James, Duke of York, later James II, 1633-1701

Oval miniature in watercolour in a gilt metal oval display frame, velvet-backed, with a suspension ring and a scroll label below, engraved with the black-lettered title 'JAMES 2nd' . It is also signed with monogram initials and dated,'SC / 167...', lower right. The last number is trimmed off but it must be 1670-72 since Cooper died in the latter year. The sitter is shown bust length against a two-toned, stormy blue sky background, turned to his left but looking toward the viewer. He is in armour, with a white lace cravat and the blue sash of the Garter across the body over his left shoulder. He has blue-grey eyes and wears a light-brown loosely combed full-bottomed wig. James was second surviving son of Charles I and his French Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria (sister of Louis XIII of France). With Royalist defeat in the English Civil War, and their father's execution in 1649, he and his brothers lived as exiles in France, the Dutch Republic and Germany. During this time James proved a brave and effective soldier in both the French and Spanish armies, and saw action at the Battle of the Dunes. After the Stuart Restoration in 1660, he resumed his position of Lord High Admiral (originally conferred in 1638), and played an active role in naval matters. He personally led the fleet at the victorious Battle of Lowestoft in June 1665, in the Second Dutch War, where Sir John Narborough recalled him as 'one of the greatest princes in the world for resolution'. On the capture of New Amsterdam in the same war it was renamed New York in his honour. James was also directly involved in attempts to increase English trade, becoming governor of the Royal Fisheries Company and the Company of Royal Adventurers trading into Africa – largely for slaves and gold. In 1673, by which time he was an open Catholic, the Test Act debarred them from public office and forced his resignation as Lord High Admiral. On succeeding his brother Charles as king in 1685 he was immediately faced with the attempt to overthrow him by his staunchly Protestant nephew, Charles's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. This was quickly and ruthlessly crushed but James's campaign to re-introduce Catholics into positions of authority, against advice, soon made him distrusted. Charles, who had characterized his stubborn inflexibility as 'la sottise de mon frère' (the stupidity of my brother), had predicted that if James became king he would not remain so for more than four years. He lasted only three: in 1688, a highly placed Protestant cabal - fearing a new civil war - engineered the almost bloodless 'Glorious Revolution' which replaced him with his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, Prince William of Orange, as joint monarchs William III and Mary II. James's attempts to dislodge them, aided by Louis XIV of France, soon failed and he died in exile in France in 1701. Plots none the less continued around both his son and grandson, the Old and Young Pretenders (Prince James Stuart and his son, Charles Edward, known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'), until the 'Jacobite' cause was extinguished at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Samuel Cooper, the leading English miniaturist of his time, was nephew and pupil of John Hoskins the elder. He worked in London in the 1640s and 1650s, where his clients included Oliver Cromwell and other Parliamentarians, whom he often portrayed in armour. Following the Restoration, Cooper undertook numerous studies of Charles II, and in 1663 was appointed King’s Limner. The Museum also has a Cooper miniature of Charles (MNT0188) and the fact that both are in similar 'Buccleuch' frames make them look like a pair, though not made as such. This one seems to have been slightly trimmed to match the dimensions of the other. Both are from a group of miniatures acquired for the Museum by Sir James Caird in 1941, from the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

Object Details

ID: MNT0191
Collection: Fine art
Type: Miniature
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Cooper, Samuel
Date made: 1670s; 1670-1672 1670-72
Exhibition: Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames
People: King James II and VII
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 78 x 64 mm; Box: 930 mm x 230 mm x 95 mm

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