The Glorious Revolution

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Podcast Transcript

In 1688, a palace coup took place in England

The King of England and Scotland was usurped and was replaced by his daughter and her husband from the Netherlands

The act forever changed the British Monarchy and created an alternative line of succession to the throne, which still exists today.

Learn more about the Glorious revolution, why it happened, and its ramifications on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

The Glorious Revolution, as with so many things in 17th-century England, an issue of religion. 

To understand how and why the Glorious Revolution happened, we need to understand the religious situation in England and, in particular, the religious situation of the monarchy.

So here was the situation in England and Scotland and how they got there. 

Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce because his wife, Catherine of Aragon, couldn’t bare him a son. The Pope refused to grant him an annulment, so in 1531 he split with the Catholic Church and put himself at the head of a new protestant Church of England. 

He was succeeded by his son Edward VI who ascended the throne at the age of 10 and died at the age of 15, who was also raised a protestant.

However, the crown went to Henry’s eldest daughter Mary, who was Catholic and the daughter of Catherine. She tried to reverse the English reformation and was very draconian in her efforts, burning 280 protestants at the stake.

She had no heirs and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and was protestant.  She established a more formal Church of England that was superficially similar to Catholicism. 

She also didn’t have an heir, and the next in line to the English throne was the King of Scotland, James VI, who was also now James I of England. James was very protestant, despite his mother being catholic, and expressed sympathy for the puritan cause.

He was succeeded by his son Charles, who was a Catholic. 

You can see all the religious flip-flopping which was going on with the throne at this point. 

By this time, England had become profoundly protestant, and Charles faced a rebellion that resulted in his beheading and the creation of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. 

After eleven years, they decided they wanted a monarchy back and installed Charles II on the throne, who was technically protestant but had Catholic sympathies. Some believe he might have been secretly so in private. 

When Charles II died, he had a ton of children, but none of which were legitimate, so the crown was passed to his younger brother, James II…..who was Catholic. He married a Catholic wife while in exile and converted. 

James II took the throne in 1685, and this is where the story of the Glorious Revolution begins. 

By the time James took the throne, it has been 150 years since Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, and England was even more protestant than it was when they executed Charles I. 

James appointed Catholic officers to the army and had close relations with Catholic France.

In April 1688, James issued the Declaration of Indulgence, which suspended laws against Catholics and basically provided them freedom of religion and also extended this to dissenting protestant factions as well. 

Later that year, he dissolved parliament in an attempt to get a new parliament that would support him. He created a series of rules which would ensure that only his supporters would be able to get elected.

In June, however, something even bigger happened. 

James had two daughters with his first wife, who were raised protestant at the behest of Charles II, Mary, and Anne.

However, when James’ first wife died, he married another Catholic and had a son with her who would be the heir to the throne. This boy would be raised Catholic. 

The birth of this son, also named James, made the protestant elites in the country very nervous. This potentially would be the start of a Catholic dynasty ruling protestant England as the baby Catholic James was now next in line to the throne, not the Protestant Mary.

England now found itself in a situation similar to where they found themselves under Charles I. 

A Catholic king ruled a very disaffected protestant country. 

This time, however, no one wanted another bloody civil war and to behead another king. 

Seven high-ranking English officials, known as the Immortal Seven, sought help from the Netherlands in the form of William, the Prince of Orange, who was coincidently the husband of Mary, who just a few months earlier had been the heir to the throne.

William had his eyes on England for years but didn’t want to make a move unless he had the support of powerful factions in England. 

He now had that. 

With the support of protestant elites, he assembled an armada to invade England. 

James began to prepare defenses for an invasion. However, things didn’t go well for him. 

Williams’s forces landed in Southern England on November 5. His plan wasn’t so much to engage James’ forces, so much as they were just willing to let his regime collapse.

It was a good plan. 

Many of James’ top military officers abandoned him for William, including some members of his family.  When he sent troops out to meet William’s forces, they all defected. 

On top of that, his health was deteriorating. 

With things falling apart around him, he began to backpedal on many of his initatives. He reversed his proposals for parliament and agreed to free and open elections. 

On December 9, he sent his son, the Prince of Wales, and the queen on a ship to France, and the next day he intended to follow them on a separate ship.

However, on the day after, December 11, he was captured in the town of Faversham. 

News of the King’s capture and his attempt to fled the country, caused him to lose much of the support he had. His allies viewed his attempt to flee as cowardice. 

William, for his part, didn’t particularly mind if James fled England. It would get rid of him without having to dirty his hands. He suggested James move to a community closer to the sea and then gave orders to the military to just let him go if he tried to leave. 

…which he did on December 23. 

William held all the cards at this point. A new parliament was elected and assembled on January 22, 1689.

The question before parliament was what to do next with their king having fled to France. Who was going to rule?

Back in Continental Europe, the French were threatening the Netherlands, and William was threatening to leave England if he wasn’t declared joint monarch. 

So, parliament passed two of the most important pieces of legislation in British history. 

The first was the Declaration of Right. This was a list of grievances of what King James did, and it also delineated limits on the power of the crown and established the rights of people. Many of the rights were only given to protestants, and the document also completely outlawed the Catholic Church, so freedoms were limited. 

The bill also presented the throne to William and Mary collectively.

They also passed the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights further solidifies the rights of the people and also established the rules of succession of the monarchy. It also banned Catholics from holding the throne and declared that James abdicated the throne by his act of fleeing the country to France. 

The Declaration of Right and the Bill of Rights were huge changes in the system of government. Probably the biggest since the signing of the Magna Carta 470 years earlier. 

While the monarch was still powerful, it was a big step towards establishing the primacy of the parliament and towards establishing a constitutional monarchy, which is what the country has today. 

The change in monarchy also had implications for the colonies in North America. There were uprisings in New York and Boston, and it also removed anti-Puritian laws, which were set up by King James. 

Unlike the early joint rule of Phillip II of Spain and Queen Mary I, Williams’ rule wasn’t limited to the lifespan of Mary II.  Mary died in 1695, just 4.5 years after ascending to the crown. 

William ruled until 1702 without an heir. When he died, the crown was passed to Mary’s sister Anne. 

Needless to say, this change in the monarchy didn’t sit well with everyone. Many people didn’t recognize William and Mary as legitimate monarchs. 

These people became known as Jacobites. 

The Jacobites were mostly Catholics, but there were protestants who also felt that parliament didn’t have the power to replace the monarch with whoever they wanted. 

The Jacobites were active in trying to restore the House of Stuart to the monarchy for decades, with Jacobite revivals popping up through the end of the 19th Century. 

King James died in 1701, and his son, James Francis Edward Stuart, claimed the throne and was recognized by the Jacobites as the legitimate king. He was often known as the “Old Pretender”

He pressed his claim for 65 years until his death in 1766, when his son, Charles Edward Stuart, became the new claimant. He was known as the “Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” 

The song “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean” is a Jacobite song about Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

The Jacobite claims to the throne never went anywhere, despite several plots and attempts to bring the Stuarts back. After Charles died, the claim went to his brother Henry Benedict Stuart, who was Catholic Cardinal, and he was the last direct descendant of King James. 

The Jacobite line of success still exists today; however, it has long been intertwined with European royal families, who have few ties to Britain

The current person who would be the Jacobite successor would be Franz, the Duke of Bavaria. He is currently 89, and his successor would be his 85-year-old broth. 

What is interesting is that next in line after him would be his daughter, Sophie, Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein, who is the wife of the heir apparent to the Liechtenstein crown. 

That means that at some point, the Liechtenstein line of succession will be the British Jacobite line of succession. 

I will conclude by noting the name given to this event, the Glorious Revolution. 

The phrase “Glorious Revolution” is really just a PR spin put on events by the winners. 

Catholic and other neutral historians simply call it the “Revolution of 1688.” Others call it the “Bloodless Revolution,” which is not totally accurate as there were some minor skirmishes. 

Most historians don’t consider the events of 1688 to be a revolution so much as a coup or even a Dutch invasion supported by English aristocrats. 

Whether you call it the Glorious Revolution or the Revolution of 1688, the events which transpired were extremely important. They ended the religious uncertainty of the British Monarchy and put the country on a path that, in many respects, they are still on today.