Staring At The Same Sky

In 1688, the political and religious landscape of England went through a massive change. The Glorious Revolution, sometimes referred to as the Bloodless Revolution (although it wasn’t bloodless), established William of Orange and his wife Mary (the daughter of the sitting king, James II) as joint monarchs. James’ Catholicism didn’t sit well with the prominent politicians of the time, and William and Mary’s protestantism was much more liked. The result of the revolution was the permanent establishment of a protestant Monarch, and the impact on British Catholics was horrendous. Catholics were denied the right to vote, they were forbidden from sitting in Parliament, they were denied commissions in the army, and any future monarch was forbidden from marrying a Catholic.

The impact on homosexual politics was interesting. The period during the reins of Charles II and James II were, arguably, socially liberal. After James’ ousting, social attitudes became increasingly conservative, focused on moral attitudes of respectability and seriousness. This was the start of what history would recognise as the Georgian social attitudes, which would last into the rein of Victoria. One of several social societies to spring into creation during the rein of William and Mary was the Society for the Reformation of Manners. Having the support of both Crown and Church, the Society convinced both Queens Mary and Anne to issue proclamations against vice. The Society’s strong support in Parliament, along with other such societies, would have a huge impact on homosexual politics in 18th century Britain.

The Society’s influence even began an attack on the theatre, for several reasons. First, in 1698, Jeremy Collier wrote Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, in which he attacks a lack of moral instruction in some of England’s most recent plays. Also, the vice of theatre, including actors and playwrights, was associate with sodomy and other “immoral” acts. Although Europe had entered the Age of Enlightenment, it was going backward in terms of social liberties.

The impact of the Glorious Revolution on English politics and society was massive. As stated above, the repression of Catholicism was incredibly harsh, and society was turning toward a much more conservative structure. This would have an important impact on Great Britain. James II’s son James would become known as The Old Pretender when he attempted to invade England in 1715. Upon James II’s death in 1701, his son James declared himself James III of England and  James VIII of Scotland…he was recognised as the true monarch of England by France, Spain, Modena and the Papal States who had refused to acknowledge William and Mary as legitimate. Upon William’s death in 1702, James’ younger daughter Anne succeeded her brother-in-law as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland. In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland (which had been jointly ruled by the same monarch since James I/VI took both thrones in 1603) officially united as a single nation, with one parliament, under the Acts of Union.

In March 1708, James attempted an invasion of England to reclaim his throne by landing at the Firth of Forth. The English were waiting, however, and James’ French admiral refused to risk a naval battle with England. Between 1710 and 1714, James was offered the restoration of his throne if he would convert to protestantism. He refused, declaring himself a devout Catholic.

When Anne died in 1714, there was no living issue, and the House of Stuart died with her. In 1701, anticipating this event, Parliament passed the Act of Settlement, which created the line of succession to the English and Irish thrones to Sophia of Hanover, who was the granddaughter of James I/VI, and her non-Catholic heirs. Sophia’s death, two months before Anne’s, meant that the crown of Great Britain and Ireland went to Sophia’s eldest son, George I. In reaction, James once again attempted to regain his throne. Often called The Fifteen, James set foot on Scottish soil following the Battle of Sheriffmuir. James found support lacking, and his own personality quirks failed to establish him as a leader. He became ill, not being used to the Scottish winters, and he returned to France. Unfortunately, during his sojourn in Scotland, Louis XIV had died, and the government of France found James an embarrassment. James was offered refuge in Rome by Pope Clement XI, which he accepted. In 1720, his wife gave birth to a son, Charles (which will become important in about 15 years).

[Note: I promise the historical rant about The Fifteen has a purpose, that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m Scottish (ok, maybe a little). Be patient, I promise to make it make sense. ALSO: the word ‘manners’ meant, at this time, morals, not etiquette.]

[Glorious Revolution: Although the details of how James II was ousted and William and Mary became join monarchs adds nothing to point of this post, I’ll tell you anyway. As I said above, James was Catholic, he had close ties with France (also Catholic), and he passed no laws banning any religion during his rein…which was an oddity for a Catholic king to not want to ban protestantism. By 1685, the leading politicians of the time were increasingly troubled by James stance on religion. Most of them, however, were waiting for the King to die, and his daughter Mary (a protestant) and her husband William of Orange to succeed her father. On 10 June, 1688, however, James’ wife Mary gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stuart. This changed the line of succession, making James the king’s heir presumptive. Prominent politicians had a problem with the idea of a the re-establishment of a Catholic monarchy. In answer to this problem, prominent Tories and Whigs united (which is a miracle in and of itself) and invited William of Orange, who had shown interest previously in military intervention to prevent an Anglo-French alliance, to England.

In November 1688, 5 months after James’ birth, after solidifying financial and political support, William crossed the English Channel with a fleet and landed in Torbay. There were a few clashes between the two armies in England, and a few anti-Catholic riots in various towns, but James’ heart wasn’t in it. His lack of resolve resulted in the defeat of his forces at the Battle of Reading on 9 December, and James and his family fled to France. He returned briefly to England, but was permanently in France on 23 December.

In February 1689, William threatened to withdraw his troops from England, which would have allowed James to return. A Convention Parliament was chosen, and William and Mary were appointed joint monarchs.]

Part VIII: Homosexual politics and the 18th Century, part 2


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