A friend told me that King James II of England was persecuted by the Catholic Church because the Church did not want the king translating the Bible into English so the common people could read it. Is any of this true?
Your friend is misinformed. James II of England (1633-1701) was a Catholic, indeed the last Catholic monarch of England. James was driven from the throne by Protestants, who replaced him with his own Protestant daughter and son-in-law, for the “crime” of producing a Catholic male heir to succeed him. To make certain that would never happen again, Parliament quickly passed laws to forbid a Catholic from ever again inheriting the British throne and to forbid the succession to the throne of anyone who married a Catholic (which was the “crime” of James’s older brother, Charles II). This episode in British history is the so-called Glorious Revolution.
Your friend is probably thinking of James I of England (1566-1625), who authorized the Protestant translation of the Bible that bears his name (the King James Version, also known as the Authorized Version). This James ultimately chose to continue the anti-Catholic policies of his predecessor Elizabeth I. He did so mainly because his anti-Catholic minister and spymaster Robert Cecil chose (it is believed) to nurture and then “expose” the Gunpowder Plot that was hatched by some disaffected Catholics to blow up Parliament and assassinate the king and his family. (See “Remember This about November Fifth,” This Rock, May-June 2008.) The Catholic Church did not persecute James I for authorizing a translation of Scripture.