The Queen (Mary of Modena) and James Francis, Prince of Wales left for France on December 9, 1688 and King James II-VII followed separately on 10th. Accompanied only by Sir Edward Hales and Ralph Sheldon, James made his way to Faversham in Kent seeking passage to France, first dropping the Great Seal in the Thames in a last ditch attempt to prevent Parliament being summoned.
In London, his flight and rumours of a “Papist” invasion led to riots and destruction of Catholic property, which quickly spread throughout the country. To fill the power vacuum, the Earl of Rochester set up a temporary government including members of the Privy Council and City of London authorities, but it took them two days to restore order.
When news arrived James II-VII had been captured in Faversham on 11 December 11, by local fishermen, Lord Ailesbury, one of his personal attendants, was sent to escort him back to London; on entering the city on 16th, James II-VII was welcomed by cheering crowds. By making it seem James remained in control, Tory loyalists hoped for a settlement which would leave them in government; to create an appearance of normality, he heard Mass and presided over a meeting of the Privy Council.
However, James made it clear to the French ambassador he still intended to escape to France, while his few remaining supporters viewed his flight as cowardice, and failure to ensure law and order criminally negligent.
Happy to help him into exile, Prince William of Orange recommended he relocate to Ham, London, largely because it was easy to escape from. James suggested Rochester instead, allegedly because his personal guard was there, in reality conveniently positioned for a ship to France.
On December 18, James II-VII left London with a Dutch escort as William of Orange entered, cheered by the same crowds who greeted his predecessor two days before. On December 22nd, Berwick arrived in Rochester with blank passports allowing them to leave England, while his guards were told that if James wanted to leave, “they should not prevent him, but allow him to gently slip through”. Although Ailesbury and others begged him to stay, James II-VII left for France on December 23, 1688.
The Revolutionary Settlement
James’ departure significantly shifted the balance of power in favour of William of Orange, who took control of the provisional government on December 28. Elections were held in early January for a Convention Parliament which assembled on 22nd; the Whigs had a slight majority in the Commons, the Lords was dominated by the Tories but both were led by moderates. Archbishop Sancroft and other Stuart loyalists wanted to preserve the line of succession; although they recognised keeping James on the throne was no longer possible, they preferred James’s daughter and Princess Mary either be appointed his regent or sole monarch.
The next two weeks were spent debating how to resolve this issue, much to the annoyance of William, who needed a swift resolution; the situation in Ireland was rapidly deteriorating, while the French had over-run large parts of the Rhineland and were preparing to attack the Dutch.
At a meeting with Danby and Halifax on February 3, 1689, William announced his intention to return home if the Convention did not appoint him joint monarch, while Mary let it be known she would only rule jointly with her husband. Faced with this ultimatum, on February 6, the Convention Parliament declared that in deserting his people James had abdicated and thus vacated the crown, which was therefore offered jointly to William of Orange and Mary.
James II-VII, King England, Scotland and Ireland
Historian Tim Harris argues the most radical act of the 1688 Revolution was breaking the succession and establishing the idea of a “contract” between ruler and people, a fundamental rebuttal of the Stuart ideology of the Divine Right of Kings. While this was a victory for the Whigs, other pieces of legislation were proposed by the Tories, often with moderate Whig support, designed to protect the Anglican establishment from being undermined by future monarchs, including the Calvinist William III.
The Declaration of Right was a tactical compromise, setting out where James had failed and establishing the rights of English citizens, without agreeing their cause or offering solutions. In December 1689, this was incorporated into the Bill of Rights.
However, there were two areas that arguably broke new constitutional ground, both responses to what were viewed as specific abuses by James II-VII. First, the Declaration of Right made keeping a standing army without Parliamentary consent illegal, overturning the 1661 and 1662 Militia Acts and vesting control of the military in Parliament, not the Crown.
The second was the Coronation Oath Act 1688; the result of James’ perceived failure to comply with that taken in 1685, it established obligations owed by the monarchy to the people.
At their coronation of April 11, 1689 William III and Mary II swore 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”. They were also to maintain the Protestant Reformed faith and “preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and its doctrine, worship, discipline and government as by law established”.
William III-II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland
Although William III and Mary II were proclaimed joint sovereigns of England, Scotland as an independent kingdom, could theoretically proclaime their own separate monarch..
Scotland was not involved in the landing of William of Orange, by November 1688 only a tiny minority actively supported James; many of those who accompanied William were Scots exiles, including Melville, the Argyll, his personal chaplain William Carstares and Gilbert Burnet.
News of James’s flight led to celebrations and anti-Catholic riots in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Most members of the Scottish Privy Council went to London; on January 7, 1689, they asked William III to take over the Scottish government.
Elections were held in March for a Scottish Convention, which was also a contest between Presbyterians and Episcopalians for control of the Kirk. While only 50 of the 125 delegates were classed as Episcopalian, they were hopeful of victory since William III supported the retention of bishops.
However, on March 16, a Letter from James II-VII was read out to the convention, demanding obedience and threatening punishment for non-compliance. Public anger at its tone meant some Episcopalians stopped attending the convention, claiming to fear for their safety and others changed sides.
The 1689–1691 Jacobite Rising forced William III to make concessions to the Presbyterians, ended Episcopacy in Scotland and excluded a significant portion of the political class. Many later returned to the Kirk but Non-Juring Episcopalianism was the key determinant of Jacobite support in both 1715 and 1745.
The English Parliament held James II-VII abandoned his throne; the Convention argued he ‘forfeited’ it by his actions, as listed in the Articles of Grievances. On 11 April, the Convention ended James’ reign and adopted the Articles of Grievances and the Claim of Right Act, making Parliament the primary legislative power in Scotland.
On May 11, 1689 William III and Mary II accepted the Crown of Scotland; after their acceptance, the Claim and the Articles were read aloud, leading to an immediate debate over whether or not an endorsement of these documents was implicit in that acceptance. In Scotland William was known as William II.
Under the 1542 Crown of Ireland Act, the English monarch was automatically King of Ireland as well. Tyrconnell had created a largely Roman Catholic army and administration which was reinforced in March 1689 when James II-VII landed in Ireland with French military support; it took two years of fighting before the new regime controlled Ireland.