James II of England  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

James II & VII (14 October 1633 – 16 September 1701) was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Increasingly Britain's political and religious leaders opposed him as too pro-French, too pro-Catholic, and too much of an absolute monarch. When he produced a Catholic heir, the tension exploded and the leaders called on William III of Orange (his son-in-law and nephew) to land an invasion army from the Netherlands. James fled England (and thus abdicated) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was replaced by William of Orange who became king as William III, ruling jointly with his wife (James's daughter) Mary II. Thus William and Mary, both Protestants, became joint rulers in 1689. James made one serious attempt to recover his crowns, when he landed in Ireland in 1689 but, after the defeat of the Jacobite forces by the Williamite forces at the Battle of the Boyne in the summer of 1690, James returned to France. He lived out the rest of his life as a pretender at a court sponsored by his cousin and ally, King Louis XIV.

James is best known for his belief in absolute monarchy and his attempts to create religious liberty for his subjects. Both of these went against the wishes of the English Parliament and of most of his subjects. Parliament, opposed to the growth of absolutism that was occurring in other European countries, as well as to the loss of legal supremacy for the Church of England, saw their opposition as a way to preserve what they regarded as traditional English liberties. This tension made James's four-year reign a struggle for supremacy between the English Parliament and the Crown, resulting in his deposition, the passage of the English Bill of Rights, and the Hanoverian succession.



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