Monmouth, James, Duke of

Monmouth, James, Duke of reputed natural son of king Charles II of England, deserves a place here for the part he had in the agitation provoked by the Romish Titus Oates plot, and for his relation to the Scotch Covenanters. He was born at Rotterdam in 1649, and was brought to England by his mother, Lucy Walters, in 1656, during the Commonwealth. They were both imprisoned for a time, but finally James was intrusted to the care of a nobleman, and on the Restoration was handsomely provided for by the court. He had scarcely completed his sixteenth year when he was married to a woman selected for him at court, and was then created duke of Monmouth. About 1670 he was put forward by lord Shaftesbury as the crown rival of the duke of York (later James II, q.v.), and during the revelations of the Titus Oates plot (1678), when the feeling against Romanists and all who favored them ran high, public opinion was so decidedly in his favor, and so indignant against the duke of York, that the latter was compelled to quit the kingdom; and a bill was brought forward by Parliament for excluding the duke of York from the succession; but Charles suddenly dissolved it, and a document was at the same time issued by the king, solemnly declaring that he had never been married to Lucy Walters. Monmouth himself was sent into Scotland in 1679 to quell the rebellion. He defeated the Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge; but his humanity to the fleeing and wounded was so conspicuous, and his recommendations to pardon the prisoners were so urgent, as to bring upon him the violent censures of the king and of Lauderdale. He thus became the idol of the English Nonconformists. The return of the duke of York and the exile of Monmouth having followed, the latter went to Holland, and allied himself with the leaders of the Nonconformist party, exiled like himself; and when he was allowed to return to London, he was received with such demonstrations of joy that Monmouth felt that he was the people's choice. In 1680 he made a semi- royal progress through the west of England, with the design, probably, of courting the Nonconformists, who were more numerous there than in any other part of the country, except London and Essex. In 1682 he traversed some of the northern counties. The king and his brother were alarmed; and Monmouth was arrested at Stafford, and bound over to keep the peace. He meanly confessed his participation in the Rye-House plot, accusing himself and others of a design to seize the king's person, and subvert his government. The king pardoned him, on his solemn promise to be a loyal subject' to the duke of York, in case the latter should survive the king. In 1684 Monmouth fled to Antwerp, and remained abroad until the death of the king, when he embarked for England, landed (June 11, 1685) at Lyme- Regis, and issued a manifesto declaring James to be a murderer and usurper, charging him with introducing popery and arbitrary power, and asserting his own legitimacy and right by blood to be king of England. He was received with great acclamations at Taunton, where he was proclaimed as king. At Frome he heard the news of the defeat of Argyle, who, at the head of the Scottish exiles, had attempted to raise an insurrection in Scotland. Money and men were now abundant; but arms were lacking, and thousands went home for want of them. On July 5 he was persuaded, with only 2500 foot and 600 horse, to attack the king's forces, which, under the command of the earl of Feversham, were encamped at Sedgemoor, near Bridgewater. Monmouth lost ground, and, having himself set a cowardly example of flight, his troops were slaughtered like sheep. About 300 of his followers fell in the battle; but 1000 were massacred in the pursuit. Monmouth was found concealed in a ditch, and was brought to London. He made the most humiliating submissions, and obtained a personal interview with James. "He clung," says Macaulay, "in agonies of supplication round the knees of the stern uncle he had wronged, and tasted a bitterness worse than that of death, the bitterness of knowing that he had humbled himself in vain." Even his prayer for "one day more," that he might "go out of the world as a Christian ought," was brutally refused. On July 15 he was brought to the scaffold, and beheaded on Tower Hill; the executioner performing his office so unskillfully that five blows were struck before the head was severed. See Robert, Life of Duke of Monmouth (1844); the histories of Macaulay, Hume, and Lingard; Stoughton, Eccles. Hist. since the Restoration; Chambers, Cyclop. s.v. and the article JAMES II in this Cyclopaedia.

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