The only major military engagement of the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’, the Battle of Reading, took place today in 1688.
James II of England had come to the throne in 1685 despite being a Catholic, a religion which was very much out of favour in Great Britain at the time due to the conflicts over the previous century and a half.
At first his monarchy was tolerated, perhaps because the populace did not want a repeat of the Civil War which had brought such destruction, resulting in the death of King Charles I in 1648/9.
William and Mary
However, probably due to the birth of an heir in 1688 and the possibility of the creation of a Catholic dynasty, public opinion soon began to turn against James II. His daughter Mary, who was married to his nephew William of Orange, were promoted as obvious replacements and this is how it eventually turned out.
The Battle of Reading itself provided the incongruous spectacle on English soil of King James’ Irish troops pitched against the Dutch forces of Prince William of Orange. Even so, the people of Reading did all they could to support the Dutch.
History Repeats – Two Williams from Abroad
Casualties were relatively few despite the decisive victory of William, who was soon to become the second king of his name to win the throne of England via a foreign invasion, albeit a very different one.
King James very quickly saw the impossibility of his position and abdicated, fleeing the country for France and then Ireland, where he was still largely supported.
This was a major turning point for Great Britain, where the superiority of Parliament over the Monarchy was truly established. For good – or ill – the birth of modern Britain, politically, culturally, economically, can be traced to this period, and it relied on a Dutch ruler.
copyright Francis Barker 2019