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The Seven Bishops were members of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
tried and acquitted for
seditious libel Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech Speech is human vocal communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin ...
in June 1688, an act viewed as a significant element in the events that led to the November 1688
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution of November 1688 ( ga, An Réabhlóid Ghlórmhar; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus), the invasion also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or Glorious Crossing by the Dutch, was the deposition of ...
and deposition of
James II James II and VII (14 October 1633Old Style and New Style dates, O.S.16 September 1701An assertion found in many sources that James died 6 September 1701 (17 September 1701 New Style) may result from a miscalculation done by an author of anonymou ...

James II
. In November 1685, James II dismissed the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who u ...
for refusing to pass measures removing legal restrictions on Catholics and Protestant
Nonconformists Nonconformity or nonconformism may refer to: Culture and society * Insubordination, the act of willfully disobeying an order of one's superior *Dissent, a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or entity ** O ...
. In August 1686, the
Parliament of Scotland The Parliament of Scotland ( sco, Pairlament o Scotland; gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereig ...
suffered the same fate and neither body met again until 1689. The measures were imposed in April 1687 by issuing a
Declaration of Indulgence The Declaration of Indulgence, also called Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, was a pair of proclamation A proclamation (Lat. ''proclamare'', to make public by announcement) is an official declaration issued by a person of authority to mak ...
in both countries; very few clergy of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
or
Church of Scotland The Church of Scotland (CoS; sco, The Scots Kirk; gd, Eaglais na h-Alba), also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national National may refer to: Common uses * Nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis ...

Church of Scotland
actively promoted it, a reflection of opinion in their congregations. Some Nonconformists also opposed it, since many were more anti-Catholic than their colleagues in the national churches. In April 1688, the Declaration was reissued and James ordered the
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
s to have it read in every church in England. The seven 'petitioned' to be excused, arguing it relied on an interpretation of Royal authority declared illegal by Parliament. After the petition was printed and publicly distributed, the bishops were charged with seditious libel and held in the
Tower of London The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle A castle is a type of structure built during the predominantly by the or royalty and by . Scholars debate the sc ...

Tower of London
. They were tried and found not guilty on 30 June. The birth of
James Francis James Goodall Francis (9 January 1819 – 25 January 1884), Australian colonial politician, was the 9th Premier of Victoria. Francis was born in London, and emigrated to Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania) in 1847, where he became a businessm ...
on 10 June enraged anti-Catholics who feared a Catholic heir, while the trial emboldened anti-Catholic rioters throughout England and Scotland. The combination is seen as a key turning point in the process that resulted in the deposition of James in the November 1688
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution of November 1688 ( ga, An Réabhlóid Ghlórmhar; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus), the invasion also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or Glorious Crossing by the Dutch, was the deposition of ...
.


Background

Despite his Catholicism,
James II James II and VII (14 October 1633Old Style and New Style dates, O.S.16 September 1701An assertion found in many sources that James died 6 September 1701 (17 September 1701 New Style) may result from a miscalculation done by an author of anonymou ...

James II
became king in February 1685 with widespread support in all three kingdoms, resulting in the rapid defeat of the 1685
Monmouth Rebellion The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as the Pitchfork Rebellion, the Revolt of the West or the West Country The West Country is a loosely defined area of south-western England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country tha ...
in England and
Argyll's Rising Argyll's Rising or Argyll's Rebellion was a 1685 attempt to overthrow King James II of England, James II and VII of England, Ireland, and Scotland by a group of Scottish exiles. Led by Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, the rising was intende ...
in Scotland. Less than four years later, he was forced into exile; although religious toleration was the ostensible issue, historians generally view it as the continuation of a century-long struggle for control between Crown and Parliament, which included the 1638–1651
Wars of the Three Kingdoms The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, were an intertwined series of conflicts that took place between 1639 and 1653 in the kingdoms of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country tha ...
. Such measures were also badly timed; after the October 1685
Edict of Fontainebleau The Edict of Fontainebleau (22 October 1685) was an edict issued by French King Louis XIV and is also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes (1598) had granted Huguenots the right to practice their religion without s ...

Edict of Fontainebleau
revoked tolerance for French Protestant
Huguenots The Huguenots ( , also , ) were a religious group of French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République fran ...
, over 200,000–400,000 went into exile, 40,000 of whom settled in London. The killing of 2,000 Vaudois Protestants in 1686 and French expansion under
Louis XIV Louis XIV (Louis Dieudonné; 5 September 16381 September 1715), also known as Louis the Great () or the Sun King (), was King of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the List of longest-reigning mo ...

Louis XIV
reinforced fears Protestant Europe was threatened by a Catholic counter-reformation. There were two elements of the penal laws, the first being the right to private worship. In practice, this was loosely enforced and indulgences issued on a regular basis, largely because the numbers were insignificant; in 1680, Catholics comprised less than 1% of the English population, while Protestant Nonconformists formed about 4%. The second was the
Test Act The Test Acts were a series of English penal laws In History of England, English history, the penal laws were a series of laws that sought to uphold the establishment of religion, establishment of the Church of England against Protestantism, Pro ...
which required all public officials to subscribe to the beliefs of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
. Many were willing to allow private worship but viewed the Test Act as essential, since the
royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions wr ...
could exempt individuals from certain laws, but also be withdrawn at will, unlike an
Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries, acts of parliament begin as a Bill (law), bill, wh ...
.


Sequence of events

The
Declaration of Indulgence The Declaration of Indulgence, also called Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, was a pair of proclamation A proclamation (Lat. ''proclamare'', to make public by announcement) is an official declaration issued by a person of authority to mak ...
was issued in Scotland on 12 February 1687, then England on 4 April. Many disliked it but did not actively oppose it, although the political implications caused considerable debate. As king, James himself was not subject to the Test Act and could also 'dispense' or exempt individuals. Although only intended for exceptional cases, it was widely used by James to appoint Catholics to senior positions in the army and government; after dismissing those judges who opposed his interpretation, he obtained a legal ruling in 1686 in his favour. Few challenged a long-standing principle established during the
Tudor period The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms ...
, but in a society that feared instability and relied on the law to ensure against it, his approach caused resentment and unease. This was true even for those who benefitted, such as the Nonconformist Sir John Shorter, nominated by James for
Lord Mayor of London The Lord Mayor of London is the mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official An official is someone who holds an office (function or mandate, regardless whether it carries an actual working space with it) in an organi ...
in 1687. Before taking office, he insisted on complying with the Test Act, reportedly due to a "distrust of the King's favour ... thus encouraging that which His Majesties whole Endeavours were intended to disannull." The Declaration also effectively abolished an Act, a right reserved for Parliament and reconfirmed in 1663 and 1673 by the
Cavalier Parliament , as he would have dressed at the opening of the sessions of the Cavalier parliament. The Cavalier Parliament of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with ...
. In addition, even if James was above the law, his subjects were not; they were being ordered to ignore the law and their oaths of office, making them guilty of
perjury Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is beha ...
, then considered both a crime and a sin. The implications led to intensive debate, one of the most powerful opponents being the London priest
William Sherlock William Sherlock (c. 1641June 1707) was an England, English church leader. Life He was born at Southwark and was educated at St Saviour's Grammar School and Eton College, Eton, and then at Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1669 he became rector of St Geor ...
. Republished in April 1688, on 4 May James ordered the Declaration to be read in every church, starting in London on 20 and 27 May, then 3 and 10 June elsewhere. The objective was to force the Church of England to publicly back suspension of the Test Act. In a series of meetings, the London clergy overwhelmingly voted against compliance. On 13 May, William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury and seven other bishops, including Henry Compton, Francis Turner, Thomas White,
Thomas Ken Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711) was an English cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; howe ...

Thomas Ken
, John Lake, Jonathan Trelawny and William Lloyd resolved to defy James's order. While not present, the
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester The Diocese of Winchester forms part of the Province of Canterbury The Province of Canterbury, or less formally the Southern Province, is one of two ecclesiastical ...
,
Gloucester Gloucester ( ) is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the ...
and
Norwich Norwich () is a city and district of Norfolk Norfolk () is a rural and non-metropolitan county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary ...
were said to have approved this course of action. Despite his input, Compton had already been suspended for refusing to ban John Sharp from preaching after he gave an anti-Catholic sermon. The other seven signed a petition requesting they be excused, referencing the Parliamentary decisions of 1663 and 1673. James received it on 18 May and reacted with his customary fury to being opposed; calling it "a standard of rebellion", he dismissed them, saying he expected to be obeyed. Within hours, copies of the petition were being sold on the streets of London; Compton was alleged to be the instigator. On 20 May, only seven churches in London read the Declaration, the congregation walking out in at least three of them; none of them read it out on 27th. In the country as a whole, only 200 out of 9,000 did so; even worse from James' perspective, many Nonconformists supported the decision of their Church of England colleagues not to comply. Senior government advisors like the Earl of Melfort, a Scottish Catholic convert, argued publication constituted
seditious libel Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech Speech is human vocal communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin ...
and urged James to put the bishops on trial. The Ecclesiastical Commission of 1686, set up to enforce discipline on Church of England clergy, refused to take the case, while Lord Jeffreys recommended against prosecution; overruled, he asked if James would listen to his ministers or whether "the Virgin Mary is to do all". James instructed the bishops to appear before him on 8 June to explain their actions; they did so but refused to answer, arguing that "no Subject was bound to accuse himself" and were ordered to appear in court on the 15th. When asked to provide
bail Bail is a set of pre-trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by it ...
, they claimed exemption as peers and offered to give their word instead; James lost his temper and ordered them to be held in the
Tower of London The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle A castle is a type of structure built during the predominantly by the or royalty and by . Scholars debate the sc ...

Tower of London
. Although there was little evidence to suggest they intended to provoke this reaction, the result was a public relations disaster for James. When the bishops were escorted to court on 15 June, they were accompanied by huge crowds. Twenty-one noblemen appeared, promising to provide bail if needed, among them Danby and James' brother-in-law
Clarendon Clarendon may refer to: Places Australia *Clarendon, New South Wales Clarendon is a suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Clarendon railway station is on the Richmond branch of the North Shore & Western Line of the Sydney ...
. Among those pledging bail for Bishop Ken was a
Quaker Quakers are people who belong to a historically Protestant Christian Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Ref ...

Quaker
, the Nonconformist sect most sympathetic to James.


Trial

The trial took place at the Court of
King's Bench The Queen's Bench (); or, during the reign of a male monarch, the King's Bench ('), is the superior court in a number of jurisdictions within some of the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state A sovereign state ...
on 29 June, with James confident of victory. Successive purges of the judiciary over the previous three years meant it was largely staffed by loyalists, while the jury selected by the
Sheriffs of the City of London Two sheriffs are elected annually for the City of London The City of London is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social ...
included several former Dissenters and government employees. However, of the four presiding judges, Powell and Holloway clearly favoured the bishops, Lord Chief Justice
Wright Wright is an occupational surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates one's family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name may be placed at eit ...
was 'unusually moderate' and
Richard Allibond Sir Richard Allibond or Allibone (1636–1688) was an English judge and justice of the King's Bench The Queen's Bench (; or, during the reign of a male monarch, the King's Bench ('), is the superior court in a number of jurisdictions within som ...
impartial. Lawyers for the bishops argued their petition simply confirmed a ruling established by Parliament and thus could not be considered a libel. In their summing up for the jury, three judges refused to comment on whether James was entitled to use his dispensing power and focused on the issue of libel. Wright and Allibond claimed it was, Powell and Holloway that it was not; Holloway went further, inviting the jury to consider whether the bishops were correct in claiming the dispensing power was illegal. The jury were allegedly ready to return a verdict of not guilty immediately after the trial but were delayed until the next morning by two members employed in James' household. The decision to prosecute in the first place was a political disaster for the Government, regardless of the outcome, made worse by the incompetence of the Crown prosecutors; a modern historian remarked it "had a strong element of the grotesque". Their acquittal resulted in wild celebrations throughout London, including regiments of the Royal Army based in
Hounslow Hounslow () is a large suburban district of West London London is the Capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. It stands on the River Thames in south-east ...

Hounslow
, much to James' annoyance and concern.


Aftermath

The birth of
James Francis James Goodall Francis (9 January 1819 – 25 January 1884), Australian colonial politician, was the 9th Premier of Victoria. Francis was born in London, and emigrated to Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania) in 1847, where he became a businessm ...
on 10 June raised the prospect of a Catholic dynasty, while the trial resulted in widespread anti-Catholic riots throughout England and Scotland. The combination of these events is often seen as a key turning point. James' chief advisor, the
Earl of Sunderland Earl of Sunderland is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of England The Peerage of England comprises all peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary title Hereditary titles, in a general ...
, who had grown alarmed by the regime's unpopularity, was visibly shaken by the hostility with which he was greeted when he attended the trial. The same day, an Invitation was sent to
William of Orange
William of Orange
, 'inviting' him to take the throne on behalf of his wife
Mary Mary may refer to: People * Mary (name) Mary is a feminine Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Although femininity is socially constru ...

Mary
, James' Protestant daughter. Drawn up by Henry Sydney, Sunderland's uncle and close friend since childhood, it was signed by the
Immortal Seven The ''Invitation to William'' was a letter sent by seven notable English nobles, later called "the Immortal Seven", to stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, received by him on 30 June 1688 (Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by ...
, representatives from the key political constituencies whose support William needed to commit to an invasion. Following the November 1688
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution of November 1688 ( ga, An Réabhlóid Ghlórmhar; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus), the invasion also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or Glorious Crossing by the Dutch, was the deposition of ...
, nine bishops became
Non-Jurors The Non-juring schism was a split in the State religion, established churches of England, Scotland and Ireland, following the deposition and exile of James II of England, James II and VII in the 1688 Glorious Revolution. As a condition of office, ...
, including five of the Seven: Sancroft, Ken, Lake, Turner and Lloyd. William Sherlock was one of 400 members of the clergy who did the same, although, like many others, he was later readmitted to the church. The majority did so out of conscience, rather than opposition to the new regime, and by confirming the supremacy of
latitudinarian Latitudinarians, or latitude men, were initially a group of 17th-century English theologiansclerics and academicsfrom the University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From th ...
s in the church establishment, their removal arguably made it more tolerant. The
Toleration Act 1689 The Toleration Act 1688 (1 Will & Mary c 18), also referred to as the Act of Toleration, was an Act of the Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority ...
granted freedom of worship to Nonconformist Protestants, while the
Occasional Conformity Act 1711 The Occasional Conformity Act (10 Anne c. 6, "An Act for preserving the Protestant Religion", also known as the Toleration Act 1711) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which passed on 20 December 1711. Previous Occasional Conformit ...
allowed Catholics and others to avoid serious fines. The right to petition was confirmed in the 1689 Bill of Rights:


The Seven Bishops

File:AbpWilliamSancroft.jpg,
William Sancroft William Sancroft (30 January 161724 November 1693) was the 79th Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communio ...
,
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Cat ...
File:Thomas Ken by F. Scheffer.jpg,
Thomas Ken Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711) was an English cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; howe ...

Thomas Ken
,
Bishop of Bath and Wells The Bishop of Bath and Wells heads the Church of England Diocese of Bath and Wells in the Province of Canterbury in England. The present diocese covers the overwhelmingly greater part of the (ceremonial) county of Somerset and a small area of Dor ...
File:BishopJohnLake.jpg, John Lake,
Bishop of Chichester The Bishop of Chichester is the ordinary Ordinary or The Ordinary often refer to: Music * Ordinary (EP), ''Ordinary'' (EP) (2015), by South Korean group Beast * Ordinary (Every Little Thing album), ''Ordinary'' (Every Little Thing album) (2011) ...
File:WilliamLloydBpOfStAsaph.jpg, William Lloyd,
Bishop of St Asaph The Bishop of St Asaph heads the Church in Wales diocese of St Asaph. The diocese covers the counties of Conwy county borough, Conwy and Flintshire, Wrexham county borough, the eastern part of Merioneth in Gwynedd and part of northern Powys. The ca ...
File:Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Bt by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg, Jonathan Trelawny,
Bishop of Bristol A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ...
File:Francis Turner by Mary Beale.jpg, Francis Turner,
Bishop of Ely The Bishop of Ely is the ordinary Ordinary or The Ordinary often refer to: Music * Ordinary (EP), ''Ordinary'' (EP) (2015), by South Korean group Beast * Ordinary (Every Little Thing album), ''Ordinary'' (Every Little Thing album) (2011) * Ordin ...
File:Bp Thomas White.jpg, Thomas White,
Bishop of Peterborough The Bishop of Peterborough is the Ordinary (officer), ordinary of the Church of England Anglican Diocese of Peterborough, Diocese of Peterborough in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers the counties of Northamptonshire (including the S ...


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Seven Bishops 7 Seven Bishops History of the Church of England Septets Stuart England 17th-century Anglican bishops