Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
Mary of Modena lived from 5 October 1658 to 7 May 1718. Also known as Queen Mary of England, Scotland and Ireland she became the second wife and Queen Consort of James VII/II and was the mother of James Francis Edward Stuart, the "Old Pretender". The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Born Mary Beatrice Eleanor Anne Margaret Isabel d'Este, Mary was the eldest child and only daughter of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena and his wife, the former Laura Martinozzi. On 20 September 1673 Mary was married by proxy in a Catholic ceremony to James, Duke of York, later to be James VII/II. On 21 November 1673 they were married in person in a Protestant ceremony in England. Mary was James' second wife. His first wife Anne Hyde had died leaving him with two Protestant daughters, Mary (later Queen Mary II) and Anne (later Queen Anne).
Mary of Modena was viewed by many English Protestants as an agent of Pope Clement X, who had been instrumental in effecting her introduction to James. James' recent conversion to Catholicism had dismayed many of his subjects, and his marriage to Mary was seen by many as a prelude to the reversal of the Reformation and the re-establishment of Great Britain as a Catholic nation.
Mary and James had a number of stillborn children, but on 10 June 1688, Mary gave birth to a healthy boy, James Francis Edward Stuart who, all else being equal, would in due course succeed James VII/II as James VIII/III. All else was not equal, however, and the prospect of a Catholic Stuart dynasty spurred the Protestants into action. On 30 June 1688 a group of Protestant nobles asked William, Prince of Orange, by now married to James' elder daughter Mary, to come to England with an army to overthrow James. James was confident he would prevail, and turned down offers of military assistance from Louis XIV of France. But when William of Orange landed in Brixham in south west England on 5 November 1588 at the start of the "Glorious Revolution", much of James' army switched allegiance to him; and even James' younger daughter Anne came out in support of William and Mary.
On 10 December 1688 Mary of Modena fled to France with her son James. The following day James VII/II tried to follow. He was caught in Kent, but William allowed him to leave on 23 December 1688. James was welcomed by Louis XIV, who offered him a palace and a large pension. James and Mary had one further child, Princess Louisa Maria, who died of smallpox at the age of nineteen. Their son, James Francis Edward Stuart would become the figurehead of decades of Jacobite rebellion in Britain, and in Scotland in particular, that would only end at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Mary herself died at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris in 1718.