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James II

Reign

When Charles died in 1685, James succeeded peacefully to the throne. An uprising led by the duke of Monmouth was crushed (1685), but the severe reprisals of the Bloody Assizes under Baron Jeffreys of Wem added to the animosity toward James. The king favored autocratic methods, proroguing the hostile Parliament (1685), reviving the old ecclesiastical court of high commission, and interfering with the courts and with local town and county government. His principal object was to fill positions of authority and influence with Roman Catholics, and to this end he issued two declarations of indulgence (1687, 1688), suspending the laws against Catholics and dissenters.

Defiance and dislike of him grew, fed by the trial (1688) of seven bishops who had refused to read his second declaration. The birth of a son, who would have succeeded instead of the Protestant William and Mary, helped to bring the opposition to a head. William of Orange was invited to England by Whig and Tory leaders. The unpopular, autocratic, and Catholic king had few loyal followers and was unable to defend himself. He fled, was captured, and was allowed to escape to France, and William and Mary took the throne. The so-called Glorious Revolution had succeeded.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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