However, Charles I (1660-1685) had married a Catholic, tried to promote Catholicism in England, accepted secret subsidies from Louis XIV, the despotic ruler of Catholic France, and declared himself a Catholic as he died. His brother James, who followed him as James II, had married an Anglican who had brought up their daughter, Princess Mary, as an Anglican, but he had become a Catholic and his second wife was a Catholic. It seemed that he would use his new-found power to strengthen Catholicism and to make himself an absolute monarch.
During 1685 he attended Mass in public, ordered that the Gunpowder Plot should no longer be commemorated on its anniversary (5th November), and rejoiced when Louis XIV expelled the Protestant Huguenots from France. During 1686 he claimed the right to dispense with and suspend existing laws, and in April 1687 and 1688 issued his First and Second Declarations of Indulgence, using the Royal Prerogative to override Acts of Parliament and give freedom of worship to Protestant Dissenters and Catholic Recusants.
On 4th May 1688 he ordered the Second Declaration to be read from the pulpit in all Anglican churches, but on the 18th the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops told him they would not read it. James flew into a rage: "This is a great surprise to me. Here are strange words. I did not expect this from you. This is a standard of rebellion."
The bishops had been advised by Dr. John Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury, one of Robert Aske II's two executors. Robert Aske II was born on 24th February 1619, the son of a well-to-do draper. In 1634 he was apprenticed to John Trott, a Haberdasher and East India Company merchant, in 1643 became a Freeman of the Haberdashers' Company, and in 1666 an Alderman of the City of London. He may have been related to the John Aske who framed the charges for the trial of Charles I in 1649. His membership of the Haberdashers' Company certainly linked him to the crises of his time.
Haberdashers had been prominent amongst City opponents of Charles I, but had not united behind Parliament in the Civil War, and in 1660 had welcomed the Restoration of the monarchy, although their goodwill towards Charles Il had lessened as his pro-Catholic leanings had emerged. In the 1670s leading members of the Company had supported attempts to exclude James from the succession to the throne. Henry Cornish, Master in 1680, had been executed for his involvement in the Rye House Plot of 1683, an attempt to assassinate Charles and James.
During November 1684 the Company had been forced to surrender its charter to Charles II, and within weeks of succeeding him in 1685 James had issued a revised charter intended to place the Company under the control of "men of known loyalty" and make it subservient to his wishes.
The new Master, Robert Aske, known to be an Anglican and a loyalist, and the four new Wardens, were required to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and the oath contained in the 1661 Corporation Act, "That it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take arms against the king." Commonly called the Non-Resistance Act, it reinforced the Anglican belief that no one had the right to resist an anointed monarch. That was the very point of dispute between James II and the bishops, who had believed in and acted on the doctrine until confronted by James's order to read the Second Declaration of Indulgence. As it became clear to James II that he could not rely on hitherto obedient Anglicans to consent to his pro-Catholic policies, he reversed his previous appointments and nominations and in September 1687 removed Robert Aske and two of the four Wardens from their positions in the Company.