Government under William and Mary, 1688-1702


The Convention Parliament

  • Established in 1689 to plan for the future of the monarchy and the country. 
  • The more radical Whigs wanted to declare William king immediately, but others favoured a role for his wife Mary by hereditary right. 
  • The Crown was offered to them both, and a Declaration of Rights was presented and read aloud to William and Mary. 
  • This document outlined both the injustices of James's reign and a number of clauses that aimed to limit royal power, although their recognition of it was not a condition of accepting the Crown.
  • The Declaration was modified and many of its terms placed on the statute book as the Bill of Rights. 
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The Bill of Rights, 1689

  • Laws cannot be suspended by a monarch without the consent of Parliament.
  • Money cannot be granted to a monarch without the consent of Parliament.
  • Subjects have the right to petition the monarch and cannot be prosecuted for doing so. 
  • A monarch cannot keep a standing army in times of peace without the consent of Parliament. 
  • Elections ought to be free.
  • MPs and Lords should have freedom of speech when they are debating in Parliament. 
  • Excessive bail should not be sought by the authorities or excessive fines imposed. 
  • No cruel and unusual punishments should be inflicted. 
  • Parliaments should be held frequently.
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Mutiny Acts

  • A number of Mutiny Acts were passed from 1689, ensuring that the monarch could not court-martial soldiers at will without the consent of Parliament.
  • As each Mutiny Act was only valid for a year, the King had no choice but to turn to Parliament regularly for approval.
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Divine Right steadily declined?

As a result of the Glorious Revolution, the concept of absolute monarchy was badly damaged, and this was because an entirely new political regime was now in place. The old regime under James did not have to rely on Parliament and alienated it, but William and Mary were subject to the Bill of Rights to a great extent. There is no question that the notion of divine right had been seriously reduced or even removed completely, as the Bill of Rights set down in statute for the first time that a monarch was unable to exercise arbitrary powers such as the right to punish as they saw fit, previously assumed to be given to them by God.

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  • William was seen as a foreigner and unlikeable.
  • Mary was a popular one.
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