Earl of Doncaster - The Duke of Monmouth


The Earl of Doncaster 


The Duke of Monmouth (1649 - 1685)

Duke of Monmouth As stated previously, James Scott (nee Crofts) was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on April 9, 1649 where his father, King Charles II was living in exile.


It is commonly believed that he was the favourite illegitimate son of Charles Stuart and his mistress Lucy Walter.


(My, how they changed surnames back then - a bit like Mrs gets divorced and becomes Ms, or those ridiculous double-barrelled names that are now so common in the UK).


But legend has it that James was raised by Lord John Crofts, a friend of Charles II or possibly Lucy Walter (apparently she had a lot of "friends").


Anyway, he was bought to England when he was 14 and married off to Anne Scott, who is reported to have been 12 years old. Their wedding present was to be 'created' as the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch (Buck-lew).


In 1665, at the age of 16, Monmouth served in the English fleet under his uncle the Duke of York in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Later in the war, he returned to England to assume his first military command as commander of a troop of cavalry. In 1669 he was made colonel of the King's Life Guards, one of the most senior appointments in the army. When the Captain-General of the army, George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, died in 1670, Monmouth became the senior officer in the army at the age of 21.


At the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, a brigade of 6,000 British troops was sent to serve as part of the French army (in return for money paid to King Charles), with Monmouth as its commander. In the campaign of 1673 and in particular at the Siege of Maastricht, Monmouth gained a considerable reputation as one of Britain's finest soldiers.


In 1674 Monmouth was made 'Commander in Chief' of the army; gaining great respect as a soldier among the English people.


In 1678 Monmouth was commander of the Anglo-Dutch brigade, now fighting for the United Provinces against the French (we knew how to change sides, didn't we..). He distinguished himself at the battle of St Denis, further increasing his reputation.


The following year, after his return to Britain, he commanded the small army raised to put down the rebellion of the Covenanters. Despite being heavily outnumbered, he decisively defeated the poorly equipped Covenanter rebels at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on June 22, 1679. By this time it was becoming apparent that Charles II would have no legitimate heir, and Monmouth was regarded by many as preferable to the Duke of York (later to become King James II).


A staunch Protestant, Monmouth was banished from Court in 1683, having been implicated in a series of plots against his father, who was promoting pro-Catholic policies, and his uncle, King James II, who was openly Catholic. Following the discovery of the so-called Rye House Plot Monmouth was obliged to go into exile in the Dutch United Provinces.


When the succession to the throne was raised, Charles II affirmed that he never married Lucy Walter and deprived the Duke of Monmouth of many of his posts.


Charles II died in February 1685 and his brother James II succeeded him. Scott finally led the "Monmouth Rebellion" an attempt to take the throne from his uncle James and proclaimed himself King, with the view that he had a legitimate right to succeed his father. Scott landed with somewhere between 81 and 4000 troops (depends on which account you read) near Lyme Regis in Dorset on 11th June 1685.


He declared himself King on June 20 at Taunton in Somerset. On July 6 1685 the two armies met at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the second last to be fought on English soil. Monmouth made an foolish attack against the Kings forces but his makeshift force could not compete with the regular army, and was soundly defeated. Ironically the royalist cavalry were said to be commanded* by the man who saved his life at Maastricht, Lord John Churchill, who in 1702 was created as the 1st Duke of Marlborough.


Monmouth fled the battlefield and was found three days later hiding in a ditch near Ringwood in the New Forest. Following this, Parliament passed an Act of Attainder (stripping away his English titles). He was executed on July 15, 1685 (aged 36), on Tower Hill. It is reported that it took between 4 and 8 blows of the axe to sever his head. His body was interred in St. Peter's Chapel.


Have a look at his Timeline.


His followers were brutally suppressed, in part by the infamous Judge Jeffries, who presided over peremptory trials of rebels and their sympathizers. So ferocious were the reprisals that Jeffries' court became known as the Bloody Assizes.


His English dukedom of Monmouth and all subsidiary titles were forfeited, but these titles were restored to the 2nd Duke of Buccleuch in 1743 (everything but "The Duke of Monmouth" as there was now an "Earl of Monmouth").


Stranger than fiction..

According to legend, a portrait was painted of Monmouth after his execution. The tradition states that someone realised after the execution that there was no official portrait of the Duke - for a son of a King, and someone who had claimed the throne, albeit in vain, this was unheard of.


So his body was exhumed, the head stitched back on the body, and it was sat for its portrait to be painted. However, there is at least one formal portrait of Monmouth tentatively dated to before his death currently in the National Portrait Gallery in London, and another painting once identified with Monmouth that shows a sleeping or dead man that could have given rise to the story.


Believe this - if you want..

The dubious theory that the Duke of Monmouth was in fact The Man in the Iron Mask seems to be based on the reasoning that James II would not execute his own nephew; someone else was executed instead and James II arranged for Monmouth to be taken to France and put in the custody of his cousin Louis XIV of France.


* The actual army commander was the 2nd Earl of Feversham but there is some dispute as to exactly where he was at the time of the battle.
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