The ‘Glorious Revolution’ in England and Scotland

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The ‘Glorious Revolution’ in England and Scotland


James II, painted by Sir Peter Lely /

James II, painted by Sir Peter Lely /

   In most of the recorded history of the British Isles there have only been three ‘civil wars’: the first, known as the ‘Wars of the Roses’ was not a civil war but a gangsterlike struggle between the highest and richest nobles in the land with one aim in mind – the throne of England. Ordinary people in the shires and towns were not involved unless they had been pressganged into battle by their overlords.

The second was a real civil war, fought with much loss of blood between the Parliament and the Monarchy, naturally involving roughly two halves of the population. Many died, in battle or by the judicial axe, and many did very well thank you out of the English Civil War. This did not include the anointed king, Charles I, a Stuart, who was beheaded one cold morning because he was the king. If the Parliament had caught Charles’ son and heir, a teenager, they would have chopped him up too. Such is the way of parliaments. But they didn’t catch him, and he lived to see the Restoration of the monarchy and his own coronation as Charles II. The third is called ‘the Glorious’ because it was bloodless – exceedingly rare for Britain to have a bloodless revolution, though infinitely rarer than in France, or Russia for that matter.

The conflict that drew no blood took place in 1688/89 when the rightful, anointed and crowned King James II, younger brother of that restored monarch Charles II, was removed from the throne because of the despicable crime of being a Catholic. He was replaced by his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William III (of Orange, q.v.). Historians say that James was expelled for fear of his despotism, but the British people had yet to see any.

The fact is that after his succession in 1685 (following the premature death of his elder brother) James II’s actions aroused concern among the Whigs and Tories in England. He had been inclined to appoint Roman Catholics to important positions in the universities, the army, the church (!) and even the Government! Furthermore, his two Declarations of Indulgence had suspended laws against Catholics which had been carefully placed there by Oliver Cromwell to avoid dissension.

The ultimate terrible threat was the birth of a son to James II in 1688 which seemed to ensure a Catholic succession! Politicians and former friends of the king plotted to remove James II by inviting his own son-in-law William of Orange to England, to replace him. Among the conspirators was the famous Duke of Marlborough, whose wife was the favourite of James’s wife the Queen.

Dutch William left the Low Countries with an army, having decided that the throne of England was a better career move than being a mere Statholder. James sent an army to meet William but most of them deserted, preferring the idea of a Protestant as king instead of a Papist. James II left the court and scuttled abroad before the English could cut off his head too.

He returned via Ireland with a load of French troops loaned by the French King, besieged Londonderry, and was thrashed (mostly by his old friend the Duke of Marlborough, the original and most successful turncoat in English history) at the Battle of the Boyne (July, 1690).

James, disillusioned but still alive got back to France, where people were sympathetic. The English passed the Act of Settlement (1701) which ensured that no British King or his heirs could marry an awful Roman Catholic. That Law is still extant. James II lived and died (1701) in France. He was approaching the age of seventy, but never forgot the series of treasonable acts by which he had been robbed of the British throne. Unlike his father, he had not however lost his royal head.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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