"Now heard you much in London town about the Duke of Monmouth?"
James, Duke of Monmouth
Public DomainJames, Duke of Monmouth - Credit: William Wissing

Lucy Walter, a dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty, was an early love of Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales, while he was exiled in Europe.  She bore his son in April 1649, in Holland, and called him James.  While James was illegitimate, he was highly favoured by Charles, and publicly recognised as his son.  When James was eight years old he was removed from Lucy’s care, placed in the care of Charles’ mother, and sent to school in Paris.  Lucy died the following year, in 1658. 

Following Charles' ascension to the throne, James was made the Duke of Monmouth in 1663, at the age of fourteen.  As an illegitimate child, he had no legal claim to the crown.

When Charles finally married, his wife, Catherine of Braganza, was found to be barren: no legitimate heir would be born. Charles’ brother James, Duke of York, was therefore next in line for the throne. However, many of England’s Parliamentarians favoured Monmouth, a Protestant and a distinguished soldier, over the Catholic and pro-French Duke of York. 

Monmouth was implicated in the Rye House plot to assassinate his father and the Duke of York in 1683, and was sent into exile in the Dutch United Provinces.