Thursday, December 08, 2005

After the rebellion

The defeat of the rebellion greatly strengthened James’s position but it also made him aware of his military weakness: even at Sedgemoor, Feversham had only two thousand foot and 800 horse. The king decided to keep most of the forces he had raised for the emergency, thus doubling the size of his standing army, which increased to almost 19,000 officers and men. By contrast the militia’s poor showing convinced him that it was useless and untrustworthy. He hoped therefore that Parliament would allow him to use the militia money to maintain the army. He also resolved to press on with renewed determination to make the Catholics’ position safe for all time. While enlarging his army he had commissioned nearly 100 Catholic officers. As a strictly temporary measure this was probably legal, but James wanted to make their position permanent. This flew in the face of English anti-Catholicism and dislike of standing armies.

It was unfortunate for James that this coincided with Louis XIV’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October which revoked the toleration previously granted to the Huguenots. This led to a flood of French refugees - eventually totalling between 30,000 and 40,000 - who settled in places like Spitalfields and Rochester. They brought with them horror stories about their sufferings from the dragonnades. James's lukewarm welcome made it more difficult for many of his subjects to believe his protestations that his aim was toleration rather than the setting up of an absolutist Catholic monarchy.