Diddy R. M. Hitchins and William A. Jacobs
On Guy Fawkes Day, 1688, the Prince of Orange dropped anchor in Torbay and began to disembark a small invasion force of no more than fifteen thousand men. James II, the English king whom the prince had come to depose, moved against the invader with an army almost twice as large. Within days, several hundred of his officers, including John Churchill (later the Duke of Marlborough), defected to the Dutchman, and the royal army rapidly fell apart. James ultimately fled the country to a safe haven in France, and the prince and his wife ascended the English throne as joint sovereigns in what we now recognize as a constitutional monarchy. These events laid a considerable part of the foundations of the modern British political system; they also constitute the last successful invasion of the British Isles and the last direct intervention of the military1 intended to displace a government in British politics.
The absence of that kind of intervention is the most striking characteristic of civil-military relations in the United Kingdom, so striking that it serves as a prime example of civilian control of the military.2 The tradition of civil supremacy is so well established that one writer has described the British military in a memorable phrase as "invincibly subordinate."3 This tradition is all the more remarkable considering the long span of time over which it has been maintained. Almost every institution involved in relations between the armed forces, the government they serve, and the larger society has changed fundamentally-- some several times--since the late seventeenth century. So stable has been the system of civil-military relations that, until the revival of mob action and terrorism in Northern Ireland in 1969, the academic literature on the subject was marked by what one writer has called a "deafening silence."4
The "Troubles" in Ulster display another important aspect of civil-military relations: the use of armed forces to repress civil disorder, a function known in Britain as Military Aid to the Civil Power (MACP). Magistrates called out the army on numerous occasions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but