‘THE people,’ observed the Marquis of Halifax sagely, ‘can seldom agree to move together against a government, but they can sit still and see it undone.’ That is what many Englishmen, though not all, did in the crucial months of November and December 1688. Respect was still felt for the person of the King, but long pent-up emotions were released and anti-papist rioting took place not merely in London but in many other parts of England. A story survives that before James finally left Whitehall ‘he looked out of the window and saw the violence and fierceness of the rabble’ and said, ‘I cannot help or hinder it, God alone can do it’. While awaiting the arrival of William of Orange at St. James’s Palace, a Londoner was writing, ‘we all pray [he] may come quickly that a stop may be put to the fury of the rabble who have done great mischief’. Lack of an adequate police force and the rapid dispersal of the royal army were enough to make respectable people tremble for their goods and their lives. The council that met under Halifax and the City authorities did their utmost to keep order: Halifax tried to pacify the mob by ordering a general arrest of papists (an idea not at all pleasing to William who had no wish to upset his Roman Catholic allies abroad) and by telling the militia to shoot if need be; but what was wanted was the presence of William’s soldiers and the prospect of a swift constitutional settlement, heralding an effective government.
On the day before Christmas the Lords met in their own House still under the chairmanship of the Marquis of Halifax—the Archbishop of Canterbury having again declined to appear—and warmly debated the future. They refused to receive letters sent to them by the King and it was urged that James’s second withdrawal meant that the Government had fallen and was ‘a demise at law’. The Earl of Clarendon then moved that they should inquire into the birth of the Prince of Wales. To this Lord Wharton retorted: ‘My lords, I did not expect, at this time of day, to hear anybody mention that child, who was called the Prince of Wales. Indeed I did not; and I hope we shall hear no more of him.’ Such was the force of past propaganda, overriding the conclusive proofs deposed in Chancery. It was resolved to invite the Prince of Orange to take over the civil administration and to send out circular letters so that a Convention should meet as soon as possible in January and decide about the future of the monarchy.
On Christmas day the two addresses were presented by the Lords to Prince William. He replied that he had already invited all the gentlemen who had sat in the House of Commons during the reign of Charles II and also the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council of the City of London to meet him on the following day as he wished to consult their opinions. The former Members of Parliament, after being addressed by the Prince adjourned to the House of Commons, where they accepted the proposals of the Lords. Two days later William agreed to take over the Government and to arrange for an election of a ‘convention’.
Views were divided about what should be done when the Convention met. Some—a Tory party, John Evelyn called them —advocated the proposal for a regency, which had first been adumbrated by Charles II eight years earlier. Others argued that Princess Mary should unquestionably by heredity succeed to the throne which her father had deserted (it being taken for granted that the Prince of Wales was suppositious). Quite a number of people at the centre of affairs were anxious to discover any solution that would avert the danger of a republic. Sir Edward Seymour, for example, expressed perturbation over the ‘countenance’ that William was giving to dissenters: if they were supported, he said, ‘we should run into a commonwealth, and all would be ruined’. Princess Anne also informed her uncle that ‘the commonwealth party was very busy’. John Wildman, who came over with William’s invasion force, warmed by memories of his youth, was busy writing republican pamphlets. Prince William himself told Halifax that he had received the impression that the Commonwealth party was the strongest in England; but observed that he had not come over to establish a Commonwealth or be a Duke of Venice.
It was plain enough that before the year was out William himself had finally decided that the only practical solution was for him to become King. He had hinted as much in his letters to the Prince of Waldeck. He said so to Halifax on December 30. He then emphasised that he would not stay in England any longer if the Convention decided to bring back King James, that he expected to be asked to occupy the throne, along with his wife, and that the claims of Princess Anne to succeed would have to be postponed until his own death. Princess Mary had long before made it known privately that she would defer to her husband, while he, as he later indicated, would not contemplate being his wife’s ‘gentleman usher’. It is clear that during the three weeks that were to pass before the Convention met William’s friends were lobbying to obtain the Crown for him. William, for instance, had confided to Halifax that he regarded the two Hydes, Rochester and Clarendon, as ‘knaves’. Nevertheless both Bentinck and Dijkvelt, who had accompanied the King to London, did their best to bring them round to the Prince’s interest. When Clarendon hinted that the religion of the Church of England did not allow its members to depose kings, Dijkvelt showed himself very alarmed indeed. In fact as subsequent events proved, a large number of peers were extremely reluctant to accept the clear-cut solution of replacing King James by King William. As at the time of the civil wars, there was a strong undercurrent of feeling that if the institution of monarchy were not treated as sacrosanct, other hereditary institutions—such as the peerage itself—might be in peril. That was why honourable men like the Earl of Nottingham hesitated before committing themselves.
Writing of the elections to the Convention, Dr. Burnet observed in his memoirs: ‘All men were forming their schemes, and fortifying their party all they could. The elections were managed fairly all England over. The Prince did in no sort interpose in any recommendation, directly or indirectly.’ William had promised free elections, and it would have ill become him to attempt to apply the elaborate and blatant pressures that had been employed by the Earl of Sunderland (now fled to—of all places—Holland) on King James II’s behalf. In considering seventeenth-century elections one has to empty one’s mind of the idea of electioneering in modern terms: most members were chosen by local influence or over local issues; even the use of the labels Whig and Tory was hardly appropriate to the elections to the Convention. When Burnet spoke of ‘party’ he was obviously thinking about the various groupings of opinion which did not, however, emerge at all clearly until the two Houses actually met.
The complicated tampering with the parliamentary borough charters had left a state of confusion and resentment behind. There is some reason to suppose that in electoral areas where James II’s campaign on behalf of the repeal of the penal laws and Tests had been especially disliked, candidates closely connected with his government were not welcome. Samuel Pepys, for example, faithful to the King until the last, was defeated at Harwich. In Kent a candidate who had not associated himself with the welcome to William of Orange was rejected. Some candidates were rejected because they were accused of having connived at popish practices. Yet nearly 200 (out of 5 13 members) of those elected to the Convention had sat in the ultra-royalist House of Commons of 1685. The general impression is that the majority of members were enthusiastic Anglicans; that is also indicated by the fact that when an attempt was made later to comprehend the nonconformists within the Church (as in 166o) the proposal was rejected.
But the most curious fact of all about this election to the Convention is that little evidence exists that what would be regarded in modern times as its main issue was discussed or debated—that is to say, the future shape of the government of the kingdom, the question of who was to mount the throne and what his powers were to be. William and William’s adherents were naturally eager that men should be elected who would fulfil his wish to become King. A letter that William wrote to Danby as early as December 12 advising the Yorkshiremen who had actively engaged on his behalf in the northern rebellion ‘to go back to their respective dwellings and stand to be chosen parliamentmen in their counties, and keeping their inclinations for me . . .’ has been quoted as evidence of William’s realism.’° But just as in answer to James II’s Three Questions potential parliamentary candidates had refused to commit themselves to any specific line of policy until Parliament actually met at Westminster, so it is safe to say that the gentlemen of England who were anxious to acquire the prestige of membership did not intend to make up their minds until they had gathered together and thrashed things out. That the climate of opinion was unfavourable to the self-exiled James II and his former Ministers is plain enough: but the election was not fought on party lines or over specific questions.
When the Convention met on January 22, 1689, William of Orange sent a message giving an account of his administration during the interregnum of the past six weeks, recommending members to take the entire political situation into consideration in a spirit of unity and with the rapidity that the state of affairs in Ireland (still under the military control of King James’s adherents) and on the continental mainland required. He also expressed the hope that as the United Netherlands and France were now officially at war, England would see fit to declare war on France too, if only in gratitude for the assistance lent him by the States-General in rescuing the kingdom from popery and arbitrary power. But neither House of Parliament was prepared to be rushed. The Commons set about its business in a leisurely manner, and the Lords deliberately waited upon the Commons.
The first critical debate took place on January 28. The Commons then voted that ‘King James II, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of this kingdom by breaking the original contract between King and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits, and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws; and having withdrawn himself out of his kingdom, had abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant’. On the next day the Commons resolved that a popish prince was ‘inconsistent with a Protestant state’, and furthermore agreed in principle that before the throne were filled they ought to ‘secure the rights, laws, and liberties of the nation’. Here indeed were the seeds of a genuinely revolutionary settlement. The throne was vacant, but the new incumbent must accept conditions laid down by Parliament before he was placed upon the throne; and if it were to be William alone, then the hereditary principle in the strictest sense was being abandoned. An elected king who was required to accept parliamentary conditions for his succession, if not a complete novelty (one can instance medieval precedents), was at least startling to old Tory loyalists.
The House of Lords, inevitably more conservative in its outlook than the Commons, did not care for this approach at all. The Archbishop of Canterbury and a large number of the bishops, still wedded to notions of divine right and passive obedience, were not prepared to admit that the throne was vacant, and wanted a regency. So did Nottingham, Rochester and Clarendon. But Halifax and Danby, rivals for William’s favours, joined forces. There were some significant abstentions (such as that of Lord Churchill who pleaded ‘indisposition’), and the regency proposal was defeated in the Lords by two or three votes. As to the question of whether the King had broken ‘the original contract’ between him and his people, the Lords consulted their ‘legal assistants’ who obviously thought that there was no such contract, that it was a mirage of the philosophers. They and the majority of the Lords, however, decided to swallow the concept. But on January 30 the House voted that the throne had been ‘deserted’ not ‘abdicated’, and on January 31 rejected by fifty-five votes to forty-one the deduction that ‘the throne is thereby vacant’.
It might have seemed that a deadlock had arisen between the two Houses, since the Commons promptly reaffirmed their original vote. But the matter was really decided outside Parliament. The regency proposal, though suggested by Charles II in 1681 and considered by William himself before he set sail, was never a practical proposition. Nor was the idea that Mary should become queen, with William as her prince consort. When Danby, the chief advocate of the latter plan, sounded Mary herself upon it, he received ‘a very sharp answer’ in which she declared that ‘she would take it extremely unkindly, if any, under pretence of their care of her, would set up a divided interest between her and the Prince’. She sent Danby’s letter and a copy of her own reply to her husband.” But even before he sailed for England, William was aware of his wife’s attitude. He now thought it time to intervene himself. He asked Halifax, Danby, Shrewsbury and others to see him on February 5 and told them firmly that he would neither be regent nor prince consort, and that if he were not appointed king for life he would go back to Holland. Danby thereupon abandoned his original plan and came round to the solution that was finally adopted, that William and Mary should be jointly declared King and Queen. Halifax, who believed in the subjection of women, was even inclined to make Mary into a queen consort. That indeed would have been to throw overboard the hereditary principle and to lend substance to the view of some of Halifax’s critics that he was a republican at heart.
The committee that had been appointed by the House of Commons on January 29 to frame conditions ‘for the better securing our religion, laws, and liberties’ which were to be imposed on the new occupants of the throne, a committee which had Sir George Treby as its rapporteur and in which John Somers, a future Lord Chancellor, took an important part, ranged over very wide ground including the independence of the judges and the future of the court of Chancery. But in fact the final draft of the Declaration of Rights, which was sent up to the House of Lords for its concurrence on February 8, and finally agreed between the two Houses on February 12, was limited to practical and empirical questions.[Appendix F] The Declaration began by outlining the grievances felt against James II, notably his exercise of power to dispense with or suspend the laws, his appointment of the commission for ecclesiastical causes, his maintenance of a standing army in time of peace, and his violations of the freedom of election for Members of Parliament. The Declaration then vindicated and asserted what it called ‘ancient rights and liberties’ by asserting that the suspending power was illegal without the consent of Parliament, that the dispensing power was illegal ‘as it has been assumed and exercised of late’, that the ecclesiastical commission was illegal, the standing army was illegal, the prosecution of subjects for petitioning (as the seven bishops had been) was illegal, and so on. It was also stated that the election of Members of Parliament ought to be free, that the freedom of speech and of debate of Members in Parliament ought not to be questioned outside Parliament, and that excessive bails and fines should not be imposed. Some of the wording of the Declaration was vague, but the tenor was clear: it was a sharp condemnation of the behaviour of King James II.
On the same day that the Declaration was agreed by the two Houses, Princess Mary arrived in England from Holland to join her husband. Next day they were waited upon in the Palace of Westminster by members of both Houses. Since a Lord Chancellor had not (and could not) yet be appointed, Halifax was still the leader or Speaker of the House of Lords; so it was he who read the Declaration of Rights to William and Mary and then offered them the Crown. The Crown and the royal dignity were to belong to them both during their lives and the life of the survivor. But ‘the sole and full exercise of the regal power’ was to be only in and executed by the Prince of Orange in the name of them both during their joint lives. If William and Mary had children, they were to succeed to the throne; if not, it was to go to Princess Anne and her heirs. On no account was a popish prince to succeed or any king or queen marrying a papist. The Declaration expressed an ‘entire confidence’ that the Prince of Orange would ‘perfect the deliverance so far advanced by him and still preserve them from the violation of their rights and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties’.
So the new King and Queen were acclaimed with bonfires, bells and cannon. John Evelyn noted that the King was ‘morose’, but Queen Mary came into Whitehall laughing and jolly, ‘as to a wedding’. She ‘smiled upon and talked to everybody’ so that no change seemed to have taken place at Court since her last going away, ‘save that the infinite crowds of people thronged to see her, and that she went to our prayers’. It was largely an act. But the censorious thought it improper in one occupying a father’s throne. However Mary became popular and offset the reserved nature of her Dutch husband, always ‘wonderful, serious and silent’.
The offer of the Crown was made in England on February 13; it was not until three months later, on May 11, that a similar offer arrived at Whitehall from Scotland. A Convention had met in Edinburgh in the middle of March and various solutions to the constitutional problem had been explored. It was suggested that the new settlement might be made conditional upon an agreed union between the two kingdoms, but it was decided that negotiations for that would take too long. The deliberations in Edinburgh, which were boycotted by the highlanders, were influenced by the Declaration of Rights in England: a Scottish ‘Claim of Right’ was put forward including a clause condemning episcopacy. The The Scottish episcopalian clergy and the highlanders remained loyal to King James and thus for the Scots the revolution meant the final triumph of Presbyterianism as the religion of their official Church. The Claim of Right also asserted that James had attempted to convert ‘a legal, limited monarchy to an absolute, despotic power’. In effect the Scots deposed King James II and elected William and Mary in his place. Thus the Scottish revolution was more radical than the English; for it enshrined the idea of an elective, constitutional monarchy. As in England, the offer of the throne to the new monarchs was made dependent upon their agreement to conditions, and afterwards the Convention that made the offer was transformed into a legal Parliament.
The English Convention had done the same thing. By a procedure that only a constitutional lawyer could justify or fathom it voted itself into becoming a normal Parliament and later (in December) embodied the Declaration of Rights into a Bill. The constitutional clauses thus enacted were added to by a number of other measures passed during the reign of William and Mary and, after Mary died in 1694, of William alone. These Acts included a Mutiny Act, a Toleration Act, a Triennial Act, a’ Civil List Act, and an Act of Settlement. The Mutiny Act (1689) was evidently intended, as its preamble indicated, to prevent the keeping of a standing army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament, but it was also meant to control the powers of the Crown over the army in time of war. It was, however, the dependence of the King on Parliament for money which continued to be the most effective method of control. The Toleration Act (1689) or, more strictly, Act of Indulgence, was by no means as’ far-reaching as James’s two declarations of liberty of conscience. Nonconformists were still excluded from public offices (much against the wishes of King William) and from the universities, and had to obtain licences from the local Church authorities or quarter sessions to meet in their chapels. The penal laws were not abolished, and nonconformist clergy were expected to take an/ oath against transubstantiation, to subscribe to most of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, and to take oaths, of fidelity to William and Mary. Roman Catholics were less fortunate; in fact two new Acts were passed against them, one excluding them from London and Westminster, the other forbidding then’ to possess arms. But there was no persecution. Unitarians were left outside the law.
The Triennial Act (1694) provided for the holding of a Parliament every three years and for no Parliament to sit longer than three years. The Civil List Act voted King William an annual sum of money to cover the costs of his household and family. Other money votes were increasingly appropriated to specific uses, so as to reduce the royal power. The Act of Settlement (1701), a wide-ranging measure, not only provided for the ultimate succession of the Protestant Hanoverians, descended from –King James I, but secured the independence of the judiciary—which William III in any case perforce accepted in practice—insisted that future monarchs must be members of the Church of England, forbade them to leave the country without the consent of Parliament or to make war on behalf of territories not belonging to the British Crown, and laid it down that no person holding an office or place of profit under the King should be allowed to serve as a Member of Parliament. The Act also aimed clearly to confine all political decisions to the Privy Council, so that blame for policies of which Parliament did not approve could be duly apportioned. But both these last clauses proved impractical. If they had been maintained and enforced, Ministers would not have been allowed to sit in Parliament and cabinet government could not have evolved. Thus it may be said that most of the .,constitutional changes which arose Out of the Revolution of 1688 were practical criticisms of the behaviour of King James II, though in the Act of Settlement they were also criticisms of William III, whose single-minded devotion to foreign policy was not liked. But changes of a more fundamental character which might have altered the course of subsequent British history became dead letters.
William of Orange was not deeply interested in all this constitutionalism. As we have seen, even at the time of the exclusionist agitation, he had argued that nothing ought to be agreed by King Charles II which would reduce the future rights of the monarchy. Most of the controversies that split the English Parliament were of no importance to him, though in general he resented restrictions on his effective rights. He sought as Ministers men like Halifax, Nottingham, Shrewsbury and later even Sunderland who he believed to be capable of advising Queen Mary when he was abroad fighting the war against France. He had tried to commit the English at once against Louis XIV, but it was only when it was realized that the French were helping James II to regain his throne by sending an expeditionary force to Ireland that support was willingly given to King William’s war effort. It was not until after the Dutch and the Emperor had joined together in an alliance against the French that William was able to accede to the alliance on behalf of England.
Halifax noted early in 1689 that William was conscious of being an inexperienced king who ‘really shrank at the burden’ when he first put on the Crown and ‘fancied he was like a king in a play’. He wrote to his friend, Waldeck, that ‘the glitter of a Crown did not blind him’ and Dutch friends like Witsen who saw him in England found him sombre, melancholy and indisposed, a very different person from what he had been in Holland. Though he had made up his mind to become king as soon as the Hungerford negotiations collapsed, to obtain the supreme authority had not, one believes, been his original intention, and it was something of a surprise and certainly a load of worry to him. He regarded it as a necessity, just as Oliver Cromwell once fancied it had been destined for him by an inscrutable Providence. But William’s heart was in Holland and his thoughts in the renewed world war against France.
Thus King William’s chief desire was to manipulate the English political machine in such a way as to make it work for his international ends and allow him to return to the continental mainland as soon as he decently could. To avoid personal difficulties he put both the Chancery and the Treasury in the hands of commissioners. Though the Treasury commission was presided over by Lord Mordaunt, now created Earl of Monmouth, who was one of the first advocates of the Revolution, its ablest member was Sidney Godolphin, who had been among James II’s more efficient servants. The Secretaries of State were the Earl of Nottingham, a man of the middle who had long been dubious of the wisdom of making William king, and the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the Immortal Seven. Halifax the Trimmer became Lord Privy Seal and Danby, leader of the northern rebels, Lord President of the Council. The King, noted David Ogg, ‘disliked the complaints of one as much as the dissertations of the other’. He found English politicians, on the whole, tiresome; he much preferred to rely on old and trusted colleagues like Bentinck and Dijkvelt. Nevertheless his was a pretty capable group of Ministers, and in John Churchill, whom he created Earl of Marlborough, and Arthur Herbert, whom he made Earl of Torrington, he had a general and an admiral of outstanding capacities.
Historians in recent times have tended to argue that the rights of the English monarchy were not in fact much restricted as a result of the Revolution. ‘It has long been realized,’ says Professor Kenyon, ‘that the Revolution did not inaugurate a period of constitutional monarchy or parliamentary government, and that George II for instance was in many respects a much more powerful monarch than Charles II.’ The offer of the Crown, observed the late Professor Pinkham, was at no time made ‘directly or implicitly contingent upon the acceptance of the Declaration of Rights by William and Mary’ and in fact it did not contain any limitations that were not already in existence. The late Professor Richard Pares, on the other hand, wrote18 that while Parliament deliberately refrained from making new law, ‘under the form of a declaration of existing law, it made important changes that limited the prerogative. Moreover the circumstances in which the Declaration was presented to the new sovereigns surely had some significance: only after they had (it is true in general terms) accepted the statement of the nation’s rights, were they declared king and queen’. Sir David Keir has written that ‘the new sovereigns . . . were armed on their accession with a panoply of undoubted legal powers as ample as that borne by their immediate successors’ and that ‘with a title based on popular consent and not on Divine Right’ William succeeded ‘in substance to the position of the last two kings’. Mr. Derek Jarrett has recently observed: ‘The Declaration of Rights made it clear that the King must rule through Parliament, but it also left intact the means of his doing so.’ It was in fact by the deft use of patronage that the Hanoverian kings were able to influence the structure of governments. Still, this was a step forward in parliamentary history.
As to the question of divine right, here again is a matter for infinite and complicated historical argument. The clergy of the Church of England were required to take oaths of allegiance to the new monarchs by September 1, 1689. Eight bishops altogether, five of them those who had been put on trial by James II for seditious libel, and 400 clergy refused to take the oaths as being contrary to their religion and their consciences. Thus they became known as Non-Jurors. It was not until 1691 that Archbishop Sancroft, whose conscience had been delicate from the first and who had shut himself up in Lambeth, was replaced by Archbishop Tillotson. The Non-Jurors tended to be High Church. Most of the bishops created by William were Broad Churchmen or Latitudinarians. The Non-Jurors and Jacobites, as the dyed-in-the-wool adherents of King James II were called, argued that it was blasphemous to accept the new monarchy and that ‘the happiness of England depends upon a rightful king’. To this, other learned clerics, such as William Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, and William Sherlock, Dean of St. Paul’s, retorted that a Christian must obey the existing Caesar. ‘The transferring of this [the sovereign] power from one to another is the Act of God,’ said Lloyd. Sherlock, who at first sympathized with the Non-Jurors, eventually concluded that Christians might submit to the King de facto once his Government ‘was thoroughly settled’. Thus in religious as in constitutional development it was argued: ‘plus ça change plus c’est la même chose‘.
The Revolution had a profound effect on the general social and ethical atmosphere in England. Both Queen Mary and her sister Princess Anne had disapproved alike of their uncle’s moral laxity and their father’s sexual exuberance. King William, though he had a mistress in Elizabeth Villiers, was a man of austerity and reserve, whose Court was expected to set an example of moral behaviour to the masses. On February 1 William ordered the clergy to preach against ‘blasphemy, swearing, drunkenness and the profanation of the Lord’s Day’. ‘If acts of parliament and orders of the justices of the peace could have created a moral paradise,’ writes Mr. Dudley Bahiman, ‘England would have been one by 1700.’ The Societies for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and for the Propagation of the Gospel came into being during William’s reign. So did the Society for the Reformation of Manners. So too did the charity school movement, ‘animated’ as it had recently been said, ‘by a genuine sense of pity and compassion’. In their sermons the Broad Churchmen stressed the value of ethical codes and high standards of public and private behaviour. In general, the clergy of this epoch were better educated and more tolerant than their predecessors. The final recognition of the legitimacy of nonconformity, which perhaps owes as much to James II as to the Revolution, played its part in forming the more puritanical climate of opinion that survived into the reign of Queen Anne. A spirit of genuine Christian charity, which often took concrete forms, is characteristic of the reigns of the last Stuart monarchs. It can hardly be wrong to attribute this change of atmosphere in part to the rulers themselves.
But of course the first ten years of William III’s reign were dominated by war. William’s friend, the Prince of Waldeck, had succeeded, while the Prince of Orange was invading and establishing himself in England, in protecting the United Netherlands from a French assault. By the early spring of 1689, 100,000 Germans and Dutchmen were in arms along the Rhine. In February the States-General had declared war on France, justly confident in the help coming from England. An Anglo-Dutch naval treaty was concluded in April, a preliminary to the English Government joining in the Grand Affiance against France. War was declared on May 7, and before it ended not only was the English Navy fully committed but a force of British troops or troops in British pay numbering nearly 90,000 had been engaged in the war against France. Thus William achieved the main objective of his invasion of England. In 1697 Louis XIV was compelled to make peace, and before he died in 1702 William III was able to hand on the torch to John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough, who completed the defeat of Louis XIV’s prolonged attempt to become the master of Europe. William accepted the predestined hour of his death with resignation, but he confessed he would have liked to live a little longer to see the great new prospect opening up at the end of his reign as King of England.
What of the other leading character in the story? It is an oversimplification to say that James II was a bully who proved himself a coward. But certainly he lost his nerve not only at Salisbury and during his last hours in Whitehall Palace. When under French pressure he returned to confront William III in Ireland his nose again started bleeding and he did not distinguish himself at the battle of the Boyne where he was defeated on July 1, 1690. His latest biographer writes that ‘he was merely a puppet in the hands of men who had possession of his person and of what remained of his mind’. It is likely that his final paralysis of mind was caused by his obsession with his sexual sins. As late as December 1687 Bonrepaus had reported that, much to the jealousy of the Queen, James still saw his mistress, the Countess of Dorchester, and that other obscure women visited him by way of the back stairs at the palace. Even during his Irish campaign he still could not shake off the habits of a lifetime. Later he wrote how he ‘abhorred’ and ‘detested himself’ for having ‘lived so many years in almost a perpetual course of sin’. That surely was ‘the black thing’ under which, some thought, he ‘could not support himself’. In his sixties when all this was over and he dwelt at St. Germain Palace surrounded by Jesuits and confessors, he wrote papers of devotion warning his son of the dire consequences of his ‘predominant sin’. But also in his last years before he died in 1701 he reiterated his unshaken belief in the policy of religious toleration for which he had sacrificed his throne.