The Revolution is closely tied in with the events of the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe, and may be seen as the last successful invasion of England. It can be argued that James's overthrow began modern English parliamentary democracy: never again would the monarch hold absolute power, and the Bill of Rights became one of the most important documents in the political history of Britain. The deposition of the Roman Catholic James II ended any chance of Catholicism becoming re-established in England, and also led to limited toleration for nonconformist Protestants—it would be some time before they had full political rights. For Catholics, however, it was disastrous both socially and politically. Catholics were denied the right to vote and sit in the Westminster Parliament for over 100 years after this. They were also denied commissions in the British army and the monarch was forbidden to be Catholic or marry a Catholic, thus ensuring the Protestant succession.
During his three-year reign, King James II became directly involved in the political battles in England between Catholicism and Protestantism on the one hand, and on the other, between the divine right of the Crown and the political rights of Parliament. James's greatest political problem was his Catholicism, which left him alienated from both parties in Parliament. The low church Whigs had failed in their attempt to exclude James from the throne between 1679 and 1681, and James's supporters were the High Church Anglican Tories. When James inherited the throne in 1685, he had much support in the 'Loyal Parliament', which was composed mostly of Tories. James's attempt to relax the penal laws alienated his natural supporters, however, because the Tories 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 James 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.
In 1686, James coerced the Court of the King's Bench into deciding that the King could dispense with religious restrictions of the Test Act. James ordered the removal of Henry Compton, the anti-Catholic Bishop of London, and dismissed the Protestant fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford and replaced them with Catholics.
James also created a large standing army and employed Catholics in positions of power in the army. To his opponents in Parliament this seemed like a prelude to arbitrary rule, so James prorogued Parliament without gaining Parliament's consent. At this time, the English regiments of the army were encamped at Hounslow, near the capital. The army in Ireland was purged of Protestants who were replaced with Catholics, and by 1688 James had more than 34,000 men under arms in his three kingdoms.
In April 1688, James re-issued the Declaration of Indulgence and ordered all clergymen to read it in their churches. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, and six other bishops (see the Seven Bishops) wrote to James asking him to reconsider his policies, they were arrested on charges of seditious libel, but at trial they were acquitted to the cheers of the London crowd.
Matters came to a head in 1688, when James fathered a son; 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. Some leaders of the Tory Party united with members of the opposition Whigs and set out to solve the crisis.
In 1686, a group of conspirators met at Charborough House in Dorset to plan the overthrow of "the tyrant race of Stuarts". In June 1688, a further conspiracy was launched at Old Whittington, in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, to depose James and replace him with his daughter Mary and her husband, William Henry of Orange — both Protestants and both grandchildren of Charles I of England. Before the birth of James's son on June 10, Mary had been the heir to the throne and William was third in line. James however had only wanted to treat them as possible heirs on condition that they accepted his pro-Catholic position, which they had been unwilling to do for fear that French influence would become too great. William was also stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic, then in the preliminary stages of joining the War of the Grand Alliance against France. He had already acquired the reputation of being the main champion in Europe of the Protestant cause against Catholicism and French absolutism. 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. William had been trying to influence English politics for well over a year, letting Grand Pensionary Gaspar Fagel publish an open letter to the English people in November 1687 deploring the religious policy of James, which action had generally been interpreted as a covert bid for kingship. On December 18 the Duke of Norfolk warned James of a conspiracy on the side of his son-in-law. After his envoy Everhard van Weede Dijkvelt in April 1687 had approached the main Whig and Tory leaders William had maintained a close secret correspondence with them, using as a contact Frederik van Nassau. In it he had not committed himself to any definite action, but an understanding had been reached that if William should, for whatever reason, ascend, he would in accordance with his anti-absolutist reputation restrain the use of Royal power; in return William desired a full employment of English military resources against France. It has been suggested that the crisis caused by the prospect of a new Catholic heir made William decide to invade the next summer as early as November 1687 , but this is disputed. It is certain however that in April 1688, when France and England concluded a naval agreement that stipulated that the French would finance an English squadron in The Channel, he seriously began to prepare for a military intervention and seek political and financial support for such an undertaking.
Historically the events of 1688 have been called a "revolution" but it has become popular to portray the "glorious revolution" as a Dutch invasion of Britain. The "Glorious Revolution" fulfills the criteria for revolution, being an internal change of constitution; and also the criteria for invasion, because it involved the landing of large numbers of foreign troops. The events were unusual because the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and English Bill of Rights meant that the apparently invading monarchs, who were legitimate heirs to the throne, were prepared to be governed by the English Parliament. It is difficult to classify the entire proceedings of 1687-89 but it can be seen that the events occurred in three phases: conspiracy, invasion by Dutch forces and "Glorious Revolution". NB: See also: List of James II deserters to William of Orange
In May, William sent an envoy, Johann von Görtz, to Vienna to secretly ensure the support of the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I. Learning that William promised not to persecute the Catholics in England, the emperor approved, promising in turn to make peace with the Ottoman Empire to free his forces for a campaign in the West; on September 4 1688 he would join an alliance with the Republic against France. The Duke of Hanover, Ernest Augustus and the Elector of Saxony, John George III, assured William that they would remain neutral.
The next concern was to assemble a powerful invasion force — contrary to the wishes of the English conspirators, who predicted that a token force would be sufficient. William, financed by the city of Amsterdam after secret and difficult negotiations by Bentinck with the hesitant Amsterdam burgomasters during June, hired 400 transports; also Bentinck negotiated contracts for 13,616 German mercenaries from Brandenburg, Würtemberg, Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) and Celle, to man Dutch border fortresses in order to free an equal number of Dutch elite mercenary troops for use against England. Further financial support was obtained from the most disparate sources: the Jewish banker Francisco Lopes Suasso lent two million guilders; when asked what security he desired, Suasso anwered: "If you are victorious, you will surely repay me; if not, the loss is mine". Remarkably even Pope Innocent XI, an inveterate enemy of Louis XIV of France, provided a loan. Total costs were seven million guilders, four million of which would ultimately be paid for by a state loan. In the summer the Dutch navy was expanded with 9000 sailors on the pretext of fighting the Dunkirkers.
In August, it became clear that William had surprisingly strong support within the English army, a situation brought about by James himself. In January 1688 he had forbidden any of his subjects to serve the Dutch and had demanded that the Republic dissolve its mercenary Scottish and English regiments. When this was refused, he asked that at least those willing would be released from their martial oath to be free to return to Britain. To this William consented as it would purify his army from Jacobite elements. In total 104 officers and 44 soldiers returned. The officers were enlisted within the British armies and so favoured that the established officer corps began to fear for its position. On August 14 Lord Churchill wrote to William: "I owe it to God and my country to put my honour into the hands of Your Highness". Nothing comparable happened within the Royal Navy, however.
Still, William had great trouble convincing the Dutch ruling elite, the regents, that such an expensive expedition was really necessary. Also he personally feared that the French might attack the Republic through Flanders, when its army was tied up in England. By early September he was on the brink of cancelling the entire expedition, when French policy played into his hand. On September 9 (Gregorian calendar) the French envoy Jean Antoine de Mesmes handed two letters from the French king, who had known of the invasion plans since May, to the States-General of the Netherlands. In the first they were warned not to attack James. In the second they were urged not to interfere with the French policy in Germany. James hurriedly distanced himself from the first message, trying to convince the States that there was no secret Anglo-French alliance against them. This however had precisely the opposite effect; many members became extremely suspicious. The second message proved that the main French effort was directed to the east, not the north, so there was no immediate danger of a French invasion for the Republic itself.
From September 22, Louis XIV seized all Dutch ships present in French ports, seeming to prove that war with France was imminent, though Louis had meant it to be a mere warning. On September 26 the powerful city council of Amsterdam decided to officially support the invasion. On September 27 Louis crossed the Rhine into Germany and William began to move his army from the eastern borders to the coast. On September 29 the States of Holland gathering in secret session and fearing a French-English alliance, approved the operation, agreeing to make the English "useful to their friends and allies, and especially to this state". They accepted William's argument that a preventive strike was necessary to avoid a repeat of the events of 1672, when England and France had jointly attacked the Republic, "an attempt to bring this state to its ultimate ruin and subjugation, as soon as they find the occasion". The States ordered a Dutch fleet of 53 warships to escort the troop transports. This fleet was in fact commanded by Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Evertsen the Youngest and Vice-Admiral Philips van Almonde but in consideration for English sensitivities on October 6 placed under nominal command of Rear-Admiral Arthur Herbert, the very messenger who, disguised as a common sailor, had brought the invitation to William in The Hague. Though William was himself Admiral-General of the Republic he abstained from operational command, sailing conspicuously on the yacht Den Briel, accompanied by Lieutenant-Admiral Willem Bastiaensz Schepers, the Rotterdam shipping magnate who had organised the transport fleet. The States-General allowed the core regiments of the Dutch field army to participate under command of Marshall Frederick Schomberg.
The swiftness of the embarkations surprised all foreign observers. Louis had in fact delayed his threats against the Dutch until early September because he assumed it then would be too late in the season to set the expedition in motion anyway, if their reaction proved negative; typically such an enterprise would take at least some months. Being ready after the first week of October would normally have meant that the Dutch could have profited from the last spell of good weather, as the autumn storms tend to begin in the third week of that month. This year they came early however. For three weeks the invasion fleet was prevented by adverse southwesterly gales from departing from the naval port of Hellevoetsluis and Catholics all over the Netherlands and the British kingdoms held prayer sessions that this "popish wind" might endure. However, by late October it became the famous "Protestant Wind" by turning to the east, allowing a departure on October 28. It had originally been intended that the Dutch navy defeat the English first to free the way for the transport fleet but because it was now so late in the season and conditions onboard deteriorated rapidly, it was decided to sail in convoy. Hardly had the fleet reached open sea when the wind changed again to the southwest forcing most ships to return to port, becoming a favourable easterly only on November 9. First the fleet, reassembled on November 11, four times larger than the Spanish Armada and having about 5,000 horses and 60,000 men aboard including sailors and supply train, sailed north in the direction of Harwich where Bentinck had a landing site prepared. It was forced south however when the wind turned to the north and sailed in an enormous square formation, 25 ships deep, into the English Channel on November 13, saluting Dover Castle and Calais simultaneously to show off its size. The English navy positioned in the Thames estuary saw the Dutch pass twice but was unable to intercept, first because of the strong easterly wind, the second time due to an unfavourable tide. Landing with a large army in Torbay near Brixham, Devon on November 5 (Julian calendar (November 15 Gregorian calendar), 1688, William was greeted with much show of popular support (this was Bentinck's alternative landing site), and some local men joined his army. His personal disembarkation was delayed somewhat to make it coincide with Bonfire Night, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. On his banners read the proclamation: "The Liberties of England and the Protestant Religion I will maintain." Je maintiendrai ("I will maintain") is the motto of the House of Orange. William's army totalled approximately 15,000–18,000 on foot and 3,000 cavalry. It was composed mainly of 14,352 regular Dutch mercenary troops (many of them actually Scots, Scandinavians, Germans and Swiss), and about 5,000 English and Scottish volunteers with a substantial Huguenot element in the cavalry and Guards as well as 200 blacks from plantations in America. Many of the mercenaries were Catholic. On November 7 (November 17 Gregorian calendar), the wind turned southwest, preventing the pursuing English fleet commanded by George Legge from attacking the landing site. The French fleet was at the time concentrated in the Mediterranean, to assist a possible attack on the Papal State. Louis delayed his declaration of war until November 26 (Gregorian calendar), hoping at first that their involvement in a protracted English civil war would keep the Dutch from interfering with his German campaign. The Dutch call their fleet action the Glorieuze Overtocht, the "Glorious Crossing".
William considered his veteran army to be sufficient in size to defeat any forces (all rather inexperienced) James could throw against him, but it had been decided to avoid the hazards of battle and maintain a defensive attitude in the hope James's position might collapse by itself; thus he landed far away from James's army, expecting that his English allies would take the initiative in acting against James while he ensured his own protection against potential attacks. William was prepared to wait; he had paid his troops in advance for a three-month campaign. A slow advance had the added benefit of not over-extending the supply lines; the Dutch troops were under strict orders not even to forage, for fear that this would degenerate into plundering which would alienate the population. On November 9 William took Exeter after the magistrates had fled the city. From November 12, in the North, many nobles began to declare for William, as they had promised. However in the first weeks most people carefully avoided taking sides; as a whole the nation neither rallied behind its king, nor welcomed William, but passively awaited the outcome of events.
After Plymouth surrendered to him on November 18, William began to advance on the 21st. By the 24th, William's forces were at Salisbury; three days later they had reached Hungerford, where the following day they met with the King's Commissioners to negotiate. James offered free elections and a general amnesty for the rebels. In reality, by that point James was simply playing for time, having already decided to flee the country. He feared that his English enemies would insist on his execution and that William would give in to their demands. Convinced that his army was unreliable, he sent orders to disband it. December 10 saw the second engagement between the two sides with the Battle of Reading, a defeat for the King's men. In December there was anti-Catholic rioting in Bristol, Bury St. Edmunds, Hereford, York, Cambridge and Shropshire. On the 9th a Protestant mob stormed Dover Castle, where the Catholic Sir Edward Hales was Governor, and seized it. On December 8 William met at last with James's representatives; he agreed to James's proposals but also demanded that all Catholics would be immediately dismissed from state functions and that England would pay for the Dutch military expenses. He received no reply, however.
In the night of December 9-December 10, the Queen and the Prince of Wales fled for France. The next day saw James's attempt to escape, the king dropping The Great Seal in the Thames along the way. However, he was captured on December 11 by fishermen in Faversham opposite Sheerness, the town on the Isle of Sheppey. On the same day, 27 Lords Spiritual and Temporal, forming a provisional government, decided to ask William to restore order but at the same time asked the king to return to London to reach an agreement with his son-in-law. On the night of the 11th there were riots and lootings of the houses of Catholics and several foreign embassies of Catholic countries in London. The following night a mass panic gripped London during what was later termed the Irish Night. False rumours of an impending Irish army attack on London circulated in the capital, and a mob of over 100,000 assembled, ready to defend the city.
Upon returning to London on the 16th, James was welcomed by cheering crowds. He took heart at this and attempted to recommence government, even presiding over a meeting of the Privy Council. He sent Lord Feversham to William to arrange for a personal meeting to continue negotiations. Now for the first time it became evident that William had no longer any desire to keep James in power in England. He was extremely dismayed by the arrival of Lord Feversham. He refused the suggestion that he simply arrest James because this would violate his own declarations and burden his relationship with his wife. In the end it was decided that he should exploit James's fears; the three original commissioners were sent back to James with the message that William felt he could no longer guarantee the king's wellbeing and that James for his own safety had better leave London for Ham. William at the same time ordered all English troops to depart from the capital; no local forces were allowed within a twenty mile radius until the spring of 1689. Already the English navy had declared for William. James, by his own choice, went under Dutch protective guard to Rochester in Kent on December 18 (Julian calendar), just as William entered London, cheered by crowds dressed in orange. The Dutch officers had been ordered that "if he [James] wanted to leave, they should not prevent him, but allow him to gently slip through. James then left for France on December 23 after having received a request from his wife to join her, even though his followers urged him to stay. The lax guard on James and the decision to allow him so near the coast indicate that William may have hoped that a successful flight would avoid the difficulty of deciding what to do with him, especially with the memory of the execution of Charles I still strong. By fleeing, James ultimately helped resolve the awkward question whether he was still the legal king or not.
The Convention Parliament was very divided on the issue. The radical Whigs in the Lower House proposed to elect William as a king (meaning that his power would be derived from the people); the moderates wanted an acclamation of William and Mary together; the Tories wanted to make him regent or only acclaim Mary as Queen. The Lower House resolved that the throne was vacant as a result of James's desertion, amounting to abdication; the Lords voted that either James was still King or Mary already Queen, but that the Throne of England couldn't possibly be "vacant". Mary, however, opposed this position, and William made it known to the Tory leaders at this point that they could either accept him as king or deal with the Whigs without his military presence, for then he would leave for the Republic. Confronted with this choice, the Tory majority of Lords decided on February 6 that the throne was vacant after all.
William and Mary were offered the throne as joint rulers, an arrangement which they accepted. On February 13, 1689 (New Style), February 23 (Gregorian calendar) Mary II and William III jointly acceded to the throne of England. A commission had on February 2 formulated 23 Heads of Grievances which were renamed the Declaration of Rights; these were read aloud before William and Mary accepted the throne. They were crowned on April 11, swearing an oath to uphold the laws made by Parliament. 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.
In Scotland there had been no serious support for the rebellion, but when James fled for France, most members of the Scottish Privy Council went to London to offer their services to William; on January 7 they asked William to take over the responsibilities of government. On March 14 a Convention convened in Edinburgh, dominated by the Presbyterians because the episcopalians continued to support James. There was nevertheless a strong Jacobite fraction, but a letter by James received on March 16, in which he threatened to punish all who rebelled against him, resulted in his followers leaving the Convention, which then on April 4 decided that the throne of Scotland was vacant. The Convention formulated the Claim of Right and the Articles of Grievances. On May 11 William and Mary accepted the Crown of Scotland; after their acceptance, the Claim and the Articles were read aloud, leading to an immediate debate over whether or not an endorsement of these documents was implicit in that acceptance.
Having England as an ally meant that the military situation of the Republic was strongly improved; but this very fact induced William to be uncompromising in his position towards France. This policy led to a large number of very expensive campaigns which were largely paid for with Dutch funds. In 1712 the Republic was financially exhausted; it withdrew from international politics and was forced to let its fleet deteriorate, making England the dominant maritime power of the world. The Dutch economy, already burdened by the high national debt and concommitant high taxation, suffered from the other European states' protectionist policies, which its weakened fleet was no longer able to resist. To make matters worse, the main Dutch trading and banking houses moved much of their activity from Amsterdam to London after 1688. Between 1688 and 1720, world trade dominance shifted from the Republic to England.
Prior to his arrival in England, the new king William III of England was not Anglican, but rather was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Consequently, as a Calvinist and Presbyterian he was now in the unenviable position of being the head of the Church of England, while technically being a Nonconformist. This was, however, not his main motive for promoting religious toleration. More important in that respect was the need to keep happy his Catholic allies in the coming struggle with Louis XIV . Though he had promised legal toleration for Catholics in his Declaration of October, 1688, he was ultimately unsuccessful in this respect, due to opposition by the Tories in the new Parliament. The Revolution led to the Act of Toleration of 1689, which granted toleration to Nonconformist Protestants, but not to Catholics. The Williamite victory in Ireland is still commemorated by the Orange Order for preserving British and Protestant dominance in the country.
Lord Macaulay's account of the Revolution in "The History of England from the Accession of James the Second" exemplifies its semi-mystical significance to later generations.
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