THE DUKE OF MONMOUTH 1649 -
AND THE MONMOUTH REBELLION 1685 (J2)
Commander: by the Dutch painter Jan Wyck (1644-
The Battle of
xxxxxThe Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, was a Protestant and seen as heir to the throne by those who opposed the succession of the king’s brother, the Roman Catholic Duke of York. Indeed in 1679 the Whigs tried to rule out the Duke of York by their Exclusion Bill, and in 1683 (C2) the Rye House Plot attempted to kill both the king and his brother. When the duke, as James II, eventually came to the throne in 1685, Monmouth landed in Dorset from the continent, but he received only limited and untrained support. He took Taunton, where he was proclaimed king, and then, confronted by the royalist army in a marshy area known as Sedgemoor, decided on a night attack. It failed. His small cavalry force deserted him, his foot soldiers became bogged down and were quickly overpowered, and Monmouth himself was captured. He was beheaded a few days later. The Monmouth Rebellion was over.
xxxxxJames Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, (also called James Fitzroy and James Crofts), was the illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter. He was born in Rotterdam and spent his early life on the continent, not coming to England until 1662. When he did so, the king acknowledged him as his son and made him the Duke of Monmouth. He married the countess of Buccleuch the following year, and it was then that he adopted her surname of Scott. He served his father well, first as captain of the king's troop and then, from 1678, as captain general of the armed forces.
xxxxxAs a Protestant and a son of the king -
xxxxxWhen James eventually came to the throne in February 1685, Monmouth (illustrated) made another and, as it proved, final attempt, to seize the crown -
xxxxxIncidentally, the English writer Daniel Defoe took an active part in the rebellion and managed to escape after the Battle of Sedgemoor -
xxxxx...... A story goes that after the Duke of Monmouth was beheaded, his head was sewn back on so that his portrait could be painted!
xxxxxThe man charged with conducting the trials of those accused of complicity in the rebellion was Judge Jeffreys, lord chief justice of England. He had already earned a reputation for his ruthless regard for the law, and for the severity of his sentences -
xxxxxGeorge Jeffreys (c1644-
xxxxxOn the accession of James II he continued his loyalty towards the crown, and was made Baron Jeffreys of Wem. After the bloody assizes, he was appointed Lord Chancellor and in this office he defended the king's pro-
xxxxxThe extremely harsh punishment meted out to Monmouth and his Protestant supporters via the Bloody Assizes did nothing to endear the new king to the vast majority of his people. Furthermore, the victory of the royalist forces gave James the impression that his throne was relatively secure. As we shall see, nothing was further from the truth.
xxxxxIncidentally, the executioner who beheaded the Duke of Monmouth was an Englishman (or possibly an Irishman) called Jack (John) Ketch (died 1686). He was renowned for his appalling lack of skill. It is said, for example, that it took three blows to behead Lord Russell -
xxxxxThe lord chief justice of England, Judge Jeffreys (c1644-