Diary of King James II - His Coronation
King James Becomes King
THAT Even though he was a man who had been living in the shadows of his older brother, King Charles, he eventually became King in 1685. His brother's death, who died of heart attack, enabled him to become a ruler of all England. Here's what he wrote in his diary the day of his coronation:
4 February 1685
‘EVEN THOUGH I went to London, hearing his Majesty had been the Monday before (2d February) surprised in his bedchamber with an apoplectic fit, so that if, by God’s providence, Dr. King (that excellent chirurgeon as well as physician) had not been accidentally present to let him bleed (having his lancet in his pocket), his Majesty had certainly died that moment; which might have been of direful consequence, there being nobody else present with the King save this Doctor and one more, as I am assured. It was a mark of the extraordinary dexterity, resolution, and presence of mind in the Doctor, to let him bleed in the very paroxysm, without staying the coming of other physicians, which regularly should have been done, and for want of which he must have a regular pardon, as they tell me.
This rescued his Majesty for the instant, but it was only a short reprieve. He still complained, and was relapsing, often fainting, with sometimes epileptic symptoms, till Wednesday, for which he was cupped, let bleed in both jugulars, and both vomit and purges, which so relieved him, that on Thursday hopes of recovery were signified in the public “Gazette,” but that day about noon, the physicians thought him feverish. This they seemed glad of, as being more easily allayed and methodically dealt with than his former fits; so as they prescribed the famous Jesuit’s powder; but it made him worse, and some very able doctors who were present did not think it a fever, but the effect of his frequent bleeding and other sharp operations used by them about his head, so that probably the powder might stop the circulation, and renew his former fits, which now made him very weak.
Thus he passed Thursday night with great difficulty, when complaining of a pain in his side, they drew twelve ounces more of blood from him; this was by six in the morning on Friday, and it gave him relief, but it did not continue, for being now in much pain, and struggling for breath, he lay dozing, and, after some conflicts, the physicians despairing of him, he gave up the ghost at half an hour after eleven in the morning, being the sixth of February, 1685, in the 36th year of his reign, and 54th of his age.
Prayers were solemnly made in all the churches, especially in both the Court Chapels, where the chaplains relieved one another every half quarter of an hour from the time he began to be in danger till he expired, according to the form prescribed in the Church offices. Those who assisted his Majesty’s devotions were, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London, Durham, and Ely, but more especially Dr. Ken, the Bishop of Bath and Wells. It is said they exceedingly urged the receiving Holy Sacrament, but his Majesty told them he would consider of it, which he did so long till it was too late. Others whispered that the Bishops and Lords, except the Earls of Bath and Feversham, being ordered to withdraw the night before, Huddleston, the priest, had presumed to administer the Popish offices. He gave his breeches and keys to the Duke [James] who was almost continually kneeling by his bedside, and in tears. He also recommended to him the care of his natural children, all except the Duke of Monmouth, now in Holland, and in his displeasure. He entreated the Queen to pardon him (not without cause); who a little before had sent a Bishop to excuse her not more frequently visiting him, in regard of her excessive grief, and withal that his Majesty would forgive it if at any time she had offended him.He spoke to the Duke to be kind to the Duchess of Cleveland, and especially Portsmouth, and that Nelly might not starve.
Thus died King Charles II., of a vigorous and robust constitution, and in all appearance promising a long life. He was a prince of many virtues, and many great imperfections; debonair, easy of access, not bloody nor cruel; his countenance fierce, his voice great, proper of person, every motion became him; a lover of the sea, and skilful in shipping; not affecting other studies, yet he had a laboratory, and knew of many empirical medicines, and the easier mechanical mathematics; he loved planting and building, and brought in a politer way of living, which passed to luxury and intolerable expense. He had a particular talent in telling a story, and facetious passages, of which he had innumerable; this made some buffoons and vicious wretches too presumptuous and familiar, not worthy the favour they abused. He took delight in having a number of little spaniels follow him and lie in his bedchamber, where he often suffered the bitches to puppy and give suck, which rendered it very offensive, and indeed made the whole court nasty and stinking. He would doubtless have been an excellent prince, had he been less addicted to women, who made him uneasy, and always in want to supply their unmeasurable profusion, to the detriment of many indigent persons who had signally served both him and his father. He frequently and easily changed favourites to his great prejudice.'