Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Mary of Modena 1680s

Studio of Alexis Simon Belle (1674-1734)

Portrait of Queen Mary of Modena, Studio of Alexis Simon Belle
Oil on canvas
17th Century
28 x 23 inches 71.1 x 58.4 cm
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The Pope had deflected the young Maria D’Este from her original intention of entering a convent, knowing that she would be of more service to the Catholic Church as a consort to James Duke of York, heir presumptive to King Charles II. The Duke of York already had two daughters by his first marriage-Mary and Anne, both future Queens of England- but no sons, and it was clear that with a Catholic male heir James might, when King, be able to effect the reconversion of England.

This purpose was to drive a great wedge between the Duke and Duchess of York and English popular opinion. Mary's great personal charm was to be of no use in countering the country''s suspicion of her husband. The birth of a son, James Stuart, three years after the Duke's accession as King James II precipitated the Glorious Revolution, in which opponents of the King invited the landing of William of Orange to defend the Protestant religion. From then, until her death in 1718, Mary of Modena's life was spent in exile from Britain, ceaselessly promoting the cause of her husband and, from 1701, her son in their fruitless attempts to regain the throne.
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