Practically everyone in England hated James II. He was wildly unpopular. He had fathered two grown daughters before he became king and they were duly raised as good Protestants. Then he had the temerity to convert to Catholicism. Everyone suspected it, but when he married Italian princess, Mary of Modena, it was pretty much confirmed. Solid Protestant England was beside itself. They were convinced James was trying to overthrow the Church of England and bring England back into the Roman fold. The only saving grace was James’ two daughters by his marriage to Anne Hyde were Protestant. His eldest daughter, Mary, was married to William of Orange, another good Protestant. At their wedding, her uncle Charles II practically oversaw the consummation of the marriage, instructing his young nephew in law, “Now nephew, to your work! Hey! St. George for England!” The two young people were said to not like each other very much, and Mary cried for two days when told she was marrying William. Be that as it may, the English people only had to wait out James until he died then they could get back to business without worrying about converting back to Rome.
Then James’ new wife Mary of Modena got pregnant. This was after a trip to the spas at Bath, and rumors went round that it was a “suppositious baby” and James was not the father. They had been married for over ten years and nothing, and now she turns up pregnant? The public tried to console themselves. However, Mary defied the odds and gave birth to a living healthy boy. The happy couple named him James Francis Edward Stuart. At any other time, the birth of a healthy prince would have been cause for celebration, but this time it was a calamity. The boy’s Italian mother and Catholic father would ensure the prince was brought up in the Catholic Church. England was as good as back in the Roman fold if something was not done and done quickly. And out of necessity and elaborate theory was born.
Rumors ran wild that Mary of Modena had not give birth to a healthy boy, but to a stillborn child. Then who was the new prince in the nursery? A imposter smuggled in from a common mother in a warming pan. If you’ve seen a 17th century warming pan, it is impossible to see how a baby could possibly fit let alone be smuggled in. Trying to cram a crying newborn into a cold metal pan doesn’t sound like a quiet affair. Someone would have noticed. James II was outraged and eventually produced up to forty witnesses to his son’s birth, however, the rumors persisted. Mary and William were particularly fond of the story and were said to encourage its spread. Elaborate maps were drawn showing how the baby was smuggled into the palace. It was decided that the Home Secretary would attend all births of the Prince of Wales to stop these kinds of rumors from getting started. That sounds like a fun time for all involved.
However, what was to do with little James Francis Edward Stuart? Well, he was overthrown. The ‘Immortal Seven’ wrote to William and Mary begging them to come over from Holland and save them from the evils of Catholicism. Thus began the Glorious Revolution, and we would have to wait to hear what would happen to little James and his future progeny in another post. (Hint. It’s in this post:http://www.historynaked.com/james-francis-edward-stuart/)
Sources available on request