Isabel after Sir Peter Lely, circa 1679-1681
28 August 1676|
St James's Palace, London
|Died||2 March 1681
(aged 4 years and 6 months)|
St James' Palace, London
|Father||James, Duke of York|
|Mother||Mary of Modena|
Isabel was born at St James's Palace in London. She was the second daughter of James and Mary, after her sister Catherine Laura who died eleven months before Isabel's birth. Isabel had two older half-sisters from her father's first marriage to Anne Hyde: Mary and Anne; both would become reigning Queens of England. Isabel's paternal grandparents were Charles I of England and his wife Henrietta Maria of France, her maternal grandparents were Alfonso IV d'Este and Laura Martinozzi.
For the majority of her lifetime, Isabel was the royal couple's only child and thus fourth in line to the throne (behind her father, Mary and Anne). She was moved down a place upon the birth of her brother Charles Stuart, Duke of Cambridge; however, he died of smallpox after living only for a month, so Isabel was promoted back up to fourth in line. In 1678, Isabel was joined by another sister, Elizabeth, who was also short-lived.
A report that her uncle King Charles was very sick sent the family hurrying back to England. They feared that the King's eldest illegitimate son, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and commander of England's armed forces, might usurp the crown if Charles died in their absence. Monmouth enjoyed the support of the Exclusionists, who held a majority in the House of Commons of England. Charles survived but, feeling the family returned to court too soon, sent James and Mary to Edinburgh, where for the next three years they stayed on-and-off in the dilapidated Holyrood Palace, while Anne and Isabel stayed in London on Charles's orders. The couple were recalled to London in February 1680, only to return again to Edinburgh that autumn; this time they went on a more honourable footing: James was created King's Commissioner to Scotland. Separation from Isabel caused her mother to sink into a state of sadness, exacerbated by the passing of the Exclusion bill in the Commons.
Lady Isabel, thus far the only one of Mary's children to survive infancy, died of natural causes in February 1681, five months before her fifth birthday, at St James's Palace, the place of her birth. She was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Isabel's death plunged Mary into a religious mania, worrying her physician. At the same time as news reached Holyrood of Isabel's death, her maternal grandmother, Laura Martinozzi, was falsely accused of offering £10,000 for the murder of the King. The accuser, a pamphleteer, was executed by order of the King.
Four years after Isabel's death, her father succeeded as King of England.