In the short time allocated to me I am going to attempt a simplified analysis of the significance the Williamite Revolution Settlement in its broader context, both historically and constitutionally.
The term 'Revolution Settlement' refers collectively to the provisions stretching from the Bill of Rights of 1689 to the Act of Settlement of 1701, both inclusive. These and the intervening pieces of legislation were the culmination of the great historical struggle of this country against the Papacy, and together they secured our Protestant Throne and Constitution and all the rights and liberties which are guaranteed thereby. Doctrinally speaking, these were the fruit of the Reformation, but their enactment was not secured until after the Siege of Londonderry and the Battle of the Boyne.
The Monarchy versus the Papacy in British History
The significance of the Revolution Settlement is inextricably linked to the principle of the Monarch as Defender of the Protestant Faith. The uniqueness of our Monarchy is a result of the history of our nation. In the centuries before the Reformation that history was dominated by a long struggle for the freedom of our Kings and Queens from the domination of the Papacy, but even after the victory of the Reformation and following the Williamite Settlement the attacks by the Vatican on our independence from its control have continued in ever more subtle ways.
In mediaeval times the historical claims by the Vatican to be above civil governments were staunchly and openly maintained against Britain. Papal aggression led to the signing of the Magna Carta, granted by King John at Runnymede in 1215, which was the very foundation of British liberty and provided for the trial of freemen by the civil law. This great document was, in a sense, the mediaeval forerunner of the Revolution Settlement.
In 1392 Richard II also anticipated the Revolution Settlement by declaring:
[...] the Crown of England hath been so free at all times, that it hath been in no earthly subjection, but immediately subject to God touching the regality of the said Crown, and no other.
Again, in 1534, Henry VIII acted on the same principle with a Parliamentary Act abolishing the Papal supremacy in England and proclaiming the independence of his Crown. He was only partially successful, though in 1537 the Parliament at Westminster did decree "the utter abolition of the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome".
From then onwards, however, throughout the period leading up to the Reformation, the claims of the Papacy were steadily built up and enforced with varying success, and although the Reformation dealt them a major blow, a struggle of another century and a half had yet to take place before Britons became convinced that the independence of their Throne was unattainable while a Papist sat on it, because their liberties and those of their children would be strangled or bartered away.
The Significance of the Reformation in shaping the Revolution Settlement
The Revolution Settlement was made possible by - and was the culmination and crowning glory of - the great doctrinal Reformation which had taken place a century and a half beforehand, in the sixteenth century. We must therefore appreciate what we owe to the Reformation before we can understand its part in shaping the Revolution Settlement.
The Reformation gave us all that was worth having: liberty of conscience, liberty of faith, freedom of discussion and freedom of the press. Doctrinally speaking, no monopolising priest could now come and stand as a barrier between the sinner and the Lord Jesus Christ; but the Reformation also brought us social blessings and political greatness. In his book Popery its Social Aspect, R.P. Blakeney writes:
The Reformation has been the stay, and bulwark, and glory of England. [...] When Britain became Protestant, taking the Word of God for her guide, - when the principles of the Bible regulated all her actions and legislation, - when she acknowledged it as her first duty and highest privilege, as a nation, to advance the cause of Christ, and framed her laws and institutions to that end only, - when she had cast off all connexion with Popery, declaring it illegal even to enter into diplomatic relations with Rome, [...] she enjoyed the favour of Heaven, and became great; her people rose in character and intelligence, and manliness and honesty distinguished their conduct. Her arms prevailed; and the British constitution and British laws - the best that ever existed - were the admiration and praise of all the earth.
Rome's Attempts to undo the Reformation
Rome, nevertheless, continued her assaults. We might mention the attempt by Pope Pius V to subvert the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. In 1569 he issued a bull which declared her "an heretic, and a favourer of heretics", and throughout her reign at least 21 assassination attempts in 25 years were made on her by the Vatican. Again, in 1588, the Pope urged Philip of Spain to attempt to destroy British liberty and Protestantism by means of the Spanish Armada. Another Romanist attack was the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in the reign of King James I, who gave us the Authorised Version of the Bible.
Before the 17th century ended, our Monarchs themselves were to be used subversively by the Papacy to endeavour to destroy the Reformation and the Protestant Throne. Charles II and James II were both Roman Catholics.
Charles II (1660-1685) was a secret Papist, but James II (1685-1688) was publicly converted to Romanism and tried to re-impose Popery on England by passing an Act of Toleration. He violated the principles of Constitutional government and of the Reformation, and for this treacherous dealing he justly forfeited his Crown. Having succeeded in papalising the army in Ireland, he met his doom, as all Ulster people know, on the banks of the Boyne.
The Course and Provisions of the Revolution Settlement
Let us now examine specifically the course and provisions of the Revolution Settlement and its contribution to the Constitutional freedoms which we have enjoyed for the past 300 years.
When William, Prince of Orange, landed on our shores in 1688, he pledged himself to maintain our Protestant liberties, and ascended the English Throne as William III (1689-1702). The Convention Parliament declared on 28th January, 1689, that King James II had "endeavoured to subvert the constitution of this kingdom, by breaking the original contract between King and people" and had "by the advice of Jesuits [...] violated the fundamental law". He had therefore "abdicated the Government" and the Throne was "thereby vacant". On 13th February this resolution was extended to include the following words: "That William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be and be declared, King and Queen of England, France and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging."
At the Siege of Londonderry and the Battle of the Boyne which was to follow soon afterwards, Ulster became Britain's Protestant bastion, and the forefathers of this great Nation - unlike the myopic weaklings who lead it today - had the wisdom to do what patriotic warriors do on the termination of a hard-fought and successful campaign: they built ramparts around their rights and liberties.
The most important of these ramparts was the Revolution Settlement itself. It established a Protestant Throne, a Protestant Legislature and a Protestant Electorate. The 1689 Act declared the rights and liberties of the subject and set the Succession of the Crown. Today Queen Elizabeth II remains the "Defender of the [Protestant] Faith". The 'ramparts' were put in place through the Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701).
The Bill of Rights (1689)
From the time of William III till the present an Act has been in force which is known as the Bill of Rights. It is described as "an Act declaring the rights and liberties of the subjects, and settling the succession of the Crown". This Act pronounced it "inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant Kingdom to be governed by a Popish Prince, or any King or Queen marrying a Papist"; and enacted "that all and every Person or Persons that is, are, or shall be, reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Popish religion, or shall marry a Papist, shall be excluded, and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the Crown and Government of this Realm and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging"; and further, that "in all and every such case or cases the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance, and the said Crown and Government shall from time to time descend to, and be enjoyed by, such Person or Persons, being Protestants, as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case the Person or Persons so reconciled, holding Communion, or professing, or marrying as aforesaid, were naturally dead."
The Act of Settlement (1701)
The culmination of the Glorious Revolution came with the Act of Settlement of 1701. Having laid down the succession in the Bill of Rights of 1689, Parliament now went on to clarify it more fully. Eight articles were inserted in the Act of Settlement, the most significant being the first, which declares: "That whosoever shall hereafter come to the possession of this Crown shall join in communion with the Church of England as by law established."
The Act of Settlement also requires every English Sovereign, on coming to the Throne, to deny on oath that any man can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and to confess on oath that Mary worship, and the Romish mass, are "superstitious and idolatrous".
Both the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement were the result of determination to prevent the recurrence of such abuses that led to the Siege of Londonderry after the first Irish Parliament had passed a rash of iniquitous and tyrannical laws, including the Act of Attainder, depriving Protestants of all their rights and privileges and confiscating their land and goods.
Three Great Constitutional Principles
These two documents laid down the three great Constitutional principles of the Revolution Settlement. If these three basic principles of the Revolution Settlement should ever be dismantled, the Constitutional implications for Britain would be disastrous. She would undo two thousand years of struggling to be free, and revert to a state of serfdom to the Church of Rome such as pertained in the Middle Ages. The principles were:
1. A Protestant Throne
In Act I, chapter 2, section 2 of the Act of Settlement the succession to the Crown was finally settled by the following decree:
Every person who is or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with the See or Church of Rome, shall be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the Crown or Government of this Realm and Ireland; and in every such case the people of these Realms shall be and are hereby released from their allegiance.
The principle of the victors was that a Monarch who is to rule over free men must himself be free. A King who is under the control of the Pope is not and cannot be free. He is the servant of a master who claims his whole obedience implicitly. Some may argue that Edward III and other Roman Catholic monarchs were not just such slaves; however, they were good British kings only to the extent that they were bad subjects of the Vatican. The more popish, the more slave. Whatever freedom the Kings and Queens of Britain enjoyed, they owed to their refusal to submit to the fetters in which the Pope attempted to hold them. This fact is seen repeatedly in British history. Our Sovereigns always had to maintain a running battle with the Vatican.
To those who pretend that the safeguarding of a Protestant Throne amounts to religious discrimination against Roman Catholics it must be pointed out that the Sovereign, as a man or woman, has every right to change his or her religion; the Sovereign, as Sovereign, however, has no such privilege.
The Protestant Constitution of this country is also enshrined in the Coronation Oath which the Monarch swears prior to the enthronement in Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop, in administering the Coronation Oath, first asks the Monarch: "Is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?" The Monarch answering: "I am willing", the Archbishop then asks the King three questions, demanding of him first, if he will solemnly promise and swear to govern his people according to the laws and customs of the Constitution; secondly, if he will do his best to cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all his judgements; thirdly, if he will to the utmost of his power maintain the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law, and also maintain and preserve the Church of England and the rights and privileges of the bishops and clergy and the Churches committed to their charge.
To each of these questions, the Monarch gives his solemn assent, and then rising out of his chair he goes to the Altar, attended by two Bishops and the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Sword of State being carried before him. There he makes his Oath in the sight of all the people, laying his right hand upon the Holy Gospel in the Great Bible and says: "The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God." Then the King kisses the Book and signs the Oath. In this solemn manner the Monarch takes the Coronation Oath to uphold "the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law".
Also on the accession each Monarch takes the Accession Oath before the Privy Council as follows: "I do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to the law."
Then the Monarch takes the Oath relating to the security of the Church of Scotland.
2. A Protestant Legislature
The second part of the Revolution Settlement was the establishment of a Protestant Legislature. The men of the Revolution decreed that the subjects of Great Britain would be governed by British law - law made on the soil of Britain, law inspired by the genius of British liberty, law that would conserve those rights and freedoms which had been won in the struggles of the two previous centuries. The men of the Revolution were determined to avoid a repetition of past experience.
They declared that those of the Romish communion were in no proper sense citizens of this country. Their country, they said, is their Church, their King the Pope. A man cannot be subject to two different kings and be loyal to both. No sovereign state can allow its citizens to be at the beck and call of another that also claims temporal allegiance over him. Roman Catholics are subjects of a foreign prince, to whom, without concealment, their allegiance is given, and by whom their conscience in all matters is absolutely ruled.
Every Roman Catholic bishop, after all, takes a feudal oath to obey the Pope in all things, and to fight against his enemies, and that obligation runs down through the priests to the humblest member of their community. It links them all into a great feudal confederacy whose throne is the Vatican and whose country is their Church.
The principle of a Protestant Legislature was based on the idea that only the loyal citizens of a country are entitled to take part in framing the laws by which it is governed. What could be a more glaring violation of the natural law of self-preservation than to commit the government of a country into the hands of those who are aliens to it, and who, even while professing loyalty, may be its secret and most bitter enemies? Such a decision would be national suicide.
Hence the men of the Revolution restricted the task of legislating for the country to the citizens of the country, that is, to Protestants, but they did not, however, discriminate against Roman Catholics as such. They extended the protection of British law to all who lived on British soil. They guarded the persons, the lives and the property of Roman Catholics as sacredly as those of Protestants; but they excluded the former from the making of British laws because this was not one of their natural rights. To have granted them this privilege would have re-introduced tyranny into the State and sown the seeds of its gradual subversion.
It is a measure of Britain's forgetfulness and folly that she granted Roman Catholics the franchise a century later, in 1793. Predictably, they proceeded to gain access to Parliament and to establish themselves in positions of power, denying their subversive intentions behind a cloak of emancipation or, more recently, one of civil rights. Within the past two hundred years they have succeeded in subverting the main Protestant Churches by means of the great deception of the Ecumenical Movement. Cardinal Heenan's friendship with the late Princess Diana revealed how Rome had been trying to subvert the Protestant Throne directly in a country where Roman Catholics represent a very small minority of the population.
3. A Protestant Electorate
Having provided for allegiance by British citizens to the Throne and established their submission to the Law, the men of the Revolution realised that these two principles were wanting in the case of adherents to the Papacy because Roman Catholics could bear little or no allegiance to a Protestant Throne and could show no respect for Protestant Law beyond what force or appearance might compel. In actual fact, it was argued, Roman Catholics appeal to the authoritative principles of their own creed, to their own published manifestos, and above all to - and I quote from the Act:
their repeated and desperate attempts, with arms in their hands and treason in their hearts, to establish this foreign rule over us, not content to being themselves free to submit to it. [...] It matters not where their king lives [...] - the fact that concerns us is that it is to him that their allegiance is sworn, and it is his law by which their conscience is ruled; and so long as they cleave to this foreign authority, we judge them outside the limits of the State and refuse them part or portion in the government of a nation to which they do not belong.
Let it be remembered, however, that if Roman Catholics were voted outside the pale of citizenship for electoral purposes, this was done not because their religion was false (which it was), but because their allegiance was wrong. No judgement was, in fact, being pronounced on their creed. They received equal protection under the law, but were not permitted to have a part in making it.
Our Constitutional Rights
The Revolution Settlement brought with it the establishment of certain well-defined Constitutional rights. By the Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, and the Coronation Service, our legal rights as Protestant citizens of this country are at least threefold:
These rights, won at such cost, have also, of course, been incorporated into the judicial and constitutional systems of every country in the British Commonwealth.
- We have an absolute right of exemption from the rule of any Papist who may claim the Throne, even though he be the heir apparent.
- We have an absolute right of exemption from the rule by any person, whether Papist, Romaniser, or lukewarm Protestant, who refuses to denounce by name, and on his solemn oath, the fundamental heresies of Rome, or who subsequently refuses to swear that he will maintain God's law, Christ's Gospel, and the Protestant faith, to the utmost of his power.
- We have an absolute right, if any monarch apostacizes from the Protestantism which he has espoused on oath, and becomes a Papist, or if he even "holds Communion with the See or Church of Rome", to rise collectively and refuse to own him as our King.
Results of the Revolution Settlement
What were the practical results of the Revolution Settlement? Its wisdom is attested by the instant leap upwards taken by our country amongst the nations of the world. In a word, its establishment of Protestant principles made England great. England became Great Britain, and the little British Isles sprang into the mightiest empire that the world had ever seen - not by force of arms, but by moral power. From that time Britain was obeyed to the ends of the earth, not by the force of the sword, but by the mightier force of that good name which equitable laws and free institutions won for her.
The indisputable reason for Britain's prosperity is found in the Bible, and it is that God still does bless nations who obey Him, as he promised Eli of old in I Samuel 1:30: "Them that honour me I will honour." God kept His promise.
Hence, interwoven with the history of the past three hundred years is the record of unparalleled political progress and unceasing commercial success. Even the Catholic Times of 10th August, 1900, admitted that all this was achieved "under the rule of Protestant sovereigns, under the guidance of Protestant leaders, under the government of Protestant Parliaments, has so associated the Pro-testant idea with England's success that in the minds of men one is linked to the other as cause and effect."
Rome's Claws are growing again
The Church of Rome has been continuing to assault each and every principle of the Revolution Settlement ever since.
Ironically, Britain's retreat from the principles of the Revolution Settlement began just over a century after its conclusion; for a great betrayal of Protestantism and the elimination of the Protestant safeguards of the Revolution Settlement commenced in earnest with the so-called Catholic Relief Act in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century Rome shadowed all of Britain's missionary activity abroad and made a desperate effort at home to secure a renewed ascendancy in Britain and its Empire.
Britain foolishly responded by granting concession after concession, till in 1910 the Constitutional Denunciation of Idolatry and the Denunciation of Priestcraft and Popery had been eliminated from the Royal Declaration. These alterations to the Statutory Declaration were made, moreover, without an appeal to the nation, clearly to placate the Church of Rome.
The Undermining of the Protestant Faith
It has been said that the three great liberties that were obtained during the reign of King William III were a free Parliament, a free press and a free pulpit. Today the European Union is encroaching increasingly on the law-making process in our Parliament; our press displays a distinct bias against Protestant fundamentalism; and many of the once soundly Protestant pulpits of many of our Churches have become choked with the doctrines of Ecumenism. The EU has been described by the Papal Nuncio in Brussels as "a Roman Catholic Confederation of States", and it has been hailed in Roman Catholic circles as a resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire.
Our successive British Governments have been pandering to it, while the Church of England and the other Ecumenical Churches have been pandering to the Church of Rome, which has already gained a considerable section of the Anglican clergy. The question now arises as to whether Queen Elizabeth will be the last British Monarch to take the Protestant Coronation Oath. May God forbid.
The Protestant faith of Britain has been progressively undermined, and British freedoms assailed, by a disciplined and able confederacy intent on destroying them both. The determination of the Papacy to destroy religious freedom in Britain was expressed in the words of Cardinal Manning in The Tablet of August, 1859:
If ever there was a land in which work is to be done, and perhaps much to suffer, it is here. I shall not say too much if I say that we have to subjugate and subdue, to conquer and rule, an Imperial race; we have to do with a will which reigns throughout the world, as the will of old Rome reigned once; we have to bend or break that will which nations and kingdoms have found invincible and inflexible . [...] Were heresy [i.e., Protestantism!] conquered in England, it would be conquered throughout the world. All its lines meet here, and therefore in England the Church of God [!] must be gathered in its strength.
We are told that our controversy with Rome is out of date, that the enlightenment of the 20th century has finally defeated any attempt to subjugate the intellect of present or future generations to a false creed, un-Christ-like in its doctrine and cruel in its practice - in other words that the Papacy of 400 years ago, having caught the spirit of the modern age, is no longer the tyrant and dictator of the past - that the pages of history relating to the reign of terror in the days of Queen Mary or the Spanish Armada or the Gunpowder Plot are facts to be eliminated from memory or the teaching of history - horrific extravagances of some remote age incapable of repetition today.
How far these spurious and untruthful arguments are the result of Jesuit cunning is not immediately evident until one considers such events as the Vatican's massacre of 250,000 Orthodox Serbs in Croatia during World War II, the cruel treatment of many Protestant families in France or the vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted against the Protestants of Northern Ireland. The bloody and brutal Inquisition is an institution which we will forget at our peril, for the Church of Rome still maintains and justifies today her ancient motto: Semper Eadem (Always the Same). Rome will never tolerate her opponents, as one of her early 20th-century Irish Bishops, Dr. Clancy, reaffirmed regarding the Inquisition:
It may be said that those laws were cruel and tyrannical. Granted; yet, surely, we are not to measure the punishments inflicted in the 16th century by the refined standards of our more educated and civilised age. [...] The question whether punishment was excessive, however, does not touch the principle, that heresy may become dangerous to the public weal, and as such may be punished by the State. Indeed, the proposition is indefensible - that toleration, where error can be prevented, is intrinsically wrong.
There are churchmen in Ulster today who are arguing passionately and fervently for compromise with Rome. They have ditched the principles of the Reformation so providentially secured for us through the Revolution Settlement. The only difference is that they do not think they would suffer death and torture for opposing the tyrant, for the tyrant is masquerading as a peacemaker; he has been elevated by the Clintons and Blairs of this world to look respectable; he may be dressed in a suit, but he is a gunman; he may be posing as a politician, but he is a terrorist. There is no degree of murder or destruction, no campaign of ethnic cleansing or harassment of Protestants and Unionists strong enough to convince these churchmen of the error of their ways, simply because they are traitors, fraternisers and collaborators who are consciously and deliberately selling out their people to the enemy. They must not be allowed to succeed.
May God awaken our Nation to the urgent and vital need to turn again to His ways, to stop appeasing Romanism and its apologists, and to defend without fear or excuses the Protestant principles which made our country great.