What Divided Whigs and Tories in the Reigns of William Iii and Qu...

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What Divided Whigs and Tories in the Reigns of William Iii and Queen Anne (1688-1714)?

By | December 2012
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Jack Wilson

What divided Whigs and Tories in the reigns of William III and Queen Anne (1688-1714)?

The early days of the new reign of King William III of Orange and his wife Queen Mary II were overshadowed by uncertainty. Could James II hasty departure be treated as abdication? If so by which means- mere physical absence or a violation of fundamental laws? And what kind of steps should be made to ensure such monarchic contractual failures didn’t occur again? Such questions were a true cause of glory in the “Glorious revolution”. People with incompatible views, despite the passion of beliefs and the heat of the moment, where driven together in pursuit of a compromise through diplomacy. This uncertainty, arising as a result of political discord was, upon the succession William and Anne, in its infancy[1]. Along with the creation of a Parliamentary monarchy and, to a large extent, as a corollary of it, such partition in political opinion rapidly developed and cemented during William’s reign[2]. And with it came the coalescence of party divisions. The so-called “rage of party” had begun- and would last for over two decades. The two major parties- the Whigs and the Tories took shape and began to battle each other for power and influence. To succeed they would have to earn favour with William who had the exclusive power of appointing ministry[3]. Despite theoretically being a joint ruler with his wife Mary in reality William held all executive power. “If the purse was the lever by which Parliament controlled the King,” writes Mark Kishlansky “party was the lever by which the King controlled Parliament.”[4] Such a “lever” was also exercised by William’s sister-in-law and successor Queen Anne of Great Britain after his death in 1702. As well as being split compositionally there were a number of issues that divided the Whigs and the Tories between 1688 and 1714: Long-standing topics such as the matter of Protestant succession, the relationship between Crown and...
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