William III and Mary II crowned as joint rulers of Britain
James II managed in his brief reign – he ascended the throne in 1685, and fled the country in December 1688 – to alienate almost every faction in the country. He perhaps merits consideration as England’s stupidest monarch, a hotly contested honour in a crowded field.
Through his bloody reprisals for the Monmouth rebellion the West Country in its entirety held a grudge against him. Protestants throughout the land, even those willing to accept a Catholic King, resented his rabid popery and persecutions. The Commons, insulted and degraded by James’s packing of the House with his allies, were pushed by his actions towards rebellion. Possibly the crowning glory of James’s idiocy was his plotting with France, waving aside the warnings of his natural friends in the Tory party.
Thus it was that William of Orange , Europe’s leading Protestant monarch, was invited in June 1688 by Parliament – or more correctly by ‘the immortal seven’ to take the throne. He was doubly attractive in that he was married to James’s own daughter, the openly Protestant Mary . Landing in November 1688 at Brixham with a Dutch army of about 20,000, James progressed with evermore support to London, forcing James to flee (with the tacit blessing of William, who preferred a live fool as an enemy rather than a dead martyr).
Though the only precedent for joint rulers of England was not an auspicious one – Philip of Spain had been made King for her lifetime by Mary Tudor – it was politic of William to agree to the joint monarchy proposed by Parliament. He became not a conqueror but a saviour, and The Glorious Revolution enjoyed extremely wide support. In practical terms William was the true monarch, Mary – who died of smallpox only four years after becoming Queen – leaving decision making and administration in his hands. The greatest Tory grandees had offered her the crown as sole ruler, but she had more than enough sense to refuse this foolish offer.
Parliament ruled in February 1689 that James had by fleeing abdicated, clearing the way for William and Mary to be enthroned at Westminster Abbey on April 11 1689, the only minor annoyance being that the Archbishop of Canterbury still recognized James as King, so the Bishop of London took his place in the ceremony. This was a minor matter compared to the decision the same day by Scotland’s leaders, learned shortly afterwards by the joint rulers, that James was no longer their King, opening that country to their rule as well.
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