display | more...

Event which increased the power of the English parliament at Westminister at the expense of the monarch.

During the period 1649-60, England was under effective military dictatorship, ruled by the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Following the restoration of Charles II, it was only a matter of time before the power of parliament and King clashed. This happened following the death of Charles and the accession of James II. The Protestant majority of the country feared that this Catholic King would attempt to reverse the declining fortunes of his co-religionists in England. To increase this fear James' second wife was a Catholic, Mary who went on to produce an heir. His eldest daughter, also Mary, from his first marriage was a Protestant who married William of Orange.

In 1685, James II succeeded in putting down two invasion attempts. The Earl of Argyle landed in Scotland from Holland but was defeated near the river Clyde. The Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis and was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor. The royal forces were ably commanded by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (ancestor of Winston Churchill).

To quell further dissent, the Bloody Assizes were conducted (an Assize being a rural court) and about 320 were condemned to hang by Chief Justice George Jeffreys. The hangman Jack Ketch was gainfully employed at this point.

During this time James became increasingly frustrated with the limitations placed on his power by parliamentary laws. Using his Royal Prerogative he began dismantling the system of laws then in place. The Test Act excluded Catholics from holding officer positions in the army and this was repealed. Protestants were suspicious that a secret Catholic cabal was running the country through the King. James appointed Richard Talbot, a Catholic, as Lord Deputy of Ireland. Finally he dissolved parliament.

James then tried to force the Anglican bishops to read a Declaration of Indulgence from the pulpit. Seven bishops refused and were brought to the Tower of London. However, they were acquitted. At this stage, the members of parliament from the Whig and Tory party were equally disenchanted with the King and were determined to have a Protestant King in his place. William of Orange was there choice and seven influential men (the Immortal Seven) invited William to claim the throne.

William had come to power in the Netherlands originally hailing from the Dutch province of Oranje. At the time Europe was divided on religious lines between the Protestant north and the Catholic south. France under Louis XIV was the dominant Catholic power. The addition of Britain to the Protestant fold would swing the balance in favour of William.

William landed with an army at Torbay,Devonshire to the west of England. He met only token resistance and John Churchill defected to his side with the majority of English forces. William's march to London met with little resistance and James II fled to France.

The parliament was reconvened and decided the the flight of the King was the same as abdication. William III and Mary II ruled Britain together (in practice William wielded all the power).

Parliament introduced a Declaration of Rights and a Bill of Rights which had the effect of limiting the power any future monarch. Kings or Queens of England would no longer be allowed to revoke parliamentary laws or impose taxes in order to raise standing armies. Religious freedoms were granted to Protestant dissenters. However, the same freedoms were not extended to Catholics. No Catholic would ever be allowed to sit on the throne again, a discrimination which still pertains today.

Since the accession of William III laid the foundations of parliamentary democracy the event is often described as the glorious revolution of 1688. Due to the lack of bloodshed, it is sometimes called the bloodless revolution. It probably forestalled any violent uprising as happened in France.

However, the consequences were not so glorious for the Catholics of Britain and Ireland. The fight between the deposed James II and William III continued in more bloody terms in Ireland.

The Glorious Revolution is celebrated by the Presbyterians of Ulster and Scotand to this day.

The Glorious Revolution didn't necessarily reduce the powers of the monarchy in favour of Parliament.

In theoretical and legal terms, it did, due to the Bill of Rights described in Blush Response's excellent writeup.

However, by granting Protestants toleration, it removed one area of conflict between the crown and Parliament, and the Bill in general brought in a new era of co-operation between the two institutions. This was enhanced by the guarantee of a regular income for the monarch; finance had been an area of conflict and ultimatums during the reigns of Charles I and James I. By creating more harmony between the king and Parliament, they were able to rule as the king-in-parliament, with the result that power for both increased.

William and Mary, and Anne after them, used their power in co-operation with Parliament. However, it was with the accession of the Hanoverians, George I and George II, that the crown began to lose power. Anne was the last monarch to use the royal veto on Bills in 1708. George I spoke no English and allowed his ministers to run the country; after 1717 he stopped attending cabinet meetings. In this way, he allowed power to slip into the hands of Parliament, a decline in royal power which contiued in the reigns of George II, III and IV.

While the Glorious Revolution theoretically marked a decrease in royal power in favour of Parliament, it took an incompetent monarch to put the theory into practice.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.