Scotland: Administration of Affairs: 1689 - Archontology
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Scotland: Administration of Affairs: 1689

Administration of Affairs in Scotland

The invasion of William Prince of Orange and subsequent flight of King James II of England (James VII of Scotland) to the Continent caused disruption in the exercise of royal authority in the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. With no prospects for swift return of the king, the lords and the Commons of England approached William who formally agreed (28 Dec 1688/7 Jan 1689) to take on himself the executive administration and pledged "to secure the peace of the nation, until the meeting of the Convention in January next." Scottish nobility and gentry residing in London were also summoned by William to St. James's and met him on 7/17 Jan 1689. Then they repaired to the Council Chamber at Whitehall, and chose the Duke of Hamilton as their president. The deliberations resulted in drafting an address to the Prince of Orange, probably modeled on the preceding address of the English nobility and gentlemen. The Scottish address was read out and approved at another meeting in Whitehall 8/18 Jan 1689:

In order to the attaining these ends, our humble advice and desire is that Your Highness take upon you the administration of all affairs both civil and military, the disposal of the public revenues and fortresses of the Kingdom of Scotland, and the doing everything that is necessary for the preservation of the peace of the kingdom, until a general meeting of the States of the nation, which we humbly desire Your Highness to call, to be holden at Edinburgh the fourteenth day of March next, by your letters or proclamation to be published at the Market-cross of Edinburgh and other head boroughs of the several shires and stewartries, as sufficient intimation to all concerned and according to the custom of the kingdom.

The address being signed (9/19 Jan 1689) by 30 lords and about 80 gentlemen and bearing the date "10th. day of January, 1689", was presented at St. James's to the Prince of Orange. On 14/24 Jan 1689, William met again with the Scottish delegation at St. James's and agreed to assume "administration of all affairs" for Scotland. In his capacity as "administrator" for Scotland, William summoned the Estates of the Kingdom which met in Edinburgh 14/24 Mar 1689 to take necessary measures for the restoration of royal government. On 16/26 Mar 1689 the Estates received a letter from William (dated 7/17 Mar 1689), who had acceded to the throne of England as William III 13/23 Feb 1689. Addressing the assembly, William attempted to return the authority that had been entrusted to him two months earlier:

We are very sensible of the kindness and concern that many of your nation have evidenced towards us and our undertaking for the preservation of religion and liberty which were in such eminent danger. Neither can we in the least doubt of your confidence in us, after having seen how far so many of your nobility and gentry have owned our declaration, countenancing and concurring with us in our endeavors, and desiring that we should take upon us the administration of affairs, civil and military, and to call a meeting of the Estates, for securing the Protestant religion, the ancient laws and liberties of that Kingdom, which accordingly we have done.

Now it lies on you to enter upon such consultations as are most probable to settle you on sure and lasting foundations, which we hope you will set about with all convenient speed, with regard to the public good and to the general interest and inclinations of the people, that after so much trouble and great suffering, they may live happily and in peace, and that you may lay aside all animosities and factions that may impede so good a work.

Before opening it, the Estates passed an Act declaring that they would stand undissolved until "they settle and secure the Protestant Religion, the Government, Laws and Liberties of the Kingdom". On 18/28 Mar 1689, the Convention of the Estates approved the address and actions of the nobility and gentry that had been at London, and "had there desired the then Prince of Orange to take upon Him the Administration of the Government". The answer to the letter from William was read out and approved 25 Mar/4 Apr 1689, but the Estates chose not to include any affirmative statement to the king's proposal and went no further than requesting the king to safeguard the interests of Scotland:

We return our most dutiful thanks to your majesty for your accepting the administration of public affairs, and convening the estates of this kingdom, and we shall, with all convenient diligence, take your gracious letter into our consideration, hoping shortly by the blessing of God to fall upon such resolutions as may be acceptable to your majesty...


In the meantime, we desire the continuance of your majesties' care and protection towards us in all our concerns, whereof the kind expressions in your gracious letter have given us full assurance.

As a result, William's formal position remained unresolved until 11/21 Apr 1689 when the Estates passed An Instrument of Government, for Settling the Crown and Regal Dignity of the Kingdom of Scotland Upon William III and Mary II, King and Queen of England, &c., offering the crown of Scotland to William and Mary while James VII was declared to have forfeited the throne. In the meantime, Scotland was effectively governed by the Convention of the Estates and by the Privy Council, which ensured the proclamation of William and Mary as joint sovereigns in Edinburgh on 13/23 Apr 1689. The Convention continued to legislate and supervised the government until William and Mary accepted the crown of Scotland and took the coronation oath at a public ceremony in Whitehall, London (11/21 May 1689).

[1] "The History of the Desertion: or, An account of all the publick affairs in England, from the beginning of September 1688 to the Twelfth of February following", by Edmund Bohun, Jeremy Collier (London: Rose and Crown, 1689), 120-122.
[2] Proceedings of the Estates in Scotland 1689-1690.
[3] Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707.