A better candidate for beatification would be James II’s second wife, Mary of Modena, an Italian princess of the House of Este. A chaste and virtuous young girl of 15 (who had planned on becoming a Visitandine nun) when she married the 40-year-old James, she maintained her (married) chastity and virtue in a court not known for either of those characteristics. Her spiritual director was St. Claude de la Columbière. She was a good stepmother to the two princesses who were not much younger than her (although Mary and Anne were not exactly ideal stepdaughter material) and was a kind and forgiving wife to her womanizing husband. She sorrowed over the deaths of her children in infancy before the birth of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, who would become known either as James III or the Old Pretender (depending on one’s politics). She bore exile bravely and helped with the living expenses of some of the poorer Jacobite emigrés in France, even though it drained her own fortune. Finally, her slow and painful death of breast cancer gave her an opportunity to definitively unite her own sufferings to the Cross, as she had tried to do all her life.
The historical novelist Norah Lofts once wrote that Mary of Modena was one of the least-known queens of England, but in character one of the best.