Academic Notes # World History - Glorious Revolution - 1688

Why is it termed as ‘glorious’:

The right of the prince to make laws and to levy money, had during many generations been undisputed. His administration could not be blamed. His subjects held their personal liberties by no other tenure than his pleasure, and there was not a single institution left which could give protection against the princes tyranny.

Against this background the English Revolution of 1688 which cleared the fundamental laws of the realm from ambiguity, and eradicated the notion of royal privilege, was certainty a glorious one because –

· It was accomplished without any bloodshed, and had begun a new era in English history based on all the best constitutional principles that England had been developing since the thirteenth century.

· It quietly buried, the Divine Right of Kings and made accession to the throne essentially dependent on an act of Parliament.

· It was the last English Revolution. Never since that time the English people had meditated resistance to the established government.

It was from this time that the privileges of the Crown were transformed into Rights of Parliament.


King James II took the throne in England in 1685, during a time when relations between Catholics and Protestants were tense. There was also considerable friction between the monarchy and the British Parliament.

James, who was Catholic, supported the freedom of worship for Catholics and appointed Catholic officers to the army. He also had close ties with France—a relationship that concerned many of the English people.

In 1687, King James II issued a Declaration of Indulgence, which suspended penal laws against Catholics and granted acceptance of some Protestant dissenters. Later that year, the king formally dissolved his Parliament and attempted to create a new Parliament that would support him unconditionally.

James’s daughter Mary, a Protestant, was the rightful heir to the throne until 1688 when James had a son, James Francis Edward Stuart, whom he announced would be raised Catholic.

The birth of James’s son changed the line of succession, and many feared a Catholic dynasty in England was imminent.

Reasons for the revolt:

· The king’s elevation of Catholicism,

· his close relationship with France,

· his conflict with Parliament and

· uncertainty over who would succeed James on the English throne

led to whispers of a revolt—and ultimately the fall of James II.

In 1688, seven of King James’s peers wrote to the Dutch leader, William of Orange, pledging their allegiance to the prince if he invaded England.

William was already in the process of taking military action against England, and the letter served as an additional propaganda motive.

King James was prepared for any attack but several of his own men, including his family members, deserted him and defected to William’s side. In addition to this setback, James’s health was deteriorating.

James decided to retreat back to London. He soon announced that he was willing to agree to a “free” Parliament but was making plans to flee the country due to concerns for his own safety.

In December 1688, King James made an attempt to escape but was captured. Later that month, he made another attempt and successfully fled to France, where his Catholic cousin Louis XIV held the throne and where James eventually died in exile in 1701.


The results of the Revolution of 1688 were as varied as far-reaching. These may be summarized as

· The end of the Divine Right Theory of the Kings in England,

· Power and right of the Parliament to ultimately decide the order of succession even in preference to hereditary rights,

· Establishment of supremacy of Parliament,

· End of the era of monarchical despotism,

· Triumph of Puritanism over Catholicism, etc.

Motives for the revolution were complex and included both political and religious concerns.

The event ultimately changed how England was governed, giving Parliament more power over the monarchy and planting seeds for the beginnings of a political democracy.

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