The Later Stuarts, 1660-1714

The Later Stuarts, 1660-1714

The Later Stuarts, 1660-1714

The Later Stuarts, 1660-1714

Excerpt

This volume deals with English history under the later, Stuarts, that is from 1660 to 1714. It begins with the Restoration of King Charles II. His father Charles I had been defeated in civil war, and beheaded in 1649. Attempts had then been made to govern England as a puritan republic, but they had ended in failure. Many of those who had joined in them came to recognize that only a king could unite the English nation in a healthy political life. They therefore combined with those who had always remained loyal to the house of Stuart, and together they brought back Charles II. The nation has never repented of this decision of 1660 in favour of monarchy.

Charles lived until 1685. His reign was troubled by disputes about religion and about the limits of the royal power, but the mass of Englishmen had learnt their lesson, and there was no new civil war. Charles was succeeded by his Roman catholic brother James II, formerly duke of York, in whose short reign the troubles came to a head. In 1688 James lost his throne, but even the revolution was bloodless. It did more than bring in a new king, William III, who reigned jointly with his wife, Mary II, until 1695, and as a widower alone until 1702. It also registered another decision from which the nation has never gone back, that the monarchy should be a constitutional or limited, not an absolute, monarchy, that England should be a country governed by law. William III was succeeded by Mary's sister, Queen Anne, in whose reign, which lasted until 1714, the unity of England under its constitutional monarchy was consolidated in the face of great dangers, and broadened by the union with Scotland. During the four reigns party government became the established system of the governing class.

Looked at from another point of view, the period is divided into five intervals of peace and four wars. There were two wars against the Dutch in the reign of Charles II (1665-7 and 1672-4) and afterwards two against the French, the Nine Years War under William III (1689-97) and the War of the Spanish . . .

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