The English have over 1,000 years of history under their belts and more than one revolution among them. Only one of these revolutions, however, has earned the sobriquet “Glorious.” The Glorious Revolution saw the 1688 overthrow of England’s Catholic King James II in favor of the staunchly Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary Stuart. The Glorious Revolution has been mythologized as a bloodless coup that firmly established Protestantism as England’s state religion and set new limits on the power of the King. Although the characterization isn’t entirely accurate—the Revolution certainly wasn’t bloodless in Scotland and Ireland—the Glorious Revolution nonetheless was a key event in English history.
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KING JAMES II
King James II of the House of Stuart ascended to the British throne in 1685. A practicing Catholic, James had two Protestant daughters—Mary and Anne. The promise of a Protestant heir allayed the suspicions of England’s nobility for a time, but James’ actions, such as the brutal suppression of his Protestant nephew The Duke of Monmouth, did little for his reputation. Things took a serious turn, however, when James suddenly produced a Catholic son: James Edward Francis Stuart, the so-called “Warming-Pan Baby.” James named this child his heir apparent and even went so far as to make the Pope his godfather. This was too much to bear for England’s emerging political cliques of Whigs and Tories.
WILLIAM AND MARY
England’s Protestants needed a suitable heir to replace James. They found their hero in the person of William of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland. Not only was William a Protestant, but he was married to James’ daughter Mary. William landed in England in the fall of 1688 with a 15,000-man army, printing press, and a mold to mint coins featuring his visage. James had little popular support, and when his best general, John Churchill, declared for William, he fled the country.
THE IRISH FRIGHT
There was a brief period of uncertainty between James’ forced abdication and William’s arrival. In this period of uncertainty, all manner of rumors proliferated. One rumor concerned the Irish army James had brought to England in the waning days of his reign. British Protestants feared that this army would unleash a tide of violence and bloodshed on England to avenge King James. This mass panic was unfounded, and after their one engagement at The Battle of Portsmouth the Irish army was disbanded by the Earl of Feversham.
BATTLE OF THE BOYNE
Remember how we said The Glorious Revolution wasn’t as bloodless as it was made out to be? Well, a lot of blood was shed at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. Following a brief pick-me-up from France’s King Louis XIV, James reemerged on the scene in Ireland. James and Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell led an army of sympathetic Catholics, called the Jacobites, to take control of much of southern Ireland. William and his chief general, the Duke of Schomberg, came to Ireland to deal with the meddlesome James once and for all. The battle wasn’t a decisive victory for William, but it was enough of one that James fled Ireland in a panic. A year later the lingering Jacobite forces would be soundly defeated at the Battle of Aughrim, ending any hope of James regaining the throne.
ENGLISH BILL OF RIGHTS
While Parliament was happy to see James gone, they didn’t give William and Mary the throne with no strings attached. In 1689 the co-regents signed the English Bill of Rights, a document that effectively guaranteed the supremacy of Parliament over the Monarch. The Bill enumerated several rights and privileges, among them freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, freedom of speech in Parliament, and frequent Parliamentary elections. The English Bill of Rights was a major influence on the future American Bill of Rights.
*** Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
Check out this website for an in-depth analysis of the Battle of the Boyne.
James Edward Francis Stuart is known as the “warming-pan” baby. Interested in knowing what this unusual title means? Look no further!
The conflicts of the Glorious Revolution fed into larger European-wide conflicts.
Bloodshed wasn’t just confined to Ireland. Scotland also had its own Jacobite Uprising to defend James.
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