In 1688 and 1689, James II was dethroned as the king of England through a series of events that became known soon afterward as the "Glorious Revolution." Although battles were waged, the comparatively mild movement resulted in the beginnings of constitutional monarchy in England, paving the way for a government largely controlled by elected representatives in Parliament rather than subject to the whims of a single monarch.
Invasion by Invitation
James II's actions prior to the Glorious Revolution sewed seeds of dissent among some of his most powerful subjects. By royal proclamation the king suspended several acts of parliament and arrested the bishops of the Church of England. Many Protestant nobles feared the Catholic king would allow the pope to dominate the country. They invited William of Orange to invade the country and rescue them from the perceived tyranny of the king's arbitrary rule. William had married Mary, James II's daughter by his first marriage. William, who had already planned to invade England for political reasons, landed on the country's shores in November of 1688 with vast forces including 50 warships and 300 transports filled with 14,000 troops and tons of supplies.
Control of the Crown
James II headed toward the coast, prepared to defend England against the invading force, but the conspiracy to overthrow his rule penetrated his army. Even his own family turned against him, with his nephew and daughter defecting to William of Orange's side. James II was forced to retreat back to London, where heavy anti-Catholic rioting caused him to attempt to flee the country. He escaped to France, where he lived the rest of his life in exile as a guest of Louis XIV, the Catholic king of France. James II was England's last Catholic king, and also the last English monarch to claim rule by divine right. A convention parliament was convened in January of 1689, and William and Mary were crowned joint rulers of England.
The English Bill of Rights
The members of Parliament wouldn't allow William and Mary to take the throne of England without agreeing to certain principles that became known as the English Bill of Rights. William and Mary agreed to these conditions, which limited the power of the crown and established Parliament as the primary governing body of England. The document preserved basic rights for British subjects, including protection from cruel and unusual punishment and prohibited any fines or taking of private property without a trial. The crown couldn't tax the people or maintain a standing army without consent of Parliament, and was forbidden from interfering with parliamentary elections.
Prelude to Democracy
Many provisions in the English Bill of Rights were later included in the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, such as those forbidding excessive fines or excessive bail. The system of government introduced by the Glorious Revolution was not quite a democracy. For example, the ability to vote for parliamentary representatives was not universal, and nobility had special rights and privileges that commoners did not. However, American colonists carried with them the ideas of the Glorious Revolution, and modeled the Declaration of Independence after them. The American Revolution began because patriots believed their rights as English subjects were being violated, and the reasons the English nobles had overthrown James II became the same reasons American colonists revolted against King George III nearly 100 years later.
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