Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
As seventeenth century England expanded its domain into the New World, changes were occurring in the Mother Country that would have a huge effect on the entire English empire particularly in the American colonies. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 would set the precedent for the American Revolution that would occur less than a century later. It would be England that would lay the groundwork for the colonists’ revolt.
England was met with unsettling change in 1685 when James II ascends the English throne after the death of his brother, Charles II. The new monarch brought Catholicism back to England after more than a hundred years of Anglican rule. Apprehension swept through Anglican England as James made it known that the Catholic faith was to take back the power it had lost under Henry VIII. Every lord and member of Parliament as well as religious leaders had something to fear. Tensions between Catholic and Protestants had a history of leading to bloodshed and even civil war.
James did not wait long to begin the process of bringing Catholic rule back to England. One of the first things that the new Catholic king did to diminish Anglican power was to create an ecclesiastical court that was “designed to retrain the authority of Anglican priests and promote the appointment of Catholics to official posts.” James meant to bring the Catholic faith back to England and create a new empire. He began to take away the powers of the priests and the bishops. The king even went so far as to put those that opposed him into the Tower of London. England was to be Catholic completely, and all those that stood in the way would be removed.
Even a failed rebellion by his illegitimate nephew did not alter his plans. In fact, this act only made him more determined to increase his army and replace all those in power with Catholics that were loyal to him. He was going to surround himself with support and an army to intimate all.
Anglican aristocrats and religious figures were not willing to let all they had created and built to be taken away from them from a ruler who was ignoring Parliament. Dissatisfied with the new ruler’s actions and the disappearance of their rights, they called forth the Glorious Revolution. The Glorious Revolution began with Parliament and the lords sending pleas to another potential heir to come to their rescue and convince James to not give the throne to his Catholic son but to a Protestant heir. At that point, they were not meaning any particular heir. They only wanted a guarantee that the heir to the throne would not be James’s Catholic son. It led to the Dutch Prince of Orange, William, seizing the English throne and removing the Catholic rule.
Parliament “engineered the ouster of the legitimate male line of Stuart kings and imported a new Protestant king and queen” in William and Mary of the Netherlands. Unfair treatment by the monarchy led the lords to find a more favorable alternative. Though many did not anticipate William’s move of taking the throne, the lords did receive their wish of a Protestant ruler. James fled England in a panic to France and let William and Mary take the English crown with little to now resistence and reestablish the powers of the Anglicans. Dissatisfaction led to the Glorious Revolution.
“England in the 17th Century: Summary.” Glorious Revolution. http://faculty.ucc.edu/egh-damerow/glorious_revolution.html. accessed April 8, 2011.
“James II.” The Official Website of the British Monarcy. http://www.royal.gov.uk/ HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensoftheUnitedKingdom/TheStuarts/JamesII.aspx., accessed April 9, 2011.
Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin, 2000.
Thackeray, Frank W. and John E. Findling. Events That Changed America Through the Seventeenth Century. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.
“The Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights.” http://www.international.ucla.edu/ media/files/The%20Glorious%20Revolution%20and%20the%20English%20Bill%20of%20Rights.pdf. accessed April 8, 2011.