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William III (1650—1702) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and prince of Orange

James II (1633—1701) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland


Bill of Rights

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Glorious Revolution

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Title given to the revolution of 1688–9, which resulted in the ‘abdication’ of James II and the succession of William III and Mary II. Participants had differing objectives. Tories and Anglican clergy wanted to stop James undermining the church. Whigs aimed to depose James and limit the powers of the crown. Ordinary people detested James for his catholicism. William needed to remove a potential ally of Louis XIV and lead England into the war against France that had just begun.

In June 1688 William instigated an invitation from two Tories, four Whigs, and Bishop Compton to intervene. The birth that month of an infant prince to James had transformed the political future: he would succeed James in place of Mary (his eldest, protestant daughter, married to William). William's intervention was necessitated by the size of James's professional army. However, William was promised that most of its officers would defect. When this happened soon after William landed at Torbay on 5 November James found that he could not fight a battle. Demoralized, James tried to fly the country but was stopped. A second successful escape to France was the direct result of William's pressure. This left a vacuum. The Bill of Rights (1689) followed the Whig formula, construing James's flight as abdication, declaring the throne vacant, and William and Mary as joint sovereigns.

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