Silly James II question

Parliament deemed James II’s flight from England to be an abdication of the throne. Yet, every act of Parliament requires royal assent. So, how could Parliament legislate this abdication without his consent (as they did for Edward)?

Zev Steinhardt

For the record, here’s an article on him that mentions this:, in case anyone reading was lost.

I apologise for WAGing in GQ, but I mean, what else could have happened? William was going to be King, that was fairly certain, apparently. Whe exactly was going to object if parliament gave him the nod, even if that didn’t have any legal force?

I don’t know the details, but I suspect that the events of 1688 were not called the “Glorious Revolution” without good reason. The king had fled the country, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands (who became King William III in 1689) had landed in the country with an army, and was being welcomed by many English, and a majority in Parliament wanted a Protestant king instead of a Catholic king.

The Old Pretender, for one. :slight_smile:

It should be noted, to, that while an Act of Parliament does require Royal Assent, a resolution or similar document by one or both Houses of Parliament doesn’t. I too, apologize to WAGging in GQ, but without any reference books handy, I think it’s quite likely that both the Commons and the Lords passed resolutions to the effect of “Whereas the cowardly Popish tyrant has abandoned his sacred office, and whereas your noble Protestant selves are available, please accept this invitation to be our King and Queen.”

After that, William and Mary could start assenting to Acts, and Bob’s your uncle.

I’m not sure that I would agree with the wik article’s characterisation of the events, nor with some of the terms they used. For one thing, it wasn’t the English Parliament that acted, but the two houses of Parliament sitting in convention. As well, if I recall correctly, William did not assert on landing that he was coming to overthrow James, and it wasn’t at all certain that James would flee the country as he did. In fact, I think James’s flight may have caught some of William’s side by surprise - but it sure made their task a lot cleaner, than it would have been if William had to try to impose constitutional restrictions on James. James’s flight was just one more example of his bad judgment.

With James in France, the two houses of Parliament met as a convention, not as a Parliament. Technically, Parliament is composed of the two houses and the monarch. Sitting as a convention, and using Lockean compact theory as their basis for action, they asserted that James by his actions in abandoning his country had abdicated the throne, breaking the compact that underlay the constitutional structure. That freed them, as the representatives of the people, to forge a new compact. They offered the throne to William and Mary jointly, on condition that the two would agree to the restrictions on the crown set out in the proposed Bill of Rights. William and Mary agreed to that, and retroactively recognised the convention as a Parliament. This is all set out in the preamble to the English Bill of Rights.

They recognised at the time that they were acting in a revoloutionary fashion - hence the term, “Glorious Revolution.” But the hard practical reality was that under the restored constitution, England could not function without a monarch. They’d tried the republican option a few decades before, and weren’t keen on going back to that, thank you very much. The argument that James had abdicated had some merit to it, at least.

So getting back to your original question, Zev, the answer is that it was a revolutionary settlement that relied on the inference from James’s actions that he was abdicating. Personally, I don’t think an Act of Parliament is necessary to confirm an abdication - otherwise a monarch who doesn’t want to be monarch could bring government to a halt, by refusing to exercise his/her powers. They used the parliamentary route in Edward’s case because it was the safest and tidiest way to handle it.

But if Edward had just said “screw it, I’m out of here”, handed Prince Bertie his abdication letter, and flown to France to marry Wallace, the situation would have been much the same as in 1688. Edward might then say he no longer had the power to give royal assent to the Abdication Act, because he had already abdicated. The Government then would have had to convene a convention or something, relying on the precedent of 1688. Edward didn’t do that, however, because he wanted some guarantees of personal revenue, some sort of title, and so on. The Government didn’t want a constitutional crisis bringing the legitimacy of the monarchy into crisis, given the threatening situation in Europe - so there was some discreet bargaining, resulting in the passage of His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act.

APB will no doubt be along soon to provide much more detailed responses.

(On preview, I see that Rube has said it neater and cleaner - but I have ponderous cites!)