6th July 1685. Rise of Whigs and Tories.
The Battle of Sedgemoor, Dorset, the last pitched battle on English soil, took place Today in 1685.(1)
The Battle marked the end of the attempt by the Protestant, Duke of Monmouth to take the throne from Catholic James II.
Monmouth as pretender, was the supposed illegitimate son of Charles II with a claim based on the supposed marriage of Charles with his mother, Lucy Walter when exiled in Holland.
However Charles II declared in Council on March 3 1679, that he had never been married to Lucy Walter and refused to desert his brother James who he believed to be the rightful heir.
The nation divided in The Exclusion Crisis 1679-81 which sought to exclude Catholic, James, Duke of York. Tories were opposed to Exclusion, whilst the Country Party-soon to be Whigs-supported it.
However Monmouth had by now come under the influence of the Whig, Lord Shaftesbury who he thought could be useful to his cause and refused to accept the King’s decision.
When Charles II died, Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis, but even the Whigs, now Shaftesbury had gone, refused to back Monmouth as monarch owing to his illegitimacy.
He now attempted to seize the throne, but Monmouth’s hastily assembled force of peasantry armed with pitchforks, was routed by the King’s army and later discovered three days later by Richard Lumley, Earl of Scarborough, hiding in a ditch.
Since Monmouth had proclaimed himself king he could expect no mercy. An Act of Attainder was passed which in effect sentenced Monmouth to death without judicial proceedings. He was sent to the Tower and executed on Tower Hill, the last Royal to be executed in Britain.
The prospect of James becoming king caused a polarisation in opinion giving rise to the birth of political parties: Tories for James, and Whigs which included the 4th Earl of Devonshire, against.
The outcome was that James II reigned from 1685-1688, after when on his flight, the Whigs and others met at Whittington Moor, Derbyshire to arrange to bring William of Orange to the throne as William III.
A statue of James II, one time Lord High Admiral and wearing Roman armour is sited outside the National Gallery as King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
(1) Culloden was the last battle on British soil.