The Glorious Revolution in Wales


David Lewis Jones, National Library of Wales journal, 1989, Summer. Volume XXVI/1

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of this article by Bill Griffith-Jones, March 2003

At the time of the Revolution, John Stevens fled from his post as a commissioner of the excise based in Welshpool.  A Roman Catholic, Stevens was a beneficiary of King James II's determination to lift the legal disabilities laid on his fellow Roman Catholics by the Test acts and thus obtain for them employment in the government or the armed forces.  This told against Stevens when the news reached Montgomeryshire that the invasion led by William of Orange had succeeded.  Firm in his loyalty, Stevens joined James in his French exile and served in James's army during the war in Ireland.  After the defeat of the Jacobite army, Stevens turned to literature and published several translations from Spanish as well as a number of works on ecclesiastical history.

Stevens also wrote but did not publish A Journall of my travels since the Revolution containing a briefe account of all the War in Ireland impartially related, &·what I was an EYE WITNESS to &·deliver upon my own knowledge distinguished from what I received from others with an account of all our marches & other memorable passages wherein I bore a part, since first I had the honour of a Commission in his Ma'ties Army in Ireland.  There are added some few remarks and other notable occurrences suitable to the subject.  Three versions of the Journall have been traced.  The fullest version is London, BL Add MS 36296 and was edited for publication in 1912 by Robert H. Murray.  An incomplete version ---this differs only in a number of stylistic points from the complete text ---was quoted by Leopold von Ranke in his History of England, principally in the seventeenth century.  Murray argues that the version used by von Ranke was a later reworking of the text in Add MS 36296.  The third version, London, British Library, Lansdowne MS 828, fols 11-12, is an earlier version of the text but only up to Stevens's departure from Wales and with significant differences from the complete version.

The introductory section of Stevens's Journall is a valuable eyewitness account of the Glorious Revolution in Wales. Stevens shows how in Wales, as elsewhere, the trial of the seven bishops turned many away from their loyalty to James II and he records how Bishop William Lloyd of St Asaph, one of the seven, mustered opposition to the King. Montgomeryshire gentry did not take an active part in the opposition to James until they received news of defections from the royal army which was followed by the news of the King's abandonment of the army and later, on 11 December 1688, of the government.  The time being suitable, the gentry declared themselves, but in a cautious manner, for William of Orange while lesser folk looted the houses of those loyal to James and sought out Roman Catholics.  It was at this point that Stevens left Welshpool. 1

The narrative of events compiled by Stevens is sparing in specific details but it supplies a vivid picture of a turbulent time as seen by an indignant loyalist.  We print below a transcript of the text from BL Lansdowne MS 828 with additional material from the Murray edition of the complete text ---  but as in the original manuscript --- included in the footnotes. Although both versions of the text were written after the defeat of the Jacobites in Ireland, there is a difference of tone: the Lansdowne text is simple and direct unlike the complete version which is written in an ornate prose and betrays a greater sourness as the years had passed since defeat.

British Library Lansdowne MS 828    2

[f. 11a]  I had been above a year in Wales, upon Business   3, at the Time when the never to be forgotten Castastrophe, commonly call'd the Revolution, hapened, in the year 1688, when his Majesty King James the 2d, having been turn'd out of his Palace at Whitehal, at midnight, & sent down in the nature of a Prisoner, under a guard of Foreigners, to Rochester happily made his escape & arriv'd safe in France, to the unspeakeably Joy of all those who still retain'd a dutifull Affection for their rightfull Sovereign.  My usual Place of Residence was at Welch-Poole in Montgomeryshire, often travelling into several Parts of that County & into those of Merioneth, Cardigan, Radnor & Shropshire.

The Fame of the Intended Invasion from Holland, was spread all over the Nation, & most Men were preparing for the Generall Insurrection which ensu'd, when I was call'd to London, 4  in October 1688, & had not continu'd there above 3 weeks, before the News came of the Dutch Fleet's being sail'd to the Westward, & seen off the Isle of Wight. 5  This oblig'd me to hasten my Return back into Wales, lest my Absence might prove prejudicial to my Trust, & accordingly I set out, on Tuesday November the 6th, in the Shrewsbury Coach, & on Wensday the 7th, receiv'd a Letter at Northampton, with Advice, that the Prince of Orange had landed at Tor Bay, in Devonshire, with about 14000 men, on Monday the 5th of the same month.  Upon this Intelligence I was the more earnest to be at the end of my Journey, yet could not reach Welch-Poole, till Monday the 12th, our Coach breaking, short of Shrewsbury, which kept us a Day extraordinary on the Road.

Being come to my Journey's end, I perceiv'd, that the Generality of the People began to be more open hearted, than they had been when I left them, discovering their Inclination to the Prince of Orange, & an Aversion to the King.  They had been work'd into this Disposition by Dr. Floyd, then Bishop of St Asaph, afterwards of Worcester, & before Parson of St Martin's in the [f. 11b] Fields London, famous for being one of the Seven Bishops, who refus'd to read King James's Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, & no less for his enthusiastick Pretensions to the Spirit of Prophecy, besides other remarkable Actions too Tedious for this Place, This worthy Person as soon as releas'd from the Tower, to which he chose to be committed rather than give Bail for his Appearance, taking a Progress through the Country, preach'd at almost every Church, & din'd or supp'd at the Houses of most gentlemen of any note where all the rest met, to incense the People against the King, & dispose them for what follow'd.   6

It was no small surprise to find so great an Alteration in so short a Time; for tho' some, with whom I convers'd, endeavour'd to carry it fair with me, yet I could easily see through the Mask.  This change in others had no further effect upon me than to make me resolve to be the more vigilant in the Performance of my Duty to that Prince in whose service I had the Honor to be employ'd, as my Father & Brother had been in that of his Royal Predecessor King Charles the 2d.  Before I proceed any further, it will not be improper to declare, that tho' I do not make use of the so much abus'd Word Impartial ever foisted in by most Writers, tho' they write nothing but bitter undeserv'd slanders against the Innocent, or fulsome Flattery upon the vilest of Men, yet I shall endeavor to avoid, reflecting on Parties, or giving any Notorious Offence, my Intention being, as a Traveller, fairly to give an Account of those Places I have seen, & as a Soldier to represent the whole Course of the War in Ireland, where I bore a Commission, distinguishing between what I was an Eye Witness to, & what I receiv'd by Information from others who were present; having in Order to this constantly kept a Journal, & often broke my Rest, after much Fatigue, rather than interrupt the Series of my Observations.  This may suffice to gratiffy any Person, who is not altogether bigotted, that my Design is not to rail, or write Panegyricks, according to Prejudice or Affection, but to proceed with all possible Sincerity & Ingenuity so that all Lovers of Truth, may expect to find it here, without any Disguise & many Points of History fairly related, which have been most falsly deliver'd in News Papers & other unfaithfull narratives publish'd [to] please the deprav'd Appetite of unthinking People; & perhaps here will be found some usefull Remarks & Observations not to be met with in other Travellers.  Having thus far made known my Intention, I proceed to what follow'd till my Return to London.

The Country where I was, viz Montgomeryshire & the Parts adjacent, tho' ill inclin'd, as has been said above, was generally quiet enough, till Advice was brought, that severall Persons of Note had deserted the King, & were gon over to the Prince of Orange, as the Lord Cornbury, the Lord Churchil, & others  7  [f. 12a] whom it is no Buziness of this Place to take notice of; this encourag'd others to rise, in several Parts, & in Wales, the Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Sir John Price   8 , & many more well known, follow'd, at first by only a few of their own Tenants & Servants.  These possess'd themselves of Ludlow 9, there being none to oppose them, & were soon reinforc'd from all parts of the Country, Fathers sending their sons & masters their servants, with their best Horses & Arms, & for Fear of any Turn of Affairs, giving out that they ran away; thus making a sure Interest on both sides, by staying themselves, if the King had prosper'd, and by sending those under their Command, if the Prince of Orange succeeded, a Practice well known in the Days of King Charles the first, when many Families thus divided, some serving the King & others the Parliament, not out of any Affection to either Party, but to the End that those who should happen to be with the prevailing side might secure the Estates & Skreen the Persons of those who had been unsuccessful.

The King's Revenue was ever seiz'd by those who were up in Arms, & no serviceable Horse was safe, for either those same People took them violently from such as refus'd to follow their example, or else they were in that Time of confusion, safely stolen by such as improv'd that opportunity to rob, & plunder where they pleas'd.  Having two good Horses at that time in Welch Poole & fearing they might be taken away either privately or by Force, I sent them away by means of one Mr. Humphrey Jones of Poole, whose son & servant were already gon away well mounted to joyn those in Arms, to Mr. Vaughan of Lludiath   10,  a Gentleman in the neighbourhood of a great Estate & no less interest in the Country, & who not very long after acted his Part as well as any of those before in Arms.  However, he secur'd them for me, till my Departure, being resolv'd to stay myself to the utmost, to endeavour to obstruct some Designs I knew there were prejudicial to my Trust 11.  In fine, I continu'd in Poole till all the Country round about was in Arms, & Intelligence brought me, that a Resolution was taken to seize me, for not following the example of the rest; besides that several Houses, of such as refus'd to declare for the Prince of Orange, had been already plunder'd & among them one belonging to the then Earl of Powis   12,  at Buttington, but a mile from Poole.

Perceiving I could expect no further security, I resolv'd to withdraw, sent for my Horses overnight, & left Poole the next morning early, being Monday.   13

David Lewis Jones

House of Lords Library



1 John Stevens, ed, Robert H. Murray, The journal of John Stevens containing a brief account of the war in Ireland 1689-1691 (Oxford, 1912), ix-xvii, for a summary of the few sources for Stevens's life and an evaluation of his literary work.  Stevens petitioned for a post with the excise in January 1687, Cal. of Treasury Books, 1685-1689, vol. 8, pt. 2, p. 1120.

2 I am grateful to the British Library for permission to publish this text.

3 "At this time was I employed in Wales in receiving His Majesty's revenue of Excise there"; Stevens, Journal, 4.

4 "when I was obliged to go to London to settle my accounts"; Stevens, Journal, 6.

5 On 5 November 1688, Lord Preston, a Secretary of State, received a message from Cowes Castle that 200 sail had been sighted early that morning off the east coast of the Isle of Wight; BL Preston Papers: volume entitled "1688 Letters from England", f. 11.

6 "One of these seven champions of Satan, to wit Dr. Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph"; Stevens, Journal, 5.  William Lloyd, a determined Anglican, became Bishop of St. Asaph in 1680.  It was from Lloyd's hand that James II received the petition in which the seven bishops protested against the royal order that the clergy should read the Second Declaration of Indulgence from their pulpits.  The acquittal of the seven bishops led to public rejoicing: "The first hardned piece of insolence that I observed, was upon the news of the 7 Bishops being released, at which time in Welsh Poole in Mountgomeryshire where I commonly resided, & many other places about, were made public bonfires in contempt of His Majesty's Proclamation forbiding the same, or rather in defiance of his authority"; Stevens, Journal, 4-5.  After the flight of James, most of the seven bishops argued for a regency but while Lloyd attended the meetings held at Lambeth towards this end he was known as a supporter of William; London, Dr. Williams's Library, Morrice MS Q, p. 404, 424, 426, for the meetings at Lambeth; Cal. State Papers Dom. James II, Vol. 3, 381, for a favourable assessment of Lloyd by the Williamites.

7 Lord Cornbury was the eldest son of the second Earl of Clarendon, the brother of Anne Hyde, James II's first wife.  Cornbury's departure was not as painful to James II as the defection of John Churchill, Baron Churchill and later Duke of Marlborough, whom the King had raised from obscurity.  The Duke of Grafton, James's illegitimate nephew, fled with Churchill and they were soon followed by the King's son-in-law, Prince George of Denmark, and the Duke of Ormonde.  At the same time, Princess Anne, the King's younger daughter, fled from London.  These defections were, as Stevens remarks, a signal for a general defection to William.  

8 Henry Herbert, fourth Baron Herbert of Cherbury, had long been opposed to James II.  His cousin, Admiral Arthur Herbert, lost his official position because of his opposition to James's policies and, disguised as an ordinary seaman, he carried the invitation across the Channel to William.
Sir John Price or Pryse, 3rd bart., of Newtown.  

9 Ludlow was the seat of the Council of Wales then under the Presidency of Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort, who supported James in a lukewarm fashion and eventually took the oath to William.  

10 Edward Vaughan of Glan-y-Llyn, Merioneth, and Llwydiarth, Montgomeryshire, Member for Montgomeryshire 1679-1718 and a reluctant supporter of the Revolution; see sub Vaughan, Edward III in The House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. by Basil Duke Henning (London, 1983).  Vaughan does not deserve Stevens's later judgment: "whom I suspected & he afterwards proved as great a rebell as the rest, but at that time such men's houses only were safe"; Stevens, Journal, 7.  

11 'Yet I resolved to stay & see the extremity of things myselfe, knowing there were some under me, who designed to receive the king's duty, and wanted only my absence to authorize them in doing of it, and was resolved to expose myselfe rather than the king's authority should be made an instrument to receive his mony to serve against himselfe.  Which whilst I was in Poole was attempted in other parts of the country by one Search, a villain, who was Supervisor under me, but I having timely notice by my letters prevented his malicious intent from taking effect"; Stevens, Journal, 7.

12 William Herbert, 3rd Baron Powis, created Earl of Powis in 1674 and Marquess of Powis in 1687.  A cousin of Lord Herbert of Cherbury and brother-in-law of the Duke of Beaufort, Powis went into exile with James II who created him Duke of Powis on 12 January 1689; see Complete Peerage sub Powis.  As a Roman Catholic and a supporter of James, Powis was an obvious target for the mob.  On 19 January 1689, William ordered that the soldiers from Ludlow Castle quartered in the house of Powis's daughter-in-law, Viscountess Montgomery, return to Ludlow and the men who seized Lord Montgomery's horses should take them back while the local justices were to search for the furniture looted from the house; W. J. Smith, ed. Herbert correspondence (Cardiff, 1963), 37.  

13 Stevens rode to Wrexham and travelled north to Holywell with the intention of seeking refuge in Chester but, on discovering that he was being sought in that city, he turned towards London and sailed for France on 11 January; Stevens, Journal, 8-14.