Between James’ accession in February 1685 and flight in December 1688 the British Armies increased four fold (the English, Scots and Irish Armies were still separate institutions and were to remain so until the early 18th Century, in the case of the Scots, and the early 19th Century in the case of the Irish); from a small force of little more than ceremonial and policing use to a fully-fledged Army with all of its necessary supporting arms and services. Respected historian Correlli Barnett wrote: “It might well be said that if the British royal standing army was in fact founded at one given time, it was between 1685 and 1688, and that James II was the army’s creator.” James himself said his Army had “…the reputation of being the best paid, the best equipped and the most slightly troops of any in Europe.” At the time there were political complaints about illegality of a “new standing Army” with a “new Cromwellian military dictatorship” (and on a point of law a standing army was still illegal), in 1689 the new King, William III, kept James’ Army in being and within a few years it was to become the Army which led the victories at Blenheim and elsewhere of the Great Duke of Marlborough, who had himself been a General in James’ Army. It has been said that amongst William’s reasons for accepting the British Crowns was a fear that the British Army would serve in alliance with Louis XIV against him.
ARMY OF JAMES II, 1685-1688 The Birth of the British Army
James’ part in the creation of the British Army is often deliberately overlooked or ignored. The political aspects of James’ reign, and thus of the Army, are well covered in numerous works but this book looks at the creation of the enlarged Armies of England, Scotland and Ireland – their uniforms and flags, organisation and weapons, their drill and their strength, their pay and their Staff. Researched primarily from contemporary documents and manuscripts, including those in the rarely accessed Royal Library at Royal Archives at Windsor, it will go a long way to restoring these years, and the last Stuart King, to their true importance in the creation of the British Army.
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