Facts and Events
Mary of Modena (Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d'Este; – ) was Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland as the second wife of James II and VII (1633–1701). A devout Catholic, Mary married the widowed James, who was the younger brother and heir presumptive of Charles II, (1630–1685). She was uninterested in politics and devoted to James and their children, two of whom survived to adulthood: the Jacobite (previous Roman Catholic/Stuart dynasty) claimant to the thrones, James Francis Edward, (who would have become James III of England, but later in life known as "The Old Pretender"), and Louisa Maria Teresa.
Born a princess of the northwestern Italian Duchy of Modena, Mary is primarily remembered for the controversial birth of James Francis Edward, her only surviving son. It was widely rumoured that he was a "changeling", brought into the birth-chamber in a warming-pan, in order to perpetuate her husband's Catholic Stuart dynasty. Although the accusation was entirely false, and the subsequent Privy Council investigation only reaffirmed this, James Francis Edward's birth was a contributing factor to the "Glorious Revolution", the revolution which deposed James II and VII and replaced him with his Protestant eldest daughter from his first marriage to Anne Hyde, (1637–1671), Lady Mary, (later Queen Mary II). She and her husband, William III, Prince of Orange-Nassau, would reign jointly on the English Throne as "William and Mary".
Exiled to France, the "Queen over the water" — as the "Jacobites", (followers of James II and VII, Stuart dynasty claims, and generally Roman Catholics) called Mary — lived with her husband and children in the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, provided by King Louis XIV of France ("The Sun King"). Mary was popular among Louis XIV's courtiers; however, James was considered a bore. In widowhood, Mary spent much time with the nuns at the Convent of Chaillot, where she and her daughter Louisa Maria Teresa spent their summers. In 1701, when James II died, young James Francis Edward became king at age 13 in the eyes of the "Jacobites", as now "King James III and VIII". As he was too young to assume the nominal reins of government, Mary acted as his regent until he reached the age of 16. When young James Francis Edward was asked to leave France as part of the settlement from the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), Mary of Modena stayed, despite having no family there, her daughter Louisa Maria Teresa having unfortunately died of smallpox. Fondly remembered by her French contemporaries, Mary died of breast cancer in 1718.