This little boy may not be recognisable to many people but if he had survived childhood he would have changed the course of British history.
He is James Stuart, Duke of Cambridge the second son of James, Duke of York (later James II of England) and his first wife, Anne Hyde. In 1664, the infant James became the first Duke of Cambridge and Baron of Dauntsey.
Born on July 13th 1663 at St James’s Palace, London he was the full blooded brother to the two Queens Mary II and Anne but if James had lived it is highly likely that he would have ruled cutting out his sister’s and the Georgian lines altogether.
Cambridge was especially close with his uncle, King Charles II, who created him Duke of Cambridge and Baron of Dauntsey, titles that were created especially for him. The King also appointed Cambridge a Knight of the Garter, but never invested him due to his untimely death. Cambridge received a yearly pension of £3,000 from the king. After his death, it was still issued to his father, in hopes of supporting Cambridge’s siblings.
Cambridge was also very loved by his sister Lady Mary, who, while Princess of Orange, commissioned two portraits by Willem Wissing: one representing her mother and one representing Cambridge. She placed the latter over the door of the Queen’s Drawing Room of the Garden House at Windsor Castle.
On 3 December 1666, Cambridge was appointed Knight of the Garter. After Charles II and some other Knights installed themselves at a round table in the King’s private quarters, Cambridge was escorted into the King’s presence by James Scott (Cambridge’s 17-year-old illegitimate cousin; son of the king) and Edward Montagu. Afterwards, Cambridge kneeled before the King, who put the necklace of the Order on his neck and gave the sash of the Order to Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The King then kissed Cambridge and the ceremony was officially over. By this time it looked unlikely that his uncle would have any legitimate offspring from his barren wife, so Cambridge was already being treated as the heir to the throne after his father. In May 1665, King Charles II issued letters patent that granted Cambridge a yearly pension of £3,000. The money would not be controlled by Cambridge until his fourteenth year; until then the money was likely controlled by his parents or his nannies.
Cambridge became ill during late April 1667, probably on the 27th or 28th of the month. The disease was probably smallpox or bubonic plague, as an eyewitness account given by Samuel Pepys states that Cambridge was “full of spots” and that his physician, Dr. Frazier, did not know how to treat this disease. On 30 May, Kendal, who was also sick from convulsions, died at St. James’s Palace and Cambridge was transferred to Richmond. His mother feared for his life after the Duke of Kendal died, because he was very sick. Another entry in Pepys’s diary stated that the royal family lost all hopes of his survival during June 1667. An entry dated 6 June 1667, Pepys wrote that the nation lost all hopes of Cambridge surviving. However, an entry date 9 June stated that Cambridge was recovering pretty well and was expected to survive.
His death on 20 June 1667 came as a shock to the nation, who saw it as the doom of the House of Stuart, as the Duke of York was left with no male issue. He lay in state in the Palace of Westminster before his funeral, nearly a week after his death, on 26 June 1667. He was interred in Westminster Abbey. His tomb reads (in Latin): “Deposit of the Most Illustrious Prince James Duke of Cambridge & second-born son and Heir of the Most Powerful Prince James Duke of York who in the Queen’s Hall of Richmond fell asleep on the twentieth day in his fourth year, AD 1667.”