William III, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland: Foreign Policy and Constitutional Change

Foreign Policy and Constitutional Change

The Jacobite effort in Ireland had been supported by Louis XIV, who hoped thus to divert William from the larger war then being fought on the Continent (see Grand Alliance, War of the). William, however, took an English army to the Spanish Netherlands in 1691 and was constantly involved in campaigning until the conclusion of peace by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). William attempted to ignore the party divisions in England, but he was forced to rely increasingly on Whig ministers because only the Whigs supported his foreign policy fully.

His Whig ministers, most notably Charles Montagu, earl of Halifax, were responsible for establishment (1694) of the Bank of England and the policy of the national debt. William and the Whigs were also responsible for the Toleration Act (1689), which lifted some of the disabilities imposed on Protestant nonconformists, and for allowing the Licensing Act to lapse (1695), a great step toward freedom of the press. William sought to maintain royal prerogatives but was unable to prevent passage of the Triennial Act (1694), which required a new Parliament every three years, and the Act of Settlement (1701), which imposed the first statutory limitation on royal control of foreign policy.

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