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William III and Mary II, c.1690

James II’s reign was marked by a rapid ‘Catholicisation’ of State institutions. His heirs, Mary and Anne, were Protestant daughters from his first marriage, but when in 1688 James’s second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a healthy son – a Catholic heir – the Protestant nobles of England decided to act. They invited William III, Prince of Orange – who in 1677 had married James II’s daughter Mary – to claim the throne. William reached Devon in November 1688, and after minimal resistance, James II fled the country. In February 1689 Parliament decreed that James had effectively abdicated, and the crown was offered to William and Mary as joint monarchs.

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