The Glorious Revolution

1688–1689

The Glorious Revolution (1688–1690) was a sequence of events that culminated in the ascension of William and Mary to the throne of England, contributing to uprisings in the colonies of Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. The English Bill of Right was also enacted, establishing the power of Parliament in several areas, including taxation.

William and Mary, Coronation

King William III and Queen Mary II.

Glorious Revolution Summary

The Glorious Revolution was the culmination of decades of unrest in England and led to the abdication of the throne by King James II, who was Catholic. James was replaced on the throne by his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange.

As part of the agreement for William and Mary to become King and Queen, they agreed to the English Bill of Rights. The document eliminated the idea of the Divine Right of Kings and automatic hereditary succession while affirming Parliament’s supremacy over the Crown. The English Bill of Rights also restricted the Crown’s authority regarding law, taxation, and the military. 

The English Colonies in America welcomed news of the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights and there were several uprisings against Catholics and government officials who were associated with King James II.

Ultimately, the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights influenced American arguments for independence, along with the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Glorious Revolution, Landing of William of Orange
This painting depicts the landing of William of Orange. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Glorious Revolution Facts

  • Date — The Glorious Revolution took place in 1688 and 1689.
  • Also Known As — The Glorious Revolution is also called the “Bloodless Revolution.”
  • Outcome — King William III and Queen Mary II replaced King James II.
  • Interesting Fact — King James II was the last Catholic monarch of England.
  • Interesting Fact — James Francis Edward Stuart, the son of King James II, became known as the “Old Pretender.” due to rumors he was not truly the son of James.
  • Interesting Fact — James Stuart’s son, Charles Edward Stuart, was known as the “Young Pretender” and “Bonnie Prince Charlie.”
  • Interesting Fact — Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to take the throne in 1745 in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, however, his army was defeated at the Battle of Culloden.
  • Interesting Fact — Queen Mary died in 1694, leaving William III to rule England by himself.
  • Interesting Fact — William III died in 1702 and was replaced by Mary’s sister, Anne.
  • Interesting Fact — The impact of the Glorious Revolution was felt in America through several rebellions, including the overthrow of the Dominion of New England.
Coronation of William and Mary, 1689, Painting, Rochussen
This painting depicts the coronation of William and Mary. Image Source: Amsterdam Museum.

Glorious Revolution in England

The Glorious Revolution was the culmination of decades of conflict in England that included the English Civil Wars, the era known as the Interregnum, and the Stuart Restoration.

Death of Charles and the Ascension of James

On February 2, 1685, King Charles II died. Four days later, his brother, James, the Duke of York, was crowned as James II of England and James VI of Scotland. 

King James II of England, Portrait
King James II. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Conflict Between Protestants and Catholics

As had been the case since the English Reformation, relations between Protestants and Catholics in England and its territories were tense. Charles II publicly supported the Church of England and religious tolerance. However, James was Catholic, which was revealed to the people of the kingdom and led to the Exclusion Crisis. From 1679 to 1681, England, Scotland, and Ireland tried to enact laws to keep James from succeeding his brother but ultimately failed.

Conflict Between the Crown and Parliament

The Crown and Parliament were also at odds with each other and James made matters worse. He appointed Catholics to key political positions, suspended laws that persecuted Catholics, and pardoned Protestant religious dissenters. Following the Monmouth Rebellion (1685), he retained a standing army, which he believed would help him gain more control over Parliament.

Catholic Threat

The effort James made to promote his faith increased concerns among Protestants who feared there would be a wave of conversions to Catholicism among English subjects. James intended to establish Catholic churches, convert colleges to Catholic seminaries, and exempt Catholics from Anglican churches and courts.

A Catholic Heir to the Throne

Although James was Catholic, the heir, his daughter Mary, was a Protestant. Mary was married to William of Orange, the ruler of most of the Netherlands, who was also a Protestant. This created an issue for James and was an obstacle to gaining the approval of Parliament for his pro-Catholic initiatives.

James was 51 years old at the time and most people believed he was incapable of producing a male heir. However, on June 10, 1688, James and his wife, Mary of Modena, had a son, James Francis Edward Stuart, who was baptized Catholic. 

As a male, James moved in front of Mary as heir to the throne. The idea of a Catholic heir to the throne of England raised concerns about the possibility of a Catholic dynasty and the spread of Catholicism in Europe and North America.

Rumors spread through the country that the Prince was an imposter. The true son of James and Mary was stillborn and replaced by another baby. This led to James Francis Edward Stuart being given the nickname “The Old Pretender.”

James, Prince of Wales, Old Pretender, Portrait
James Francis Edward Stuart. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Trial of the Seven Bishops

Later in June, a trial was held for seven Anglican bishops who refused to read the Declaration of Indulgence in their churches. The bishops were arrested, charged with seditious libel, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. The arrests were viewed as an attack on the Church of England.

The bishops were acquitted of the charges, leading to anti-Catholic riots in England and Scotland. 

Opponents of James Take Action

Opponents of James responded to the birth of the Prince and the Trial of the Seven Bishops by reaching out to William of Orange and essentially inviting him to invade England and dethrone James.

William’s army landed on Tor Bay on November 5, 1688, and slowly made his way to London. James responded by fleeing the country as his supporters abandoned him.

Convention Parliament of 1689

William took control of the government in December and elections for Parliament were held in January 1689. 

The “Convention Parliament” met on January 22 and eventually determined James had abdicated the throne, which was formally offered to William and Mary, provided they agreed to a Declaration of Rights.

William and Mary agreed to the Bill of Rights, which included the following:

  • Identified Mary’s sister Anne as the heir to the throne.
  • Barred Catholics from being King or Queen.
  • Eliminated the Crown’s ability to suspend laws.
  • Declared a standing army during peacetime illegal.

The Bill of Rights firmly entrenched Parliament’s supremacy over the Crown. This would become an important point in the argument Americans would make during the American Revolution and American Revolutionary War. 

When Americans argued against “no taxation without representation,” they insisted on their loyalty to the Crown and were critical of Parliament, which they pointed at as the source of the trouble between Britain and the 13 Original Colonies.

Effects of the Glorious Revolution in Colonial America

During the reign of Charles, several incidents in North America drew the attention of the Crown, including:

Charles responded by strengthening the Crown’s oversight of the colonies. He implemented new Navigation Acts and established the Lords of Trade and Plantations to keep watch over the colonies and ensure the collection of customs duties.

In 1686, James, the Privy Council, and the Lords of Trade decided to merge the colonies in New England together under a single government. Under the new arrangement, the colonies were known as the “Dominion of New England.” The purpose of the Dominion was to streamline English oversight of the colonies and give England more control over trade, land titles, and coordination of colonial defenses.

The first territories that were part of the Dominion were Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Province of New Hampshire, and part of Rhode Island. The Dominion was placed under the control of the Council of New England. The first President — or Governor — was Joseph Dudley, a native of Massachusetts.

In June 1688, Dudley was replaced with Sir Edmund Andros, and on September 9, 1686, the Board of Trade added the rest of Rhode Island and Connecticut to the Dominion. Andros proved to be unpopular, especially with the Puritans in Massachusetts. He arrived in Boston on December 20, 1687, and from then on he created controversy over local government, taxes, land titles, and religion. He had been ordered by the King to force the Puritans to allow the Church of England to operate freely, which he did. New York and New Jersey were added to the Dominion in 1688. 

Edmund Andros, Portrait
Edmund Andros. Image Source: Wikipedia.

In early 1689, when the news arrived regarding the Glorious Revolution, colonists rebelled against Catholics and other political leaders associated with James.

Boston Revolt and the Collapse of the Dominion of New England

In Massachusetts, 2,000 militiamen captured Governor Sir Edmund Andros, effectively ending the Dominion of New England. Massachusetts leaders established a temporary government based on the 1629 charter. 

William and Mary eventually issued a new charter for Massachusetts in 1691. The new Governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Phips, arrived in Boston on May 24, 1692. In the interim, Massachusetts was caught up in the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

Boston Revolt of 1689, Arrest of Andros, Illustration
This illustration depicts the arrest of Edmund Andros in Boston. Image Source: Pioneers in the Settlement of America, Vol. 1, by William A. Crafts.

Coode’s Rebellion

Maryland had been established by Lord Baltimore as a haven for Catholics, but the colony practiced religious tolerance and there was a significant Protestant population. 

Upon the ascension of William and Mary to the throne, Baltimore issued a proclamation, announcing the new monarchs. However, anti-Catholic factions led by John Coode formed the Protestant Association, took control of St. Mary’s City, and formed a Protestant government.

Leisler’s Rebellion

Following the imprisonment of Sir Edmund Andros, the New York Militia expelled the Lieutenant Governor, Francis Nicholson, who refused to acknowledge William and Mary as monarchs. Nicholson fled from the colony.

Jacob Leisler, a prominent merchant, declared himself Lieutenant Governor in the name of William and Mary. Leisler was quick to abuse his power and in December 1689, William and Mary appointed Henry Sloughter as Governor of New York

However, Leisler tried to maintain control and nearly started a civil war in New York. Leisler was eventually arrested and tried on charges of treason. He was found guilty and executed in 1691.

King William III, Portrait
King William III. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Glorious Revolution APUSH Review

Use the following links and videos to study the Glorious Revolution, Colonial America, and the Colonial Era for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

APUSH Definition and Significance

The Glorious Revolution for APUSH is defined as the bloodless revolution that took place in England in 1688–89, resulting in the abdication of King James II and the ascension of King William III and Queen Mary II. The Glorious Revolution also led to the implementation of the English Bill of Rights, which established Parliament’s authority over the Crown. In the American Colonies, the Glorious Revolution led to the overthrow of several governors and the collapse of the Dominion of New England. In many ways, the Glorious Revolution contributed to events that led to the American Revolution, especially by establishing Parliament’s right to levy taxes.

APUSH Video

This video from Heimler’s History discusses the Glorious Revolution and other events, including the English Civil War.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title The Glorious Revolution
  • Date 1688–1689
  • Author
  • Keywords Glorious Revolution, Boston Revolt of 1689, Coode's Rebellion, Leisler's Rebellion, King James II, King William III, Queen Mary II, English Bill of Rights
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 26, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 10, 2024

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