- Analyze the significant changes the Glorious Revolution made to English government
- James II ascended the throne upon the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685. During his short reign, he became directly involved in the political battles between Catholicism and Protestantism and between the Divine Right of Kings and the political rights of the Parliament of England.
- James’s greatest political problem was his Catholicism, which left him alienated from both parties in England. Amidst continuous tensions between the king and Parliament, matters came to a head in June 1688, when James had a son, James. Until then, the throne would have passed to his daughter Mary, a Protestant.
- Mary and her husband, William Henry of Orange, both Protestants, appeared as potential rulers who could lead an anti-James revolution and replace the Catholic king. It is still a matter of controversy whether the initiative for the conspiracy to take over the throne was taken by the English or by William and his wife.
- On June 30, 1688, a group of seven Protestant nobles invited the Prince of Orange to come to England with an army. By September, it became clear that William would invade England. William arrived on November 5.
- In December, James fled the country, and in 1689 William and Mary were appointed monarchs.
- In order to regulate the relationship between the monarch and Parliament, the Bill of Rights was passed in 1689. It lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament.
Divine Right of Kings
A political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, and derives the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the Catholic Church.
A specific series of laws that sought to uphold the establishment of the Church of England against Protestant Nonconformists and Catholicism by imposing various forfeitures, civil penalties, and civil disabilities upon these dissenters. They were repealed in the 19th century during the process of Catholic Emancipation.
A series of English penal laws that served as a religious test for public office and imposed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and Nonconformists. The principle was that none but people taking communion in the established Church of England were eligible for public employment.
Declaration of Indulgence
A pair of proclamations made by James II of England and VII of Scotland in 1687. It granted broad religious freedom in England by suspending penal laws enforcing conformity to the Church of England and allowing persons to worship in their homes or chapels as they saw fit, and it ended the requirement of affirming religious oaths before gaining employment in government office.
In the Low Countries, a medieval function that during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries developed into a rare type of de facto hereditary head of state of the thus crowned republic of the Netherlands. Additionally, this position was tasked with maintaining peace and provincial order in the early Dutch Republic.
James II of England
James II of England (VII of Scotland) was the second surviving son of Charles I; he ascended the throne upon the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685. During his short reign, James became directly involved in the political battles between Catholicism and Protestantism and between the Divine Right of Kings and the political rights of the Parliament of England. James’s greatest political problem was his Catholicism, which left him alienated from both parties in England. However, the facts that he had no son and his daughters were Protestants were a “saving grace.” James’s attempt to relax the Penal Laws alienated Tories, his natural supporters, because they viewed this as tantamount to disestablishment of the Church of England. Abandoning the Tories, James looked to form a “King’s party” as a counterweight to the Anglican Tories, so in 1687 he supported the policy of religious toleration and issued the Declaration of Indulgence. By allying himself with the Catholics, Dissenters, and Nonconformists, James hoped to build a coalition that would advance Catholic emancipation. Matters came to a head in June 1688, when the king had a son, James. Until then, the throne would have passed to his daughter Mary, a Protestant. The prospect of a Catholic dynasty in the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland was now likely.
Conspiracy: William and Mary
Mary and her husband, her cousin William Henry of Orange, were both Protestants and grandchildren of Charles I of England. William was also stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic. He had already acquired the reputation of being the main champion of the Protestant cause against Catholicism and French absolutism. In the developing English crisis, he saw an opportunity to prevent an Anglo-French alliance and bring England to the anti-French side by carrying out a military intervention directed against James. This suited the desires of several English politicians who intended to depose James. It is still a matter of controversy whether the initiative for the conspiracy was taken by the English or by the stadtholder and his wife.
On June 30, 1688, a group of seven Protestant nobles invited the Prince of Orange to come to England with an army. By September, it became clear that William would invade England. William arrived on November 5. James refused a French offer to send an expeditionary force, fearing that it would cost him domestic support. He tried to bring the Tories to his side by making concessions, but failed because he still refused to endorse the Test Act. His forward forces had gathered at Salisbury, and James went to join them on November 19 with his main force, having a total strength of about 19,000. Amid anti-Catholic rioting in London, it rapidly became apparent that the troops were not eager to fight, and the loyalty of many of James’s commanders was doubtful.
Meanwhile, on November 18, Plymouth had surrendered to William, and on November 21, William began to advance. In December, William’s forces met with the king’s commissioners to negotiate. James offered free elections and a general amnesty for the rebels. In reality, by that point he was simply playing for time, having already decided to flee the country. James was received in France by his cousin and ally, Louis XIV, who offered him a palace and a pension.
The Bill of Rights
The status of William and Mary in England was unclear while James, though now in France, still had many supporters in the country. In order to avoid James’s return to the throne, and facing opposition in Parliament, William let it be known that he was happy for Mary to be queen in name and for preference in the succession given to Princess Anne’s (Mary’s sister) children over any of William’s. Anne declared that she would temporarily waive her right to the crown should Mary die before William, and Mary refused to be made queen without William as king. The Lords accepted the words “abdication” and “vacancy” and Lord Winchester’s motion to appoint William and Mary monarchs. The decision was made in light of a great fear that the situation might deteriorate into a civil war.
Although their succession to the English throne was relatively peaceful, much blood would be shed before William’s authority was accepted in Ireland and Scotland.
The proposal to draw up a statement of rights and liberties and James’s invasion of them was first made in January in the Commons, but what would become the Bill of Rights did not pass until December 1689. The Bill was a restatement in statutory form of The Declaration of Rights presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in February 1689, inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. The Bill of Rights lay down limits on the powers of the monarch and set out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament. It set out certain rights of individuals, including the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and reestablished the liberty of Protestants to have arms for their defense within the rule of law. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights described and condemned several misdeeds of James II of England. These ideas reflected those of the political thinker John Locke, and they quickly became popular in England. It also set out—or, in the view of its drafters, restated—certain constitutional requirements of the Crown to seek the consent of the people, as represented in Parliament.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 is considered by some as one of the most important events in the long evolution of the respective powers of Parliament and the Crown in England. The passage of the Bill of Rights stamped out once and for all any possibility of a Catholic monarchy and ended moves towards absolute monarchy in the British kingdoms by circumscribing the monarch’s powers. These powers were greatly restricted. He or she could no longer suspend laws, levy taxes, make royal appointments, or maintain a standing army during peacetime without Parliament’s permission. Since 1689, government under a system of constitutional monarchy in England, and later the United Kingdom, has been uninterrupted. Also since then, Parliament’s power has steadily increased while the Crown’s has steadily declined.