes, however, was indicated when Rochester refused to accompany the king to the Chapel Royal when he went to mass there.

It was for only a brief honeymoon period, therefore, that James received ‘the universal applause and submission of his subjects, every one striving to be as forward as he can to shew his zeal’ (CSP dom., 1685, 8). The king cashed in on his unexpected popularity by calling elections to parliament both in Scotland and in England. Both resulted in handsome majorities for his ministers. James made sure that his coronation took place before the English parliament met, being apparently under the impression that until he was crowned he was only king de jure and not de facto. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1685 was presided over by William Sancroft, the archbishop of Canterbury. It followed the liturgy used at Charles II's coronation, though it omitted communion since James as a Catholic could not communicate with the Church of England. Indeed he had openly attended a Catholic service two days after succeeding to the throne, and he avoided processing from the Tower to the abbey as usual probably because he was anxious how his subjects would react to that. Although the ceremony went off peacefully some regarded it as ominous when the crown slipped on the new king's head.

James claimed that he had the parliament of Scotland convene before the English ‘to distinguish the confidence he had in the Scotch Nobility and Gentry who had stuck so close to him in his adversitie’ (Life, 2.10). That it met on 23 April, St George's day and the occasion of his coronation in Westminster Abbey, might have made this gesture to Scottish public opinion less effective than he intended it to be. Nevertheless his high commissioner in Scotland, the duke of Queensberry, urged the Edinburgh parliament to set an example. It obliged by passing all the acts which James had listed for the lords of the articles. Attendance at field conventicles, or harbouring those who attended them, was made a capital offence. The parliament also voted James generous supplies, granting the excise to him for life which together with other taxes was calculated to raise £60,000 a year.

By contrast there was a rumour that the English parliament, when it met, would not grant the king's supplies for life but only for a limited time, thereby keeping him dependent upon it. This riled James, and in his speech at the opening of parliament on 22 May he expressed his displeasure with any such intention. ‘This would be a very improper method to take with me’, he warned them; ‘the best way to engage me to meet you often is to use me well’ (Life, 2.14). In the event the Commons voted him the same revenue for life as his predecessor had enjoyed, £1,200,000 a year. There had been complaints that he had continued to collect the customs duties granted to Charles II, but the Commons dutifully gave this a retrospective sanction, although this did not prevent the practice becoming an issue later in the revolution of 1688. When news reached them of the landing in Scotland of Archibald Campbell, earl of Argyll, to raise a rebellion there, and then of the arrival of James Scott, duke of Monmouth, in the west country of England for the same purpose, they granted more money to suppress these uprisings. This increased the total revenue voted in the first session of this parliament to about £2 million a year. Although the emergency supplies would eventually expire, for the immediate future James would not be financially dependent upon parliament after all.

The earl of Argyll landed in Scotland in May and raised his standard in Campbeltown. He published a declaration declaring that James was not the lawful sovereign, and undertook to maintain protestantism, to suppress popery and prelacy, and to form a new government. A second declaration attacked James for
having taken off his mask, and having abandoned and invaded our Religion and Liberties, resolving to enter into the Government and exercise it contrary to law, I think it not only just but my duty to God and my country to use my outmost endeavours to oppose and repress his usurpations and tyranny. (Greaves, 279)
James's success at building up a body of support in Scotland now paid dividends, for Argyll raised only 2500 men. These were easily suppressed by royal troops. Argyll was captured and taken to Edinburgh, where he was executed without trial, previously having been attainted for refusing to take the oaths passed by the Scottish parliament in 1681.

Monmouth meanwhile had raised his standard at Lyme Regis and declared James a usurper and himself the rightful king. Parliament responded by passing an act of attainder against him, and by voting extra supplies enabling James to increase his armed forces to 20,000 to deal with the rebellion. The successful crushing of Monmouth's rebellion at Sedgemoor on 5 July left James in a much stronger position than that which he had enjoyed at his accession. Monmouth himself fell into his hands, and was executed on 15 July. James then dispatched Judge George Jeffreys to the west country to try the rebels. Ever since the revolution of 1688 these have been known as the ‘bloody assizes’. At the time, however, they seem to have caused little comment, though later the king and the judge tried to put the blame on the other for the bad publicity. Thus James accused Jeffreys of bringing ‘great obloquy upon the king's clemency, not only in the number but in the manner too of several executions, and shewing mercy to so few’ (Life, 2.43). Immediately after his return from the west country, however, Jeffreys was appointed lord chancellor. It seemed as though James's enemies had been routed and he could be king indeed.

James was confident that this was providential. He strongly believed that he had been singled out by providence to be the means of bringing his protestant subjects back to the true faith. ‘T'was the devine Providence that drove me early out of my native country’, he observed in his private meditations, ‘and t'was the same providence ordered it so that I past most of the twelve years I was abroad in Catholike kingdomes, by wch means I came to know what their religion was’ (Papers of Devotion, 1). When the bid to exclude him from the throne failed James saw in it ‘the hand of God’ (Dartmouth MSS, 1.57). He now saw the crushing of the rebellions of Argyll and Monmouth as providential. In his speech at the opening of the second session of parliament in November he jubilantly exclaimed ‘God Almighty be praised by whose blessing that rebellion was suppressed’. James's confidence that providence had blessed his cause led him to employ even more haughty language than that which he had used at the opening of the first session. Wishing to retain the services of Catholics to whom he had granted officers' commissions, he hectored the houses on this score. ‘Let no man take exception that there are some officers in the Army not qualified according to the Tests for their employments’, he warned:
I think them now fit to be imployed under me, and will deal plainely with you, that after haveing had the benefit of their services in such a time of need and danger, I will neither expose them to disgrace, nor myself to the want of them, if there should be another rebellion to make them necessary to me. (Life, 2.49)
But both Lords and Commons did take exception. They were concerned that the king had put the forces in Scotland under the command of Catholics, and now wished to maintain a standing army in England with popish officers in defiance of the Test Act. They objected to his use of the dispensing power to give them immunity from prosecution, claiming that it was illegal. Their objections led James to prorogue parliament on 20 November until February. In fact the houses were never to meet again in his reign.

The struggles for power in the three kingdoms

The suppression of the Argyll and Monmouth rebellions was followed by struggles for power in all James's kingdoms. Ministers committed to the preservation of the status quo in Scotland, England, and Ireland found themselves challenged by rivals who supported the king's Catholic measures.

In Scotland the lord treasurer, William Douglas, duke of Queensberry, was opposed by the chancellor, James Drummond, earl of Perth, and the secretary, John Drummond, earl of Melfort, who was Perth's brother. Perth declared to the king his conversion to Catholicism on a visit to London in 1685, though he kept it secret until early in 1686 when his brother also declared his conversion. When their Catholicism became public knowledge it provoked riots in Edinburgh in January 1686. After two weeks of sporadic violence against Catholics there were rumours of a plot to ‘destroy all papists’ on 7 February (Reg. PCS, 12.92–7; ‘A true account concerning the late tumult in Edinburgh’). James took it upon himself to write in Perth's defence and to insist that anybody implicated in the violence should be tortured into confession.

Since Queensberry appeared to have lost control of the capital Perth and Melfort were able to persuade James to dismiss him from his posts of treasurer, governor of Edinburgh Castle, and high commissioner. James appointed commissioners for the Treasury and George Gordon, duke of Gordon, a Catholic, to the governorship. Another Catholic convert, Alexander Stewart, earl of Moray, was made high commissioner. The Drummond brothers now became the king's most trusted Scottish advisers. When a new session of the Scottish parliament opened in April James asked it to pass an act tolerating Catholics. His new advisers, however, failed to procure this. Although a committee was appointed to draw up an act it did not approve of giving Catholics the right to worship, except in private houses, and agreed only to give them liberty of conscience. Even this limited concession to the king's demand met with considerable objections when presented to the full parliament. James consequently prorogued the session. His Catholic advisers had failed to persuade the Scottish parliament to pass an act tolerating their co-religionists. He therefore fell back on his prerogative. Thus he suspended elections in town councils and nominated men to run them.

In England there was a parallel contest between the lord treasurer, Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, and the principal secretary of state, Robert Spencer, earl of Sunderland, though it was drawn out longer. Sunderland encouraged a Catholic cabal at court led by Father Edward Petre and the queen. Rochester's influence over James remained formidable, for the king was reluctant to part with the brother of his first wife, not least because the earl had stood firmly by him during the exclusion crisis. In September 1685 the treasurer contrived to get his elder brother, Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon, appointed as lord lieutenant of Ireland. This was the high water mark of Rochester's ascendancy. He and his rival divided the spoils when George Savile, marquess of Halifax, was dismissed from his posts of lord privy seal and president of the council, Clarendon adding the former to the lord lieutenancy and Sunderland the latter to his secretaryship. But in the year following the prorogation of parliament Sunderland gradually achieved supremacy over the lord treasurer. Early in 1686 he sided with the queen against the king's mistress, Catherine Sedley. Sedley had been made countess of Dorchester, an ennoblement Sunderland attributed to Rochester's influence. When James was challenged about it he backed down and insisted that Sedley should absent herself from court. Rochester also made the error of openly sympathizing with the Huguenots who fled to England from France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. James himself admired Louis XIV's zeal for the Catholic faith and forbade English ships from bringing Huguenot refugees into England.

The outcome of the case of Godden v. Hales in 1686 also assisted Sunderland's rise at Rochester's expense. Sir Edward Hales was a Catholic who held a commission in the army in defiance of the Test Act, claiming that he held letters under the great seal dispensing with the statute's obligation to take communion in the Church of England. Hales's own coachman, Godden, brought a collusive action against him to test the validity of this dispensation. It was heard on appeal by the twelve judges of the common-law courts, all but one of whom found in favour of the king's dispensing power. On the authority of this decision James issued dispensations appointing more and more Catholics to places under the crown. In July 1686 four Catholic lords, Arundell, Belasyse, Dover, and Powis, were admitted to the privy council, boosting Sunderland's influence and diminishing Rochester's.

Rochester suffered another blow with the appointment of a commission for ecclesiastical causes, initially introduced to discipline the bishop of London, Henry Compton, for refusing to silence John Sharp, a clergyman in his diocese who had preached an anti-Catholic sermon. The bishop was deprived of all his spiritual functions, which were taken over by the commission. Although Rochester sat on it, along with Sunderland, he had held out for a lesser punishment for the bishop than complete deprivation. Sunderland favoured the harsher treatment which had James's support.

Another sign of Rochester's declining influence was seen in the summer of 1686 when Richard Talbot, whom the king had ennobled as earl of Tyrconnell, returned to Ireland from a visit to England with a commission giving him charge of military matters in Ireland. Tyrconnell proceeded to replace ‘English’ soldiers with ‘Irish natives’, many of whom spoke only Gaelic, while Clarendon was instructed to alter the judiciary in favour of Catholics ‘of old Irish race’. By September 40 per cent of the officers and 67 per cent of the rank-and-file were Catholics. Clarendon was convinced that Tyrconnell, in collusion with the earl of Sunderland, was undermining his position in England, with the queen as well as with the king, and that his tenure of the lord lieutenancy would soon be terminated.

The final cause of the treasurer's downfall was an abortive attempt by the king to convert him to Catholicism. Rochester agreed to hear a disputation between Anglican and Catholic divines, but then maintained that the Church of England clergymen had more than held their ground in the exchange. In January 1687 James dismissed him from the Treasury and replaced him with a commission made up of two Catholics and three Anglicans, one of them, Sidney, Lord Godolphin, being the effective head. At the same time Rochester's brother Clarendon was deprived of the lord lieutenancy of Ireland and the privy seal. Two Catholics replaced him, Tyrconnell as virtual lord lieutenant, though he was given the post of lord deputy, and Lord Arundell as lord privy seal. Given complete control on becoming lord deputy, Tyrconnell pursued in earnest the task of turning Ireland into a Catholic stronghold which could assert its independence against a protestant England. He recalled borough charters and issued new ones appointing Catholics as councillors.

North America

James's rule over the American colonies as well as in Ireland seemed to portend his plans for England. Following the grant of New Netherland by Charles II to his brother in March 1664 Richard Nicholls was dispatched from England with a fleet to capture it for him. On his arrival off New Amsterdam, Nicholls demanded that Peter Stuyvesant surrender the colony to him. Although the governor was ready to resist the English, the Dutch colonists persuaded him to yield to them. Nicholls then named New Netherland New York in honour of the duke. New Amsterdam was similarly renamed New York city while Orange, a Dutch fort up the Hudson River, became Albany. The duke's claim was not confirmed, however, until after the third and final Anglo-Dutch war (1672–4). The treaty of Westminster concluded the peace with the handing over of the colony.

New York was a proprietary colony under the duke. James ruled his proprietorship as an absolute monarch. William Penn thought his government of New York was a model of what he planned for England ‘if the Crown should ever devolve upon his head’ (Geiter, 311). Richard Nicholls, who acted as James's deputy governor following the conquest of the colony, introduced into it the so-called ‘duke's laws’. These made no mention of elections to an assembly or even to town meetings. Nicholls himself admitted that ‘our new laws are not contrived so democratically as the rest’. There was a strong military presence in the colony. New York city became the base for the first regular garrison of soldiers in British America. Following the final surrender of New York to the English in 1674 James appointed an army officer, Sir Edmund Andros, as his deputy. Andros re-established the duke's proprietorship and reinstated the duke's laws. His arbitrary government provoked complaints about military rule and demands in some quarters for a representative assembly. On being informed of these James refused to give in to them, being convinced that to do so would be ‘of dangerous consequence, nothing being more known than the aptness of such bodies to assume to themselves many privileges which prove destructive to, or very oft disturb, the peace of the government wherein they are allowed’ (R. Ritchie, The Duke's Province, 1977, 34, 101–2). Andros, however, found it increasingly difficult to raise taxes without an assembly to consent to them. Since James had invested his own money in the acquisition of New York, spending as much as £2000 to regain it from the Dutch in 1674, he wished not only to recoup his outlay but to make a profit from the colony. The reluctance of the colonists to pay taxes to which they had not consented meant that he was losing rather than making money from his proprietorship of New York. Consequently when Andros went to England in 1681 he was able to persuade the duke that the only way to turn his financial situation round from loss to gain was to summon an assembly. When Colonel Thomas Dongan replaced Andros as governor of New York he was instructed by the duke to convene an assembly there. The first was elected in October 1683 and sat for three weeks. The short session resulted in some important laws for the rights of the colonists. The right to trial by jury and punishments to fit the crime were instituted at this meeting of the assembly. Taxes could be imposed only through the consent of the governor and council. Lands were protected from arbitrary seizure. This bill of rights also included the right of religious freedom so long as those who practised divergent faiths did not disturb the peace of the government. The assembly met again in 1684. In the following year James became king, upon which New York was transformed from a proprietary into a crown colony. Following James II's accession his deputy governor there, Thomas Dongan, dissolved the assembly and called fresh elections for another, which met in October 1685. After a brief session, however, further meetings were called only to be cancelled, until in January 1687 the assembly was dissolved. It never met again under James.

In 1686 James incorporated the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island into one jurisdiction, the dominion of New England. Two years later he extended it to New York and New Jersey. In effect it brought into being one vast crown colony extending over the whole area from Maine to the Delaware River. There are signs that it was intended to cover an even greater region. Writs of quo warranto demanding justifications of their jurisdictions were issued against the colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania, including the three lower counties on the Delaware, during the reign of James II. It seemed as though the king wanted to make most of the mainland settlements directly subject to the crown.

In December 1686 Sir Edmund Andros became the governor of the dominion. Andros ruled by decree. Thus he raised taxes without any semblance of representation, provoking resistance from some colonists who, claiming the liberties of Englishmen, protested that taxation could be raised legitimately only with the approval of the suppressed assemblies. Their ringleaders were arrested and thrown into gaol. Andros rigorously enforced the navigation laws, which had been so blatantly disregarded in New England, by allowing only five ports where customs could be cleared. All breaches of the laws were to be tried in Admiralty courts without juries. The selectmen, who were elected to represent the New England towns, were allowed to meet only once a year. For practical purposes they were superseded by men nominated by Andros himself. Since many were his cronies who did not even reside in New England it was depicted as being ‘squeezed by a crew of abject persons fetched from New York’ (M. G. Hall, Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676–1703, 1960, 108). The entire governing body was replaced subsequent to the revocation of the colony's charter. Edward Randolph, who was appointed as secretary to the dominion, used his position to create a host of new officials, many of them Anglicans who succeeded to the functions formerly carried out by puritans.

James genuinely believed in religious toleration. He had introduced freedom of worship into New York when he became its proprietor. He was determined that those colonists who were members of the Dutch Reformed church should live peaceably with his English subjects. The puritans of Massachusetts were notorious religious bigots, completely intolerant of all sects other than their own. They were particularly severe in their treatment of Quakers. The Massachusetts general court passed laws banning them from proselytizing. Any Friend found trying to convert a puritan was subject to harsh penalties, that for a third offence being death. James insisted upon complete toleration in New England. Although Connecticut had been more tolerant than Massachusetts, the Congregationalists there also resented this policy which effectively disestablished their church. The only New England colony which greeted it with enthusiasm was Rhode Island, where religious toleration was practised. The king was determined to replace the rule of the saints with religious toleration, and instructed Andros to introduce it into the dominion. Andros did so with great zeal. The Congregational church, which was virtually the established church in Massachusetts as it was in Connecticut, was in effect disestablished there too. Its ministers were no longer maintained by local rates. Anglican services were permitted in its churches. On one occasion the Congregationalists who frequented Boston south church had to wait outside while a service was held according to the rites of the Church of England.

Although this experiment in colonial government was undertaken for a variety of reasons, the most pressing motive was undoubtedly defence. Despite the fact that England and France enjoyed peaceful relations in Europe there was friction between them in North America, especially on the frontier between New France and New York. James had been governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1683 until he became king, and was aware of conflicting claims between the company and the French in Canada. Indeed the adversary stance adopted by New France to English interests in North America led him to adopt a defensive posture there against the French, notwithstanding the cordial relationship he enjoyed with Louis XIV in European concerns. It is an error to assume that friendly relations implied an alliance. When French and English interests clashed James vigorously defended those of his own country. In 1686 the Compagnie du Nord launched an attack on the Hudson's Bay Company's forts around James Bay. The disputes between the two companies were so serious that Louis XIV sent a special envoy, Bonrepos, to England to resolve them. A draft treaty was drawn up, but it was not until 1687 that a definitive document could be signed by the two sides. Friction continued in North America despite this treaty. Thus in 1687 the French attacked some Indians in the Mohawk River valley allied to the English. It was owing to this attack that James decided to incorporate New York and New Jersey into the dominion of New England. Andros presided over the whole, but his deputy, Dongan, was replaced in New York by Francis Nicholson. Nicholson resumed the crown's rights of government over New Jersey, which the proprietors had exercised since 1680, albeit on dubious authority. As elsewhere in the dominion the assemblies were suspended. The dominion of New England thus acquired many of the characteristics of absolutism which Charles II and James II had established in old England. There was a standing army, censorship of the press, and arbitrary imprisonment.


The removal of the Hyde brothers, Clarendon and Rochester, and the triumph of Sunderland early in 1687 are usually seen as a major turning-point in James's reign, when he turned from Anglican advisers to rely on Catholics and dissenters. Yet observers had seen Rochester's power slipping to Sunderland over many months. Rochester himself dated his decline from the crushing of Monmouth's rebellion, upon which James had felt able to move more swiftly and boldly to his goal. The king then found the Anglicans reluctant to go along with him, as they were to show in the second session of the parliament. He accused them of being ‘like Micannicks in a trade, who are afraid of nothing so much as Interlopers’ (Life, 2.114). By contrast he found the dissenters more inclined to respond to his overtures. One of the alleged signs of a shift in policy early in 1687 was the king's willingness to work with dissenters when previously he had regarded them as his enemies. However, James had always been ambivalent towards dissent. During the exclusion crisis he regarded them as aligned with those who not only sought to bar him from the succession but to replace the monarchy with a republic. He shared Charles II's view that dissenters who disturbed the peace of the kingdom and took up the ‘good old cause’ should not be tolerated. Yet also like his brother he could distinguish between disruptive dissenters and those who wished to live peaceably. The former in his view made religion ‘only the pretence, and that the real contest was about power and dominion’, whereas the latter he regarded as suffering the same unjust persecution as Catholics (ibid., 1.594). When he was attempting to convert his daughter Mary to Catholicism he was ‘very severe against the Church of England for its cruelty towards dissenters, saying the dissenters can give as good reason for their separating from [it] as [it] can for [its] departure from Rome’ (Bodl. Oxf., Tanner MS 29, fol. 130). He supported Charles II's declarations of indulgence, a policy of religious toleration he himself pursued when he became king. In February 1686 he issued a proclamation in Scotland allowing Quakers as well as Catholics to worship in their own homes. That spring he pardoned 1200 English Quakers and released them from prison. In May he sent William Penn to The Hague to try to persuade the prince and princess of Orange to support the repeal of the Test Act. Despite the failure of Penn's mission James retained his services, relying on his connections with dissenters to gain their support. Penn seems to have persuaded him that other dissenters as well as the pacifist Quakers would not disturb the peace of the kingdom if granted toleration. It was probably Penn who encouraged the king to get round the failure of both the Scottish and English parliaments to grant relief to Catholics and dissenters by issuing edicts of toleration to them.

The first declaration of indulgence was made in Scotland on 12 February 1687, since Scots had recognized the king's ‘sacred, supreme, sovereign and absolute power and authority’ (Life, 2.107). James stressed that the proclamation was based on ‘our sovereign authority, prerogative royal and absolute power, which all our subjects are to obey without reserve’. ‘Moderate Presbyterians’ were allowed to meet in their private houses, while Quakers could ‘meet and exercise in their Form in any place or places appointed for their worship’. At the same time the opportunity was taken to ‘suspend, stop and disable all laws, or Acts of Parliament … against any of our Roman Catholick subjects’ (By the King a Proclamation … 12 Feb 1687). Encouraged by what appeared to be a favourable reception for the Scottish proclamation James issued a declaration of indulgence for England and Wales on 4 April, suspending all penal laws against nonconformists.

On 23 April James prorogued parliament a second time until November. Since the fall of Rochester he had interviewed individual peers and members of parliament to ascertain their attitudes to his aim of repealing the penal laws and the first Test Act. The results had been disappointing for the king. Some who opposed him were dismissed. But accounts of dismissals as a result of this ‘closeting’, as it was called, tended to be exaggerated. ‘We doe hear every post of so many persons being out of their employments’, Lord Chesterfield observed in March; ‘it seems like the account one has after a battle of those who miscarried in the engagement’ (BL, Althorp papers H1, Chesterfield to Halifax, 15 March 1687). In fact only six members of the royal household lost their posts. When it became clear that closeting was not going to persuade a majority to support the repeal of the penal laws and Test Act James decided to prorogue parliament until November. He hoped that in the interval the experience of toleration would allay apprehensions sufficiently to persuade a parliamentary majority to repeal them.

Yet unexpectedly James dissolved parliament in July. The timing of the dissolution was apparently owing to his discovering that William of Orange was lobbying MPs to resist the repeal of the penal laws. A Dutch envoy, Dykvelt, had been sent over to England in February to reassure James's opponents that William was opposed to their repeal. At the end of May Dykvelt had a private audience with the king, who instructed him to ask the prince categorically to support his policy of repealing them. When William answered that he was opposed to the policy James replied that he was sorry to find that the prince:
cannot be for taking off all those laws, and the Tests which are so very severe and hard upon all Dissenters from the Church of England; and since what Mr Dyckvelt said to you from me could not alter your mind as to that, I cannot expect that a letter should prevail with you; so that I shall say no more on that subject now. (Dalrymple, 2 appx, pt 1, 185)
Aware of Dykvelt's intrigues with his opponents, James decided to dissolve parliament. That summer he took himself off on a canvassing tour of the west country and midlands, visiting a number of towns in a swathe from Portsmouth, through Bristol, to Shrewsbury and then to Oxford. Everywhere he went the king urged the voters to elect ‘such parliament men as would concur with him in settling this liberty as firmly as the Magna Charta had been’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 4.190). The response persuaded James that the prospects for the polls were favourable. ‘In most of those places’, he claimed, ‘they promised to send such members to the ensuing parliament as would be for taking off the penal laws and Test’ (Life, 2.140).

Oxford, the seven bishops, and the birth of an heir

When he was in Oxford on 4 September James summoned the fellows of Magdalen College to an audience at Christ Church. In April he had instructed them to elect as their president a Catholic, Anthony Farmer, but they had defied him by choosing John Hough instead. When summoned to attend the ecclesiastical commissioners to justify their defiance they pleaded that they objected to Farmer not because he was a Catholic but because he was a debauchee. Nevertheless Hough's election had been declared void, and in July James had forbidden the fellows to make any new election ‘till we shall signifie our further pleasure, any statute, custom or constitution to the contrary notwithstanding. And so, expecting obedience, herein, we bid you farewell’ (An Impartial Relation, 13). Farmer's candidacy for the presidency was quietly dropped in view of the evidence of his unsuitability for it, and in his stead James ordered the fellows to elect Samuel Parker, bishop of Oxford. Once again they defied him. When they were summoned to Christ Church he demanded that they choose Parker, warning ‘them that refuse to look to it, they shall feel the weight of their sovereign's displeasure’ (ibid., 15). The king's browbeating did not cow them, however, for they still refused to obey his orders. The ecclesiastical commission then visited the college and stripped them of their fellowships.

James's high-handed conduct in his dealings with Magdalen College was indicative of a confidence bordering on recklessness that he was bound to gain his ends. He was convinced that his father and brother had failed to achieve theirs because they had shown weakness and that if he remained resolute opposition would be overcome. He was determined to get a parliamentary majority which would repeal the penal laws, to which end he set out to pack the House of Commons with pliant members. In November 1687 he set up a commission to regulate corporations. Over the ensuing months the commissioners carried out a number of purges of boroughs represented in parliament. Some corporations were regulated several times. In many cases Anglicans were removed to be replaced by Catholics and dissenters. The commissions of the peace in the counties were similarly weeded.

How far the exercise would have resulted in a majority in support of the king's policy is a moot point. Public opinion in these months indicates that most of James's subjects were against him. He himself devised a crude test in the form of three questions which justices of the peace, militia officers, and other men holding positions under the crown were required to answer. Would they, if elected to parliament, vote for the repeal of the penal laws? Would they, if they could vote for candidates at the polls, support those in favour of their repeal? Would they support the toleration by living peaceably with those of different persuasions? These began to be circulated in the localities from October 1687, though months elapsed while answers were returned from all over the country. When they did come in they scarcely indicated widespread support. On the contrary only about a quarter answered ‘yes’ to the first two questions, rather fewer than replied ‘no’, while the rest evaded answering directly in ways which implied that they were negative. Only the last question elicited overwhelmingly positive responses, indicating that the respondents approved of toleration for non-Anglicans but not of allowing them access to power.

James, however, was detached from these realities in the last year of his reign. When Mary of Modena became pregnant in October 1687 he took it as another sign of divine providence and was confident that his wife would bear a son. This led him to throw caution to the winds and to hurry on his plans to establish Catholicism in England. He persuaded the pope to appoint four vicars-apostolic as bishops in partibus infidelium. When Samuel Parker, the bishop of Oxford whom he had foisted on Magdalen College, died in March 1688 he was replaced as president by one of these bishops. A Catholic master was appointed to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. It seemed as though the universities were being converted into seminaries for training Catholic priests. There was even a rumour that the vacant archbishopric of York was to be filled by a Catholic.

The birth of a son, , on 10 June 1688 was the final confirmation as far as James was concerned that his cause had the blessing of providence. A royal proclamation issued on the day of the prince's birth called for thanksgiving throughout his kingdoms for God's great mercy to the king and his subjects by blessing him with a son. The birth was to be celebrated in London on 17 June and throughout the realm on 1 July. Between the two thanksgiving days, however, the king's belief in providence must have been severely shaken when on 29 June a jury in the court of king's bench acquitted seven bishops of the charge of seditious libel, to universal rejoicing.

The trial had come about because an order in council had been issued in May 1688 requiring the clergy to read the declaration of indulgence in their churches and the bishops to distribute it throughout their dioceses. The archbishop of Canterbury and six bishops presented a petition to James on 18 May asking him not to insist on the distribution and reading of the proclamation. The king admitted to them that he was taken completely by surprise. He accused them of raising ‘a standard of rebellion. I never saw such an address’. When the bishops published their petition, while the order in council was widely disregarded, James decided to prosecute them for seditious libel. Because they refused to give recognizances to appear in court he sent them to the Tower, where they spent a week before being bailed by twenty-one peers. At the trial they denied the king's right to issue the declaration of indulgence. Their subsequent acquittal was a great blow to him.

James nevertheless pressed on with his campaign to pack parliament. By September he was so convinced that the regulation of elections for the House of Commons had gone far enough to secure a majority there that he was prepared to make enough peers to give him a majority in the House of Lords too. On 16 September he announced that a general election was to take place. On 26 September he called it off after accepting that the prince of Orange was preparing to invade England.


Before then James had refused to believe reports that his son-in-law was bent on invading. As late as 10 September the French ambassador wrote to Louis XIV that the English king was beginning to accept that William was getting together a task force to invade England. But James was not finally convinced that the Dutch really were going to invade until 24 September. He not only called off the general election, but abandoned the campaign to pack parliament. The purges of the county militias and commissions of the peace, along with that of the parliamentary boroughs, were reversed, reinstating Anglicans and removing Catholics and dissenters. He also stopped consulting his Catholic advisers and turned instead to the Church of England. On 24 September nine bishops, including four of the seven he had put on trial, were invited to an audience with the king. They presented him with a list of measures they thought to be necessary to restore the constitution in church and state. These included the dismissal of Catholic officials, the abolition of the commission for ecclesiastical causes, the reinstatement of the fellows of Magdalen College, the restoration of borough charters, and the summoning of a free parliament. James responded positively to these points, suspending the commission for ecclesiastical causes, and reinstating the bishop of London and the fellows of Magdalen. ‘Nothing seems wanting but a free parliament’, one newsletter observed, ‘and then I can't see what the Prince will do’ (BL, Add. MS 34487, fol. 30).

This was probably why James made these concessions, to wrongfoot William of Orange. If that was his intention, however, it failed to work. For people mistrusted his motives, and so far from denouncing the Orangist intervention in English affairs looked to it to obtain guarantees for the future conduct of their untrustworthy monarch. All thereby came to turn on the outcome of the Dutch invasion. If James won he would be free to act as he pleased. If he lost then, as he informed the French ambassador, he would go into voluntary exile in France, where he had already arranged to send his wife and infant son. Family concerns were intimately involved in the events of 1688. James was outraged that his own daughter and son-in-law were prepared to attack him. He was particularly mortified by the doubts they raised about the legitimacy of the prince of Wales. To establish that he was indeed his son, and had not been smuggled into the queen's bedchamber in a warming pan, he convened an extraordinary meeting of leading dignitaries on 22 October to hear sworn depositions from witnesses to the birth.

James still trusted in divine providence to protect him, especially when William's fleet was driven back to Dutch harbours by a violent storm in mid-October and was pinned in them by contrary winds. ‘I see God Almighty continues his Protection to me’, he observed on 20 October, ‘by bringing the wind westerly again’ (Dartmouth MSS, 1.169). Then the ‘Protestant wind’ began to blow from the east, and William was able to make his way down the English Channel to land in Torbay on 5 November.

James initially determined to stay in London and oblige his son-in-law to advance towards the capital. But William stayed in the west country for several days, so that his forces could recuperate from the voyage, and in expectation that they would be joined by deserters from the king's army. A few, led by Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, son of the earl of Clarendon, did go over to him while he was at Exeter. Although the numbers that deserted James were not great, and the news that many men actually returned to their posts cheered him, he was sufficiently concerned by the breakdown of discipline in his army to go down to Salisbury to reassert his authority. James arrived there on 19 November. Unfortunately he succumbed to severe nosebleeds, which incapacitated him from giving a firm lead. Instead of inspiring his army to march west, therefore, he agreed at a council of war on 23 November to retreat to London. After this decision more deserters left his army, including Lord Churchill, who went over to William the following night. The loss of Churchill, the future duke of Marlborough, was perhaps the greatest blow to James's morale in the closing weeks of 1688. The desertion of his daughter Anne, however, who went along with Churchill's wife, Sarah, and the bishop of London to join rebels in Nottingham, also unnerved him.

On his return to London James invited all the peers in town to give him their advice. They urged him to call a parliament. On 28 November, therefore, James issued writs for a general election for a parliament to meet in January. He also sent Godolphin, Halifax, and Nottingham to negotiate with William. But all this was a feint. He had already sent his wife and infant son to France and was determined to join them there. On 11 December he fled from the capital, dropping the great seal in the Thames, which effectively stalled the elections. Unfortunately he got only as far as Faversham, where his boat was intercepted by sailors. The next day they took him to the Queen's Arms, where his identity was revealed. News got back to London that the king had been detained by some of his subjects, and a company of guards was sent to rescue him from them. They reached Faversham on 15 December and accompanied the king back to his capital. He was welcomed there by cheering crowds. He took heart at this, and attempted to resume government, even presiding over a meeting of the privy council. Then he received a request from William to remove himself from London. At first the prince recommended Ham House, up river from the City. James, however, preferred to go downstream to Rochester. William agreed to this, seeing in the king's request a plea to let him leave the country, which would be easier to effect from Kent than from Surrey. As James left the capital on 18 December William entered it. James did not take long to escape his Dutch guards, fleeing to France on 23 December. This time he was successful, setting foot on French soil on Christmas day.

Final exile

When James joined his wife and son in France Louis XIV gave him accommodation at the château of St Germain-en-Laye. This suited the exiled monarch and his courtiers perfectly. Louis had handsomely refurbished it for James's court, which, contrary to hostile reports from Williamite observers, was not impoverished but maintained a lavish state, in keeping with James's notions of kingly style. Thus he patronized artists and musicians. He could also hunt and pray to his heart's content. Had he had his own way he would probably never have ventured from St Germain again. But the French king intended to send James to Ireland in order to retrieve his crown. Tyrconnell also urged that course of action. ‘I beg of you to consider whether you can with honour continue where you are’, he wrote, ‘when you possess a kingdom of your own plentiful of all things for human life’ (Turner, 463). James gave in to this pressure and went to Ireland, landing in Kinsale on 12 March 1689. Tyrconnell joined him at Cork two days later. It soon became clear that their objectives were different. James wanted to use Ireland as a springboard to regain his kingdoms of England and Scotland. To do so meant not alienating his protestant subjects there by becoming too dependent upon Irish Catholics. Tyrconnell on the other hand wanted him to establish himself in Ireland as a Catholic king. The resulting conflicting aims became evident in the calling of an Irish parliament, which met in Dublin on 7 May. The Catholic majority demonstrated its support for Tyrconnell by repealing the Act of Settlement of 1662. This had confirmed the ownership of land following the upheavals of the interregnum, leaving Catholics with less than a quarter of the land in Ireland. The Dublin parliament sought to reverse this settlement and for good measure passed an Act of Attainder against over 2000 protestants. Such vindictiveness stood in sharp contrast to the Toleration Act passed at the same time, in which the parliament paid lip-service to the king's aims.

By convening the Dublin parliament James forfeited his chances of regaining his other kingdoms. At the same time it ensured that the protestants in Ulster would support William III's efforts to reconquer Ireland. The siege of Londonderry was relieved by a force sent from England in August 1689. Later that month the duke of Schomberg landed in Belfast and advanced to Dundalk, eliminating any chance of James using Ireland as a base from which to invade Scotland. This did not necessarily scupper his prospects in Ireland. Schomberg was an octogenarian who was loath to risk a battle. Although James was only fifty-seven, he was no longer the soldier who had served under Turenne. His judgement was called into question by the experienced French diplomat the comte d'Avaux, whom Louis XIV had sent to accompany his ally. But the French king himself did not despair of James, despite Avaux's caustic dispatches. On the contrary he sent reinforcements to James, which arrived in the spring of 1689. William III himself was aware of this, and replaced the aged Schomberg himself. When William landed in Carrickfergus in mid-June, James advanced to meet him at the River Boyne. The battle of the Boyne was fought on 1 July. William defeated James, who threw in the towel and returned to France.

When he returned to France James became a virtual recluse at St Germain. He seems to have regarded his life there as a penance for his former sins. In 1696 he wrote a devotional paper thanking God ‘that thou wert pleased to have taken from me my three kingdoms, by which means thou didst awake me out of the lethargy of sin’ (Papers of Devotion, 61–2). He was convinced that ‘Providence had marked out no other way for his salvation except suffering’ (Life, 2.528). In his advice to his son he pressed upon him the vital importance of being steadfast in his faith, thereby ensuring that he would never regain their former kingdoms for the Stuarts. Yet Jacobites continued to hold out the hope that they would. They backed James's principal advisers, the earl of Melfort and Charles Middleton, earl of Middleton, in their efforts to persuade him to try yet again to recover his crown. James was led to believe that William's regime was so unpopular that his former subjects would welcome his restoration. Now that William had subdued the Irish and concluded the treaty of Limerick in 1691 James lost interest in a fresh attempt to regain his throne from Ireland, and sought to do so by invading England and repeating his brother's restoration in 1660. He hoped to bring this off in 1692, but was thwarted by the English defeat of the French at the naval battle of La Hogue. His hopes were raised again in 1696 with the assassination plot, only to be dashed when the plotters were apprehended. On that occasion he concluded that ‘the good Lord did not wish to restore me’ (Miller, 238–9).

Jacobites were divided over the best means to obtain the end of another restoration between the so-called ‘compounders’ and ‘non-compounders’. Melfort led the ‘non-compounders’, who were not prepared to yield any concessions to protestants. Middleton was the leader of the ‘compounders’, who were adamant that only by offering assurances to the Church of England could James hope to be restored. Yet that would be to acknowledge that the whole of his short reign had been a mistake. Even if James could have brought himself to admit this, which is extremely doubtful, it is hard to see how Anglicans would have trusted him. He himself oscillated between the two positions, siding with Melfort in 1692 and with Middleton in 1693. This gave an impression of wavering and opportunism. In 1696, however, he threw in his lot with those who were prepared to assassinate William III, provoking a backlash of loyalty to the de facto king and greatly harming the Jacobite cause.

After the treaty of Ryswick of 1697, in which Louis XIV recognized William III as king of England, James resigned himself to permanent exile. His resignation took the form of austere acts of piety in which he inflicted such mortifications upon himself that his confessor became alarmed for his health. He had suffered his first serious illness in 1695, and thereafter became frailer and frailer until he could be described by the poet Matthew Prior, who visited him in 1698, as being lean and shrivelled. Throughout 1701 he suffered from fainting fits; the last one, which occurred on 22 August, proved fatal. During the two weeks it took him to die he was visited by Louis XIV, who assured James that he would recognize his son as king of England. James died on 5 September. His body was dissected so that parts could be interred in various churches, his brain in the Scots College in Paris and his heart in the nunnery at Chaillot. His corpse was buried in the English Benedictine church in the Faubourg St Jacques, ‘provisionally’—until it could be interred in Westminster Abbey. The burial did indeed turn out to be provisional, but for very different reasons. During the French Revolution his tomb was broken up and his body displayed for some months as a tourist attraction. It was then destroyed, although relics which had been removed at the time of his death—his heart, his entrails, hair cuttings, linen dipped in blood, flesh from his right arm—over time were taken to England.


‘A great king with strong armies and mighty fleets, a vast treasure and powerful allies fell all at once’, Bishop Burnet observed of James II's sudden fall from power. ‘And his whole strength, like a spider's web, was so irrevocably broken with a touch, that he was never able to retrieve what for want of judgement and heart he threw up in a day’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 3.1). This judgement places the responsibility for his downfall on James's own shoulders, implying that if he had possessed the courage to face up to his opponents he might have stayed on his throne. To blame James for his own destiny invites an examination of how far he was responsible for the revolution of 1688.

Burnet was right to attribute to James the main responsibility for the policies carried out in his name, despite the allegation in the bill of rights that he had endeavoured ‘to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom … by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him’. Of course James had advisers such as the earls of Rochester and Sunderland, the Catholic Father Petre, and the Quaker William Penn, all of whom were presumably implicated in the bill's indictment. But they were just advisers, for James was determined to be king indeed and to rule as well as reign. It is a mistake to attribute the king's ‘policies’, to use an anachronistic term, to anybody else.

What his policies were has provoked much debate. James was accused by contemporary critics and by later whig historians of aiming at ‘Popery and absolute power’. ‘Popery’ meant more than Roman Catholicism, signifying the allegiance of Catholics to the pope in Rome—that is, to a foreign potentate who was bent on restoring England to the true faith. James himself was accused of seeking the same end, even by using the royal prerogative to undermine English liberties. For, like all Catholic kings, he was also accused of endeavouring to make himself absolute. A contrary view of James sees him as an enlightened ruler seeking religious toleration. He was not bent on forcing Catholicism on his subjects, but simply sought to achieve toleration for Catholics and other non-Anglicans. His use of the royal prerogative to achieve this was a means to an end, not an end in itself.

James was genuinely committed to religious toleration, but also sought to increase the power of the crown. He wished that all his subjects could be as convinced as he was that the Catholic church was the one true church. He was also convinced that the established church was maintained artificially by penal laws which proscribed nonconformity. If these were removed, and conversions to Catholicism were encouraged, then many would take place. In the event his optimism was misplaced, for few converted. James underestimated the appeal of protestantism in general and the Church of England in particular. His was the zeal and even bigotry of a narrow-minded convert. But he was aware that not everybody would see the light as he had done. Religious toleration was still desirable because it encouraged commerce and helped a nation to prosper. This view was shared by many of his critics. But where James looked back nostalgically to France before the revocation of the edict of Nantes, when toleration and absolutism had gone hand in hand, they tended to look to the United Provinces, where toleration and republicanism combined to create a powerful mercantile economy. James was too autocratic to combine freedom of conscience with popular government. He resisted any check on the monarch's power. That is why his heart was not in the concessions he had to make in 1688. He would rather live in exile with his principles intact than continue to reign as a limited monarch. The fact that he had to make concessions suggests that the English were not prepared to accept the kind of polity James sought to impose upon them. If that were indeed the case then the king's efforts were doomed from the start. Yet they had not shown much resistance to the moves towards arbitrary power which Charles II had made in the last four years of his reign. On the contrary, fears that the exclusion crisis would end in violence made them welcome. Englishmen were far more afraid of a renewal of civil war than they were of absolutism. Charles II used the strengthened royal powers to back up the religious monopoly of intolerant Anglicans rather than to pursue religious toleration, and most of his subjects upheld the king's efforts. But they also showed that they were not averse to religious toleration in their responses to the three questions James put to them. Their replies to the first two, concerning the repeal of the penal laws and Test Act, showed that most were not prepared to support it. Most accounts concentrate on these answers and conclude that the majority of Englishmen were not in favour of toleration. The responses to the third, however, asking if they would ‘support the Declaration of Indulgence by living friendly with those of several persuasions as subjects of the same prince and as good Christians ought to do?’, were overwhelmingly positive. This showed that James's subjects were convinced that he was not just aiming at religious toleration but sought to empower non-Anglicans and above all his fellow Catholics. Arbitrary power in support of the established church or religious toleration they could stomach. They were prepared to tolerate Catholics as long as they did not represent a political threat, as they showed in the eighteenth century when they left them alone except during the crises of the 'Fifteen and the 'Forty-Five. It was the combination of popery and arbitrary power which they found repugnant. Even then they were reluctant to resist the king until the birth of a son indicated that his regime would be perpetuated. And in the last analysis it took an invasion to persuade them to become revolutionaries. James's project was bound to alienate the majority of his protestant subjects. But that did not mean that its failure was inevitable.

W. A. Speck


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A. Van Dyck, group portrait, oils, 1634?, Galleria Sabauda, Turin · A. Van Dyck, group portrait, oils, 1635, Royal Collection · P. Lely, group portrait, oils, 1637, Royal Collection · C. Johnson, oils, 1639, NPG · P. Lely, oils, 1643, Syon House, Middlesex · W. Dobson, oils, c.1645–1646, Royal Collection · P. Lely, double portrait, oils, 1647 (with Charles I), Syon House, Middlesex · W. Hollar, etching, 1651 (after D. Teniers), BM · attrib. C. Wautier, oils, c.1656–1660, Royal Collection · S. Cooper, miniature, 1661, V&A; version, Badminton House, Gloucestershire · P. Lely, oils, c.1661–1662, Scot. NPG · P. Lely, double portrait, oils, c.1663 (with Anne Hyde), Petworth House, Sussex; version, NPG · S. Cooper, miniature, c.1665, Royal Collection · studio of P. Lely, oils, c.1665, Royal Collection · P. Lely, oils, c.1665–1670, Royal Collection · H. Gascar, oils, c.1672–1673, NMM · P. Lely and B. Gennari, group portrait, oils, c.1674, Royal Collection · G. Kneller, oils, 1684, NPG [see illus.] · miniature on vellum, 1684–5 (after G. Kneller), NPG · A. Killigrew, oils, 1685, Royal Collection · attrib. W. Wissing, oils, c.1685–1686, Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London · N. de Largillière, oils, 1686, NMM · J. Smeltzing, pewter medal, 1688, Scot. NPG · S. Le Clerc, copper medal, 1689, Scot. NPG · oils, c.1690, NPG · N. Roettier, silver gilt medal, 1699, Scot. NPG · R. Arondeaux, silver medal, Scot. NPG · G. Kneller, oils, second version, Royal Collection · P. Schenck, mezzotint (after G. Kneller), BM, NPG · P. Schenck, mezzotint (after unknown artist), BM, NPG · R. Sheppard, line engraving (after G. Kneller), BM, NPG · J. Smith, mezzotint (after N de Largillière), BM, NPG · J. Smith, mezzotint (after G. Kneller), BM, NPG · H. Stone or S. Stone, group portrait, oils (after A. Van Dyck), Scot. NPG · H. Stone?, double portrait, oils (after P. Lely), Scot. NPG · G. Valek, mezzotint (after P. Lely), NPG · medals and coins, BM · mezzotint (after unknown artist), NPG · portrait (in first letter of James's charter to port of Kinsale, 1689), Kinsale Museum · terracotta bust, Scot. NPG