II. DEPOSUIT POTENTES DE SEDE

Perhaps it was that premature birth that brought disaster to the precipitate King. Protestant England agreed with James that this boy might continue the effort to restore Catholicism; it feared him for the same reason that the King loved him. It denied, at first, that this was the King’s son; it accused the Jesuits of having brought in some purchased infant to the Queen’s bed as part of a plot to keep the King’s Protestant daughter Mary from inheriting the throne. It turned more and more to Mary as the hope of English Protestantism, and reconciled itself to another revolution to make her queen.

But Mary was now the wife of William III of Orange, Stadholder of the United Provinces; what would proud William say to being merely the consort of a queen? Why not offer him co-ordinate rule with Mary? After all, he too had royal English blood; his mother had been another Mary, daughter of Charles I. In any case William had no intention of playing consort to his wife. It was probably at his suggestion 17 that Bishop Burnet, who had exiled himself to the Continent on the accession of James, persuaded Mary to pledge her full obedience to William “in all things,” whatever authority might devolve upon her. “The rule and authority should be his,” she agreed, “for she only desired that he would obey the command of ‘Husbands, love your wives,’ as she should do that of ‘Wives, be obedient to your husbands in all things.’” 18 William accepted the obedience, but ignored the gentle allusion to his liaison with Mrs. Villiers, his mistress. 19 After all, Protestant rulers too should be allowed to adulterate their marriages.

William, fighting Louis XIV for the preservation of Dutch independence and Protestantism, had hoped for a time to win his father-in-law to an alliance against a French King who was destroying the balance and liberties of Europe. When this hope faded, he had negotiated with those Englishmen who led the opposition to James. He had connived at the organization, on Dutch soil, of Monmouth’s expedition against the King, and had allowed it to depart unhindered from a Dutch port. 20 He had reason to fear that James planned to disqualify him as a successor to the throne; and when a son was born to the King, the rights of Mary were obviously superseded. Early in 1687 William sent Everhard van Dykvelt to England to establish friendly contacts with Protestant leaders. The envoy returned with favorable letters from the Marquis of Halifax, the Earls of Shrewsbury, Bedford, Clarendon (son of the former Chancellor), Danby, Bishop Compton, and others. The letters were too vague to constitute clear treason, but they implied warm support for William as a contender for the throne.

In June, 1687, Kaspar Fagel, Grand Pensionary, issued a letter authoritatively stating William’s views on toleration: the Stadholder desired freedom of religious worship for all, but opposed the abrogation of the Test Act confirming public office to adherents of the Anglican faith. 21 This cautious pronouncement won him the support of prominent Anglicans.

When the birth of a son to James apparently ended William’s chances of succeeding James, the Protestant leaders decided to invite him to come and conquer the throne. The invitation (June 30, 1688) was signed by the twelfth Earl of Shrewsbury, the first Duke of Devonshire, the Earls of Danby and Scarborough, Admiral Edward Russell (cousin of the William Russell executed in 1683), Henry Sidney (brother of Algernon), and Bishop Compton. Halifax did not sign, saying that he preferred constitutional opposition; but many others, including Sunderland and John Churchill (both then in the service of James), sent William assurance of their support. 22 The signers recognized that their invitation was treason; they deliberately took their lives in their hands, and dedicated their fortunes to the enterprise. Shrewsbury, a former Catholic converted to Protestantism, mortgaged his estates for forty thousand pounds, and crossed to Holland to help direct the invasion. 23

William could not act at once, for he was not sure of his own people, and he feared that at any moment Louis XIV would renew his attack upon Holland. The German states also feared attack by France; nevertheless they raised no objection to William’s invasion, for they knew that his ultimate aim was to check the Bourbon King. The Hapsburg governments of Austria and Spain forgot their Catholicism in their hatred of Louis XIV, and approved the deposition of a Catholic ruler friendly to France. Even the Pope gave the expedition his nihil obstat, so that it was by permission of Catholic powers that Protestant William undertook to depose Catholic James. Louis and James themselves precipitated the invasion. Louis proclaimed that the bonds of “friendship and alliance” existing between England and France would compel him to declare war upon any invader of England. James, fearing that this statement would further unify his Protestant subjects against him, denied the existence of such an alliance, and rejected the offer of French help. Louis let his anger get the better of his strategy. He ordered his armies to attack not Holland but Germany (September 25, 1688); and the States-General of the United Provinces, freed for a time from fear of the French, agreed to let William proceed on an expedition which might win England to alliance against France.

On October 19 the armada set forth—fifty warships, five hundred transports, five hundred cavalry, eleven thousand infantry, including many Huguenot refugees from the French dragonnades. Driven back by winds, the fleet waited for a “Protestant breeze,” and sailed again on November 1. An English squadron sent to intercept it was scattered by a storm. On November 5—the national holiday commemorating the Gunpowder Plot—the invaders landed at Torbay, an inlet of the Channel on the Dorsetshire coast. No resistance was encountered, but no welcome was received; the people had not forgotten Jeffreys and Kirke. James ordered his army, under command of Lord John Churchill, to assemble at Salisbury, and he himself joined it there. He found his troops so lukewarm in their allegiance that he could not trust them to give battle; he ordered a retreat. That night (November 23) Churchill and two other high officers of the King’s army deserted to William with four hundred men. 24 A few days later Prince George of Denmark, husband of James’s daughter Anne, joined the spreading defection. Returning to London, the unhappy King found that Anne, with Churchill’s wife, Sarah Jennings, had fled to Nottingham. The spirit of the once proud monarch broke under the discovery that both his daughters had turned against him. He commissioned Halifax to treat with William. On December 11 he himself left his capital. Halifax, back from the front, found the nation leaderless, but a group of peers made him president of a provisional government. On the thirteenth they received a message from James that he was in hostile hands at Faversham in Kent. They sent troops to rescue him, and on the sixteenth the humiliated King was back in Whitehall Palace. William, advancing toward London, sent some Dutch guardsmen with instructions to carry James to Rochester, and there let him escape. It was done; James fell into the trap laid for him, and quitted England for France (December 23). He would survive his fall by thirteen years, but he would never see England again.

William reached London on December 19. He used his victory with characteristic firmness, prudence, and moderation. He put an end to the riots in which London Protestants had been pillaging and burning the houses of Catholics. At the request of the provisional government he summoned the lords, bishops, and former members of Parliament to meet at Coventry. The “Convention” that assembled there on February 1, 1689, declared that James had abdicated the throne by his flight. It offered to crown Mary as queen and accept William as her regent; they refused. It offered to crown William as king and Mary as queen; they accepted (February 13). But the Convention accompanied this offer with a “Declaration of Right,” which was re-enacted by Parliament as the “Bill of Rights” on December 16, and (though not explicitly agreed to by William) became a vital part of the statutes of the realm:

Whereas the late King James II . . . did endeavor to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this Kingdom:

1. By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with, and suspending of, laws, and the execution of laws, without consent of Parliament; . . .

3. By . . . erecting a . . . “Court of Commission for Ecclesiastical Causes”;

4. By levying money for and to the use of the Crown, by pretense of prerogative, for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament.

5. By raising and keeping a standing army . . . without consent of Parliament; . . .

7. By prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament . . .

All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm; . . .

Having therefore an entire confidence that. . . the Prince of Orange will . . . preserve them [the Parliament] from the violation of their rights which they have here asserted, and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights, and liberties, the . . . lords spiritual and temporal and commons, assembled at Westminster, do resolve that William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be and be declared King and Queen of England, France, and Ireland . . . and that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths of allegiance and supremacy might be required by law . . .

“I, A. B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure, as impious and heretical, this damnable doctrine . . . that princes excommunicated or deprived by the pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate has, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, . . . or authority . . . within this realm. So help me God.”

. . . And whereas it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by any king or queen marrying a papist, the said lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, do further pray that it may be enacted that all and every person and persons that is, are, or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the see or Church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be excluded and be forever incapable to inherit, possess, or enjoy the crown and government of this realm . . . 25

This historic proclamation expressed the essential results of what Protestant England called the “Glorious Revolution”: the explicit assertion of the legislative supremacy of Parliament, so long contested by four Stuart kings; the protection of the citizen against arbitrary governmental power; and the exclusion of Roman Catholics from holding or sharing the throne of England. Only next to these results in importance was the consolidation of governmental power in the landowning aristocracy; for the revolution had been initiated by great nobles and carried through with the landowning gentry as represented in the House of Commons; in effect, the “absolute” monarchy by “divine right” had been changed into a territorial oligarchy characterized by moderation, assiduity, and skill in government, co-operating with the princes of industry, commerce, and finance, and generally careless of the artisans and peasantry. The upper middle classes benefited substantially from the revolution. The cities of England recovered their freedom to be ruled by mercantile oligarchies. The merchants of London, who had shied away from helping James, lent £ 200,000 to finance William between his arrival in the capital and his first reception of parliamentary funds. 26 That loan cemented an unwritten agreement: the merchants would let the landowners rule England, but the ruling aristocracy would direct foreign policy to commercial interests, and would leave merchants and manufacturers increasingly free from official regulation.

There were some inglorious elements in the Glorious Revolution. 27 It seemed regrettable that England had had to call in a Dutch army to redress English wrongs, that a daughter should help oust her father from his throne, that the commander of his army should go over to the invader, and that the national Church should join in overthrowing a King whose divine arid absolute authority it had sanctified against any act of rebellion or disobedience. It was regrettable that the supremacy of Parliament had to be vindicated by opposing freedom of worship. But the evil that these men and women did was interred with their bones; the good that they accomplished lived after them and grew. Even in establishing an oligarchy they laid the foundations of a democracy that would come with the broadening of the electorate. They made the Englishman’s home his castle, relatively secure against the “insolence of office” and “the oppressor’s wrong.” They contributed some part to that admirable reconciliation of order and liberty which is the English government today. And they did all this without shedding a drop of blood—except the repeated nosebleeds of the harassed, helpless, deserted, witless King.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!