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King James' Flintlock Fowler
This firearm is on exhibit at the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum in Springfield, MO.
Bearing the royal cipher of King James II of England, this fowling piece was made in 1685 and was once in the collection of the Duke of Argyll.
James II was the last male of the Stuart line to hold the throne of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which he lost during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 after a three-year reign. The second son of Charles I, he was born at St. James Palace in London on October 14, 1633. He was eight years old when the English Civil War began in 1642, and was present at both the first and last battles of that conflict.
After the defeat of Charles I's armies and his subsequent execution at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, leader of the victorious "Roundheads" and England's Lord Protector during the Commonwealth Period, James escaped to France and served in the French armies under Louis XIV until the French government came to terms with Cromwell. He then resigned his position and traveled to Spain to serve in that country's army. Prior to the Restoration in 1660, his brother, the future Charles II, appointed him lord high admiral of the fleet.
After his return to England, James served during the Second Dutch War. He was later discouraged from going to sea due to the inability of Charles II to produce heirs to the throne, thus ensuring James's place in royal line of succession. James married Anne Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon. Although Protestant by birth and upbringing, she embraced Roman Catholicism at some point prior to her death in 1671. James converted as well, but his two daughters, the future Queens Mary and Anne, were raised in the Anglican faith by order of King Charles II.
James later married the Italian Catholic princess Mary of Modena, which made his conversion a matter of public record. After Parliament's 1673 passage of the Test Act which barred Roman Catholics from holding public office, James resigned his naval commission. Parliament attempted as well to block James' succession to the throne, but his brother Charles was able to prevent this from becoming law. In 1685 at the age of 51, James succeeded peacefully to the throne and became King James II after the death of Charles II. After defeating a rebellion led by Charles's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, James suspended the penal laws against his fellow Catholics, and appointed Catholic officers to lead an expanded army.
During this period, fear of Catholicism was widespread in England after Louis XIV's suspension of the Edict of Nantes, which had given protection to French Protestants. Parliament, fearing the possibility of Catholic domination of England's military forces, as well as what was seen as favoritism by James II toward Catholics, opposed the Crown. Consequently, James prorogued and dissolved the legislative body for the remainder of his reign. In addition, he dismissed judges and Lord Lieutenants who opposed suspension of the penal laws, and he appointed Catholics to key political and academic positions. James also sought equality for Protestant dissenters in Scotland and England, which brought further alienation of his Anglican subjects.
In 1687, James issued declarations of liberty of conscience in Scotland and of indulgence in England, and ordered that these declarations be read from all Church of England pulpits. Seven Anglican bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, urged the King to reconsider. All were charged with seditious libel and imprisoned in the Tower of London before they were later acquitted. By this time, James had lost support from nearly all segments of society. In June 1688, his Catholic second wife gave birth to a son, James Stuart (also known to history as the "Old Pretender," and father of Charles Edward Stuart, the "Young Pretender," or "Bonnie Prince Charlie").
Fearing a Catholic dynasty on the throne, many English subjects welcomed William of Orange, husband of James's Protestant daughter Mary, when he invaded the country in 1688. Although Royalist forces greatly outnumbered the invaders, many military officers, advisors, and civil servants deserted to William's banner. The "Glorious Revolution" forced James to flee to France without a shot being fired and established William and Mary as joint rulers of England. James attempted to reclaim his throne in March 1689 when, with French support, he led an army that invaded Ireland. He was defeated by William's forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and returned to France, where he died in exile in 1701.