King James II

James II., King of England, Ireland, and Scotland, was born at St. James’s, London, 15th October 1633, and succeeded his brother, Charles II., 6th February 1685.

James retired to France 23rd December 1688, and on 2nd February 1689, was declared to have abdicated the government.

Eleven days afterwards his daughter Mary and her husband, William Prince of Orange, were proclaimed Queen and King.

James was befriended by Louis XIV., and furnished with a fleet of fifteen sail, carrying a French contingent that numbered about 2,500 men, well supplied with military stores, also several experienced French officers and some English and Irish refugees, all under command of De Rosen.

He landed at Kinsale on 12th March 1689.

At Cork next day he was met by Tirconnell, whom he created a duke.

We are told that his progress towards the capital was like a triumphal procession, he left Cork on the 20th and reached Lismore that evening; on the 21st he stopped at Clonmel; on the 22nd at Kilkenny; on the 23rd at Kilcullen; and on the 24th he entered Dublin about noon. The houses were decorated, the streets new laid down with gravel, harpers played “God save the King,” and “The King shall have his own again,” and girls strewed flowers before him on his way from James’s-gate to the Castle.

James rode on a “pad nag, in a plain cinnamon-coloured cloth suit, a black slouching hat, and a George hung over his shoulder with a blew ribbon.” Loyal addresses poured in on all sides.

That of the Protestant clergy of Dublin, with the Bishop of Meath at their head, declared that they came “to congratulate your Majesty’s arrival, and to assure your Majesty of their resolution to continue firm to that loyalty which the principles of our church oblige us to, which in pursuance to those principles we have hitherto practised. We come, may it please your Majesty, to implore the honour of kissing your Majesty’s hand, and your gracious protection for our persons, churches, and religion, and a liberty to represent our just grievances as occasion shall offer: and we shall ever pray.”

James’s Roman Catholicism, which was the original cause of the breach with his English subjects, made him specially acceptable to the majority of the inhabitants of Ireland; while, as might be supposed, the Irish Protestants bitterly resented the changed circumstances in which they found themselves under his rule. They alone had been allowed to carry arms; in many cases they were now, as possible enemies of the King, deprived of the privilege.

The free exercise of the Catholic religion was permitted; yet, with the exception of Christ Church Cathedral, retained by James as a Royal Chapel for his own use, and a few churches in remote parts of the country forcibly occupied by the people in contempt of James’s orders, the Protestants were left in peaceable possession of the ecclesiastical buildings.

Most of the hardships of which the Protestants complained were the inevitable consequences of the great change from a policy based on Protestant ascendancy to one of professedly general toleration, and of the abrogation of the Cromwellian settlement made thirty-six years previously, and the restoration of their lands to the original Catholic proprietors.

A tolerably clear conception of the state of affairs in Ireland under James II. can best be arrived at by a perusal of Archbishop King’s State of the Protestants of Ireland under the late King James’s Government, London, 1691, Leslie’s Answer thereto, published anonymously next year, and the numerous contemporary tracts. In the appendices of the first-named work are to be found a number of valuable illustrative lists and documents.

Having given directions for the summoning of a parliament, James proceeded to Londonderry, but was unable to make any impression on the inhabitants of that city, who bravely held out for King William.

Parliament assembled in Dublin on 7th May, at the King’s Inns, on the site of the present Four Courts. The House of Lords consisted of: Sir Alexander Fitton, Lord-Chancellor; Boyle, Protestant Archbishop of Armagh; the Duke of Tirconnell; 9 Earls; 17 Viscounts; 4 Protestant Bishops; 20 Barons; altogether 53 members—about half Catholic and half Protestant.

The House of Commons numbered 233, almost exclusively Catholic, no representatives appearing from the following constituencies, situated in districts not acknowledging James’s authority: Antrim, Arklow, Augher, Ballyshannon, Baltinglass, Bangor, Birr, St. Canice, Carrickdrumrusk, Carrickfergus, Clogher, Coleraine, County of Donegal, Donegal, Down, Duleek, Dunleer, Enniskillen, County of Fermanagh, Hillsborough, Kells, Killybegs, lifford, Limavady, Lismore, County of Londonderry, Londonderry, Longford, Monaghan, Newtown, Tallow, Thurles, Tipperary, and Tulsk.

James, dressed in the royal robes and bearing the crown on his head, opened the proceedings in person, and his speech was responded to by a unanimous vote of confidence. Large subsidies were voted, and the utmost alacrity was shown in the effort to establish his authority firmly in Ireland, and help him to regain the English crown.

Thirty-five Acts were passed; the principal were the following: Enacting that the Parliament of England could not bind Ireland; repealing the Acts of Settlement and Explanation; declaring liberty of conscience and the equality of all religions; encouraging the settlement of strangers and others in Ireland; prohibiting the importation of English, Scotch, or Welsh coals; for the advance and improvement of trade, and the encouragement and increase of shipping and navigation; for vesting in the King the goods of absentees; discontinuing the celebration of 23rd October as a thanksgiving day.

By far the most important was An Act for the Attainder of Divers Rebels, and for Preserving the Interest of Loyal Subjects, under which about 2,515 landed proprietors, mostly Protestants, were, from one cause or another, attainted or declared guilty of treason, and deprived of their estates. The Bishop of Meath (Dr. Anthony Dopping) and other members made courageous and eloquent appeals against the passage of this Act.

A measure which gave great umbrage was the establishment of a mint, and the coinage of a quantity of brass into shillings and half-crowns of a nominal value of £965,375—perhaps one hundred times its intrinsic worth.

Archbishop King, in his State of the Protestants of Ireland, gives a recital of the consequences of the enforced circulation of this money. [These pieces were occasionally current in Ireland until 1861—the half-crowns “passing” as bad pence, and the shillings as bad half-pence.]

Parliament was prorogued the 20th July. The computed force of his army at this period, in garrison and the field, was 42,432 men.

The siege of Londonderry was raised the end of July, and the same day James’s troops suffered a signal defeat at the hands of the Enniskilleners at Newtownbutler.

On 13th August the Duke of Schomberg landed at Bangor with 10,000 men in the service of William III., but was not able to penetrate farther south than Dundalk, where he established his winter quarters. He wisely declined giving battle to James, who moved north at the head of about 20,000 men.

Some brilliant exploits of Sarsfield in Connaught—sweeping the English out of Sligo and securing Galway—ended the campaign.

The winter of 1689–90 was spent in Dublin by James to no good purpose. Macaulay says:

“Strict discipline and regular drilling might, in the interval between November and May, have turned the athletic and enthusiastic peasants who were assembled under his standard into good soldiers. But the opportunity was lost. The court of Dublin was, during that season of inaction, busied with dice and claret, love letters and challenges.”

We are told that Avaux, the French minister, adjured James to pay more strict attention to affairs; but his appeals were neglected.

On the 27th March a French army of 6,000, under Count Lauzun, was landed at Cork and Kinsale from a squadron of thirty-six ships of the line, besides transports; and early in April a large supply of stores was landed.

Lauzun found no preparation made for his troops in the south, and marched north to Dublin.

James sent to Louis XIV. five Irish infantry regiments, under Lord Mountcashel and Colonels O’Brien, Dillon, Butler, and Fielding. They were landed in France early in May, and formed the nucleus of the Irish Brigades.

Lauzun was now appointed Commander-in-chief of the Irish army, with apartments in the Castle. Finding the funds in the Treasury at a very low ebb, he waived drawing his pay, which had been fixed at £10,000 a year.

The campaign was inauspiciously opened for James on 12th May, by Schomberg’s capture of Charlemont fort, after a brave defence by Teigue O’Regan.

On the 14th June William III. landed at Carrickfergus, with a large force, chiefly foreign Protestants, and joined Schomberg.

On the 16th James marched north to meet him, at the head of about 25,000 men. He was at Dundalk on the 22nd, but fell back as William marched south, at length taking up a position on the Boyne, where a decisive battle was fought on Tuesday, 1st July.

James, with some 30,000 men, held the south side of the river near Donore, two miles above Drogheda, which was garrisoned by his troops.

William, with 36,000 men, proposed to force the shallow passage. He was superior to James, not only in number of men, but in discipline of his troops, in material, and in artillery.

At the last moment James appeared anxious to avert an engagement, which was, however, pressed upon him by his Irish officers.

In the dispositions for the fight he made a fatal mistake in not securing the bridge of Slane, a few miles up the river, and it was crossed early on the morning of the 1st by 10,000 of William’s troops, under General Douglas. To keep them in check, and to prevent his flank from being turned, James was obliged to weaken his centre by the detachment of a large body of his best troops.

About ten o’clock, under cover of a heavy fire from his batteries, the main body of William’s army commenced the passage of the river. They met with a stout resistance from the Irish, who fought well.

The contest continued all day with varying fortune, and it was not until night began to fall that James’s troops gave way, and poured through the Pass of Duleek in broken masses, the retreat being effectually covered by some reserve regiments of cavalry.

The Irish loss at the battle of the Boyne is generally set down at 1,500, including Lord Dungan, Lord Carlingford, and Sir Neal O’Neill; William’s at 500, including Duke Schomberg, who was the first that fell as the army crossed the ford. [For further particulars of the battle, see WILLIAM III.]

James was almost the first to convey the news of his own defeat to Dublin.

Lady Tirconnell met him on the Castle steps.

“Madame,” he is reported to have said, “your countrymen can run well.”

“If so,” replied the lady, “I see your Majesty has won the race.”

At six o’clock next morning, 2nd July, James summoned the Lord Mayor and some of the principal inhabitants to the Castle, advised them to submit to William’s army, and not to let the French troops injure the city, and made the remark, so ungracious to the representatives of a people who had staked life and property in his cause, “I never more determine to head an Irish army, and do now resolve to shift for myself, and so, gentlemen, must you.”

He then took his departure with a small retinue, and according to one account, rode through the County of Wicklow, never drawing rein until he reached the Castle of the Deeps on the Slaney, where he spent the night at the house of a Quaker.

He pressed on next day (the 3rd) to Duncannon Fort, near Waterford, where he went on board a French vessel Lauzun had in waiting for him. It is said to have sailed without even waiting to weigh anchor. [A large anchor, supposed to have been that cut away on this occasion, was dredged up in 1866, and presented to the Marquis of Abercorn, a descendant of one of James’s adherents who fled with him.]

According to other accounts James rode through from Dublin to Duncannon with but two hours’ rest at the house of a Mr. Hacket, near Arklow. In either case, from Duncannon he sailed to Kinsale, where was a small fleet of store ships and transports, in one of which he reached Brest on the 20th July.

The war in Ireland was continued another year by Sarsfield and the French general St. Ruth.

When, after the surrender of Limerick next year, nearly 30,000 Irish troops passed over to France, James reviewed them as they arrived at Vannes, and elsewhere in Brittany, thanking them for their zeal and sufferings in his service.

Although they formed part of the French army and were in French pay, the greater portion of the Irish Brigade continued nominally in James’s service, and the officers held commissions directly from him. He spent the remainder of his life at St. Germain’s, a pensioner of Louis XIV., and died 16th September 1701, aged 67.


54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

170. Ireland, History of: Richard Cox. London, 1689.

170a. Ireland, History of: Martin Haverty. Dublin, 1860.

175. Ireland, History of: Samuel Smiles, M.D. (the Invasion to 1829). London, 1844.

186. Irish Brigades in the Service of France: John C. O’Callaghan. Glasgow, 1870.

197. James II., Memoirs of, writ by his own hand: Edited by Rev. J. S. Clarke. 2 vols. London, 1816.

197a. James II.—Tracts relating to his reign in Ireland, Library. (V. kk. 38, in Library in Trinity College, Dublin.)

201a. King, William, Archbishop of Dublin: The State of the Protestants of Ireland under the late King James’s Government. London, 1691. See also No. 290.

201b. King, Archbishop, Answer to a Book of, intituled, The State of the Protestants of Ireland. (Charles Leslie, M.A.) London, 1692.

223. Macaulay, Lord: History of England, from the Accession of James II. [to 1702]. 5 vols. London, 1849–’61.

318. Story, George, Wars of Ireland, 1689–’92. 2 parts. London, 1693.