East India Company

James II's Two Rebellions

Why did Monmouth fail and William of Orange succeed? Robin Clifton investigates the tale of two rebellions.

The history of revolutions is generally written by winners; and, however much historians may commend 'the contemporary perspective', if a victory is apparently achieved with ease a certain feeling of inevitability will soon envelop the account. England's Revolution of 1688 is termed 'Glorious' not least for the smooth and bloodless manner of its accomplishment. William of Orange, it seems, consistently made all the right moves, and his opponent lames II all the wrong ones. It is salutory therefore to recall that James faced not one but two rebellions during his short reign, and that he suppressed the first, led in 1685 by his late brother's illegitimate son, James, Duke of Monmouth, with all the firmness and skill noticeably lacking in his response to William just three years later.

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