King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences

The history of the revolution

Title page of featured itemTitle page of The history of the revolution, 1725As the title page to this history of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 indicates, to understand why a revolution occurs, it is essential to understand the events leading up to it. A ‘necessary review’ of the events before the accession of William III in 1688 would tell of a society in which a Protestant political class was becoming deeply suspicious of a Catholic King, James II.

The English parliament, where political power was increasingly based, was suspicious of the King’s links with France, where he had both served in the army and converted to Roman Catholicism. France at this time was ruled by Louis XIV and was a powerful threat to the stability of Britain and its growing empire and trade routes. There was also a suspicion that the King inclined towards the system of absolute monarchy favoured by his cousin and ally, Louis.

When James II had come to the throne in 1685, the orderly succession from his brother Charles II was at first welcomed. However, his promotion of Catholics to positions of influence alienated the Protestant elite. In June 1688 James and his wife, Mary of Modena, produced a Catholic heir, meaning that this son, rather than his first born daughter Mary, a Protestant, would inherit the throne.

These factors led a group of influential Protestants, later given the soubriquet the ‘Immortal Seven’, to inform William III, Prince of Orange, that if he were to land in England with an invading army, he would be assured of their and others’ support. The group included politicians, senior military officers and a senior member of the Church of England, Henry Compton (1632-1713), the Bishop of London.

In this exhibition

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