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Once Thought to be James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch, painted after his execution as a deathbed portrait | by lisby1
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Once Thought to be James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch, painted after his execution as a deathbed portrait

James Crofts, later James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and 1st Duke of Buccleuch PC (9 April 1649 – 15 July 1685), was an English nobleman. He was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter, who had followed him into continental exile after the execution of Charles's father, Charles I. Monmouth was executed in 1685 after making an unsuccessful attempt to depose James II, commonly called the Monmouth Rebellion. Declaring himself the legitimate King, Monmouth attempted to capitalise on his position as the son (albeit illegitimate) of Charles II, and his Protestantism, in opposition to James, who was Catholic.

 

Lucy Walter had almost as bad a reputation as the prince himself, and it is not at all certain that Charles was the natural father of James. According to biographical research of Hugh Noel Williams,[1] on 9 April 1649 Lucy Walter gave birth to James, whom Charles II (who was Lucy's lover in those months) acknowledged as his; however Charles had not arrived at The Hague until the middle of September 1648, which meant Monmouth may not actually have been sired by Charles II. Instead, Lucy Walter had in the summer of 1648 been mistress of Colonel Robert Sidney, a younger son of the Earl of Leicester. Serious doubts about Monmouth's real paternity arose within days of his birth and, according to contemporaries' observations[citation needed], when Monmouth grew to manhood, he bore a much stronger resemblance to Robert Sidney than he did to his reputed father. It also was claimed that Monmouth was much too good-looking to be the biological son of Charles[citation needed]. If Monmouth was Sidney's son, then his uncles included Algernon Sydney and Henry Sydney, and an ancestral uncle had been the poet Philip Sidney.

 

Nonetheless, the child was acknowledged by Charles and was the eldest of 14 children fathered by the king outside of wedlock. There were rumours that Charles and Lucy did marry, secretly, which would have made James the true and legitimate heir to the throne.[2] However, as King, Charles later testified in writing to his Council that he had never been married to anyone except his queen.[3] Whatever the truth, Charles recognised James as his son, but did not make him his heir. After succeeding to the throne, Charles married the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza; by this time Lucy Walter was dead. James acquired his original surname from William Crofts, 1st Baron Crofts, who was entrusted with the care of the infant, who was passed off as Croft's nephew.

 

In 1663, at the age of 14, shortly after having been brought to England, James was created Duke of Monmouth with the subsidiary titles of Earl of Doncaster and Baron Scott of Tynedale, all three in the Peerage of England, and married off to the wealthy Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch. The day after his marriage, they were made Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Although he showed no aptitude for government, Monmouth, as he continued to be called, was popular, particularly since he was a Protestant, whereas the official heir to the throne, the brother of Charles II, James, Duke of York, became a Roman Catholic in 1668.

 

In 1665, at the age of 16, Monmouth served in the English fleet under his uncle the Duke of York in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Later in the war, he returned to England to assume his first military command as commander of a troop of cavalry. In 1669 he was made colonel of the King's Life Guards, one of the most senior appointments in the army. When the Captain General of the army, George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, died in 1670, Monmouth became the senior officer in the army at the age of 21. At the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, a brigade of 6,000 British troops was sent to serve as part of the French army (in return for money paid to King Charles), with Monmouth as its commander. In the campaign of 1673 and in particular at the Siege of Maastricht, Monmouth gained a considerable reputation as one of Britain's finest soldiers.

 

In 1678 Monmouth was commander of the Anglo-Dutch brigade, now fighting for the United Provinces against the French. He distinguished himself at the battle of St Denis, further increasing his reputation. The following year, after his return to Britain, he commanded the small army raised to put down the rebellion of the Scottish Covenanters. Despite being heavily outnumbered, he decisively defeated the (admittedly poorly equipped) Covenanter rebels at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679. By this time it was becoming apparent that Charles II would have no legitimate heir, and Monmouth was regarded by many as preferable to the Duke of York.

 

Following the discovery of the so-called Rye House Plot in 1683, Monmouth was obliged to go into exile in the Dutch United Provinces (Violet Wyndham gives the date of his exile as 1679). On his father's death in 1685 Monmouth led the "Monmouth Rebellion", landing with three ships at Lyme Regis in Dorset in an attempt to take the throne from his uncle. He declared himself King and was crowned in Chard[4] and was the subject of more coronations in Taunton 20 June 1685 and Bridgwater. On 6 July 1685 the two armies met at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the second to last fought on English soil. Monmouth's makeshift force could not compete with the regular army, and was soundly defeated. Monmouth himself was captured and arrested in Dorset. Following this, Parliament passed an Act of Attainder, 1 Ja. II c. 2.[5] Despite begging for mercy, he was executed by Jack Ketch on 15 July 1685, on Tower Hill. It is said that it took multiple blows of the axe to sever his head (though some sources say it took eight blows, the official Tower of London website says it took five blows,[6] while Charles Spencer, in his book Blenheim, claims it was seven[7]). One of his co-conspirators was Thomas Chamberlain of Oddington, from the family of Tankerville, Gloucestershire, and Barons of Wyckham: in lieu of beheading he was transported to Virginia and there served in the Army.

 

His dukedoms of Monmouth and Buccleuch were forfeited, but the subsidiary titles of the dukedom of Monmouth were later restored to the Duke of Buccleuch.

 

His marriage to Anne Scott resulted in the birth of eight children:

 

* Charles Scott, Earl of Doncaster (24 August 1672 – 9 February 1673/1674).

* James Scott, Earl of Dalkeith (23 May 1674 – 14 March 1705). He was married on 2 January 1693/1694 to Henrietta Hyde, daughter of Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester. They were parents to Francis Scott, 2nd Duke of Buccleuch.

* Lady Anne Scott (17 February 1675 – 13 August 1685).

* Henry Scott, 1st Earl of Deloraine (1676 – 25 December 1730).

* Francis Scott (1678 – buried 8 December 1679).

* Lady Isabella Scott (d. 18 February 1748).

* Lady Charlotte Scott (buried 5 September 1683).

* Richard Scott, Earl of Winserton (d. 14 August 1739)

 

His affair with mistress Eleanor Needham, daughter of Sir Robert Needham of Lambeth resulted in the birth of three children:

 

* James Crofts (died March, 1732, Major General)

* Henriette Crofts (c. 1682 – 27 February 1730). She was married around 1697 to Charles Paulet, 2nd Duke of Bolton.

* Isabel Crofts (died young).

 

Toward the end of his life he conducted an affair with Henrietta, Baroness Wentworth.

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Taken on September 23, 2008