James II Vs William III

James II by Sir Peter Lely

I’ll admit now that I haven’t done as much reading on James II as I would like and don’t know anywhere near enough about him. Other than the fact that he was Catholic and had his nephew Monmouth executed. And I’ll admit also that I have done even less reading on the deposition of James in favour of William III and his wife Mary (who was actually James II’s daughter!) Now then, I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I have this rather unnatural love of the Stuart family that has put me off reading much on William (and before you say it, I know he was a relation, and married a Stuart but shhhhhhhh!) or the fact that I have gotten it into my head that William was well…rather dull…but I have been avoiding anything after James II for a while.

Until now!

William III by Kneller

So yesterday, in 1690, William III who had come over to England and invaded in 1688 which lead to him becoming King in 1689, utterly trounced James II at the Battle of the Boyne over in Ireland. The Battle itself was actually fought on 1st of July but in the Julian Calendar – which works out as the 11th July in today’s Gregorian calendar. Today however is the date in which the battle is ‘celebrated’

So anyway, what lead up to the battle? And why did William win? Here, have some bullet points…

  • James was catholic, and parliament were a tad fed up with him.
  • So Parliament invited William over for an invasion, and invade he duly did, landing in November 1688 at Brixham.
  • As William landed with thousands and thousands of troops, James began to loose support and refused to fight his nephew’s armies deciding it would be much more sensible to run away.
  • He tried to run away to France but was captured in Kent. William really didn’t want to make his uncle a martyr though and let him escape in December.
  • In 1689 a Convention Parliament met to discuss what to do and William really wanted to rule in his own right, even though his wife was higher in the succession. A lot of Parliament wanted Mary to be queen in her own right but she refused, being loyal to her husband.
  • On 13th February Parliament decided that because James fled to France he had abdicated his throne and offered the joint crown to William and Mary because they were protestant – it was deemed safer for the English monarchy to remain Protestant. After this, so English monarch has ever been catholic.
  • In 1690, the Irish people thought they would help James get his throne back, mainly because they were Catholic too and hoped he would allow them to keep practising their religion. James obviously thought this was a marvellous idea and joined up with the Irish to try and take back his throne.
  • William however thought this was a bad idea, and wanted Ireland to remain protestant so he got an army together and marched off to Ireland.
  • To cut a long story short (again because I haven’t done very much reading on the subject), the battle went very badly for James and he lost and ended up taking himself back to France. He knew he was defeated.
  • So William stayed King until 1702.
  • And James died in France in 1701 – though up until his death some people kept trying to reinstate him, and there was this one episode where his supporters tried to assassinate William in 1696. It didn’t work very well.

I have to say I feel really sorry for poor James II. He’d never been popular, and less so after his conversion to Roman Catholicism…and having a Catholic King of England didn’t go down too well. Yet, at least William didn’t have his uncle executed – which let’s be fair, he probably could have – and allowed him to pretty much retire in peace.

I am hoping to do a lot more reading in and around this part of Stuart history because well…now I think about it, William probably wasn’t all that dull, and I love battlefield history. So whilst this post may not be hugely detailed, expect more on James II, William & Mary and the Glorious Revolution in due course.

Further Reading

Coward, B, 2012, The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 (Fourth Edition), Pearson: Harlow

1 thought on “James II Vs William III

  1. Gosh! Parliament was an idiot in those days. As much as some people froth at the mouth about Parliament being the will of the people, that's pretty modern too. Just show me a Parliament today that will go against its own head of State for the sake of a religion that was not even being suppressed!

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