Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Not-So-Glorious Revolution

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The Williamite treason and plot!—author's adaptation of traditional rhyme

On November 5, 1688, Prince William of Orange set foot on English soil, beginning the struggle for power that would ultimately be known as the “Glorious Revolution.”
Most Protestants see it much as R. M. Ballantyne put it: “The great Revolution of 1688, which set William and Mary on the throne, also banished the tyrannical and despotic house of Stuart for ever; opened the prison gates to the Covenanters; restored to some extent the reign of justice and mercy; crushed, if it did not kill, the heads of Popery and absolute power, and sent a great wave of praise and thanksgiving over the whole land. Prelacy was no longer forced upon Scotland. The rights and liberties of the people were secured, and the day had at last come which crowned the struggles and sufferings of half a century.”

So…was William of Orange justified?

James (future James II) had married Anne Hyde, and had two daughters: Mary and Anne. Mary married William, Prince of Orange (in the Netherlands), and Anne married George, Prince of Denmark. In 1671, Anne Hyde died, and in 1673, James, a Catholic, married Mary of Modena, a Catholic. In 1685, James II succeeded to the throne upon Charles II’s death. On June 10, 1688, Mary of Modena had a son named James Francis Edward Stuart, or James III.

In the English law, a younger son would succeed to the throne before an older daughter. This rule was used with Henry VIII’s children: Edward VII, the youngest child, was first on the throne, then Mary, the oldest, then Elizabeth, the youngest daughter. This meant that James III would become king of England before his sisters, Mary and Anne.

Perhaps this would have been tolerable for William, had it not been for one more factor: France. William had devoted his life to building a “Grand Alliance” against France and her “Sun King”, Louis XIV. The Grand Alliance comprised the Catholic Hapsburg Empire (roughly Austria and Germany), Catholic Spain, the Duchy of Savoy, and the Protestant Netherlands. But one country was missing: England. William of Orange desperately wanted England in his Grand Alliance, but James—remembering that France had kept him safe from Cromwell—refused. Instead, he stayed neutral in the war that was brewing.

When James III was born, seven noblemen asked William to claim the crown in his wife’s name. They said that James III was not the real son of the King, but that the King intended to foist him on the English people to create a Catholic dynasty.

William was glad to oblige (though he had congratulated the King and Queen on the birth of their heir, and later said he believed James III was their lawful son), for this would draw England into his “Grand Alliance”. He prepared a fleet and army to land in England, which they did on November 5. His declaration when he landed said that he was here, not to claim the crown, but to persuade James to dismiss his Catholic councilors. However, he met with a cold welcome from the English, who did not like a foreign power on English soil.

James’s army was around him, but many treacherous officers such as John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough, deserted to William. Mary of Modena and James III fled to France, escorted by the Duc de Lauzen. James II was captured by William, and entered London, then was moved to Rochester. While in Rochester, James attended Mass…with the supposedly Protestant Dutch Blue Guards. He told the colonel that “…while in the English army not 1000 men in every 180,000 were Catholics, the invading army, professedly to vindicate the Protestant liberties, was two-thirds of it composed of Catholics.” After, he escaped to France, not trusting himself in England.

Now, Parliament declared the throne vacant, and offered—not to James’s daughter Mary—but to William and Mary! In fact, Mary ruled in name only; the real power was William. James II had brought liberty of conscience to England, but William III made life intolerable for the Irish Catholics by breaking the Treaty of Limerick. Incidentally, this would strengthen the French because young Irish soldiers went to France to fight in the Irish Brigade against the English.

While life would seem bad for James II, he consoled himself by saying that it was the will of God. An excellent way to see the unfortunate “Glorious Revolution”.

No comments:

Post a Comment