The Exclusion Crisis: A Failure of Charles II?
Exclusion was the policy pursued by what became known as the Whig faction within Parliament in an attempt to exclude Charles’s brother James, Duke of York from the succession because he was a Catholic. The view that Charles was becoming more absolutist, because of the actions of Danby, led to fears that James would be even more so, like the Catholic king of France, Louis XIV – because James was more religiously driven than Charles. The fear of Catholicism and what it would entail was one that people shared, who grew up with stories of Protestant persecution during the reign of Mary I and the more recent 30 years war and Irish rebellion. The Exclusion movement failed for a combination of reasons, including the weakness of Charles II’s opponents – Lord Shaftsbury and the Whigs. However, Charles’s own actions and those of his Tory supporters played a significant part in ensuring that Exclusion was a failure. The Exclusion crisis was triggered by the emergence of ‘evidence’ of a Popish Plot to kill Charles II in August 1678, which was fabricated by Israel Tonge and Titus Oates. The belief in the existence of a Popish Plot increased after the murder of James’s secretary, Edward Cotton, led to the discovery of letters to Louis XIV’s chaplain about converting England to Catholicism. Some politicians used this as an excuse to launch an attack on James in Parliament. These opponents to James’s succession attempted to use the new Parliament of March 1679, which later became known as the First Exclusion Parliament, to launch an attack upon the heir to the throne. The Parliament voted money in an attempt to have the army disbanded and have a Habeas Corpus Amendment Act passed, these were designed to protect the position of James’s opponents should he become king. The opponents of Charles and James attempted