The Duke of Monmouth's Interview with James II

John Pettie R.A., 1839 - 1893

The Duke of Monmouth's Interview with James II

John Pettie R.A. 1839 - 1893


A scene between King James II of England and the Duke of Monmouth, after the failure of the Monmouth rebellion in 1685. The Duke lies face down on the wooden floor, his hands tied behind his back, crawling at the feet of the King and pleading for his life. Standing to the right of the Duke is the King, whose pose suggests that he is unimpressed with this performance: he turns his body away from the Duke, folds his arms across his chest and looks down his nose at him. The two figures are situated within a spacious room with panelled walls and aquamarine curtains. It is sparsely furnished with high-backed chairs pushed to the edges: the predominant colour of the background is brown. The King wears shoes, stockings, hat and coat of black, with white sleeves, and the cowering Duke is in a coat, stockings and shoes of yellow-grey. James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, was an illegitimate son of Charles II and pretender to the British throne. On Charles II's death in 1685, he led an expedition to Britain from abroad but was defeated and captured by James, brother of Charles. He tried to purchase his life by a slavish submission and offer to take on the Roman faith. James refused to accept the offer. Monmouth eventually met his death at the Tower of London in 1685.

Display Label

The Duke of Monmouth's Interview with James 11 around 1882 John Pettie 1839 - 1893 Oil on canvas In 1685, the Duke of Monmouth raised an army in order to stake his claim to the English throne. Defeated, he was found hiding in a ditch. Pettie shows him grovelling to King James, begging his natural uncle for his life. Days later the King signed his death warrant. The main emphasis here is on the human drama rather than the detail of historic costume and furnishing. The whole story is told by the faces of the two men, based on a scene in Macaulay's A History of England: 'To see him and not to spare him was an outrage on humanity and decency. This outrage the King was resolved to commit.' Purchased 1899.2

Object Name

The Duke of Monmouth's Interview with James II

Creators Name

John Pettie R.A.

Date Created

1882 (circa)


framed: 134.5cm x 170cm
unframed: 93.4cm x 130.5cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G9] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 9
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