The Glorious Revolution
was a largely
non-violent revolution (also sometimes called the "Bloodless Revolution"),
1688-1689, in which the Stuart king was removed from the thrones of England,
Scotland, and Ireland, and replaced by William of the House of Orange and
his wife and joint sovereign Mary.
During his three-year reign, King James II fell victim to the political
battle in Britain between Catholicism and Protestantism, between the divine
right of the Crown and the political rights of Parliament. James' greatest
problem was his Catholicism which left him alienated from both parties
in parliament. Any attempts at reform by James were thus viewed with deep
suspicion. James also pursued a number of untenable policies, such as a
desire for a standing army and a pursuit of religious toleration. While
his brother and predecessor, Charles II, had done the same, he had not
been an overt Catholic like James. Matters came to a head in 1688 when
James fathered a son. Until then, the throne would have passed to his Protestant
daughter, Mary. The prospect of a Catholic dynasty in Britain was now real,
however. Leaders of the hitherto loyal Tory Party united with members of
the opposition Whigs, and set out to solve the crisis.
A conspiracy was launched to depose James and replace him with his daughter
Mary and her husband, William of Orange -- both Protestants. William was
leader of the Dutch, then in the early stages of a war with the French:
the War of the Grand Alliance. Jumping at the chance to add England to
his alliance, William and Mary landed at Brixham, Devon with a large Dutch
army. James' nerve broke, his army under the future Duke of Marlborough
deserted, and he fled to Kent where he was captured. The memory of the
execution of Charles I still being strong, he was then allowed to leave
In 1689, the Convention Parliament convened and declared that James'
flight amounted to abdication. William and Mary were offered the throne
as joint rulers, an arrangement which they accepted. Despite an uprising
in support of James in Scotland, the first Jacobite rebellion, and in Ireland
where James used local Catholic feeling to try to regain the throne in
1689-1690, the revolution was remarkably bloodless. It can thus be seen
as much more of a coup d'état than an authentic revolution. England
stayed calm throughout, Scotland was calm after the Jacobites were defeated
at the Battle of Killiecrankie, and James was expelled from Ireland following
the Battle of the Boyne.
The Glorious Revolution was one of the most important events in the
long evolution of powers possessed by Parliament and by the Crown in England.
With the passage of the Bill of Rights it stamped out any final possibility
of a Catholic monarchy, and ended moves towards monarchical absolutism
in the British Isles by circumscribing the monarch's powers.