James II's Rule
Profiting on the wave of sympathy for the monarchy generated by the Exclusion Crisis, at first James was very popular and was careful to pursue moderate policies of reform.
The new Parliament was largely Tory. However, in May 1685 Charles's illegitimate, Protestant son, the Duke of Monmouth, tried to seize the throne. The vast majority of Englishmen were unwilling to take up arms and it was too early in James's reign for them to form a judgement of him anyway. The rising was easily crushed and James's position further strengthened. But he totally misread the situation, believing his victory to be a sign of divine favour, and he began to try and convert England to Catholicism. He knew he could never do this by force and tried to proceed by persuasion. He failed to get a Toleration Act through Parliament, nor could he secure repeal of the Penal Laws against Catholics. He therefore began to work on the electorate, hoping to win their support and thereby alter Parliament's membership.
Under the Corporation Act of 1661 the sovereign had the right to remodel local government to ensure loyalty to the king. He began to place his own men in positions of power, and forced many towns to give up their charters and liberties. Realising that the Catholics were too weak to change England alone, he declared toleration for Catholics and Dissenters alike. He appointed Dissenters to local government and began to develop a broad programme of local government reform right across England.
In July 1687 the King canvassed MPs, magistrates and Lords Lieutenant about their support for a removal of the penal laws. He received very little support, and realised he would have to place his men in senior positions if he was to succeed. He purged the bench, aldermen, lieutenancy, mayors and town councils, placing Dissenters and Catholics in all key positions, and using the full force of the law against those who opposed him. He only succeeded in creating suspicion, hostility and open opposition. Institutions refused to co-operate; Catholic magistrates were ignored. When seven bishops were tried for refusing to preach the King's message in their churches, even James's appointed judges found them not guilty, to great popular rejoicing.