The Tories, a name given to them by the Whigs, were first led by Danby when Charles II was king. The party was formed in the last months of the Cavalier Parliament and the Exclusion Crisis. The names ‘Tory’ or ‘Tories’ were initially terms of abuse used by Whigs – also initially a term of abuse – and it meant ‘Irish Catholic Bandits’. However, under the effective leadership of Danby the name was adopted by the party.
Danby was a master at management and he used the position he had in politics to advance those who he felt would best support his policies.
The Tories believed in Divine Right, the king’s prerogative and hereditary succession. They were also strong supporters of the Anglican Church against Catholics and Dissenters.
Such beliefs as a whole were challenged in the reign of James II. His drive to push the country to Catholicism was bound to conflict with the Tory belief in upholding the Anglican Church. There were those Tories who sided with James simply because he was king, but there were also those who sided with the Whigs in the 1688 Revolution that removed James from the throne. He was replaced by the Protestant William of Orange and Mary.
Even the settlement caused upset in the ranks of the Tories. Some, clinging to the belief of divine right, thought that William and Mary should act as regents until the time that James could make some form of peace with the government and people. Other Tories believed that Mary should have supremacy over William simply because she was a blood relation to James whereas William was not. William insisted on full regal powers and such was the memory of the recent civil war that politicians were content to accept this so that the monarchy and country appeared once again to be stable.
The 1688 settlement ended up splitting the Tories into the Court Tories and the Country Tories. The Court Tories did all that was expected of those who wished to be influential at court. The Country Tories tended to be more radical especially in the area of religion. They believed scientific advances weakened the Church and threatened society. They also believed that the so-called ‘financial revolution’ would also destabilise society as it could allow those from a less than noble social position to climb the social ladder and dilute the social elite. There were Country Whigs who shared some of these beliefs and both united to become the Country Party led by Harley.
Court and Country Tories reunited in the reign of Anne – the last of the Stuart monarchs. She was seen as the legitimate monarch and a figure all could rally behind. However, the party was severely weakened by a bitter rivalry between Harley and another leading Tory, Bolingbroke. Their rivalry was such that on August 1st, 1714, when Anne died, the party was so disorganised and lacking focus that the Whigs took the lead in the Hanoverian succession. George I became inextricably associated with the Whigs when Bolingbroke fled abroad to involve himself in the Old Pretender’s campaign. The Whigs were able to persuade George that the Tories were associated with the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. This was to condemn the party to many years in the political wilderness as the Whigs held the power in Georgian England.