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76 The Story of Parliament


As a direct consequence of it the new monarchs, William III (1689–1702) and Mary II (1689–94) accepted some limitations of their traditional powers. Tey accepted the Bill of Rights, with its assertion of parliament’s centrality to the processes of government. Tey agreed in the Triennial Act of 1694 that a new parliament should be elected every three years. But almost continuous war from 1689 to 1713 was as important as the Revolution itself in changing parliament. William had come to England in part to secure


T


backing for his wars with Louis XIV. Te continual needs of the king and his successors to finance campaigns on the continent over close to a quarter of a century led to a revolution in the management of the economy, including the foundation of the Bank of England. Essential to this new and complex system of state finance was statute and parliamentary approval. Te result was a significant growth in parliament’s development as an institution. From 1689, parliament would meet every year. Tese changes took place within a political


Opposite: Te House of Commons, c. 1709–14, by Peter Tillemans.


One of a pair with the painting of the House of Lords (overleaf )


structure in which the divide between Tories and Whigs had become entrenched. Monarchs, looking for solid support in parliament, had to take those divisions into account. Appointing ministers whom they trusted, but who could deliver that support, became a major preoccupation. During the 1690s the Whigs were dominated by a group of particularly committed politicians (the Junto). Te Tories were in confusion after a Revolution that had forced them to choose between their loyalty to the king and their loyalty to the Church. In between were slippery court managers like the Earl of Sunderland and latterly a “Country” grouping (consisting of people who


he impact of the 1688 Revolution on England’s parliament was profound.


rejected party labels altogether) mostly made up of discontented Whigs headed by politicians from two intertwined families, the Foleys and the Harleys. William III attempted at first to construct a


mixed ministry of Whigs and Tories and then wavered between Whig and Tory-dominated governments. Party conflict was embittered by accusations of corruption. Even the Commons Speaker, Sir John Trevor, was dismissed over charges of taking bribes; there were investigations into senior politicians on both sides, including Charles Montagu in the Commons (a Whig) and the Duke of Leeds and the Marquess of Normanby (both Tories) in the Lords. Making these disputes more dangerous were


the continued efforts of the supporters of the former dynasty (the Jacobites) to overturn the Revolution. In 1696, news of an assassination plot came to light, resulting in the arrest of Sir John Fenwick, one of James II’s former generals. As there were not sufficient witnesses to enable the courts to proceed against him, Fenwick was tried before parliament, found guilty by act of attainder (a special, and ancient procedure avoiding the ordinary law courts, meaning that ordinary standards of proof were not required) and executed. Over the next half century, there would be many more Jacobite plots, real and imagined, the most serious in 1708, 1715 (the “fifteen”) and finally in 1745 (the “forty-five”). Te last, briefly, threatened the stability of the state before being crushed at the battle of Culloden. Te “rage of party” reached its zenith under


Queen Anne (1702–14) as parliament grappled with concerns about the security of the Church of England, the succession to the throne, and the military campaigns waged against France by the Duke of Marlborough. Concerns about the safety of the Church initially provided a clear divide between


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