5 November 1688: Dutch army deposes England's king in the 'Glorious Revolution'

On this day in 1688, William of Orange landed in Devon with a Dutch army to kick off the Glorious Revolution and depose King James II.

William of Orange landing with his army at Torbay
William of Orange landing with his army at Torbay
(Image credit: © Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Seventeenth-century England was not what one could call a place of peace, harmony and tolerance. In fact, it was full of fundamentalist religious nutcases.

The biggest evil in the land was Popery. Englanders were convinced that Europe's Roman Catholics were plotting to take over the country by fair means or foul, and create a state subjugated to the tyranny of a foreign monarch. And not just any foreign monarch. The worst kind of foreign monarch: a French monarch.

After Charles II died in 1685, the throne passed to his suspiciously Catholic brother, James II. This upset a lot of people. His 'Declaration of Indulgence', which suspended legal penalties against religious dissenters, didn't go down well at all. It was seen as a way of making Catholicism acceptable.

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And so a plot began to overthrow the king and install an acceptable foreign monarch – ie, a good protestant monarch – in his place.

In June 1688, seven people – Henry Sidney (AKA the Earl of Romney), Edward Russell (AKA Earl of Orford), the Bishop of London, Richard Lumley (AKA Viscount Lumley, AKA Earl of Scarbrough), Thomas Osborne (AKA Earl of Danby), Charles Talbot (AKA Earl of Shrewsbury) and William Cavendish (AKA Earl of Devonshire) – formally invited William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Netherlands and husband of the king's daughter, Mary, to rustle up an army and invade.

Which he did.

And so on this day in 1688, he and his 15,000-strong army landed at Brixham, in Devon. They marched to London virtually unopposed, and King James fled.

In the revolution's wake, the Bill of Rights was passed, in which Parliament's power was strengthened and the monarch's reduced. And a certain amount of religious freedom was allowed with the passing of the Toleration Act.

It is often called the Glorious Revolution. It is also often called a “bloodless” revolution. But things are not seen quite that way in many parts of Scotland and Ireland, where quite a lot of blood was shed in its wake.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. 

As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.