James II as Duke of York
The Kings Head Club was so-called because they met at the King's Head Tavern at Chancery Lane End. Founded around 1675, it was a resort for Whig political party hostile to the court, specifically James Duke of York, due to his Catholic persuasion. The members wore a bow, or bob, of green ribbon in their hats, as a badge useful for mutual recognition in street brawls.
In 1679, the name was changed to the Green Ribbon Club. The 'Green Ribbon' being the badge of The Levellers in the English Civil Wars in which many of the members had fought.
Club members were the extreme faction of the country party, those who supported Titus Oates and his anti catholic rantings. They were also concerned in the Rye House Plot and Monmouth's rebellion. According to the playwright, John Dryden, drinking was the chief attraction, and the members talked and organized sedition over their cups.
Apart from the Duke of Monmouth himself, and statesmen like Halifax, Shaftesbury, Buckingham, Macclesfield, Cavendish, Bedford, Grey of Warke, Herbert of Cherbury, writers such as Scroop, Mulgrave and Shadwell, with remnants of the Cromwellian régime like Falconbridge, Henry Ireton and Claypole, profligates like Lord Howard of Escrick and Sir Henry Blount, and those ‘scoundrels’ such as Thomas Dangerfield and Oates.
The members went about in silk armour, supposed to be bullet proof, in which any man dressed up was as safe as a house, 'for it was impossible to strike him for laughing;' while in their pockets, for street and crowd-work, they carried the weapon of offence invented by Stephen College and known as the Protestant Flail.
The pope-burning processions in 1680 and 1681, on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession, were also organized by the club. They ended by the lighting of a huge bonfire in front of the club windows that proved an effective means of inflaming the religious passions of the populace.
The failure to carry the Exclusion Bill, followed by the flight of Lord Shaftesbury was a blow to its influence, as was the discovery of the Rye House Plot, in which many of its members were implicated.
In 1685 John Ayloffe, who was found to have been a dubber at the King's Head Tavern and a green-ribbon man, was executed in front of the premises on the spot where the pope-burning bonfires had been kindled; and although the Kings Head Tavern was still in existence in the time of Queen Anne, the Green Ribbon Club which made it famous did not survive the accession of James II.