39. William III. And Mary II, 1689—1702
When James II. proved to be entirely gone, the Parliament agreed to offer the crown to William of Orange—the next heir after James's children—and Mary, his wife, James's eldest daughter; but not until there had been new conditions made, which would prevent the kings from ever being so powerful again as they had been since the time of Henry VII. Remember, Magna Carta, under King John, gave the power to the nobles. They lost it by the wars of the Roses, and the Tudor kings gained it; but the Stuart kings could not keep it, and the House of Commons became the strongest power in the kingdom, by the Revolution of 1688.
The House of Commons is made up of persons chosen—whenever there is a general election—by the men who have a certain amount of property in each county and large town. There must be a fresh election, or choosing again every seven years; also, whenever the sovereign dies; and the sovereign can dissolve the Parliament—that is, break it up— and have a fresh election whenever it is thought right. But above the House of Commons stands the House of Lords, or Peers. These are not chosen, but the eldest son, or next heir of each lord, succeeds to his seat upon his death; and fresh peerages are given as rewards to great generals, great lawyers, or people who have deserved well of their country. When a law has to be made, it has first to be agreed to by a majority—that is, the larger number—of the Commons, then by a majority of the Lords, and lastly, by the king or queen. The sovereign's council are called the ministers, and if the Houses of Parliament do not approve of their way of carrying on the government they vote against their proposals, and this generally makes them resign, that others may be chosen in their place who may please the country better.
This arrangement has gone on ever since William and Mary came in. However, James II. still had many friends, only they had been out of reach at the first alarm. The Latin word for James is Jacobus, and, therefore, they were called Jacobites. All Roman Catholics were, of course, Jacobites; and there were other persons who, though grieved at the king's conduct, did not think it right to rise against him and drive him away; and, having taken an oath to obey him, held that it would be wrong to swear obedience to anyone else while he was alive. Archbishop Sancroft was one of these. He thought it wrong in the new queen, Mary, to consent to take her father's place; and when she sent to ask his blessing, he told her to ask her father's first, as, without that, his own would do her little good. Neither he nor Bishop Ken, nor some other bishops, nor a good many more of the clergy, would take the oaths to William, or put his name instead of that of James in the prayers at church. They rather chose to be turned out of their bishoprics and parishes, and to live in poverty. They were called the non-jurors, or not-swearers.
Louis, King of France, tried to send James back, and gave him the service of his fleet; but it was beaten by Admiral Russell, off Cape La Hogue. Poor James could not help crying out, "See my brave English sailors!" One of Charles's old officers, Lord Dundee, raised an army of Scots in James's favor, but he was killed just as he had won the battle of Killicrankie; and there was no one to take up the cause just then, and the Scotch Whigs were glad of the change.
Most of James's friends, the Roman Catholics, were in Ireland, and Louis lent him an army with which to go thither and try to win his crown back. He got on pretty well in the South, but in the North— where Oliver Cromwell had given lands to many of his old soldiers— he met with much more resistance. At Londonderry, the apprentice boys shut the gates of the town and barred them against him. A clergyman named George Walker took the command of the city, and held it out for a hundred and five days against him, till everyone was nearly starved to death—and at last help came from England. William himself came to Ireland, and the father and son-in-law met in battle on the banks of the Boyne, on the 1st of July, 1690. James was routed; and large numbers of the Irish Protestants have ever since kept the 1st of July as a great holiday—commemorating the victory by wearing orange lilies and orange-colored scarfs.
James was soon obliged to leave Ireland, and his friends there were severely punished. In the meantime, William was fighting the French in Holland—as he had done nearly all his life—while Mary governed the kingdom at home. She was a handsome, stately lady, and was much respected; and there was great grief when she died of the small-pox, never having had any children. It was settled upon this that William should go on reigning as long as he lived, and then that Princess Anne should be queen; and if she left no children, that the next after her should be the youngest daughter of Elizabeth, daughter of James I. Her name was Sophia, and she was married to Ernest of Brunswick, Elector of Hanover. It was also settled that no Roman Catholic, nor even anyone who married a Roman Catholic, could ever be on the English throne.
Most of the Tories disliked this Act of Settlement; and nobody had much love for King William, who was a thin, spare man, with a large, hooked nose, and very rough, sharp manners—perhaps the more sharp because he was never in good health, and suffered terribly from the asthma. However, he managed to keep all the countries under him in good order, and he was very active, and always at war with the French. Towards the end of his reign a fresh quarrel began, in which all Europe took part. The King of Spain died without children, and the question was who should reign after him. The King of France had married one sister of this king, and the Emperor of Germany was the son of her aunt. One wanted to make his grandson king of Spain, the other his son, and so there was a great war. William III. took part against the French—as he had always been their enemy; but just as the war was going to begin, as he was riding near his palace of Hampton Court, his horse trod into a mole-hill, and he fell, breaking his collar bone; and this hurt his weak chest so much that he died in a few days, in the year 1702. The Jacobites were very glad to be rid of him, and used to drink the health of the "little gentleman in a black velvet coat," meaning the mole which had caused his death.