Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660 the parliamentary democracy and religious freedoms for which so many had died in the Civil War, were rapidly eroded. Charles developed a progressively more autocratic approach to government and nonconformists were increasingly persecuted. Worse still in the view of many at the time, Charles had fathered no legitimate son or daughter and so his brother James, a Roman Catholic, would succeed to the throne on Charles’ death. The spectre of absolute Catholic monarchy loomed large once more. Many still remembered the death and destruction that this had caused just a few decades earlier.


To avoid another civil war there were attempts to ensure the succession of Charles II's eldest illegitimate son James, Duke of Monmouth, who was both popular in the country and a protestant. But the attempts in 1681 to exclude the king’s brother from the succession and substitute Monmouth by parliamentary means failed. Then a plot to overthrow both Charles and James in a coup led to the Duke of Monmouth prudently exiling himself in Holland. When Charles died on 6th February 1685 his brother came to the throne as James II.


For many it seemed that only the use of force could now resolve the situation. But the plotters who persuaded Monmouth to venture all on an invasion were a small and unrepresentative group. Most significantly there were just a handful of the nobility, among whom the most significant were Lord Grey of Warke and the Duke of Argyll. They lacked even a clear common purpose, other than the removal of James II, for alongside those who wanted to see Monmouth crowned king there were others who were committed republicans.


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