Category: Critical moments in English history
James II and VII (14 October 1633O.S. – 16 September 1701) was King of England and King of Ireland as James II, and King of Scotland as James VII from the death of his elder brother, Charles II, on 6 February 1685. He was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland. His reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance, but it also involved struggles over the principles of absolutism and the divine right of kings. His deposition ended a century of political and civil strife in England by confirming the primacy of the English Parliament over the Crown.
James inherited the thrones of England, Ireland, and Scotland from his brother with widespread support in all three countries, largely because the principles of eligibility based on divine right and birth were widely accepted. Tolerance of his personal Catholicism did not extend to tolerance of Catholicism in general, and the English and Scottish Parliaments refused to pass his measures. When James attempted to impose them by decree, this was met with opposition; some academics have however argued that it was a political principle, rather than a religious one, that ultimately led to his removal.
In June 1688, two events turned dissent into a crisis; the first, on 10 June, was the birth of James’s son and heir James Francis Edward, which raised the prospect of initiating a Roman Catholic dynasty and excluding his Anglican daughter Mary and her Protestant husband William III of Orange. The second was the prosecution of the Seven Bishops for seditious libel; this was viewed as an assault on the Church of England and their acquittal on 30 June destroyed his political authority in England. The anti-Catholic riots in England and Scotland that ensued led to a general feeling that only his removal from the throne could prevent a civil war.