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England's "Glorious Revolution"

Charles and Parliament granted amnesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded: nine of those involving in the execution of Charles I were hanged, drawn and quartered (gruesome with the idea that it would deter); others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.

Theatres were opened. The reign of Charles II would be described as a time of artistic and cultural achievements and a time of commercial expansion and success in science. Some Protestants saw the reign of Charles as indulging in frivolity and debauchery. In the eighth year of his reign the Bawdy House Riots occurred. In London, crowds of young men inspired by pangs of virtue and devotions to morality demolishing houses of prostitution. On their minds was king Charles engaging in in extra-marital affairs with high-profile courtesans. Leaders of the riots were indicted for treason. This elevated hostility toward Charles among the Londoners, and again in London republican pamphlets began to circulate. But Charles felt secure enough.

Charles, known as the merry monarch, his disposition having contributed to a popularity among England's frivolity-loving masses. Not everything he did was frivolous. He granted a land charter to William Penn in an area that would become Pennsylvania. He signed a warrant for the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London for wounded and retired soldiers.

Charles was not dependent upon electoral victories, but Members of Parliament were. Those favoring constitutional monarchy and excluding the possibility of a Catholic monarch were called Whigs. When Parliament met in 1680 (twenty years into Charles II's reign), an Exclusion Bill passed in the House of Commons but was rejected by the House of Lords.

These were times when politics was man's business (queens like Elizabeth excepted). On 28 October 1681 in London, a woman was publicly flogged for the crime of "involving herself in politics."

In an appeal to the country against the Whigs and to make his rule absolute (without Parliament), Charles dissolved Parliament. A plot to assassinate Charles and his Catholic brother James was discovered and some Whig leaders were executed.

James II

It was only a couple of years after the assassination plot that nature took its course and Charles died, following a sudden apoplectic fit at the age of 54. His brother James, a Catholic, became King James II. Calm prevailed for about four months, until June 1685. The Protestant son of one of Charles' mistresses, James Scott Monmouth, had been in exile in the United Netherlands. He claimed the throne and landed on June 11 at Dorset with a force of 82 men. Some farmers and laborers rose up in support of him, but within a month (on July 6), Monmouth and his poorly trained force were defeated bu regular troops — said to be the last land battle in England. Monmouth fled and was captured within a few days and was hanged.

Exercising power he thought the Constitution granted him, James removed restrictions that prevented Catholics from holding public office and from serving as officers in the military. From Parliament he requested funds for a standing army that would have Catholic officers, and with this his Tory allies abandoned him.

In 1686 James was appointing Catholics to office, and Protestants who objected he dismissed from office. Oxford University was converted from an Anglican to a Catholic institution. The view of Catholics as a danger increased when James' first cousin, King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes (1562-63) which guaranteed Protestants freedom of worship. (economically it was a bad move for France as tens of thousands of French Protestants would move from France to Holland, England and Prussia, taking their skills and business acumen with them).

James II, meanwhile, had two daughters as possible heirs: Princess Mary and Princess Anne — both Protestants. It was expected that James, aged 51, would eventually be succeeded by a Protestant heir. But when a son was born to James' wife, this hope among Protestants was dashed. People feared the monarchy becoming permanently Catholic. Parliament looked for help from Princess Mary, who was in the Dutch Netherlands and was married to William III of the House of Orange. William had a good reputation among Protestants for having driven out invading Catholic forces back in 1673."

William had been looking forward to Mary inheriting the throne in England and to a greater unity between England and the United Netherlands. He accepted the invitation to him and to Mary to rule in place of James. On November 5, 1688, William landed in England at the head of a large army, accompanied by favorable circumstances. (If you are going to invade, better that opinion there is on your side). William landed with a printing press, and his printed materials were widely distributed, and the word "invasion" avoided. Protestants rose in support of William and Parliament. In Yorkshire, the Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, and most of England's army switched their loyalty to William. James lacked sufficient support or forces with which to resist. He feared for his and his family's safety, and with his wife and son he went into exile in France, where cousin Louis provided them with a pension.

William and Mary

William became king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1689. He accepted Parliament's new law on the monarchy's powers, a Bill of Rights — the rights of Parliament vis-a-vis the monarch. The monarchy was not to interfere in the freedom of Members of Parliament to speak or interfere in their selection. The crown was to keep no standing army without the consent of Parliament. People were to have the right to petition government, to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, and they were guaranteed freedom from excessive bail.

Parliament also passed the Toleration Act: people were no longer to be punished if they were not members of the Church of England, and people were not to be compelled to become members of the Church of England. Dissenters, however, were still required to pay tithes to the Church of England, and Catholics and Dissenters remained barred from public office and the universities.

Parliament forbade the royal family to marry Catholics, and it declared that no Catholic could become king or queen. In England the religion of the ruled now determined the religion of the ruler, a reversal of the old tradition that the religion of the ruler determined the religion of his subjects.

England now had a truly constitutional monarchy. Kingship was seen as empowered by man-made laws rather than godly magic. It was call the Glorious Revolution because it was relatively bloodless. But the transition of power was not over yet.

In July 1690 came the Battle of the Boyne, near the town of Drogheda on the coast in eastern Ireland. (William of Orange and Mary were crowned monarchs of England, Scotland, and Ireland.) William with 36,000 troops fought a French force of 23,000 led by James. William's force was Denmark and the Netherlands, and French Huguenots — a Protestant affair. The opposing army under James was mostly Irish Catholics, and some French regiments. The war ended in twelve days with the crushing defeat for James, who scurried back to France. It wasn't bloodless: casualties at the Battle of the Boyne numbered more than a couple of thousand, and elsewhere in Ireland more fighting against William's rule followed James's withdrawal to France. In the 20th century in Northern Ireland, William's victory was to be celebrated by the Orange Order every 12 July.

(The historian Lucy Worsley has a video on this subject.)


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