This print shows the three sons of King Charles I. When Charles I died in 1649, his eldest son (middle) became King Charles II. The second son was James, Duke of York (left) and the youngest son was Henry, Duke of Gloucester (right). Charles II and his wife Catherine of Braganza had no children. This meant that the second son James would be the next king after Charles II.
Illustration from a broadside on the fortunes of the Stuart kings with an etching of Charles II flanked by James II and Henry Duke of Gloucester.
In 1531 Henry VIII (above) had declared that the Roman Catholic Pope was no longer in charge of the English church and England became a Protestant country. James was a Roman Catholic so if he became king, the English monarch would be a Catholic. This was not a popular idea and politicians tried to pass a law saying that James could never be king. People were worried that a Catholic ruler might be too friendly with the Pope or France and Spain – Catholic countries which had both tried to invade England in the past.
Gold medal depicting Henry VIII.
When Charles II died in 1685 James was crowned King James II (above). James made it easier for Roman Catholics to join the army and work for the government. Parliament did not agree with this and was worried that James was being too friendly with English Catholics. They also did not like his friendship with the French king Louis XIV– who was a Roman Catholic.
Tin-glazed earthenware dish showing portrait of King James II.
In April 1688 seven Protestant bishops asked James to think again about his actions. James was furious and had them arrested and locked up in the Tower of London (above). Although they were set free James became even more unpopular.
Playing cards illustrating the events leading to the Revolution of 1688.
When he became king James already had two grown up daughters Mary and Anne, who were both Protestant. People hoped one of them would become the next queen. However, in June 1688 James’s second wife Mary of Modena had a son, James Francis Edward Stuart (above). As a boy he would be the next king. More important, he would be a Roman Catholic king like his father.
Mary of Modena seated on a bench plays with the young Prince of Wales (James Francis Edward Stuart, the future Old Pretender).
Parliament was now very worried that England would be ruled by Catholic kings for many years to come. They were also worried that they might lose some of their power. So they decided to invite William of Orange, who was a Protestant, to come to England. William was married to James’s elder daughter Mary. In November 1688, William sailed from the Dutch coast with a large army (above) and landed at Torbay in Devon.
Etching showing William of Orange embarking for England, 1689.
William marched towards London and there were riots against James in several towns. In December 1688 James’s and William’s armies met at Reading in Berkshire. James was defeated. His wife Mary of Modena and their baby son escaped to France but James was caught and sent to London. He was kept prisoner for two weeks before he too escaped. In fact, William may have let James escape so that he would leave the country and make it easier for William to say he was now the king.
Etching depicting Queen Mary of Modena and the Prince of Wales arriving in Calais
In February 1689 William persuaded Parliament to make him and his wife Mary joint monarchs. In April they were crowned King William III and Queen Mary II at Westminster Abbey in London (above). Not everybody in Britain agreed and for the next few years William had to fight battles in Ireland and Scotland to protect his crown.
Etching showing Coronation of William and Mary at Westminster Cathedral.
Meanwhile, James (on the right above) and Mary (waiting through the door at the back above) went to live in a palace near Paris which belonged to their friend the French king Louis XIV (on the left above). James tried to use the battles against William to become king again, but he failed. James died in France in 1701.
Etching showing Louis XIV embracing James II in palace reception hall; Mary of Modena awaiting her husband
James’s son James Francis Edward Stuart (known as the Old Pretender) and his grandson Charles Edward Stuart (known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie) both tried to invade England and reclaim the throne (above). They both failed. Their supporters were known as Jacobites in honour of James II (the name James is a version of the name Jacob).
Earthenware punch bowl with portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender).
William and Mary (above) signed an agreement with Parliament in December 1689 known as the English Bill of Rights. This meant that Parliament and the monarch made more decisions together about how the country should be run. William and Mary ruled jointly until Mary died in 1694. William continued to rule alone until he died in 1702. William and Mary had no children so the next monarch was Mary’s younger sister Anne.
Earthenware charger showing King William and Queen Mary