The Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689 replaced the reigning king, James II, with the joint monarchy of his protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. It was the keystone of the Whig (those opposed to a Catholic succession) history of Britain.
According to the Whig account, the events of the revolution were bloodless and the revolution settlement established the supremacy of parliament over the crown, setting Britain on the path towards constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
But it ignores the extent to which the events of 1688 constituted a foreign invasion of England by another European power, the Dutch Republic.
Although bloodshed in England was limited, the revolution was only secured in Ireland and Scotland by force and with much loss of life.
Moreover, the British causes of the revolution were as much religious as political. Indeed, the immediate constitutional impact of the revolution settlement was minimal. Nonetheless, over the course of the reign of William III (1689-1702) society underwent significant and long-lasting changes.
To understand why James II’s most powerful subjects eventually rose up in revolt against him we need to understand the deep-seated fear of ‘popery’ in Stuart England.
‘Popery’ meant more than just a fear or hatred of Catholics and the Catholic church. It reflected a widely-held belief in an elaborate conspiracy theory, that Catholics were actively plotting the overthrow of church and state.
In their place would be established a Catholic tyranny, with England becoming merely a satellite state, under the control of an all-powerful Catholic monarch, (in the era of the Glorious Revolution, identified with Louis XIV of France). This conspiracy theory was given credibility by the existence of some genuine catholic subterfuge, most notably the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
A new crisis of ‘popery and arbitrary government’ erupted in the late 1670s.
Public anxieties were raised by the issue of the…