Unpopular monarch. Born in St. James Palace, London, James was the second son of King Charles I, for most of his life he was known as the Duke of York. His older brother King Charles II gave him the former Dutch colonies in the Americas, part of which was named New York in his honour. He succeeded his brother to the throne in 1685.
James had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1668, and married the devoutly Catholic Mary of Modena (1673). These acts, together with his autocratic behaviour, made him very unpopular. However, he had allowed his daughter Mary to marry the Protestant William of Orange and the couple became heirs presumptive. When a son was born (James Frances Edward Stuart) who would have become heir ahead of Mary, events came to a head and James was deposed and exiled (1689).
James tried to restore his reign by landing in Ireland, but this ended unsuccessfully at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), an event still prominent in Northern Ireland politics today. Attempts at restoration continued as the Jacobite Cause, personified by James' son the Old Pretender, and his grandson Bonnie Prince Charlie.
James died in St. Germain-en-Laye (France) where he is buried. By the end of his life, he had fathered some 24 children.