William of Orange landed in southwest England on Guy Fawkes’ day, the 5th of November, 1688.
William of Orange wasn’t remotely speaking Scottish, but his arrival on the scene in England in 1688 marked the end of the long ruling lineage of the Stuart (or Stewart as they were previously known) Kings of Scotland. Well, not quite, as William ruled jointly and together with his wife, Mary, who was a Stuart, and he was succeeded by Queen Anne, who was Mary’s sister and in truth, the last of the Stuarts. However, William’s arrival was significant for the male Stuarts and for the Catholic faith in England, Scotland and Ireland. As a Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic king of France, Louis XIV, in coalition with other powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded William as a champion of their faith and even to this day, some numpties make a big deal of ‘King Billy’ as he became known in Ireland. William was invited to take the triple crowns, essentially because many folks in England were running scared of a revival of Catholicism under James II and VII.
William of Orange, who became William III, King of England and William II, King of Scots, was a sovereign Prince of Orange who ruled as Stadtholder Willem III van Oranje over the Dutch Republic of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders/Zutphen, Friesland, Groningen/Ommelanden and Overijssel. The Dutch Republic, otherwise known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, was the result of an argy-bargy between Philip II of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor of the day, and one of William’s predecessors over the rule of parts of the Low Countries in the 16th Century. William I of Orange revolted against Philip II over high taxes and persecution of Protestants and that led to the so-called Eighty Years’ War and a declaration of independence, which led to the formation of the Republic in 1588. The Principality of Orange was originally also a fief of the Holy Roman Empire in its Kingdom of Burgundy in the Rhône valley in southern France, which belonged to the house of Orange-Nassau. William’s family lost that territory in 1673, when Louis XIV of France annexed it, but kept the title.
William ‘won’ the triple crowns of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1689, following the ‘Glorious Revolution’, in which his uncle and father-in-law, James II and VII, was deposed. Well, it wasn’t such a glorious revolution; more of a sordid little affair that led to the overthrow of James II and VII by William of Orange and his invading army, supported by a union of Parliamentarians. That act was prompted by the birth of a male heir to James II and VII, namely James Francis Edward Stuart, who would’ve been James III and VIII and who became known as the ‘Old Pretender’. In reality, it was the English Parliament, together with William and Mary, who were the ‘pretenders’. In effect, they pretended that young James Francis Edward wisnae entitled to his birthright and that it should pass to his Auntie Mary and her husband, the Oranjeboom. And the raison d’être for all of that was religion.
James II and VII had attempted to lift restrictions on Catholics taking up public offices, which act was bitterly opposed by the Protestants. And with the birth wee Jamesie, the prospect of a return to a Roman Catholic dynasty had become very likely. In addition, the Parliamentarians were worried by the King's close ties with France and Louis XIV. Some of the key leaders of the Tories then united with members of the opposition Whigs to form a Tory/Liberal coalition (how about that!) and their double dealing shenanigans led to what amounted to another civil war. James fled the country and Parliament, seeking any old excuse, saw that as the opportunity it had been waiting for and declared that James II and VII had effectively abdicated. So it then offered the Crown to his Protestant daughter Mary and her Protestant Dutch husband.
The name ‘Glorious Revolution’ was first used by John Hampden, who had been opposed to the rule of Charles II and had narrowly escaped execution in 1685. He coined the expression in late 1689, after William and Mary had taken up the Throne. The ‘[In]Glorious Revolution’ is an expression that is still used by the British Parliament. It has sometimes also been referred to as the ‘Bloodless Revolution’, which is a bit of a joke. Just ask the soldiers who died in the two significant clashes that took place in England or the protagonists in what was known as the ‘Williamite War’ in Ireland or those who fought in Scotland at the battles of Killicrankie and Dunkeld. The Revolution was also closely tied in with the events of the ‘War of the Grand Alliance’ on mainland Europe and, because of William’s invading armies in England and Ireland, it can be seen as the last successful invasion of Britain.
In a sense, the overthrow of James II and VII was the start of modern British parliamentary democracy and the constitutional monarchy as never since has the monarch held absolute power. Parliament also took the opportunity, in 1689, after William and Mary had been crowned, to approve Bill of Rights and, later on in 1701, the Act of Settlement. Those were English statutes that lawfully upheld the prominence of Parliament for the first time in English history. The removal of James II and VII ended any chance of Catholicism becoming re-established in England and ignited the Jacobite cause in Scotland. For Catholics, it was a disastrous time, both socially and politically as they were denied the right to vote and sit in the Westminster Parliament for over one hundred years. They were also denied commissions in the army and the Monarch, as remains the case, was forbidden to be Catholic or marry a Catholic, in order to ensure a Protestant succession.