2nd Wife of King James II: Mary of Modena

Mary Beatrice d’Este was born on the 5th October 1658 at the Ducal Palace of Modena in Italy, to parents Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena and Laura Martinozzi.  Mary Beatrice; a descendant of the Bourbon royal family of France and the Medici family of Italy.

In 1669, James (James II), Duke of York, a Roman Catholic and younger brother to King Charles II and heir to the English throne, proposed marriage.

On the 30th September 1673 Mary Beatrice and James, Duke of York, were married by proxy in Modena, and married in person on the 23rd November 1673, and had two children who survived infancy; James and Louise Maria.

In 1688, the Popish Plot, headed by Anthony Ashley Cooper, was aimed at excluding the Catholic, Duke of York, his rightful successor to the English throne.

James and Mary Beatrice were forced into exile in Brussels.  Returning when Charles II was taken ill, fearing James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, would seize the throne… fortunately Charles recovered.

James and Mary, were sent to Edinburgh by Charles, and resided at Holyrood House.

In 1683, the Rye House Plot, was aimed at the assassination of King Charles II and his brother James, and Monmouth would become Lord Protector of England.

In 1684, James was re-admitted to the Privy Council.

King Charles II died on the 6th February 1685, and Charles and Mary were crowned on the 23rd April.

On the 19th July 1687, Mary’s mother, Laura the Duchess of Modena died.

Catherine Sedley, one time mistress of James II, and mother to two of his illegitimate children, had an affair tolerated by Mary.  However, James went one step too far, making her the Countess of Dorchester.

Mary threatened to renounce her throne, and go into a convent, unless he rid himself of her.  Mary won, Catherine Sedley was banished to Ireland, for the duration of her life, with a comfortable pension.

William of Orange, supported by Protestants in England, landed at Torbay in Devon on the 5th November 1688.  Plymouth fell to William, and many switched allegiance from James to William.

With his Queen in France, James chose to leave his throne, he had abdicated, reaching France on Christmas Day 1688.

William and Mary accepted the English throne in 1689.

James II, sought to recover the English throne, but after being defeated at the “Battle of the Boyne,” in Ireland in 1690, accepted the inevitable.

On the 6th September 1701, James, the former King James II of England died, and was buried at St.Germaine.

Mary received a request from Scotland, to surrender the custody of her son; James Francis Edward over to them, and agree to his conversion to Protestantism.  The first step in him succeeding to the English throne on William III’s death.

William III died in March 1702, and Lord Lovat begged Mary to release her son, and come to Scotland.  A rising had been planned of 15,000 soldiers, seizing the throne for James Francis Edward.  Mary refused… the uprising never got started.

Mary entered the Convent of the Visitations, Chaillot, on the outskirts of Paris, where she would live out the rest of her days, in near poverty.

On the 7th May 1718, she passed away, and was buried at Chaillot.  Her tomb was destroyed, during the French Revolution.

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