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James Scott Monmouth, duke of

Monmouth, James Scott, duke of (mŏnˈməth) [key], 1649–85, pretender to the English throne; illegitimate son of Charles II of England by Lucy Walter. After his mother's death, he was cared for by Lord Crofts, by whose name the boy was known. In 1662, James went to live at Charles's court. Charles acknowledged him as his son, created him (1663) duke of Monmouth, and married him to Anne Scott, countess of Buccleuch, whose name James now adopted. He held military commands on the Continent (1672–74), became captain general in 1678, and defeated the Scottish Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge in 1679. Politically he became very important after feeling against the succession of the Roman Catholic duke of York (later James II) was heightened at the time of the Popish Plot agitation in 1678. The 1st earl of Shaftesbury and other supporters of a Protestant succession championed Monmouth as heir to Charles and tried in vain to get Charles to prove his son legitimate. In 1679, Charles sent both Monmouth and the duke of York into exile. When Monmouth returned without the king's permission, he was forbidden to come to court but was received enthusiastically in London and the western counties. Monmouth worked with Shaftesbury and the Whig party for the exclusion of James from the succession, and after the arrest of Shaftesbury for treason in 1681 he was heard to speak openly of rebellion. When the Rye House Plot was discovered (1683) and some of the Whig leaders were arrested, Monmouth fled to Holland. James II succeeded Charles in Feb., 1685. In June, Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis, Dorset, and raised a small force. At Taunton he was proclaimed king, and for a short time his chances for success looked very promising. But the gentry failed to come to his support, and his army was routed at Sedgemoor by James's troops, led by John Churchill (later duke of Marlborough). Monmouth was captured and beheaded in London on July 15.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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