Lucy explores how British history is a concoction of fibs. She debunks the 'Glorious Revolution', when William of Orange stole the throne from James II.
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Lots of people remember their history lessons
from school as dates and battles, kings and queens, facts and figures.
But the story of our past is open to interpretation.
And much of British history is a carefully edited,
and even deceitful, version of events.
You might think that history is just a record of what happened -
actually, it's not like that at all.
As soon as you do a little digging,
you discover that it's more like a tapestry of different stories,
woven together by whoever was in power at the time.
In this series,
I'm going to debunk some of the biggest fibs in British history.
In the 15th century,
the story of the Wars of the Roses
was invented by the Tudors to justify their power,
and then immortalised by the greatest storyteller of
them all, William Shakespeare.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
In the 19th century, a British government coup in India...
..was rebranded by the Victorians
as the civilising triumph of the Empire.
And in this programme, I'll discover how, in the 17th century,
British MPs joined forces with a Dutch prince
to spin a foreign invasion into a story of liberation.
If you think that William the Conqueror
was the last person to invade these shores, think again.
Just 300 years ago, another William, William of Orange,
led an equally successful attack.
William has gone down in history to some as the heroic King Billy.
To others, he's a bloody usurper.
His attack isn't remembered as a foreign invasion.
It's often described instead as a peaceful transfer of power.
A necessary measure that saved England
from the tyrannical King James II.
This was our Glorious Revolution.
Or so the story goes.
With history, the line between fact and fiction often gets blurred.
In the 17th century,
the English Civil Wars, between Royalists and Republicans,
tore the country apart, and Charles I was beheaded.
Never again would the monarchy be allowed to wield absolute power.
So, in 1685,
when James II became king and started throwing his weight around,
his enemies decided that something must be done.
What followed became known as the Glorious Revolution.
James II is the villain of this carefully constructed tale.
He abdicates, giving way to the noble Dutch Protestant
William III of Orange and his English wife, Mary.
In this swift and glorious transfer of power,
the golden couple put an end to the absolute power of the monarchy.
They banish Catholicism
and restore order and liberty to our nation.
And all without a drop of English blood being spilled.
For many people, James II was a good old-fashioned tyrant,
harking back to the bad old days of Charles I.
But the biggest problem with James was the fact that he was a Catholic
king in a country that was largely Protestant.
In England, at least,
a Catholic monarch was associated with absolutism.
He believed in the divine right to rule
and to ride roughshod over his subjects.
James didn't do much to play down this tyrannical image.
When a rebellion rose up against him,
he executed 250 of the participants.
When seven Anglican bishops dared to challenge his pro-Catholic policies,
he threw them into the Tower of London.
James's enemies wanted a Protestant monarch
who respected the powers of Parliament.
So James was a Catholic,
he appointed his fellow Catholics to high office -
that caused annoyance -
and worst of all, he married a Catholic, Mary of Modena.
This meant that any children, any heirs that they might have,
would be Catholics too.
But, for James's Protestant enemies, there was a glimmer of hope.
James hadn't produced a Catholic heir.
He only had his two daughters, both Protestant, from his first marriage.
And his new wife, Mary,
had lost eight children as a result of miscarriages,
stillbirths and deaths in infancy.
If James's wife, Mary, proved unable to give him a baby boy,
and time was ticking on, she wasn't getting any younger,
then James's line would stutter to a stop.
This Catholic part of the Royal family would simply die out.
Then, on 23 December 1687,
it was announced that Mary of Modena was pregnant again.
As each month passed,
it looked ever more likely she might give birth to a healthy baby.
The Protestants thought that something had to be done.
Where they going to rise up against James and have a Civil War?
No. Instead, they waged a war of words.
The bedchamber became a battlefield.
With the horrors of the English Civil War
still within living memory, regicide was out of the question.
Any regime change would need to be legally justified.
So James's enemies began to spin a yarn.
As Mary's pregnancy progressed, people put it about that was a fake,
or perhaps a fantasy.
Even James's grown-up daughters, the Protestant princesses, Mary and Ann,
got in on the act.
They spread gossip that nobody had felt the baby quickening,
and - here's the clincher - nobody had seen any milk.
But on the 10th June 1688,
Mary of Modena defied the doubters
and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Now, you might think that the birth would have put an end to the debate
but, in fact, it intensified it.
Because some people said that the real baby had died,
and that an impostor had been smuggled into the Queen's bed
in a warming pan.
The tittle-tattle in London's coffee houses
started to sway public opinion against the King.
And James's response only made the situation worse.
He summoned 42 witnesses to make sworn statements
that they'd seen Mary gave birth.
James published these depositions.
It was an attempt to silence his Protestant enemies.
John, tell me a bit more about this warming pan incident.
How did it actually work?
It comes from quite an innocuous detail in these depositions.
There's a gentlewoman of the bedchamber
called Margaret Dawson,
who says, "I saw fire carried in to warm the Queen's bed
"in a warming pan."
But then, in this pamphlet, a full answer to the depositions,
which basically goes through the depositions and tears them to pieces,
and says, "This isn't good enough, this isn't enough detail,
"it's not enough evidence."
It picks up on this detail of the warming pan, and it says
inside the warming pan was an illegitimate child
who had been born in the convent next-door.
The pamphlet gives us the route that the child took -
it's carried through these passages, so this is the passage below,
up some stairs, through a closet above,
through some more passages above,
through here, through a gallery, and then through some lodgings,
and then into the Queen's great bedchamber,
into the bed where she is in labour...
..and through the curtain. And the dot goes all the way...
-Into the bed itself!
-Right up into the bed.
And then they pop the child into the bed.
It must have happened. The map says that it did.
-What other sort of stuff was produced that helped tell this story
-of the warming pan?
-What we have here is a pair of images,
the first of which is celebrating the prince's birth.
You have Mary of Modena here,
with her hand in the Prince of Wales's crib,
the Prince of Wales here is looking very splendid,
he has some flowers in his hair,
-and it's a kind of...
-Hurrah, we've got a lovely little baby boy!
Exactly. Isn't that lovely?
And then what happens on this one?
-It's subverted a bit.
It is. This figure that's added in here is
Father Edward Petre, who is an English Jesuit,
who had rose to be an adviser of James II.
This led to rumours that he was, in fact, the father of the Prince of Wales.
Which is why he is creeping up behind her and giving her a squeeze.
That's exactly right.
Do you think it is possible that James II wouldn't have got into
so much trouble if he had been able to tell a better story?
One of the problems is that the warming pan fiction,
even though it's not plausible,
people are willing to go along with it because they would rather believe
that the child is illegitimate than face the prospect of an England that
is Catholic for years and years and years.
The warming pan affair may sound far-fetched
but it was a juicy tabloid tale,
powerful enough to stir up treason.
James's right to rule was increasingly being questioned.
And James's enemies had now won the public support they needed to remove
the anointed king.
There was once a grand Tudor mansion here,
in the village of Hurley on the banks of the River Thames.
It was called Lady Place.
Its owner was the third Baron Lovelace,
a member of Parliament and one of James II's enemies.
Lovelace was a bit of a rogue.
He was a drinker and a gambler and, above all, a Catholic-hater.
Once he got a court summons for some public order offence,
but the magistrate issuing it was a Catholic,
so Lovelace took his court summons,
he screwed it up and he used it to wipe his bottom.
Nothing of Lady Place stands above ground today.
But hidden away, here in someone's back garden,
a little bit of it still remains.
These are the cellars of Lady Place, and they're connected
by a secret tunnel to the banks of the River Thames
just over there. So, you could arrive and leave unseen.
Lovelace hosted clandestine meetings here for like-minded nobleman who
were all plotting against King James II.
In these secret meetings, a plot was hatched to overthrow the king.
But these men weren't going to take up arms themselves.
Instead, they wrote a letter,
inviting someone else to do their dirty work.
This is a copy of the letter they wrote, dated the 30th June, 1688.
It's been signed by seven people, but they haven't given their names.
They've given secret code numbers instead.
Somebody has written in later who they really were.
Shrewsbury, Devonshire, Danby, Lumley,
the Bishop of London, Russell, Sydney...
These were all top politicians.
You can see why they didn't want to sign it with their names,
because the letter is just full of treason.
Listen to this.
"The people are so generally dissatisfied with the present
"conduct of the government in relation to their religion,
"liberty and properties."
And here, they get right down to business.
"19 parts of 20 of the people
"throughout the kingdom are desirous of a change."
Playing on anti-Catholic sentiments,
this letter tells the tale of a country in peril.
A country that needed to be saved.
It was addressed to a Protestant prince from the Netherlands,
William of Orange.
It even talks about William landing in England.
And it says that the people will venture forth to meet him when he does this.
The message is pretty clear.
It is, "William, Prince of Orange, please, invade us."
In the unfolding drama of the Glorious Revolution,
this wouldn't be described as treason.
It was the letter of invitation,
a plea from a beleaguered nation in a time of need.
If William accepted,
he would be presented as the answer to England's prayers.
This is William's Palace, Het Loo in the Netherlands,
from where he reigned as stadtholder,
which is almost like a constitutional king.
And it is pretty clear why William
was the conspirators' ideal candidate
to take the English throne.
William was James II's nephew.
But more importantly, his wife really was a Stewart.
She was James's own daughter, Mary.
In England, Ireland and Scotland,
these Royal Stewart credentials might help make the coup
look more like a legitimate succession.
If William, and indeed Mary, could be placed on the English throne,
then this needn't be seen as a coup at all,
just as an orderly transition from father to daughter.
And these two had excellent credentials as monarchs in waiting,
because they were both Protestants.
James's enemies had chosen well.
But William of Orange had even more to gain
from going along with their plan.
William was playing an even longer game than simply becoming king of
Britain, and this is why the invitation was so attractive to him.
If he were to invade and get the crown,
then he'd be toppling a Catholic king - good thing.
More importantly, though,
he would be getting more power to move against an even more dangerous
Catholic threat nearer home.
Louis XIV, the Sun King of France.
Louis XIV was the most absolute of absolute monarchs.
And his armies were a constant threat to the Dutch Republic.
William was determined to protect Protestant northern Europe against Louis.
The rivalry between the two men
was played out in a game of garden design.
Here, William ordered fountains, even bigger and better
than those at Louis's own opulent palace, Versailles.
But, for evidence of William's more enlightened style of monarchy,
you have to go into his bedroom.
In the 17th century, the state bedroom wasn't a private place.
This is where the sovereign received important guests.
What would you say is the most significant difference between Louis XIV's
bedroom at Versailles and William's bedroom here?
I think it's the absence of a balustrade,
just where we stand here, to divide the room into two parts.
In France, people had to make a bow in front of the balustrade,
even if the king was absent.
But William III is more, you know, open to the public,
more open-minded perhaps, and more open to the parliament.
Maybe that's the difference.
So, we've got Louis, the absolute monarch with his
"get out, stay away" balustrade, but William, not as a Democrat,
but as a more friendly Republican, he says, "Come on in."
-I believe so.
-A friendly king.
But William wasn't going to beat Louis
with one-upmanship in the bedroom.
He needed Protestant allies to crush Louis in battle.
Getting his hands on the British Navy would give William the edge he
needed. And now he had an open invitation
to walk right in and take it.
So, this is William's private closet.
A room for secrets.
Exactly. It is a the most intimate space you can imagine.
It's very small, but very elaborate.
It's his office, more or less.
Yes, it's his office. He works here, in this very spot.
Am I right to imagine William III sitting here,
reading his letter of invitation,
and drawing up his plan for the invasion of Britain?
It's tempting. Yes, I want to believe
it was at Het Loo that he made plans for his invasion.
It all took place here.
So, this is a really significant room,
-in the whole of British history.
Britain's parliamentary conspirators had their champion lined up.
But who was really controlling the narrative here?
Now, we think that William was invited to invade England,
but what's the real story?
It's more complicated than that, isn't it?
It is definitely more complicated.
He had already taken a decision to go to England,
probably in November 1687, and if he got an invitation by the English,
then he was safe.
He wanted to legitimise his trip by asking people in England
to invite him, so it would give the expedition legal power.
'In April 1688, two months before the invitation,
'one of the seven conspirators had come here to the Hague for
'a secret meeting with William.'
Gilbert Burnet, William's chaplin and historian,
kept a record of the meeting.
Burnet wrote that William said,
it would be great if some people in England would invite him
and that he would be ready in a few months' time.
"By the end of September to come over..."
That's to invade England?
That is to invade England, yeah.
William was a lifetime enemy of Louis XIV,
so there was a great chance that there would be a new war,
and in that war, England had to help William III.
So he has to put together a document
that's going to sell his case to the English,
to the British people, really,
and this, fantastically, is handwritten.
This must be the original.
"The declaration of his Highness William, Prince of Orange.
"The reasons inducing him to appear in arms
"in the Kingdom of England
"for the preserving of the Protestant religion
"and for restoring the laws and the liberties
"of Great Britain and Ireland."
So, nothing in there about France.
"It's all about you, guys, English people, be happy."
Yes, William says that he wants to call a free and legal parliament
that would abolish all the laws and all the violations of the laws
that James II had perpetrated.
So he had it written by a Dutch civil servant,
it was translated into English by Burnet,
and it looks to me like Burnet has improved it.
You can see him adding in extra little words and rewriting it here.
He's added a bit here about the Houses of Parliament.
He has added in "remarkable".
Presumably that was all helping to sell the case, to make it smoother,
to make it more acceptable to the British.
Because, of course, the English people weren't
going to know anything about the real plans
of William III with England.
Namely that England would have to join them against France.
I'm more and more impressed with William's foresight.
It seems that he is several moves ahead
of everybody else in a European game of chess.
It's very clever the way he has written himself into the story,
with the pre-invitation, then the invitation, then the declaration.
You can see all these things as individual pieces of politics,
as spin, if you like.
Until they stick, and then they become history.
With his declaration to the British prepared,
William and his parliamentary plotters
put his invasion plan into action.
His flag proudly proclaimed his message.
"For religion and liberty."
But just as they set sail,
a storm blowing from the west stalled William's progress,
and kept him in port.
And because it helps James, people called it the "Catholic wind".
-And it suddenly turned around...
-William's luck changed.
-His luck certainly changed.
And it blew just as hard from completely the opposite direction,
so that was the Protestant wind.
That shot him all the way down the channel.
So now they had the initiative,
and shot down the channel at record speed
with a very strong easterly wind behind them.
Can you describe this fleet that
came sailing down the English Channel?
Well, lots of people saw it, that's the first thing.
It was so huge that when it came down the channel,
they decided to make a parade of it.
They went through 25 abreast,
stretching almost from Dover all the way to Calais,
with Brigade bands playing cheerful tunes.
The idea was to offend King James and Louis XIV at the same time,
which they did very effectively,
as lots of people saw this and were utterly astonished, of course,
because nothing like it had been seen before, or again.
So it's a cross between a fleet and a pantomime.
William III understood the importance
of making a big impact on the public.
-The theatre, if you like.
-The theatre of politics.
He understood that very well, yes.
Now, we've been talking about this as an invasion.
Is that the right word to use in your opinion?
It was an invasion, but it was very important
to present it as if it were not an invasion.
One of the things the Dutch troops were given very strict orders about
was that they must never call it an invasion, whatever they do,
they would be severely punished.
They were told they must not tell the English
that they have invaded and conquered the country.
The Parliamentary conspiracy was going to plan.
'William's huge army disembarked unopposed, here at Brixham.
'The locals in this Devon fishing village just stood by and watched.'
One Dutch Observer reported that all along the roadside,
the men, the women and children were waving out,
"God bless, 100 good wishes to you."
Well, he was Dutch, he would say that, wouldn't he?
William really had left nothing to chance.
Amongst all these supplies coming off the ships and Brixham -
the spare boots, the pickled herrings, the horses -
there was one more vital weapon of war.
It was a printing press.
Before setting sail, William printed his version of events.
60,000 copies of the declaration.
An early example of printed propaganda.
As soon as he landed,
he started printing even more.
William was carpet bombing England with his manifesto.
His declaration was everywhere, listing his reasons
inducing him to appear in arms in the Kingdom of England.
He's not keeping a low profile, is he?
As he marched on Exeter,
the Dutch prince's army met with no resistance.
He entered the city in spectacular fashion.
Not as an invader, but as the nation's saviour.
200 soldiers and armour led the way on Flemish horses,
accompanied by a further 200 Africans
from the Dutch colonies in white turbans.
William himself was dressed in gleaming armour,
a white plume blowing in the wind.
He was riding a white horse.
His banner bore the words, "God and the Protestant religion".
If you knew your Bible, the symbolism was pretty obvious.
A white horse heralded the arrival of a divine conqueror,
or even Christ himself.
In the Book of Revelation, heaven opened and behold, a white horse.
He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.
In righteousness, he judges and makes war.
In his eyes are flames of fire, and on his head are many crowns.
William had come to seize the Crown.
But by presenting himself in his theatrical getup,
he didn't look like an invader.
He looked like a Christian saviour.
William's theatrical progress didn't stop there.
In Exeter Cathedral,
he ordered his chaplain to preach from the text of his declaration,
with his theme of a free parliament.
"The securing to the whole nation
"the free enjoyment of all their laws,
"rights and liberties under a just and legal government."
He also gave religious assurances.
The preservation of the Protestant religion,
the covering of all men from persecution of their consciences.
The chaplain then led the congregation in the Te Deum,
the hymn in which they ask God to save them, to lift them up,
and most importantly, to govern them.
And then, with quite dazzling hubris, he seated himself here,
in the spectacular throne of the medieval bishops of Exeter.
He wasn't king yet.
But with his propaganda, and his pageantry, and his sense of purpose,
he was halfway there.
The Dutch prince was cleverly transforming himself
into a very British hero.
A Protestant knight in shining armour,
leading a Glorious Revolution.
Not an invader.
Not a usurper.
But a liberator.
James was in trouble.
And as he prepared for battle,
to put an end to William's story of triumph, disaster struck.
James had a nosebleed, and retreated from the battlefield.
The conspirators said that the nosebleed was a sign of weakness.
And when James fled England,
they announced that the King had abdicated.
The fleeing James had gone into exile
in Louis XIV's Catholic France. To his enemies,
this confirmed where his true loyalties had been all along.
There was now a constitutional power vacuum.
For William to fill James's royal shoes,
he and the parliamentary conspirators
would have to keep promoting their agenda.
William's glorious progress
had to be turned into a plausible new chapter in British history.
Mary's Stuart lineage now came in to play.
She and William were offered a joint monarchy - they'd rule together.
It had never happened before and it has never happened since.
But this special arrangement allowed a story that was really about
conspiracy and intrigue to be transformed
into the tale of an ordinary succession.
On the day William and Mary formally accepted the joint crown,
they had a declaration read aloud to them.
It defined the limits of their power as well as the duties
and responsibilities they owed to Parliament.
That declaration was enshrined in law as the Bill of Rights.
It set down Protestant superiority in law.
And banned Catholics from ever taking the throne.
It enshrined certain civil liberties,
and it ordered that no law should be imposed
without Parliamentary approval.
Most of all, it formalised a narrative
that backed up William and Mary's claim to the throne.
The Bill of Rights gave the conspirators
the constrained monarchy they wanted.
It strikes me that this bill was a very finely judged piece
of political magic. Is that correct?
I think that THE main thing that was intended to try to persuade people
of was that this was not an invasion,
but it was rather a legitimate coronation.
In the first part of the document
it's an attempt on the part of the political nation
to wriggle out of a slightly sticky situation.
That's to say, they've got to characterise James as a tyrant,
and as therefore illegitimate, which makes the revolution legitimate.
Having written James and any future Catholic threat out of the picture,
the Bill of Rights now declared
William and Mary's legitimate right to rule.
So, that's part one.
And part two is the future, is it?
That's right, yes.
Part two is the declaration of rights, proper.
It is, if you like, that bit that might be seen as an expression
of enlightened ideas,
an assertion of the liberty of the people and of
the sovereignty of Parliament. For example,
they say that the king may not raise taxation without the consent
of Parliament, that there has to be free elections,
that there has to be freedom of speech in Parliament.
The transition from the monarchy with absolute power to a monarchy
in service to Parliament was almost complete.
The Bill of Rights began what we now call our constitutional monarchy.
It's the foundation stone of Parliamentary democracy.
The Bill of Rights was a winner's charter.
It was written by and for the supporters of the new regime.
It legitimised the joint monarchy of William and Mary,
but it also gave more power to Parliament.
Much more power.
So much that you could call it a revolution.
And if you happened to be a Protestant Parliamentarian,
then you might even think that it was all rather glorious.
The event of 1688 now had a suitably grand title.
The conspirators were determined to find the perfect words for
this glorious and historic episode.
Best of all, the coup had gone like clockwork,
so they could describe it as a peaceful transition.
A bloodless revolution.
But as William's Glorious Revolution was rolled out
across Scotland and Ireland, it was anything but.
James's supporters were known as the Jacobites,
and in Ireland and Scotland,
they continued the struggle against William.
In March 1689,
James joined his Allies in County Cork
with troops supplied by Louis XIV.
William landed in the north of Ireland in the following year,
and marched on Dublin.
On 1st of July 1690,
their armies met here on the banks of the River Boyne.
And now, funny first time in the whole of their long power struggle,
James II and his son-in-law William faced each other in the field
at the Battle of the Boyne.
James' army was over 25,000 strong, William had a force of 40,000 men.
This would be a bloody battle.
William attempted to cross the river from the west,
James diverted most of his troops to head him off.
But this left the rest of James's army exposed.
William was merciless.
James's soldiers held out for three hours before being overwhelmed.
One French witness said, "This is the sixth battle that I have seen,
"but I have never seen such a rout."
William's troops were ruthlessly efficient.
"They picked off the fleeing Jacobites
"like hairs amongst the corn," he said.
James was defeated.
He fled again to France, and would never return.
But the fighting continued.
William sanctioned even bloodier slaughter elsewhere.
A year after the Boyne,
William's men met Jacobite forces at Aughrim in County Galway
on 12 July 1691.
It was carnage.
The Jacobites suffered losses of 7,000.
William's side - only 700.
In the aftermath of the battle,
one observer reported seeing Irish soldiers with mutilated limbs
asking for the sword as a remedy.
Meanwhile, others, he said,
spewed forth their breath mixed with blood and threats.
There was so much blood that it flowed over the ground and you could
hardly take a step without slipping in it.
This battle marked the end of Jacobite resistance in Ireland.
William would be later reinvented as a Protestant hero, King Billy.
For jubilant Protestants,
Aughrim went down in history as the single most celebrated battle.
So, why has the Battle of the Boyne lived longest
in the national memory of Ireland?
It happened because of a funny kind of mix-up.
People had always celebrated or commemorated the Battle of Aughrim
on its anniversary, 12 July.
Until 1752, when the calendars changed,
to bring Britain into line with Europe.
Roughly ten days got lost to British history.
But people had got used to the idea of celebrating on 12 July,
it's just that under the new system,
the battle whose anniversary was closest to that date wasn't Aughrim,
it was the Battle of the Boyne,
and that is why the Boyne has ended up on the fridge magnet.
The Battle of the Boyne still has an almost sacred significance
for Irish Protestants.
King Billy had secured the future of their religion.
For them, his status as a national hero and saviour
remains intact to this day.
Jacobite uprisings against the Glorious Revolution in Scotland
were also brutally crushed.
In 1692, William's men in Scotland
ordered the notorious Glencoe Massacre.
It was punishment for the Clan Macdonald's delay
in signing an oath of allegiance to William and Mary.
38 were murdered,
and another 40 women and children died of exposure
after their homes were torched.
But despite brutality and bloodshed in Scotland and Ireland,
the narrative of the Glorious Revolution held fast in England.
For William and the English Parliament,
of course this was a Glorious Revolution.
Because despite the rebellions and the bloodshed, they had won.
And if you win a conflict, you get to pick its name.
As Britain left behind the turmoil of the 17th century,
the Glorious Revolution took its place in the history books.
For Parliament and the Crown, the ends had justified the means.
An absolutist King had been replaced with a constitutional monarchy,
and it was now time to celebrate
the architects of this sensible revolution.
In the 18th century,
those seven people who'd written the letter
inviting William of Orange to come over
started to be glorified as heroes.
In 1773, the historian John Dalrymple
came up with a name for them.
I love this name. It makes them sound like an action film.
They were called the "Immortal Seven".
And the cellars of Lady Place, where the plotters had met,
became a site of pilgrimage.
The conspirator Lovelace had brought William himself down here after
his coronation, to see the hallowed place where it all began.
And successive kings would visit it,
as it became a shrine to the Glorious Revolution.
And this inscription that marks the fact that,
"The Revolution of 1688 was begun here."
This was a bit of brazen myth-making.
But it chimed perfectly with the national mood.
The peace and prosperity that followed the establishment of
our constitutional monarchy was presented
as the direct consequence of the Glorious Revolution.
In the late 18th century,
that point of view was given an extra boost
by events across the Channel.
France's proud absolute monarch Louis XVI
was removed from power and executed by revolutionaries.
The violence and terror of the French Revolution
sent shock waves around Europe.
In Britain, it was held up as further proof
of the virtues of the orderly transfer of power in 1688.
The Glorious Revolution
was now celebrated
as a symbol of enlightened
British values and superiority.
As the rest of post-revolutionary Europe descended into chaos and war,
Britain marched self confidently into the 19th century to the tune of
Parliamentary democracy and industrial progress,
and imperialist expansion.
For 19th-century historians, it was the Glorious Revolution
that was the foundation of all this success.
The greatest champion of this view
was the historian and Whig politician
Thomas Babington Macaulay.
McCauley's Magnum Opus was called The History of England.
This is a book that transforms
the conspirators' carefully concocted tale into history.
McCauley presents the Glorious Revolution
as the masterstroke of our national story.
He writes, "It is because we had a preserving revolution in
"the 17th century that we have not had a destroying revolution
"in the 19th.
"For the authority of law, for the security of property,
"for the peace in our streets,
"our gratitude is due to William of Orange."
1848 became known as the "Year of Revolution"
across Europe, with the notable exception of Britain.
The publication of MaCaulay's book in that same year
was perfectly timed.
When I was a history student,
we were told to read it with great caution,
because this was Whig history, a "bad thing".
It was a powerful person's view of the past.
Even at the time in the 19th century,
people recognised that McCauley was writing
from a very particular standpoint.
When Karl Marx came to write Das Kapital,
he called him "that great falsifier of history".
As a Communist, Marx's view of history
is never considered to be unbiased.
But MaCaulay's position was equally influenced
by his own political views.
He was a Whig politician,
a member of a party that saw Victorian Britain
as a shining model of democratic progress in action.
For the Whigs,
this was only possible because of our Glorious Revolution.
When the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt after a fire
in the 19th century, MaCaulay and the Whigs
saw this palace of democracy as a shrine
to the Glorious Revolution.
They commissioned a series of frescoes to remind MPs
of the story of the tyrant King James
and the nation's saviour William.
Alice Lisle was a heroine of the Glorious Revolution who hid
fleeing rebels in her home and was arrested for it by James's forces.
She is sentenced to death, which of course,
is burning at the stake for a woman,
because women aren't hanged.
A plea goes to the King for clemency,
and all he does is, he allows her to be beheaded,
rather than burnt at the stake.
The next painting shows the release of the seven bishops who James
had thrown into the Tower of London.
This is evidence that James was completely unpopular by the masses,
the quantity of the public who just celebrated their acquittal
was evidence that he was not the right man for the job.
'In the final painting,
'James's tyranny is a erased by the glory of constitutional monarchy.'
This is the peak of the Glorious Revolution.
This is the point where it all goes well.
The clerk of the house of lords, John Brown,
is reading the declaration of rights to them.
And we the viewer are reading with the clerk,
we are the people reading to these two monarchs, saying,
"You have to do what we say in this document,
"you are not to do what James II did
"and disobey and make up your own rules."
For MaCaulay, this is the beginning
of that story of Parliament's power,
and the monarchy being slowly restricted.
You can actually see why this picture
is right outside the House of Commons.
It makes complete sense, doesn't it?
MaCaulay's Whig version of events held sway into the 20th century.
The Empire and two world wars had consolidated
a sense of patriotic pride.
In 1988, just a few yards away from MaCaulay's glorious frescoes,
the House of Commons debated a proposal
to send the Queen a message from Parliament,
marking the 300th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution.
The main events are well-known.
The defiance of the orders of King James II
by the bishops and the judges,
the invitation to William of Orange and Mary
to defend our ancient rights and liberties,
the landing at Torbay and the peaceful transfer of power,
which gave rise to the title of the "Bloodless Revolution" in England,
although it was not like that in Scotland,
and it was a very different story in Ireland.
Margaret Thatcher's socialist adversary, Neil Kinnock,
had a rare moment of agreement with her.
This motion to express to Her Majesty
our pleasure at the tercentenary of the revolution is a worthy act,
not only because it celebrates a significant advance,
as the Prime Minister just said,
but also because it requires us all to consider the character
of our democracy and the ways in which, arduously and slowly,
it has been brought this far to our time.
Why do you think, Ted,
that the Whig version of the Glorious Revolution persisted
for such a long time?
I think it lasted for such a long time because it was
not just a version of history that worked
for a particular political party,
it was also something that really spoke to Britain's place
in the world in the 19th century,
and it really fitted into narratives about the growth of Britain
as a world power, as the apex of civilisation in the world,
as the exemplar in terms of its political institutions.
Everything that the Revolution said about it being a founding moment,
the creation of this British liberty,
was really feeding into this rise to power of the British state.
We have these soldiers and administrators straddling the globe
with their power poses, and they think, "It all began in 1688."
But then Tony Benn's dissenting voice
challenged the dominant version of events.
Then we are told that this was the birth of our democratic rights.
They were the people who were represented in this house in 1688,
2% was it, of rich men,
no working people, no middle-class voters, no women.
It was nothing to do with democracy at all.
When did people really start to say, "Hang on,
"it wasn't that glorious for people who were poor,
"people who were women,
"people who were Irish, people who were Scots,"
when does that start coming forward?
With the development of Marxist thought and socialist thought
as well, focusing upon...
No longer upon the political elite but upon
ordinary working men and women,
and so we start to get that being questioned.
One other aspect there is also,
in terms of what people define as a revolution, and so,
as a kind of more class-based, Marxist definition
of what a revolution was came to the fore...
-This doesn't count.
-It didn't count.
It's not a real revolution.
You know, we don't include this in our list of real revolutions.
Instead, the 1640s, the Civil War, the execution of Charles I,
this becomes the real revolution,
and this is the thing that people should focus on,
celebrate, talk about, try and educate people about.
After 300 years,
1688's status as a bloodless revolution
was questioned and revised.
Margaret Thatcher conceded that it may have been
a little less than glorious.
Even great events are subject to
constantly shifting judgements and interpretations.
Not every legacy of 1688 is a happy one.
Above all in Ireland.
In the 20th century, the legacy of 1688 erupted into violence.
Republicans versus Unionists.
Catholics versus Protestants.
The people of Britain and Ireland
continue to create competing accounts of the past,
often with tragic consequences.
For Protestants celebrating the Battle of the Boyne,
the hero of the drama retains his power to this day.
His image is paraded in the Orange marches held in his name.
And even when the marchers move on, his image remains.
In some parts of Belfast, you can still spot images of William III.
He is part of the fabric of the city.
Riding about on his white horse, in his 17th-century wig and coat,
he looks a bit incongruous in this urban environment.
He is a long way away from the palaces and battlefields
where he really lived.
In Protestant Northern Ireland,
everybody knows him by a different name.
We're taking you here to show you one of the older stained murals.
Prince of Orange.
Prince of Orange.
I see King Billy is on his white horse.
It is significant, because the first mural or wall painting of Billy
was in east Belfast back in 1904, and he was painted on a white horse.
His horse was never white, his horse was brown.
A white horse would have made him a very easy target.
The horse is white because it looks glorious, a white stallion.
You can always see that it looks like it is walking on water,
so that portrays him as a god type figure.
So, Peter, who is King Billy in the minds of all his supporters?
King Billy. Well, in certain areas, in certain areas in the city,
if God sits here, Billy sits about 3.5 inches above him.
That is how important he is.
Yeah. What do Catholics think about King Billy?
Would you like me to be honest?
When I grew up, Billy was just a hate figure.
-A hate figure?
-A hate figure for...
Cos, well, his army defeated the Catholic army.
-And the celebration, the Orangemen, July 12, the bonfires,
most Irish Catholics see it as a
the parades rubbing their nose in Orange dog poop
a couple of thousand times a year. So, for one side
he is culture and history and identity,
and the other side he is seen as a villain.
The Troubles that scarred Britain and Ireland
throughout the 20th century
are a vivid reminder that there is never
one definitive version of history.
And that the past is always interpreted
through the eyes of the present.
In 1998, the people of Northern Ireland voted for change.
Yes - 71.12%.
The Good Friday Agreement came into force,
and tensions finally began to ease.
At 1688 still has a powerful place in Irish culture.
In 2007, a Jacobite musket from the Battle of the Boyne
made a rare public appearance.
On a joint visit to the site of the Battle of the Boyne,
Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley
and the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern
shared a photo opportunity with it.
The gun became an unlikely prop in the peace process.
Eight years later, the musket came up for auction here in Belfast.
This deadly-looking thing was made at the Tower of London in 1685
for James II's Army.
Hence the "J2R" on the side of it there.
It was used by a dragoon,
almost certainly at the Battle of the Boyne.
A dragoon is a soldier who gets off his horse to fight,
and he fires his carbine.
This is a sort of short musket.
As he does so, flames come out of the end of it,
which looks like the tongue of a dragon,
which is why he's called a dragoon,
and which explains the lovely little picture of a dragon
on the side down here.
At the auction,
the gun was sold for a hefty £20,000
to an anonymous telephone bidder.
Later it came out who this had been.
It was the Museum of Orange Heritage.
This Jacobite gun was bought by the very people against whom
it had originally been fired.
The museum was adding a new chapter to detail of the revolution.
Exhibiting this Jacobite artefact
in an Orange institution can be seen as an attempt
to bring the two opposing sides of history back together.
The established account of William's Glorious Revolution
created in the 17th century and reinforced by later history makers
has cast a long shadow in Ireland.
But now some light is shining in.
Instead of reverberating to the roar of cannon fire, the charge of men,
the shot of musket, or the clash of sword steel,
today we have tranquillity of still water,
where we can contemplate the past and look forward to the future.
Invitation or invasion?
Liberator or usurper?
Triumph or treason?
The story of the Glorious Revolution is still being written.
One of the biggest fibs in British history.
I'm in India, discovering how the British Crown reinvented the Raj
in the 19th century.
In this episode, Lucy debunks another of the biggest fibs in British history - the 'Glorious Revolution'.
In 1688, the British Isles were invaded by a huge army led by Dutch prince, William of Orange. With his English wife Mary he stole the throne from Mary's father, the Catholic King James II. This was the death knell for absolute royal power and laid the foundations of our constitutional monarchy. It was spun as a 'glorious and bloodless revolution'. But how 'glorious' was it really? It led to huge slaughter in Ireland and Scotland. Lucy reveals how the facts and fictions surrounding 1688 have shaped our national story ever since.