Glorious Revolution

The Glorious Revolution took place in 1688. It saw King James II overthrown in favour of his daughter and son-in-law. William of Orange and Mary were more favourable to leading protestants in England. James II threatened the religious settlement in place. The Protestant majority in England were fearful of more religious change. To prevent James II from bringing forward any moves towards Catholicism they engineered a coup. This coup was a bloodless Revolution. It saw James II overthrown. In the years that followed, James II and his followers attempted to regain the throne. These counter revolutionary attempts are known as the Jacobite Uprisings.

Glorious RevolutionKing James’ Catholicism

James II had converted to Catholicism. This meant that he was viewed with suspicion by the Tory elite within England. The political system in England and Scotland was pro-Protestant. James II had wanted to change the law. He believed that people should be free to choose their own religion. This would require the end of the penal laws. In time, he thought, this would result in people converting back to Catholicism. He did not intend to force conversion though. Parliament opposed the change to the penal laws. So to did the Scottish Presbyterians. Though they disliked the penal laws themselves, they were more opposed to the Catholicism that may come from it being retracted. The politics surrounding religion did not prevent the Parliament supporting James financially. He was granted finances for life in exchange for a peaceful government: quite a generous deal by the standards of the day. In 1688, the situation changed. It was not a political act that turned opinion against James. It was the birth of his son. With an heir in place and that heir being raised a Catholic, the hopes of a return to a protestant rule were shattered.

Plans to remove and replace King James II

The prospect of a lasting Catholic monarchy was too much to bear. Plans were put in place by prominent Protestants. William, Duke of Orange and Mary, James’ daughter, were invited to replace James on the throne. William was already contemplating an intervention against James. He took up the offer and landed with a large army at Torbay in November 1688.

The Glorious Revolution

James put up some resistance but after a defeat at Reading, fled to France. William now demanded the crown for himself and Mary. Threatening to withdraw his army back to Holland, Parliament was left with the choice of chaos or accepting the coup. They chose to follow the lead of the Whig politicians who had planned with William and pronounced the couple King and Queen.

James and his supporters did not give up the throne though. An attempt was made to wrestle back control through harnessing support in Ireland. This attempt, known as the Williamite Wars, ended in defeat. Simultaneous uprisings in Scotland by Jacobites were also suppressed by forces loyal to the government.

Further Reading on the British Empire

Making of the United Kingdom

Making of the United Kingdom unit homepage – Glorious Revolution – The British in Ireland, 1688-1691 – Settlement of Ireland – Jacobite Opposition – Glencoe Massacre – Darien Scheme – Act of Union – Migration to the Americas

Economic Consequences of Empire

Economic Consequences of Empire – Unit homepage – Royal African Company – Triangular Trade – Lifting of the RAC monopoly – Plantations – The Slave Economy – Opposition to the Slave Trade in North America – Slave Resistance – East India Company – Expansion of trade in East India – Bank of England – South Sea Bubble Bursts

How did the Empire affect working lives and consumer habits in Britain?

Empire and consumerism – Involvement of the British population in the slave trade and the ‘slave ports’ – Emergence of consumerism

How did the Empire affect British politics and changing ideas?

Politics and changing ideas – Coffee houses and developing political activism – growth of ideas of a racial hierarchy and the impact on settled minority communities

Common questions about the British Empire

Questions about the British Empire – When did the British Empire start? – When did the British Empire end? – What countries were in the British Empire? – Why did Britain want an empire? – What was life like in the British Empire? – Was the British Empire a force for good or bad? – What is Is perfidious Albion? – How was the British Empire controlled?

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