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Mary of Modena


About Mary of Modena:

Known for: second (and Roman Catholic) wife of James II of Great Britain; mother of James II "The Old Pretender"; convincing her husband to flee England during the Glorious Revolution.
Occupation: Queen consort to Britain's James
Dates: September 25 (or October 5?), 1658 - May 7, 1718
Also known as: Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d'Este

Mary of Modena Biography:

Mary of Modena was the daughter of Alofonso IV of Modena and the duchess Laura. Mary was the second wife of James II of Great Britain. There were no surviving sons of his first marriage.

Mary of Modena was a Roman Catholic, raising suspicion that she would raise any children as Catholics, and British succession excluded Roman Catholics from the throne. Thus, the prospect of Mary bearing a male heir raised fears about the restoration of Roman Catholicism. The close association of Mary of Modena with the French and with the Jesuit order was also unpopular among the British populace.

The first five children of Mary of Modena and James II were stillborn or did not survive long. Finally, on June 10, 1688, Mary bore a living son, James. However, rumors circulated widely that the child was a changeling or substitute who would ensure a restoration of Roman Catholicism.

Whig aristocrats plotted to remove James II from power and to prevent his son from succeeding. The coup took place in 1688 without bloodshed. Mary of Modena fled to Paris with her son. Mary is also credited with convincing her husband to flee England as well, thus ensuring his defeat.

The Whigs invited Mary II, the daughter of James II by his first wife, with her husband and cousin, William of Orange, to assume the throne of England.

In exile, Mary of Modena and James II had one more child, a daughter. After her husband's death, she convinced the king of France to recognize her son as the rightful king of England, leading to the War of the Spanish Succession.

Mary of Modena died in May of 1718 of cancer. Her tomb was destroyed in the French Revolution.


Modena, Italy; England; France


Roman Catholic

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