Explain what took place during the Glorious Revolution.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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When he came to the throne after years of civil war and dictatorship, Charles II promised to accept the principle that the monarchy would be limited by Parliament. But Charles quickly moved to strengthen the monarchy, and his brother, James II, was a believer in rule by divine right. To make matters worse, he was a Catholic, which made him anathema to the many Puritans still in England as well as the majority of Church of England adherents. He aroused their suspicion when he attempted to secure the repeal of the Test Acts, an action which would have allowed Catholics to serve in government. He even had a few bishops who refused to read a proclamation of toleration for Catholics arrested. In 1688, his wife gave birth to a son, which meant that England faced the prospect of a Catholic heir to the throne (both of his daughters, Anne and Mary, were Protestants.)

Unwilling to accept this possibility, seven powerful politicians, known as the Cabal, sent a letter to William of Orange, ruler of Holland, a Protestant, and the husband of Mary, James's daughter. William had a claim to the throne in his own right, as well, as the grandson of Charles I, who had lost his crown (and his head) as a result of the English Civil War. The letter sent by the Cabal offered the crown of England to William, and invited him to bring an army to dethrone James II. He did this in November of 1688, with precious little bloodshed.

Once he had overthrown James, William called for a Parliament to serve as a convention that would then bestow authority to rule on him. The king agreed to the authority of Parliament, essentially establishing himself as a limited monarch. Specifically, he agreed to a Declaration of Rights that guaranteed the protection of certain individual liberties as well as limitations on the royal prerogative.  Because the event was seen as the source of English liberties, and because of its relatively bloodless nature, the revolution that put William on the throne has become known as the Glorious Revolution.

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