Invasion and desertion

In response to an invitation of seven peers (the so-called Immortal Seven) to invade England in order to preserve Protestantism, to investigate the true parentage of James II's child, and to call a 'free' Parliament, the Dutch ruler William of Orange landed at Torbay with an invasion force on 5 November 1688 and proceeded to march on London.

James II, shocked by the desertion of many of his military officers and of his own daughters to William's side, was so disheartened that he tried to flee to France - only to be discovered and returned to London. James left the capital again, and this time made it successfully to France, just before the arrival of William in London on 18 December.

The Glorious Revolution

The fact that William, upon arrival with his army in the English capital, did not claim the throne by conquest, but summoned a Convention of Lords and MPs (not called a Parliament, as it was not summoned by the King) to devise a political settlement has made him the great hero of Whig historians such as Macaulay.

These events were, in Macaulay's view, the Glorious Revolution because they saw great constitutional change and parliamentary supremacy definitively asserted with little bloodshed in England - forgetting that the Revolution became very bloody in Ireland and Scotland.

This confident Whig view has long been challenged by other interpretations. William's opponents then, and revisionist historians now, have suggested that, rather than being a defender of parliamentary liberty, William had always desired no less than the English throne for himself. They argue that this episode was merely a 'palace coup' where one branch of the Stuart family supplanted another with the approval of a compliant political elite in the Convention, which William only summoned to give his usurpation legitimacy.

Changes to Parliament

Whatever William's motives, Parliament and the way it functioned did change substantially after 1688 - but not as a result of the events of the Revolution of late 1688 and early 1689, but over the course of a number of years as the Houses of Parliament and their chosen King worked out their new relationship.

Did you know?

James II had to face not only William of Orange's troops but the realisation that his own daughter and son-in-law (and nephew) were waging war against him. When he learned that his other daughter Anne had also deserted him it was all too much and at this point he made his first attempt at flight


You can access biographies of

James II
William III (Prince of Orange)

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.