Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Glorious Revolution: Scotland and Ireland


John Graham of Claverhouse
Viscount Dundee

Public Domain
Scottish politicians found themselves reacting to events in England. In December 1688 James’s ministers fled Edinburgh in the wake of anti-Catholic rioting, leaving the control of the city to radical Presbyterians.

In January 1689 William summoned a Convention of Estates to meet in Edinburgh on 14 March. Scottish Jacobites (supporters of James) refused to attend and on 4 April members voted, with only five against, that James had attempted ‘the subversion of the Protestant religion, and the violation of the laws and liberties of the kingdom.’ The Claim of Right, the Scottish equivalent of the Bill of Rights, was accepted on 11 April. 

It was also a Presbyterian revolution. On 22 July William reluctantly agreed to an act abolishing bishops.  664 ministers were dismissed in the following decades and many Episcopalians, who still held to divine right monarchy, looked to the restoration of the Stuarts to secure their rights.

Whereas the Presbyterians of the Lowlands were overwhelmingly Williamite, Jacobitism remained strong in the Highlands. When the Convention offered the Crown to William, John Graham of Claverhouse, now Viscount Dundee, rode north to rally the Jacobite clans. On 27 July 1689 several thousand Highlanders led by Viscount Dundee defeated William’s forces under General Mackay at Killiekrankie. But Dundee was killed and the Jacobites were finally trounced at Dunkeld in August. However, the rebellion showed the strength of Scottish Jacobitism and further pushed William into the arms of the Presbyterians.

On 7 June 1690 the Scots Parliament granted William supply for the next twenty-eight months in return for an act that established Presbyterian government in the Church. Episcopalians (Anglicans) and Catholics were legally disadvantaged. The principle of one established Church for the whole of the British Isles was abandoned.

Because his army was tied down first in Ireland and then on the Continent in the Nine Years' War, William was unable to subject the Highlands to the same military conquest as Ireland. Instead the government constructed Fort William, but lacked the troops to police it, and the Highlands remained unstable and militarily threatening. In the summer of 1691 the chiefs were given the opportunity to recognize William as king by taking an oath. The failure of Alasdair MacIan to meet the deadline led to the punitive massacre of Glencoe on 13 February 1692, a very nasty incident which was exploited by William’s opponents.

Fear of a Jacobite threat in Scotland was to lead to the union of the English and Scots parliaments in 1707 and the creation of Great Britain.


Ireland presented a much graver threat. In the wake of James’s flight, his commander-in-chief, the earl of Tyrconnell mobilised Irish Catholics and by March 1689 controlled most of Ireland except Ulster. This was the start of what are known as the Williamite War in Ireland. By April only Derry and Enniskillen stood out against the Jacobites. With the encouragement and financial support of Louis XIV, James landed at Kinsale on 12 March with about 3,000 French reinforcements to assist Tyrconnell. But this proved more difficult than he had anticipated and in April he was forced to besiege Londonderry after being denied entry to the city when thirteen apprentice boys shut the gates in his face. The city was finally relieved (after 105 days) on 31 July 1690 when William’s ships broke through, an event of great symbolic  importance. 
A Dutch representation of the
Battle of the Boyne

Public Domain

Meanwhile William had landed at Carrockfergus with 15,000 troops. On 1 July (12 July NS) he defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne. James deserted the army, made rapidly for Dublin and left for France from Kinsale on 4 July. 

The Jacobites held out for a year at Limerick, but on  3 October 1691 the Treaty of Limerick ended the wars.  Some 12,000-15,000 Irish soldiers left for France,

The Penal Laws

In spite of the relatively generous provisions of the treaty, the long-term outcome of the Williamite war of 1689-91was to strengthen the Protestant ascendancy through a series of penal laws. Catholics were oppressed by a series of penal laws designed to bar them from the professions and deprive them of land.
1. A statute of 1697 criminalized any attempt to perform a marriage between a Protestant woman with an estate of £500 or more and any man who had not obtained legal certification that he was a Protestant.
2. By an Act of 1704 Roman Catholic landowners who possessed fee simples at common law had these fee simples turned into estates which could not descend according to the laws of primogeniture; instead at the death of such an owner his estate was to descend according to the rules of gavelkind. But should the eldest son conform to the Church of Ireland, then he could take the entire estate by primogeniture. Moreover Roman Catholics could not acquire land from Protestant by purchase or marriage. Nor could a Catholic purchase any interest in land greater than a term of 31 years. The land confiscation articles were rigorously applied, reducing Catholic owned land to 14% of the whole by 1714.
Presbyterians were also disadvantaged, though to a lesser degree.

The Glorious Revolution brought about many changes for the good in the British Isles, but as is so often the case, Ireland was the great exception.

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