Is There A Case For James II?

What was the “black thing” that palsied the character of the brave but highly unpopular monarch who was dethroned in 1688? Maurice Ashley queries a poisoned historical legacy.

James II and VII. Portrait by Peter Lely
James II and VII. Portrait by Peter Lely

James II is generally considered to have been one of the worst of English kings. Recently, two American historians have incidentally had something to say in his defence. But in earlier times, virtually the only apologists for this Stuart ruler have been Roman Catholic writers; and since James himself was a very zealous Roman Catholic, their work has been suspected of being partial.

Yet in the twentieth century we are no longer so easily persuaded by “the Whig interpretation of history” as our grandfathers were—though there are revivalists on the move; and certainly among historical characters, James II is a typical victim of the Whig interpretation. Let us consider what that interpretation was and whether it deserves modification.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week