The Bloodless Revolution and the Beginnings of Democracy

You all know how much I love history. I used to be fascinated by the past queens and kings, and I am confident that I reached a point into my life where I couldn’t leave history behind. We are surrounded by history, and with every second that passes, we create more.

English and Scottish history have always had a special place in my heart, mainly because of Outlander, a book series I adore. Recently I studied the Glorious Revolution at school, and when we finished the lesson, I had the urge to learn more; this is when the idea of this post emerged. I wanted to do some research about this topic, and if I had the opportunity to write a blog post with the information I gathered, why wouldn’t I?

The Glorious Revolution created the basis of democracy in England, and in this article, I will tell you why.

Table of Contents

  • What was the Bloodless Revolution?
  • Are the Bloodless Revolution, The Glorious Revolution and the Revolution of 1688 the same thing?
  • What Led to the Revolution?
  • Why Were People at the Time Scared of Catholicism?
  • James the Second
  • The Dutch Invasion
  • The Bill of Rights
  • The Outcomes of the Revolution of 1688
  • Book Recommendations on the Topic
  • Bibliography

What was the Bloodesss Revolution?

The Bloodless Revolution took place in 1688-1689, England, its purpose being to overthrow King James the Second from the throne. The Stuart House fought badly for the right to rule over England, and not even 100 years later, after King James the First, son of Mary Stuart, took over the thrones of England and Scotland, their dynasty died. In the end, the rule of England was taken by Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange.

Margret Thatcher and Karl Marx (historians) are confident that the rule of William and his English wife, Mary, laid the foundations for Britain’s greatness in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this period, Britain becomes a consequential commercial power.

The conflict took place between the Parliament and the King. Many historians believe that this event brought to an end the absolute monarchy and set up the base for a constitutional system.

Are the Bloodless Revolution, The Glorious Revolution and the Revolution of 1688 the same thing?

Throughout this article, you’ll see me referring to the English Revolution as the Bloodless Revolution, the Glorious Revolution, or even the Revolution of 1688. All of these terms represent mainly the exact thing, but if we look deeper, they’re not entirely the same.

Many historians believe that this event had minimal bloodshed, but if we take a more in-depth look into Edward Vallance’s work, called The Glorious Revolution, we can see for ourselfs that it wasn’t the case.

Despite the minimal number of deaths in England, the event had a massive impact on the ones who were living in Ireland and Scotland. The deaths created in these countries were significant, especially for the McDonalds and Glencoes (clans).

Catholic historians typically refer to the Glorious Revolution as the “Revolution of 1688,” while Whig historians prefer the phrase “Bloodless Revolution.” The term “Glorious Revolution” was first coined by John Hampden in 1689. Editors, Glorious Revolution

* Whig – the people opposed to the Chatolic Succesion. They merged into the liberal party.

Edward Vallance believed that all of the scars left by the war were never healed for the Scottish and Irish people, and these ultimately lead to the Culloden Battle. They tried to threaten the Protestant succession by making Charles Stuart the rightful king, but the conflict only led to the death of the clans in 1746.

What Led to the Revolution?

I want to make sure that you understand the causes of the 1688 Revolution, and for that, I need to go back in time almost 50 years before the Bloodless Revolution took place.

Throughout the seventeenth century, there has been tension between the Parliament and the king. In 1640, Charles the First had a dispute with the Parliament. At the time, resources were low, so Charles tried to make the taxes bigger for the Londoners. Of course, the population took the side of the Parliament and this how the civil war started. In 1649 the king was beheaded. His sons Charles and James ran to France, and George Cromwell lead England until he died in 1659. His son, Richard, took the throne, but the dangers of another civil war were just around the corner.

The bourgeoise agreed that it would be best to restore the monarchy, and this is how Stuart’s came back. In 1660 the coronation of Charles II, son of Charles I, happened.

But of course, that wasn’t the end, and things only got more complicated from there.

The Restauration wasn’t as glamorous as it might seem. Before coming back to England, Charles and his brother were exposed to the leading style of Louis XIV. That meant they wanted absolute monarchy. They stayed in power twenty-five years, and without stopping, they tried to reinforce their beliefs.

Throughout the Restauration, both of the parties made sacrifices. Charles was allowed to control his judiciary, his succession to the throne, and to collect traditional taxes. In exchange, Charles had to remain a Protestant and ask for the parliament’s approval for additional taxes.

Issues Separating Crown and Parliament, 1660-1688

IssueKing’s Favored PositionParliament’s Favoured Position
ConstitutionAbsolute Royal Power (King Above Law)Constrained Royal Power (King Whitin Law)
Inter-Branch ChecksRoyal right to control succession
(Parliamentary approval NOT required)
Parliament’s right to meet
(Royal summons NOT required)
JudiciarySubject to Royal PunishmentSubject to Parliamentary Impeachment
Ordinary RevenueRoyal authority sufficient to impose and collect traditional taxes.Parliamentary authority necessary to impose and collect traditional taxes.
Extraordinary RevenueRoyal authority sufficient to impose and collect new taxes.Parliamentary authority necessary to impose and collect new taxes.
AppropriationComplete royal control over expenditures.Parliamentary audit or even appropriation.

In the time Charles II ruled over England, he made many mistakes, and I wish I could say they killed him, but it is up to you to decide. He died because of disease, and we could say that he has been tortured the last moments of his life (lack of medical knowledge). I like to think of this as the divine punishment for the wrongs he did, but we can’t know for sure.

He went behind the Parliament and started a war with Protestant Holland (1665-1667). When he had no funds left, he signed a treaty –Treaty of Dover– with Louis XIV, once again behind the back of the Parliament, and so on. It would be a waste of time to go in-depth with how Charles II ruled, but of course, his actions started the downfall of the Stuart House.

Why Were People at the Time Scared of Catholicism?

The Anglican Church converted to Protestantism in the early 1600s. For a deeply protestant country, it wasn’t only the fear of a new leader but also the hate for a new way of worship. Religion had a huge impact on the politics of the time, and, understandably, people feard a Catholic monarch. They feard that the church and the state would be compromised.

James the Second

James II; Portrait by Peter Lely

Charles II died in 1685 without an heir, so the next monarch in line was James II. He was beloved by the people, but soon enough, he lost the support of the public. He promised to respect and honour the county’s existing religion, but after the coronation, he showed his real face. Unlike his predecessor, who tried to do the mischief as hidden as possible, James was bold. The king even announced that his son would be raised under the Catholic religion, and when it came to the military front, James prompted Catholics in higher functions.

The Tories worried for the Church of England and the Whigs worried for the independence of the Parliament. They agreed to unite against James II. In June 1688 the Immortal Seven wrote to the Dutch of Stadtholder (William of Orange) to request his assistance in the matter. In November, William marched through London with his army, and James lost the will to battle. In December he tried to flee the county, but the attempt led to his seizure. Despite this event, by the end of December, he got to France where he died in 1701.

*Tories – political party opposed to the Whigs. They merged into the conservative party.

The Dutch Invasion

A simple explanation of the Dutch invasion would be that a prince from the Netherlands crossed the channel with multiple ships, landed in Brixton and went to Westminster to be coronated. It sounds to be quite simple, the main reason being the fact that he was invited to invade England. On top of that, he also had some perks; William was protestant while James was Catholic. Even if James had the support of the Scottish and Irish, the hate for the Catholics was deeply rooted in England. When James announced that his son would be raised as a Catholic, William gained another advantage. As you know, William was part of the royal family, but when he managed to break the catholic part (James II, James FitzJames and Arabella Churchill), he secured the throne and still maintained the royal blood through Mary (marriage).

Upon William’s and Mary’s arrival, they were greeted cheerfully by the Englishmen, and the Dutch invasion was a success.

The Bill of Rights

Parliament offering the crown to William and Mary in February 1689; they were enthroned two months later. Classic Vision/age fotostock

If we take a look at the picture, we will see that Mary and William are coronated as co-monarchs. What is interesting about it is the fact that when talking about rulers, we typically think of a single one. In this case, both of them share a crown and authority.
The most important thing we can see in that picture is the document the man is holding. You would expect it to be a congratulatory letter, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

That is the Bill of Rights, and it is the document that changed the constitution of England forever. This document made a lot of change, but some of the most important laws are freedom of speech within the Parliament, free elections and the approval of taxes by the Parliament.

The two new rulers accepted more restrictions from Parliament than any previous monarchs, causing an unprecedented shift in the distribution of power throughout the British realm. Editors, Glorious Revolution

Also, the Bill of Rights removed any chance England had to a Catholic Monarchy.

The Outcomes of the Glorious Revolution

The ultimate goal of the event was to change the way England was governed; which it did. Now, more than ever, the Parliament had power over the monarchy, and the beginning of the constitutional system couldn’t be more visible.

The Bill of Rights was written down, and the powers of the monarch were limited. This document was about to change life in England and in all of the colonies England ruled over. Also, the Parliament’s influence changed dramatically over the years to come.

The Glorious Revolution was a significant event which changed the course of history.

Book Recommendations on the Topic

  • The Glorious Revolution by Edward Vallance, “The Glorious Revolution“, Pegasus Books, 2008
  • England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1689: A Brief History with Documents by Steven C. A. Pincus, “England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1689: A Brief History with Documents“, Bedford/St. Martin’s; Edition Unstated, 2005
  • The English Revolution 1688-1689 by G.M. Trevelyan, “The English Revolution 1688-1689” Oxford University Press, 1965



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Hi! I usually write book-related content, such as TBR, reviews, book tours and book tags, but recently I dove deeper into politics, religion, sex and even history. I write posts where I educate people about important subjects, and I hope to see you on my blog soon!

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