British Empire—Glorious Revolution

1688 to 1745
Glorious Revolution to Last Jacobite Rising

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Era Summary—Glorious Revolution

The Glorious Revolution was a rebellion against James II, the last Catholic king of England, led by the supporters of William of Orange, his Protestant son-in-law. The reason for the uprising was said to be James' "tyrannical" insistence on issuing an "Edict of Toleration" granting religious freedom to Catholics but the real cause was that the Stuart kings had long been insufficiently deferential to Parliament, and that James's queen had recently given birth to a son, which assured the continuation of the Stuart line.

William III reviews the troops.

The ascension of William and Mary to the throne of England was masterminded by a group power brokers based in Amsterdam and London. Everything from William's triumphant entry into London and James' "flight" to France was planned to avoid controversy promote the revolution as a "peaceful" one. In England, the plan succeeded but in Scotland and Ireland James's supporters were an overwhelming majority and it was impossible to avoid bloodshed. In Scotland, clans of highlanders loyal to the Stuart cause were brutally suppressed and the Williamite War in Ireland raged for three years.

The Glorious Revolution transformed the English government in many ways that were not at first obvious. Within the first few years of William III's reign he granted permanent sovereign status and other privileges to the City of London, issued an edict of toleration granting religious rights to non-conformists, passed oppressive laws against Catholics in Ireland, and chartered the Bank of England to fund his Wars against France. The results of these changes were far reaching and essentially transformed England from a monarchy to an oligarchical form of government, nominally controlled by Parliament but effectively controlled by financial interests associated with the City of London.

Wars with Spain and France—The reign of William III marked the beginning of a century of wars between England and France. The official causes of these wars varied, but all of them involved a a worldwide struggle between Catholic France and Protestant England for domination of commerce and colonial influence. The War of the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV of France began as soon as William III ascended to the throne, twelve years later England became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession and even larger, continent wide conflict. The commercial motivations behind the wars became clear during peace negotiations when the number one concession England insisted on as a condition of peace was trading concessions that permitted her, for the first time, to trade in Spanish territories. England used this privilege to promote African slavery, engage in smuggling, and undermine her Catholic enemies by other means.

Queen Anne and Marlborough—After William III's death Mary's sister Anne assumed the throne. During the remainder of the Stuart reign the idea that one could accomplish political change through elected representatives rather than by petitioning a sovereign took hold and party politics became the accepted way of doing business. The Royalists became the Tory or conservative party, and the Whig, party represented the old Roundhead cause. A few other notable things occurred during Anne's reign. Her best general, the Duke of Marlborough, won a great victory in France at the battle of Blenheim, a critical turning point in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Hanoverian Succession and George I —The changes in the English government, granting ever more control to Parliament were so effective that on the death of Queen Anne, Parliament recognized George I, the Elector of Hanover as king of England in spite of the fact that the son of James II, then living in France was the obvious heir to the throne. Virtually all of Scotland, not to mention Ireland and Northern England supported the Stuart claim, and only with great effort, including spies, bribery, propaganda, and military force, was London able to enforce the Hanoverian claim. In spite of overwhelming opposition in Scotland, the 'Act of Union of 1707 united the thrones of England and Scotland under a single throne. And in Ireland 'Penal laws' stripped Catholics of virtually all their civil rights, including the right to assemble or bear arms.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 which granted the throne of England to the Hanoverian line solidified Parliament's control over the monarchy. When George I, ascended to the throne he bypassed not only the descendants of James II, but also other Stuart cousins that had a better claim. The Hanoverian monarchs served entirely at the discretion of Parliament, and the fact that George I's did not speak English and had no knowledge of political affairs was an asset, as far as the power brokers of London were concerned since he would be entirely under their control. Since George I was unable to run his own cabinet meetings, his leading minister Robert Walpole became the first Prime Minister of England, and much of the crown's authority transferred to this position.

'Gentlemen', he cried, drawing his sword, 'I have thrown away the scabbard'.

The Age of Walpole —Robert Walpole was the leading political figure in England from the time of the Hanoverian succession to the 1740's. He first served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (or Treasurer) of His Majesty's government, and was well connected with the financial power brokers of London. His influence increased in 1720 as a result of the 'South Sea Bubble', a financial crisis that rocked England, and bankrupted some members of Parliament. His deft handling of financial matters, won the confidence of the king and most of the other leading institutions of the state. He kept England at peace for over twenty years but his term was marked by considerable corruption and graft.

Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745—The supporters of the Stuart line, who were especially numerous in Ireland and Scotland, were called Jacobites, and they plotted against the Hanoverian government for generations. Two major Jacobite Rebellions against the Hanoverians occurred in 1715 (in favor of James II's son, the Old Pretender) and in 1745 (in favor of Young Pretender, James II's grandson). The rebellion of 1745 was put down harshly and many of the Highland clans of Scotland who supported the Jacobite cause were driven into exile. In Ireland the political divide between Protestant 'Orangemen' and the Catholic Jacobites was so severe very repressive measures were required for over a century to keep Ireland pacified.

Characters—Glorious Revolution

Character/Date Short Biography


William III
King of Netherlands, called to be king of England when James II, his father-in-law, was deposed.
Anne of England
Last of the Stuart queens, lived during the War of the Spanish Succession.
George I
First Hanoverian Monarch of Britain. Entrusted government to Robert Walpole
Old Pretender
Son of James II, led Jacobites in a bid to restore Stuarts to the throne of England.
Young Pretender
Grandson of James II, led Jacobites in bid to restore Stuarts to the throne of England.


Samuel Pepys
Kept a diary during the reign of Charles II; mentions the plague, the great fire, and much else.
Duke of Marlborough
Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Robert Walpole
First Prime Minister of Britain. Ran cabinet meetings for George I
Flora MacDonald
Heroine who help Bonnie Prince Charles escape from Scotland.

Arts and Sciences

Isaac Newton
Outstanding scientist. Made important breakthroughs in physics, optics, and mathematics.
Daniel Defoe
Author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.

Timeline—Glorious Revolution

AD YearEvent

Reign of William and Mary

1688 Glorious Revolution: James II deposed by William III and Mary.
1689 Williamiate War in Ireland—James II exiled to France after the Battle of Boyne.
1689-1697 William III leads coalition of European nations in War of the Grand Alliance against France.
1689 Toleration Act grants freedom of worship to all Protestants. Catholics excluded from protections.
1690 William III grants his supporters in the City of London a new charter guaranteeing their rights and sovereignty.
1691 Parliament begins to pass a series of Penal Laws to strip civil and property rights from Irish Catholics.
1694 Bank of England is established by Parliament in order to finance William III's war in Europe.
1701 Act of Settlement of 1701: Parliament formally excludes Catholics from succession names the Hanoverians dynasty as heirs to the English throne and .

Reign of Queen Anney

1701-1714 War of the Spanish Succession checks the growing influence of France under Louis XIV.
1704 British victory at the Battle of Bleinhiem under Duke of Marlborough.
1704 British gain possession of the gateway to the Mediterranean at the Siege of Gibralter.
1707 Act of Union of 1707: England and Scotland join under a single monarch to become Great Britain.

Reign of George I

1714 George I, first Hanoverian King, appointed by parliament; Robert Walpole first Prime Minister.
1715 Old Pretender incites the First Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.
1715 Treaty of Utrecht brings the War of the Spanish Succession to a close and grants England the right to trade slaves in Spanish dominions..
1715 Old Pretender incites the First Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.
1717 Grand Lodge of London is established as head of English Freemasonry. New constitution opens membership to non-operative masons and non-Christians.
1720 Collapse of joint-stock companies associated with the South Sea Bubble causes financial turmoil in Engand.
1721 First prime minister, Robert Walpole assumes leadership the Whig Party and runs George I's cabinet.

Reign of George II

1739 War of Jenkin's Ear fought primarily to re-establish England's right to trade in Spanish dominions.
1739-48 War of the Austrian Succession—Britain allies with Austria to fight France.
1745 Young Pretender incites the Second Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.

Recommended Reading—Glorious Revolution

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Harding - The Story of England   The "Glorious Revolution" to The First Hanoverian Kings (4)
Synge - The Tudors and the Stuarts   The Glorious Revolution to Queen Anne and Marlborough (3)
Gaskoin - The Hanoverians   The Coming of the Georges to Bonnie Prince Charlie (4)

Supplemental Recommendations

Marshall - Our Island Story   The Fiery Cross to Flora MacDonald (10)
Church - Stories from English History, Part Third   The Seven Bishops to The '45 (6)
Marshall - English Literature for Boys and Girls   Defoe—First Newspapers to Johnson—End of Journey (9)

Easy Reader Selections

Guerber - The Story of the English    James driven out of England to Bonny Prince Charlie (7)
Haaren - Famous Men of Modern Times   Sir Isaac Newton to William III, King of England (2)
Baldwin - Robinson Crusoe for Children    entire book
Lang - Gulliver's Travels    entire book