Celebrating the

Centenary of the Glorious Revolution

- of 1688


November 5th 1788 is remarkable in that unlike today, it was not the catholic Guy Fawkes's failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament, in 1605 that was being celebrated, but the arrival on English soil, of William III who together with his wife Mary was invited by Parliament to rule in place of James II. Celebrations were held throughout the country and especially in Norfolk on a scale we would equate with those recently held for our own Monarch's Jubilee.


The Norfolk Chronicle had this to say about the forthcoming celebrations in its 1st November edition.







The Revolution is undoubtedly the most illustrious and happy era in the British annals, and indeed an important and glorious event in the general history of the world. It was conducted with a tranquillity and order that are extremely unusual in those great changes that affect the fate of nations, and transfer royalty from one family to another.

It not only confirmed and rendered more secure the privileges the people formerly enjoyed but added to them a number of advantages of unspeakable value, so that it is to be considered the true date of English freedom,-Its consequences have been excellent to the last degree. Hence Britain has been enabled to make a distinguished figure amidst surrounding nations, and has been the grand bulwark of the liberties of Europe, and of the Protestant religion. This the experience of several general wars , which have humbled the power of France, can testify,- Hence agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, have risen to a height which have surprisingly increased the wealth of the community. Hence science, polite literature, and the arts of social life have been improved in a manner that, take them all together, cannot be equaled in any part of Universal History. Hence the justest and most enlarged sentiments, with regard to religion, have been enlarged and propagated. And hence a series of public happiness, which we may challenge any nation to parallel. All these sentiments were strongly confirmed and augmented by the House of Hanover in the year 1714. An era which will ever be reflected on which peculiar gratitude and pleasure by the lovers of their country, and the friends of mankind.


(and elsewhere in the same edition, obviously written earlier)


When the Revolution is commemorated next month, as being the centenary of that great event, let it not be forgotten, that exactly two hundred years ago, the nation met with a deliverance, not unlike that effected by the Revolution-the defeat of the Spanish Armada. from the Norfolk chronicle 1st November 1788.


In what became known as the "Glorious Revolution", on the 5th November 1688, William invaded England in an action that ultimately deposed King James II & VII and won him the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland. In the British Isles, William ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death on 28 December 1694. The period of their joint reign is often referred to as "William and Mary".from Wikipaedia.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which ended James II reign when the protestant William III, (James’s cousin), who was married to Mary II, (James’s daughter), was invited to take the English throne.  James had made it clear that he wanted Roman Catholicism re-instated as the country’s religion, which played into the prevailing fear of Popery- catholics plotting to take over the state-. The chronic dislocation of the English Civil War, was remembered by many people, as was the relative stability of the reign of Charles II. No one wanted more years of uncertainty or the possibility of the country being pushed once more into military conflict.  The revolutionary settlement established the supremacy of parliament over the crown, setting Britain on the path towards the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy that we have today, [at least, that is, until 1971 when Edward Heath signed us into what would eventually become the EU]. From looking into the significance of the ‘Glorious Revolution’, it is apparent that the Glorious Revolution is the ‘Event’, that we should be celebrating each 5th November, and not the Gun Powder Plot of Guy Fawkes. Then, perhaps people would be more aware of just how our rights and liberties are being eroded by our politicians in Westminster, today.

James W Bowden in the Huff Post in 2012 on the subject of Guy Fawkes Day, wrote:

It is ironic that celebrating Guy Fawkes (on the) 5th of November, today is so popular, because its historical significance is misunderstood. The fifth of November historically celebrated the failure of the plot, not the plot itself. And that is how it should be.  The thwarting of the plot allowed for the greatest movement in the history of human liberty on the very same day, 82 years later: the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

On 5th November 1605, 13 English Catholics sought to assassinate the King and members of both houses of Parliament, by detonating gunpowder in the vaults beneath Parliament. Had they succeeded, the gunpowder Plot would have gone down in history as the most brazen act of terrorism in modern history and left both England and Scotland in complete disarray.

James 1 undertook no political repression against Catholics, but the Gunpowder Plot only reinforced Protestant belief that Catholicism threatened both English liberty and sovereignty: despotic government and the threat of continental invasion. (1) Later in the century JamesII converted to Catholicism before becoming King and set the stage for the Glorious Revolution. The Glorious Revolution marked the emergence of modern liberal constitutionalism, and it officially began when William’s army (at the behest of Parliament) landed on English soil on the 5th November 1688. Based on The Truth About Guy Fawkes Day by James W J Bowden Huff Post 11/04/2012. (1) from records held in Spain, it is recorded that the Spanish Armada at one point, anchored off Calais, and attempted to link up with the Catholic 'fifth column' resident in Spa ostensibly 'taking the waters' there, but nothing came of it. From the documentary Armada: Twelve Days to save England Dan Snow.

It was during the celebrations for the “Centenary of the Glorious Revolution 5th November 1788”, - when the Reffley Society, under the name of the ‘Gentlemen Subscribers to Reffley Spring’, apparently came to lasting public notice for the first time -which was celebrated with great fervour in the County of Norfolk and  indeed throughout the rest of the country. It is difficult for us today, to appreciate the extent to which the Monarchy and the Constitution must have been held in public regard at that time.

As the Norfolk Chronicle wrote in its introduction to its reports of the events held on Noveber 5th, in its edition for 8th november 1788.... 

In Norfolk,… ‘The general inclination of the [people] to celebrate this day with every token of loyalty and attachment to our present excellent constitution, was long ago announced to the public, and promised no more than was experienced.’ From Norfolk Chronicle Home News (a roundup of the celebrations in Norfolk which included the event at Reffley Spring-below.) 8th November 1788.

Celebratory events were held throughout the county, but nowhere more so, than at Holkam, as the Norfolk Chronicle enthused: ‘Magnificence taste and elegance were the characteristics of Mr Coke’s patriotic celebration of the Glorious Revolution on the 5th of November.’ Evidently so much so, that ‘people have been strangely mistaken about the motives which induced Mr Coke to make so splendid a display of his taste, magnificence and hospitality, at Holkam……many have improperly supposed it a preliminary to a County canvas’ (with a view to an election). For a more detailed description of the event at Holkam, see Coke of Norfolk 1754-1842: A Biography by Susanna Wade Martins pp 78-80.

William Richards observed in his work: History of Lynn-

“The 5th, of November 1788 was observed at Lynn, in commemoration of the landing of King William, and of the glorious revolution that ensued, by a party of the friends of civil and religious liberty, among whom were the late reverend and worthy William Warner, and the writer of the present work.  The party spent the evening at one of the Inns, where they supped together, and passed the time in the most harmony and conviviality, and no way unworthy of the occasion, or of the great, glorious, and interesting event which they were then commemorating.


Holkham, the princely mansion of Mr Coke, was the only other place in west Norfolk, as far as the present writer has ever understood, where the centenary of the revolution was thought worth celebrating.  That great event was there celebrated by a grand fete, ball and supper, display of fireworks, &c. All in a manner worthy of the patriotic character, revolution principles, and noble munificence of the renowned master of the mansion”…….History of Lynn from Earliest Accounts to Present Time  William Richards Vol 11  C Whittingham 1812.