James II was England’s first Roman Catholic monarch for a hundred and fifty years (if you don’t count his brother Charles II’s deathbed conversion). At any rate, Parliament was determined that he would be the last, and in 1688 they took drastic action.
LIKE his father Charles I, James II believed that as King he had a divine right to govern the country without Parliament’s blessing.
Sensationally, Charles was executed for that belief in 1649; and though England’s eleven years as a Republic had been a disaster, Parliament was unwilling to turn back the clock so far.
Relations between King and Parliament soured to the point that James suspended Parliament indefinitely, and when in 1688 James had a son and Catholic heir, seven leading Protestant statesmen approached James’s daughter Mary – a Protestant herself, married to the Dutch Prince William of Orange – and invited her to come and take her father’s throne.
Mary reluctantly agreed; and rather than fight his son-in-law, James fled to France, tossing the Great Seal of the realm into the Thames on December 11th, 1688.
The new King and Queen solemnly promised to govern at all times with Parliament’s consent, marking the start of a new era in English constitutional history.