by Susan Flantzer
© Unofficial Royalty 2023
James Stuart, Duke of Cambridge was born at St. James’s Palace in London, England on July 12, 1663. He was the third of the eight children and the second of the four sons of the future King James II of England, who was then Duke of York, and his first wife Anne Hyde. James’ paternal grandparents were King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. His maternal grandparents were Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon and his second wife Frances Aylesbury.
At the time of his birth, James was the second son but the first surviving son. His elder brother Charles, Duke of Cambridge died from smallpox when he was seven months old and so James’ birth was cause for great celebration. He was christened on July 22, 1663, at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace by Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury.
James’ godparents were:
- King Charles II of England, his paternal uncle
- Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, his maternal grandfather
- Queen Mother Henrietta Maria, his paternal grandmother
James did not survive childhood and neither did five of his seven siblings:
James’ uncle King Charles II of England created his one-year-old nephew Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Cambridge, and Baron of Dauntsey on August 23, 1664. In an extraordinary ceremony, three-year-old James, was created a Knight of the Order of the Garter on December 3, 1666. Little James was escorted into King Charles II’s private quarters by his 17-year-old first cousin, Charles II’s illegitimate son James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, and the Lord Chamberlain, Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester. James knelt before King Charles II who put the necklace of the Order of the Garter around his neck and then King Charles II’s first cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine put the sash on little James.
Already James, Duke of Cambridge was being treated as the heir to the throne after his father, the future King James II. King Charles II had married Catherine of Braganza in 1662, and four years later, their marriage was still childless. By this time King Charles II had ten illegitimate children so the issue was not with him. In May 1665, King Charles II issued letters patent granting James, Duke of Cambridge a yearly pension of £3,000, an immense amount of money.
In late April 1667, James became ill, probably from an infectious disease that developed complications. On May 22, 1667, James’ ten-month-old brother Charles, Duke of Kendal, who was similarly ill, died at St. James’s Palace. After the death of his brother Charles, James was transferred to the residence of his grandmother Queen Mother Henrietta Maria, Richmond Palace in Surrey, nine miles/fourteen kilometers up the River Thames from London. By June 9, 1667, James was feeling much better and was expected to survive. However, within days, James took a turn for the worse. On June 20, 1667, James Stuart, Duke of Cambridge, who would have been four years old on July 12, died.
James’ death shocked his family and the subjects of King Charles II. Because his uncle King Charles II had no legitimate children and his father the future King James II had no living sons, James’ death was considered the death of the House of Stuart. However, the House of Stuart would whimper along until 1714. The last Protestant Stuarts, James’ first cousin King William III who had married James’ sister Queen Mary II (who had three miscarriages) and James’ sister Queen Anne and her husband Prince George of Denmark (who had had seventeen pregnancies with only five children being born alive all who died in childhood) failed to provide Protestant heirs and the House of Stuart did die.
James’ remains lay in the Palace of Westminster until the burial at Westminster Abbey on June 26, 1667. He was buried in a vault under the monument to his great-great-grandmother Mary, Queen of Scots in the south aisle of the Henry VII Chapel. His Latin epitaph describes him as “the most illustrious Prince James, Duke of Cambridge, second son and heir of the most powerful Prince James, Duke of York, who reposed in the King’s Hall of Richmond on the twentieth day of his fourth year, in the year 1667 of the birth of Christ”.
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