James II

James was the son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria and was born at St James' Palace on 14th October 1633 and succeeded his brother as King in 1685. During the English Civil War he escaped to Holland and served in continental armies. The Roman Catholic James reigned for only four years and finally left England in December 1688 for exile in France and he was declared to have abdicated. His daughter Mary then reigned jointly with her husband, and James' nephew, William of Orange (as William III and Mary II).


He married, while Duke of York, Anne Hyde, a maid of honour to his sister, daughter of the future Lord Chancellor. They married in secret at Breda in 1659 and later publicly in London in 1660. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. His second marriage was to Mary of Modena by proxy on 30th September 1673.


The coronation of James II and his queen Mary of Modena took place on 23rd April 1685. Francis Sandford wrote a history of this coronation which included the names of all those who walked in the processions from Westminster Hall to the Abbey and extensive engravings of both the procession and ceremony. The Dean of Westminster, Thomas Sprat, wore a rich cope of purple velvet embroidered with gold and silver. The king was crowned by Archbishop Sancroft and the service omitted the Communion as James was a Catholic (he had been anointed and crowned following the Catholic rite in the chapel at Whitehall the previous day). There seemed to be "bad omens" on the day of the coronation – the crown appeared to be about to fall off his head and at the moment of crowning the Royal Standard at the Tower of London was torn by the wind.

Watch: James II and the early Coronation


He died at St Germain in France on 6th September 1701. His tomb there was despoiled during the French Revolution.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

History of the coronation of James II and Queen Mary...by Francis Sandford, 1687

His royal bed, one of the earliest surviving in the world, and also a gold and silver bed made to mark his second marriage, can be seen in the showrooms at Knole House in Kent (March-October)


14th October 1633


16th September 1701


23rd April 1685

Painting of James II wearing a yellow and red patterned coat
James II by Ann Killigrew

(Royal Collection) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Depiction of the crowning of James II in Westminster Abbey, priests and courtiers around him
Crowning of James II

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster