Back to the video list: History of the British Isles


When king James II emphasised on the Devine Right of Kings and threatened to strengthen the Catholic faith in England politicians invited William of Orange to London to take over the government. William and his wife Mary achieved the English crown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which saw near to no violence. This secured the prevalence of the Church of England and the influence of the parliament. The Bill of Rights, which was passed during this period, had a significant influence on constitutions all over the world.






  • Date: 1688 – 1689
  • Location: England, Scotland & Ireland
  • Event: William of Orange & Mary II replace James II on the English throne in an almost bloodless revolution


Parties & Persons Involved

  • William of Orange (1650 – 1702)
  • Mary II (1662 – 1694)
  • James II (1633 – 1701)



English Situation

  • 1642 – 1651: English Civil War, esp. because of religious tensions & conflicts between king & parliament
  • 1649: The (absolutistic) king Charles I is executed & England becomes a republic
  • 1660: The parliament declares Charles II king
  • 1685: Charles II dies & his Catholic half-brother James II is crowned
  • 1685 – 1687: Reign of James II:
    • James believes in the divine right of kings
    • Religious tolerance for Catholics & non-conformists
    • James places Catholics in key positions
  • The parliament & the Church of England accept the situation because both of James’ daughters are Protestants
  • Apr 1688: James II demands that the Church of England read the Declaration of Indulgence (freedom of belief & abolishment of the conformity to the Church of England) in church
    • 6 bishops reject & are arrested
  • Jun 1688: The son of James II is born which poses the threat of a Catholic dynasty on the English throne


European Situation

  • 17th century: France becomes the continental hegemon under Louis XIV
  • Growing tensions between the Catholic France & the Protestant Netherlands – Prephase of the War of the Great Alliance (1688-1697)
  • William, stadtholder of the Netherlands, is worried about the pro-Catholic & pro-French policy of James II
  • 1687 – 1688: William stands in secret correspondence with English politicians
  • Apr 1688: France agrees in a naval treaty to finance an English squadron in the Channel
  • William decides to invade England



William Arrives in England & Consolidates His Power

  • Jun 1688: The Immortal Seven (1 bishop & 6 noblemen) invite William to England in a letter
  • 15 Nov 1688: William & his forces land in Torbay
  • William issues the Declaration of The Hague (his only purpose in England is the restoration of the law & the protection of the faith)
  • Nov 1688: James’ daughter Anne, officers & soldiers change sides & join William
  • 09 – 11 Dec 1688: James throws the Great Seal in the Thames during a failed attempt to escape
  • 18 Dec 1688: William arrives in London
  • 23 Dec 1688: James flees to France


William & Mary Ascend to the Throne

  • 28 Dec 1688: William is tasked to form a provisional government
  • 05 Jan 1689: Election of the Convention Parliament
  • 11 Apr 1689: William & Mary are crowned joint monarchs & Anne’s children are declared heirs to the throne
    • New Coronation Oath (Coronation Oath Act, 1688): “solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same.“
  • 11 May 1689: William & Mary accept the Scottish crown
  • Mar 1689 – Oct 1691: William suppresses the Jacobite resistance in Ireland
  • 16 Dec 1689: Bill of Rights is ratified


Bill of Rights of 1689

  • Condemnation of acts of James II
  • Succession to the throne & prohibition of Catholic monarchs
  • No royal interference with the law
  • Taxing authority of the parliament
  • Freedom to petition the monarch without retribution
  • No standing army in peace time without consent of the parliament
  • Freedom of people to have arms
  • Independence of the election of parliament
  • Freedom of speech in parliament
  • No cruel & unusual punishment


Consequences & Impact

  • Scotland & Ireland:
  • Religions:
    • Integration of non-conformist Protestants
    • Catholics are ostracised for the next 140 years (Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1829)
  • System of government:
    • Definite end of the absolutist monarchy on the British Isles
    • The constitutional monarchy with a strong parliament is firmly established
    • This system of government is a global forerunner of other constitutions, i.e. U.S. Constitution (1787)
    • The governmental basis for the ascent of the British Empire is set
  • By the way: Because of the parliamentary control there is the British Army unlike the Royal Navy & Royal Air Force