Thursday 13 April 2017

James II, King and Traitor

King James II was King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1685-88, in only three years he would manage to destroy the peace of the realm and push forward the course of Liberalism. But to explain all of this I must go back further.

In 1603 Queen Elizabeth died without having had any children, so Parliament called upon the King of Scotland to become King of England. This started the process that created the United Kingdom. James became King James I of England and Ireland as well as remaining King James VI of Scotland. King James had a troubled relationship with Parliament, in short he believed in the Divine Right of Kings and Parliament did not. The Divine Right of Kings was the idea that as the King was King because God had put him there, that meant that no one could legitimately criticise the King because to do so would mean criticizing God. 

This debate continued into his son's reign, both Kings came to view Parliament as questioning their legitimacy. There fore they did not summon Parliament as often as past Monarch's had and that created a massive problem. Because only Parliament had the right to raise taxes. So only when the King's Government needed money to raise an army to enforce the Kings authority in Scotland was Parliament recalled. This Parliament felt it's issues were more important than the Kings and presented him with demands regarding the future relationship between King and Parliament. Each side felt it was slighted and were jealous of their prerogatives. This dispute would end in civil war.

King Charles I lost both civil wars and was executed by Parliament. Parliament had called the King a tyrant but when it had power it could not do the job of the King. The rule of Parliament was depending on the time and place either incompetent or tyrannical. Oliver Cromwell the great Parliamentary General dismissed Parliament and created a Dictatorship called the Commonwealth with himself as the Lord Protector. He ran the Commonwealth like it was an Army, to run an Army like an Army is normal, to run a country like and Army is tyranny and the Lord Protector became a Tyrant. Under the Commonwealth even Christmas was banned.

In exile the Prince of Wales waited for the chance to return, he lived in France with a large contingent of other exiles, he even had thousands of soldiers at his command, all paid for by France. In fact at the Battle of Dunkirk, also known as Battle of the Dunes fought in 1658 between Britain and Spain English troops fought on both sides, some loyal to the Commonwealth and others to the Prince of Wales. By 1660 the Commonwealth had failed and pretty much everyone knew it. Parliament reformed and recalled the Prince of Wales to become King. He of course accepted and this period is known as the Restoration. 

The reign of King Charles II was a relief to most people regardless of their background. The civil war was finally over and the tyranny of the Commonwealth was at an end. In it's place the English stage rose to prominence, political stability returned and the British Army and the Royal Navy trace their beginnings back to this period. But underneath there remained tensions, both Parliament and the King were weary of each other, but as the same time both were determined to make it work. The major controversy of his reign was religion. England and Scotland were Protestant and to them the issue was settled and not open for debate. But King Charles II had been heavily influenced both by his Catholic mother and by his long stay in France. In public he was Protestant but increasing in private he was Catholic, in time people started to notice. But before they did he signed Treaty of Dover, a secret treaty between the King of England the King of France. The Treaty was designed to destroy the Netherlands, but it also included this clause:

"The King of England will make a public profession of the Catholic faith, and will receive the sum of two millions of crowns, to aid him in this project, from the Most Christian King, in the course of the next six months. The date of this declaration is left absolutely to his own pleasure." 

This wasn't known until 1771!

The religious question which nearly everyone thought was settled the King himself was going to upset. The King was going to destroy the peace of his own realm. Because the truth is that no good could have come from this, Parliament would not have accepted this at all. How do we know this? Because each time he tried to bring in religious toleration Parliament rejected it. It was one issue on which there would have been no compromise.

In 1679 it was revealed that the Prince of Wales, the Kings brother James, was Catholic. This lead to the formation of political groupings either supporting or opposing him, the Tories and the Whigs. The Whigs opposed him and their opposition was so extreme that some were executed. In 1685 King Charles II died and on his deathbed he was received into the catholic church. His heir was already known to be Catholic. So now both people and Parliament, overwhelmingly Protestant were presented with the news that their beloved King had converted to Catholicism on his deathbed and their new King was also a Catholic. It was not welcome news, it was seen as a betrayal.

But Parliament did support King James II, what they wanted was a private Catholic, what they got was a very public Catholic. In the first year of his reign there were two rebellions, one in Scotland put down quite easily and a second in England known as Monmouths Rebellion. The Duke of Monmouth was Charles II oldest illegitimate son. The Army stayed loyal to King James and defeated the rebellion. Within a year things were to change, the King wanted a larger Army which was unpopular with both people and Parliament. He refused to compromise with Parliament and except in his first year he did not call it. He accepted an Ambassador from the Pope and began to put Catholics in positions of power. Most of the new officers in the newly raised regiments were Catholic, but even worse he began to remove Protestants from office so he could install Catholics. 

The peace that had been achieved between his brother and Parliament he himself was destroying. He created this situation all by himself, no one forced him to upset his realm. Neither the people nor Parliament wanted a Catholic King but they accepted him because he was the rightful King. But loyalty is not one way, the King must also be loyal to his people and the simple fact is that he was not loyal. He sort to undermine his people and to convert them to a religion that they had already rejected. Whether they were right or wrong to reject it is another issue, the fact remains that they had rejected it.

By 1688 the Whigs contacted William of Orange and asked him if he would become the new Protestant King of England, Scotland and Ireland, to which he agreed. He raised an army, nearly all Dutch, and landed in England. This invasion is known as the Glorious Revolution because there was hardly any violence. Instead the army refused to fight to defend King James II and so did everyone else, instead he went into exile once again. His cause would be known as the Jacobite cause and would continue until his son, known to history as Bonnie Prince Charles died in 1789.

And there you would think the issue would be at an end, but no there are always people who think that the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and her family are illegitimate. People who think that because King James II was overthrown he remains legitimate. But just as man must be loyal to the King, so must the King be loyal to his people. King James II was not overthrown because he was Catholic, he was overthrown because he was disloyal. He sort to take from the Protestant majority and give to the Catholic minority. We see that today, where our Governments take from us to give to others, it was just as wrong then as it is now. 

I would also like to address one further issue, their are those who read this who think that I am anti-Catholic, but it would be just as wrong for the King of a Catholic Kingdom to betray his Catholic subjects. Loyalty is not just something that we give, it is something that we need to be given in return. It is not an optional extra it is of vital importance.

King James II was a King but he became a Traitor!

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  1. An interesting summary about misplaced loyalty during tumultuous times. However many today no longer share any passionate "Loyalty", to the queen, as existed in Australia in the fifties. However it must be noted that it was on her 21st birthday the Princess Elizabeth whilst in South Africa, in a speech, dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth. Remarkably she has remained loyal to that undertaking ever since.
    It would seem to me loyalty as a value to such stated ideals remains just as important in politics and life as it was of yesteryear. “We must have loyalty and character." Ralph WaldoEmerson (1803-1882), "I'll take 50% efficiency to get 100% loyalty. “Samuel Goldwyn (1882-1974).

    1. Mr. Byrnes

      I do have a passionate loyalty to Her Majesty and the lack of loyalty shows how our politicians have betrayed us, we never voted to become a republic nor a proto-republic.

      Mark Moncrieff

  2. The idea that the English people rejected Catholicism has been thoroughly refuted by numerous historians, most prominent of whom is Eamonn Duffy. The real betrayal of the people was that of Henry viiii who, all for his own lustful and selfish aims, brutally imposed a new religion on a catholic population. That two hundred years of state imposed Protestantism meant a change in the people's nominal religion does not equate to a thorough rejection of Catholicism whatsoever.

    Also, as st Thomas More gave his life rather than deny, all men owe their allegiance to God. I agree we should respect the king or queen and that we owe them our loyalty as good subjects, but we are God's servants before we are the queen's.

    1. Chris

      I did not write about the Reformation because in this context that is irrelevant. However to say that Protestantism was imposed is simply wrong, there could have been no Reformation unless it was supported by people of all social classes. And as I stated, by 1688 the issue was settled, in fact it was settled in 1588.

      "but we are God's servants before we are the queen's." I do not even know why you have written this as I never said you had to choose!

      Mark Moncrieff

    2. Mary I was quite brutal, and she married late (37!). That is in my opinion the main reason why England went Protestant.

      The Church of England is similar in terms of external appearance to Catholicism. But, its beliefs prior to CultMarx infiltration tended more towards Calvin than Luther (this is an imprecise description).

      As an aside, the British monarch carries the title "Defender of the Faith". Henry VIII was given this title by the Pope for denouncing Luther. Continuing monarchs have continued its use.