(ENGLAND from JAMES to WILLIAM & MARY – continued)

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ENGLAND from JAMES to WILLIAM & MARY (10 of 10)

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William and Mary, a Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights

King Charles II and the Tories rigged the selection of representatives to Parliament from cities and boroughs (towns). Whig representation in Parliament dwindled. Charles stopped calling for the opening of Parliament, and the Exclusion Act barring Catholics as heirs failed to become law. In February, Charles became ill. His Catholic brother, James, summoned a priest who received Charles into the Catholic Church. Then Charles died, and James became King James II of England. To the relief of many who had feared a Protestant uprising, calm prevailed – until June. The Protestant son of one of Charles' mistresses, the thirty-six year-old Duke of Monmouth (James Scott Monmouth), had been in exile in the United Netherlands. Urged on by opponents of James, he landed on June 11 at Dorset with a force of 82 men. Some farmers and laborers rose up in support of Monmouth – to be known as the pitchfork rebellion. On July 6, the Duke of Monmouth and his poorly trained force fought a decisive battle with regular troops on the Plain of Sedgemoor – said to be the last land battle in England. Monmouth was defeated. He fled and was captured within a few days. On July 15, without a trial, he was sent to the gallows where, it is said, he faced death with dignity.

James II

James II

James was forced to open Parliament because funds that Parliament had granted Charles II had ended automatically with Charles' death. James dreaded it, but the opening of Parliament went well for him, Parliament granting him generous revenue to run his government. James emerged believing that he was home free to exercise the power that he thought the Constitution granted him. He moved to remove restrictions that prevented Catholics from holding public office and serving as officers in the military. In a second Parliament, opened in November 1685, he requested funds for a standing army that would have Catholic officers. His Tory allies abandoned him, King James having lost sight of the importance of considering political allies. In 1686 James was appointing Catholics to office, and those Protestants who objected he dismissed from office. Seven Anglican bishops were tried for libel for refusing James' order to read from their pulpit his declaration removing restrictions on Catholics. Oxford University was converted from an Anglican to a Catholic institution. The alliance that had existed between Charles and the Tories was over. People again saw danger in Catholicism – although only two percent of the English were Catholic.

Anti-Catholicism increased in England as a result of the Catholic King Louis XIV of France deciding that his realm should be united religiously. In effect, Louis was revocating his grandfather's Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed the Huguenots freedom of worship. Economically it was a bad move for France. Tens of thousands of Protestants moved from there to Holland, England and Prussia, taking their skills and business acumen with them.

James II, meanwhile, had only two daughters as possible heirs: Princess Mary and Princess Anne. They were Protestant, and some expected that James, aged 51, would eventually be succeeded by a Protestant heir, but when a son was born to James' wife this hope among Protestants was dashed. If nothing were done, the crown would become permanently Catholic. Parliament looked for help from Princess Mary, who was in the United Netherlands.

James' daughter Mary

James' daughter Mary

Mary was married to William III, a member of a royal family originating from Orange (just north of Avignon in France). He had become royalty in the Netherlands. He was a Protestant like Mary, and he had been recognized by the Dutch bourgeois oligarchy as head of state (stadtholder) for life. William had been looking forward to Mary inheriting the throne in England and to a greater unity between England and the United Netherlands. Now with a son having been born to James, William accepted Parliament's invitation to him and to Mary to rule in place of James. On November 5, 1688, William landed in England at the head of a large army. It was an invasion supported by a good strategy and circumstances: Protestants rose in support of William and Parliament. In Yorkshire, the Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill and most of England's army switched their loyalty to William. James lacked sufficient forces with which to resist. He feared for his and his family's safety, and with his wife and son he went into exile in France, where Louis XIV provided them with a pension. These events were called the Glorious Revolution because they were relatively bloodless in contrast to the civil wars in the mid-1600s.

A Bill of Rights

King William III

Mary's husband, King William III

In February 1689, Parliament, with Tories and Whigs participating created the Declaration of Rights. In December this was amended and became the Bill of Rights, a bill that embodied terms of Parliament's offer to William and Mary to rule as joint sovereigns. It was a list of grievances against James II, laws agreed to by William and Mary. In accordance with these new laws,

New Politics and Less Violence

In the euphoria of a bloodless revolution and unity against Catholicism, Parliament also passed the Toleration Act: people were no longer to be punished if they were not members of the Church of England, and people were not to be compelled to become members of the Church of England.

These laws guaranteeing freedom of worship in Britain were uncommon in Europe. Dissenters, however, were still required to pay tithes to the Church of England, and Catholics and Dissenters remained barred from public office and the universities.

The royal family also lived with restrictions: they were not allowed to marry Catholics. And another act declared that no Catholic could become king or queen. In England the religion of the ruled now determined the religion of the ruler, a reversal of the old tradition that the religion of the ruler determined the religion of his subjects.

In England it was now recognized that the king was subordinate to Parliament. England now had a truly constitutional monarchy. Rather than a monarchy ruling by divine right, rule was seen as a social contract. God was removed from the political equation. Kingship was seen as empowered by man-made laws rather than godly sanctions.


Revolution, Reaction and the Triumph of Conservatism: English history 1558-1700, by M A R Graves and R H Silcock, 1984

Origins of Political Order, Chapter 28, by Francis Fukuyama, 2011

Charles II: Royal Politician, J R Jones, 1987.

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