The Last Years of James II

Edward Corp looks at the life of a monarch in exile.

James II in 1685

There are many biographies of James II, but not one of them deals properly with the last part of his life. For eleven years, from his defeat at the Boyne in July 1690 until his death in September 1701, James II lived at Saint-Germain-en-Laye (near Versailles) in one of the most spectacular royal palaces of the Baroque period. It is extraordinary that the last years of any British king, and particularly one whose life is quite well documented, should have received such little attention from generations of British historians. In the most successful biography of James, republished in 2000, 122 pages are devoted to the eight years from 1682 to 1690, while a mere six-and-a-half are given to the last eleven years. At the tercentenary of the King’s death, it is surely time to take a closer look at the life that James led in France.

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