Parliaments, 1690-1715

The rage of party

The period between the Revolution of 1688-9 and the peaceful accession of George I was dominated by the legacy and consequences of the Revolution. One was war: under the joint monarchy of William III and Mary I England became a participant in the European war against Louis XIV, which lasted - apart from the few years' peace after the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 - until 1713.

Another was a deepening and transformation of the role of party in politics. The period is often characterised as one of 'the rage of party'. Fired by the dramatic events of the Revolution and its impact on the political values and religious views of the people of England, Scotland and Wales, fanned by the necessity, under the 1694 Triennial Act, of contesting elections every three years, the partisan competition in the House of Commons and in individual constituencies became more vigorous than at any time before.

But what sort of parties were the contests between? The role of different ideologies - in particular Tory and Whig and 'Court' and 'Country' has been much debated, and the question is discussed in some detail in the 'Politics of the House' chapter in David Hayton's Introductory Survey.

In the background was the nagging question about the deposed James II and his family. His removal from the throne - dressed up as an abdication by the Convention Parliament of 1689 - was in plain words a deposition, and many felt deeply uncomfortable about it; a small number were actively hostile. The prospect of the Jacobites retrieving the throne, by French-backed invasion or internal insurrection, was a real one, and many politicians retained links to the exiled Jacobite court in France.

During the Parliament of 1705 the legislation was passed in England to effect the Union of England and Scotland, in a move motivated largely by concerns to secure the Protestant succession after the death of Anne. That Parliament became the first Parliament of Great Britain.