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CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
C.F. CLAY, MANAGER
LONDON: FETTER LANE, E.C.4
HISTORY OF HOLLAND
D. LITT., F.R.G.S., F.R.HIST.S.
SOMETIME FELLOW OF BRASENOSE COLLEGE, OXFORD HON.
MEMBER OF THE DUTCH HISTORICAL SOCIETY, UTRECHT
FOREIGN MEMBER OF THE NETHERLANDS SOCIETY OF LITERATURE, LEYDEN
CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1922
THE STADHOLDERATE OF WILLIAM III, 1672-1688
In the early summer of 1672, when William resolved to concentrate all his available forces for the defence of Holland covered by its water-line, the military situation was apparently hopeless. Had Turenne and Luxemburg made a united effort to force this line at the opening of the campaign the probability is that they would have succeeded. Instead of doing so they expended their energies in the capture of a number of fortified places in Gelderland, Overyssel and North Brabant; and in the meantime the Stadtholder was week by week strengthening the weak points in his defences, encouraging his men, personally supervising every detail and setting an example of unshaken courage and of ceaseless industry. He had at his side, as his field-marshal, George Frederick, Count of Waldeck, an officer of experience and skill who had entered the Republic's service, and Van Beverningh as Commissioner of the States-General. With their help and counsel he had before autumn an efficient army of 57,000 men on guard behind entrenchments at all assailable points, while armed vessels patrolled the waterways. Outside the line Nijmwegen, Grave, Coevorden, Steenwijk and other smaller places had fallen; but the Münster-Cologne forces, after a siege lasting from July 9 to August 28, had to retire from Groningen. The French armies were all this time being constantly weakened by having to place garrisons in the conquered provinces; and neither Turenne nor Luxemburg felt strong enough to attack the strongly-protected Dutch frontiers behind the water-line.
The prince, however, was not content with inaction. Assuming the offensive, he ventured on a series of attacks on Naarden and on Woerden, raised the siege of Maestricht, and finally made an attempt to cut the French communications by a march upon Charleroi. All these raids were more or less failures, since in each case William had to retreat without effecting anything of importance. Nevertheless the enterprise shown by the young general had the double effect of heartening his own troops and of undermining the [pg.259] overweening confidence of the enemy. A hard frost in December enabled Luxemburg to penetrate into Holland, but a rapid thaw compelled a hasty withdrawal. The only road open to him was blocked by a fortified post at Nieuwerbrug, but Colonel Vin et Pain, who was in command of the Dutch force, retired to Gouda and left the French a free passage, to the Stadtholder 's great indignation. The colonel was tried on the charge of deserting his post, and shot.
The year 1673 was marked by a decisive change for the better in the position of the States. Alarm at the rapid growth of the French power brought at last both Spanish and Austrian assistance to the hard-pressed Netherlands; and the courage and skill of De Ruyter held successfully at bay the united fleets of England and France, and effectually prevented the landing of an army on the Dutch coast. Never did De Ruyter exhibit higher qualities of leadership than in the naval campaign of 1673. His fleet was greatly inferior in numbers to the combined Anglo-French fleet under Prince Rupert and D'Estrées. A stubborn action took place near the mouth of the Scheldt on June 7, in which the English had little assistance from the French squadron and finally retired to the estuary of the Thames. Another fierce fight at Kijkduin on August 21 was still more to the advantage of the Dutch. Meanwhile on land the French had scored a real success by the capture of the great fortress of Maestricht with its garrison of 6000 men, after a siege which lasted from June 6 to July 1. All attempts, however, to pass the water-line and enter Holland met with failure; and, as the summer drew to its close, the advance of Imperial and Spanish forces began to render the position of the French precarious. William seized his opportunity in September to capture Naarden before Luxemburg could advance to its relief. He then took a bolder step. In October, at the head of an army of 25,000 men, of whom 15,000 were Spanish, he marched to Cologne and, after effecting a junction with the Imperial army, laid siege to Bonn, which surrendered on November 15. This brilliant stroke had great results. The French, fearing that their communications might be cut, withdrew from the Dutch frontier; and at the same time the Münster-Cologne forces hastily evacuated the eastern provinces. The Stadtholder before the end of the year entirely freed the Country from its invaders. Once more a Prince of Orange had saved the Dutch Republic in its extremity. [pg.260]
The effect of this was to place almost supreme power in his hands. Had the prince at this moment set his heart upon obtaining the title of sovereign, he would have had but little difficulty in gratifying his ambition. Leading statesmen like the Council-Pensionary Fagel, the experienced Van Beverningh, and Valckenier, the most influential man in Amsterdam, would have supported him. But William was thoroughly practical. The freeing of the Provinces from the presence of the enemy was but the beginning of the task which he had already set before himself as his life-work, i.e. the overthrow of the menacing predominance of the French power under Louis XIV. His first care was the restoration of the well-nigh ruined land. The Country outside the water-line had been cruelly devastated by the invaders, and then impoverished by having for a year and a half to maintain the armies of occupation. Large tracts on the borders of Holland, Utrecht and Friesland, submerged by the sea-waters through the cutting of the dams, had been rendered valueless for some years to come, while those parts of Holland and Zeeland on which the enemy had not set foot had been crushed beneath heavy taxes and the loss of commerce.
The position of the three provinces, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel, which had been overrun by the French at the opening of hostilities and held by them ever since, had to be re-settled. They had, during this period, paid no taxes, and had no representation in the States-General. Holland was in favour of reducing them to the status of Generality-lands until they had paid their arrears. The prince was opposed to any harshness of treatment, and his will prevailed. The three provinces were re-admitted into the Union, but with shorn privileges; and William was elected Stadtholder by each of them with largely increased powers. The nomination, or the choice out of a certain number of nominees, of the members of the Town-Corporations, of the Courts of Justice and of the delegates to the States-General, was granted to him. The Dutch Republic was full of anomalies. In Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel we have the curious spectacle in the days of William III of the Stadtholder , who was nominally a servant of the Sovereign Estates, himself appointing his masters. As a matter of fact, the voice of these provinces was his voice; and, as he likewise controlled the Estates in Zeeland, he could always Count upon a majority vote in the States-General in support of his foreign policy. Nor was this all. [pg.261]
Holland itself, in gratitude for its deliverance, had become enthusiastically Orangist. It declared the Stadtholder ship hereditary in the male-line, and its example was followed by Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel, while the States-General in their turn made the captain-and admiral-generalship of the Union hereditary offices. Nor was gratitude confined to the conferring of powers and dignities which gave the prince in all but name monarchical authority. At the proposal of Amsterdam, the city which so often had been and was yet to be the stubborn opponent of the Princes of Orange, William II's debt of 2,000,000 fl. was taken over by the province of Holland; Zeeland presented him with 30,000 fl.; and the East India Company with a grant of 1/33 of its dividends.
From the very first William had kept steadily in view a scheme of forming a great coalition to curb the ambitious designs of Louis XIV; and for effecting this object an alliance between England and the United Provinces was essential. The first step was to conclude peace. This was not a difficult task. The English Parliament, and still more the English people, had throughout been averse from fighting on the side of the French against the Dutch. Charles II, with the help of French money, had been carrying on the war in opposition to the wishes of his subjects, who saw their fleets but feebly supported by their French allies, their trade seriously injured, and but little chance of gaining any advantageous return for the heavy cost. Charles himself had a strong affection for his nephew, and began to turn a favourable ear to his proposals for negotiations, more especially as his heroic efforts to stem the tide of French invasion had met with so much success. In these circumstances everything was favourable to an understanding; and peace was concluded at Westminster on February 19,1674. The terms differed little from those of Breda, except that the Republic undertook to pay a war indemnity of 2,000,000 fl. within three years. The striking of the flag was conceded. Surinam remained in Dutch hands. New York, which had been retaken by a squadron under Cornelis Evertsen, August, 1673, was given back to the English crown. Negotiations were likewise opened with Münster and Cologne; and peace was concluded with Münster (April 22) and with Cologne (May 11) on the basis of the evacuation of all conquered territory. France was isolated and opposed now by a strong [pg.262] coalition, the Republic having secured the help of Austria, Spain, Brandenburg and Denmark. The campaign of the summer of 1674 thus opened under favouring circumstances, but nothing of importance occurred until August 11, when William at the head of an allied force of some 70,000 men enCountered Condé at Seneff in Hainaut. The battle was fought out with great obstinacy and there were heavy losses on both sides. The French, however, though inferior in numbers had the advantage in being a more compact force than that of the allies; and William, poorly supported by the Imperialist contingents, had to retire from the field. He was never a great strategist, but he now conducted a retreat which extracted admiration from his opponents. His talents for command always showed themselves most conspicuously in adverse circumstances. His coolness and courage in moments of peril and difficulty never deserted him, and, though a strict disciplinarian, he always retained the confidence and affection of his soldiers. On October 27 Grave was captured, leaving only one of the Dutch fortresses, Maestricht, in the hands of the French.
The war on land dragged on without any decisive results during 1675. The Stadtholder was badly supported by his allies and reduced to the defensive; but, though tentative efforts were made by the English government to set on foot negotiations for peace, and a growing party in Holland were beginning to clamour for the cessation of a war which was crippling their trade and draining the resources of the Country, the prince was resolutely opposed to the English offer of mediation, which he regarded as insincere and premature. He was well aware that there was in England a very strong and widespread opposition to the succession of James Duke of York, who made no secret of his devoted attachment to the Roman Catholic faith. So strong was the feeling that he had been compelled to resign his post of Lord-High-Admiral. The dislike and distrust he aroused had been accentuated by his second marriage to Mary of Modena, a zealous Catholic. William was the son of the eldest daughter of Charles I, and to him the eyes of a large party in England were turning. The prince was keenly alive to the political advantages of his position. He kept himself well informed of the intrigues of the court and of the state of public opinion by secret agents, and entered into clandestine correspondence with prominent statesmen. Charles II himself, though he had not the [pg.263] smallest sympathy with his nephew's political views, was as kindly disposed to him as his selfish and unprincipled nature would allow, and he even went so far as to encourage in 1674 an alliance between him and his cousin Mary, the elder daughter of the Duke of York. But William had at that time no inclination for marriage. He was preoccupied with other things, and the age of Mary—she was only twelve—rendered it easy for him to postpone his final decision.
Events were to force his hand. In 1676 the French king, fearing the power of the coalition that was growing in strength, endeavoured to detach the republic by offering to make a separate peace on generous terms. Despite the opposition of the Stadtholder , Dutch and French representatives met at Nijmwegen; but William by his obdurate attitude rendered any settlement of the points in dispute impossible. In 1677, however, the capture of Valenciennes by the French and their decisive defeat of the allied army under William's command at Mont-Cassel (April 11) made it more difficult for him to resist the growing impatience of the burgher-class in Holland and especially of the merchants of Amsterdam at his opposition to peace. He was accused of wishing to continue the war from motives of personal ambition and the desire of military glory. In February of this year, however, Charles II after a period of personal rule was through lack of resources compelled to summon parliament. It no sooner met than it showed its strong sympathy with the Netherlands; and the king speedily saw that he could no longer pursue a policy opposed to the wishes of his people. When, therefore, William sent over his most trusted friend and counsellor, Bentinck, to London on a secret mission in the summer, he met with a most favourable reception; and the prince himself received an invitation to visit his uncle with the special object of renewing the proposal for his marriage with the Princess Mary. William accordingly arrived in London on October 19; and, the assent of the king and the Duke of York being obtained, the wedding was celebrated with almost indecent haste. It was a purely political union; and when, early in December, the Prince and Princess of Orange set sail for Holland, the young girl wept bitterly at having to leave her home for a strange land at the side of a cold, unsympathetic husband. The weeks he spent in England had been utilised by the prince to good purpose. He persuaded Charles to promise his support by [pg.264] land and sea to the Netherlands in case the terms of peace offered by the allies were rejected by the French. A treaty between the States and Great Britain giving effect to this promise was actually signed on January 29, 1678. The results, however, did not answer William's expectations. The English Parliament and the States alike had no trust in King Charles, nor was the English match at first popular in Holland. A strong opposition arose against the prince's war policy. The commercial classes had been hard hit by the French invasion, and they were now suffering heavy losses at sea through the Dunkirk privateers led by the daring Jean Bart. The peace party included such tried and trusted statesmen as Van Beverningh, Van Beuningen and the Council-Pensionary Fagel, all of them loyal counsellors of the Stadtholder . So resolute was the attitude of Amsterdam that the leaders of both municipal parties, Valckenier and Hooft, were agreed in demanding that the French offers of a separate peace should be accepted. On the same side was found Henry Casimir, Stadtholder of Friesland, who was jealous of his cousin's autocratic exercise of authority.
The pourparlers at Nijmwegen were still going on, but made no progress in face of William's refusal to treat except in concert with his allies. Louis XIV, however, fully informed of the state of public opinion and of the internal dissensions both in the United Provinces and in England, was not slow to take advantage of the situation. A powerful French army invaded Flanders and made themselves masters of Ypres and Ghent and proceeded to besiege Mons. William, despite the arrival of an English auxiliary force under Monmouth, could do little to check the enemy's superior forces. Meanwhile French diplomacy was busy at Amsterdam and elsewhere in the States, working against the war parties; and by the offer of favourable terms the States-General were induced to ask for a truce of six weeks. It was granted, and the Dutch and Spanish representatives at Nijmwegen (those of the emperor, of Brandenburg and of Denmark refusing to accede) speedily agreed to conclude peace on the following terms: the French to restore Maestricht and to evacuate all occupied Dutch territory, and to make a commercial treaty. Spain to surrender an important slice of southern Flanders, but to be left in possession of a belt of fortresses to cover their Netherland possessions against further French attack. But, though these conditions were accepted, the French raised various pretexts to delay the signature of the [pg.265] treaty, hoping that meanwhile Mons, which was closely beleaguered by Luxemburg, might fall into their hands, and thus become an asset which they could exchange for some other possession. The States and the Spanish Government were both anxious to avoid this; and the Prince of Orange, who steadily opposed the treaty, returned towards the end of July to his camp to watch the siege of Mons and prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy. At the same time (July 26) King Charles, who had been working through Sir William Temple for the conclusion of peace, now declared that, unless the treaty was signed before August 11, he would assist the allies to enforce it. The French diplomatists at Nijmwegen had hitherto declared that their troops would not evacuate Maestricht and the other places which they had agreed to restore to the States, until Brandenburg and Denmark had evacuated the territory they had conquered from Sweden. On August 10, just before time for resuming hostilities had been reached, they tactfully conceded this point and promised immediate evacuation, if the treaty were at once concluded. Van Beverningh and his colleagues accordingly, acting on their instructions, affixed their signatures just before midnight.
They fell into the trap laid for them, for the treaty between France and Spain was not yet signed, and it was the intention of the French to make further pretexts for delay in the hope that Mons meanwhile would fall. The report of the conclusion of peace reached the Stadtholder in his camp on August 13, but unofficially. On the morning of August 14 D'Estrades came personally to bring the news to Luxemburg; and the French marshal was on the point of forwarding the message to the Dutch camp, when he heard that Orange was advancing with his army to attack him, and he felt that honour compelled him to accept the challenge. A sanguinary fight took place at St Denis, a short distance from Mons. William exposed his life freely, and though the result was nominally a drawn battle, he achieved his purpose. Luxemburg raised the siege of Mons, and the negotiations with Spain were pressed forward. The treaty was signed on September 17, 1678. The peace of Nijmwegen thus brought hostilities to an end, leaving the United Provinces in possession of all their territory. It lasted ten years, but it was only an armed truce. Louis XIV desired a breathing space in which to prepare for fresh aggressions; and his tireless opponent, the Prince of Orange, henceforth made it the one object of his life to form a [pg.266] Grand Alliance to curb French ambition and uphold in Europe what was henceforth known as "the Balance of Power."
In setting about this task William was confronted with almost insuperable difficulties. The Dutch people generally had suffered terribly in the late invasions and were heartily sick of war. The interest of the Hollanders and especially of the Amsterdammers was absorbed in the peaceful pursuits of commerce. The far-reaching plans and international combinations, upon which William concentrated his whole mind and energies, had no attraction for them, even had they understood their purpose and motive. The consequence was that the prince enCountered strong opposition, and this not merely in Holland and Amsterdam, but from his cousin Henry Casimir and the two provinces of which he was Stadtholder . In Amsterdam the old "States" party revived under the leadership of Valckenier and Hooft; and in his latter days Van Beuningen was ready to resist to the utmost any considerable outlay on the army or navy or any entangling alliances. They held that it was the business of the Republic to attend to its own affairs and to leave Louis to pursue his aggressive policy at the expense of other Countries, so long as he left them alone. The ideal which William III had set before him was the exact reverse of this; and, unfortunately for his own Country, throughout his life he often subordinated its particular interests to the wider European interests which occupied his attention.
The work of building up afresh a coalition to withstand the ever-growing menace of the formidable French power could scarcely have been more unpromising than it now appeared. Spain was utterly exhausted and feeble. Brandenburg and Denmark had been alienated by the States concluding a separate peace at Nijmwegen and leaving them in the lurch. The attention of the emperor was fully occupied in defending Hungary and Vienna itself against the Turks. England under Charles II was untrustworthy and vacillating, almost a negligible quantity. A visit made by William to London convinced him that nothing was at present to be hoped for from that quarter. At the same time the very able French ambassador at the Hague, D'Avaux, did his utmost to foment the divisions and factions in the Provinces. He always insisted that he was accredited to the States-General and not to the Prince of Orange, and carried on correspondence and intrigues with the party in Amsterdam [pg.267] opposed to the Stadtholder 's anti-French policy. The cumbrous and complicated system of government enabled him thus to do much to thwart the prince and to throw obstacles in his way. The curious thing is, that William was so intent on his larger projects that he was content to use the powers he had without making any serious attempt, as he might have done, to make the machine of government more workable by reforms in the direction of centralisation. Immersed in foreign affairs, he left the internal administration in the hands of subordinates chosen rather for their subservience than for their ability and probity; and against several of them, notably against his relative Odijk, serious charges were made. Odijk, representing the prince as first noble in Zeeland, had a large patronage; and he shamelessly enriched himself by his venal traffic in the disposal of offices without a word of rebuke from William, in whose name he acted. On the contrary, he continued to enjoy his favour. Corruption was scarcely less rife in Holland, though no one practised it quite on the same scale as Odijk in Zeeland. William indeed cared little about the domestic politics of the Republic, except in so far as they affected his diplomatic activities; and in this domain he knew how to employ able and devoted men. He had Waldeck at his side not merely as a military adviser, but as a skilful diplomatist well versed in the intricate politics of the smaller German states; Everhard van Weede, lord of Dijkveld, and Godard van Rheede, lord of Amerongen, proved worthy successors of Van Beverningh and Van Beuningen. Through the Council-Pensionary Fagel he was able to retain the support of the majority in the Estates of Holland, despite the strong opposition he enCountered at Amsterdam and some other towns, where the interests of commerce reigned supreme. The death of Gillis Valckenier, the ablest of the leaders of the opposition in Amsterdam, in 1680 left the control of affairs in that city in the hands of Nicolaes Witsen and Johan Hudde, but these were men of less vigour and determination than Valckenier.
Louis XIV meanwhile had been actively pushing forward his schemes of aggrandisement. Strasburg was seized in August, 1681; Luxemburg was occupied; claims were made under the treaty of Nijmwegen to certain portions of Flanders and Brabant, and troops were despatched to take possession of them. There was general alarm; and, with the help of Waldeck, William was able to secure [pg.268] the support of a number of the small German states in the Rhenish circle, most of them always ready to hire out their armed forces for a subsidy. Sweden also offered assistance. But both England and Brandenburg were in secret collusion with France, and the emperor would not move owing to the Turkish menace.
In these circumstances Spain was compelled (1684) by the entry of the armies of Louis into the southern Netherlands to declare war upon France, and called upon the States for their military aid of 8000 men in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Nijmwegen. Orange at once referred the matter to the Council of State, and himself proposed that 16,000 should be sent. As this, however, could only mean a renewal of the war with France, the proposal met with strong opposition in many quarters, and especially in Amsterdam. Prosperity was just beginning to revive, and a remembrance of past experiences filled the hearts of many with dread at the thought of the French armies once more invading their land. The Amsterdam regents even went so far as to enter into secret negotiations with D'Avaux; and they were supported by Henry Casimir, who was always ready to thwart his cousin's policy. William was checkmated and at first, in his anger, inclined to follow his father's example and crush the opposition of Amsterdam by force. He possessed however, which William II had not, the support of a majority in the Estates of Holland. He used this with effect. The raising of the troops was sanctioned by the Estates (January 31, 1684), an intercepted cipher-letter from D'Avaux being skilfully used to discredit the Amsterdam leaders, who were accused of traitorous correspondence with a foreign power. Nevertheless the prince, although he was able to override any active opposition at home, did not venture, so long as England and Brandenburg were on friendly relations with France, to put pressure upon the States-General. The French troops, to the prince's chagrin, overran Flanders; and he had no alternative but to concur in the truce for twenty years concluded at Ratisbon, August 15, 1684, which left the French king in possession of all his conquests.
No more conclusive proof of the inflexible resolve of William III can be found than the patience he now exhibited. His faith in himself was never shaken, and his patience in awaiting the favourable moment was inexhaustible. To him far more appropriately than to his great-grandfather might the name of William the Silent have [pg.269] been given. He had no confidants, except Waldeck and William Bentinck; and few could even guess at the hidden workings of that scheming mind or at the burning fires of energy and will-power beneath the proud and frigid reserve of a man so frail in body and always ailing. Very rarely could a born leader of men have been more unamiable or less anxious to win popular applause, but his whole demeanour inspired confidence and, ignoring the many difficulties and oppositions which thwarted him, he steadfastly bided his time and opportunity. It now came quickly, for the year 1685 was marked by two events—the accession of James II to the throne of England, and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes—which were to have far-reaching consequences.
The new King of England was not merely a strong but a bigoted Roman Catholic. Had he been a wise and patriotic prince, he would have tried by a studiously moderate policy to win the loyal allegiance of his subjects, but he was stubborn, wrong-headed and fanatical, and from the first he aimed at the impossible. His attempts to establish absolute rule, to bring back the English nation to the fold of the Catholic Church and, as a means to that end, to make himself independent of Parliament by accepting subsidies from the French king, were bound to end in catastrophe. This was more especially the case as Louis XIV had, at the very time of King James' accession, after having for a number of years persecuted the Huguenots in defiance of the Edict of Nantes, taken the step of revoking that great instrument of religious toleration on November 17, 1685. The exile of numerous families, who had already been driven out by the dragonnades , was now followed by the expulsion of the entire Huguenot body, of all at least who refused to conform to the Catholic faith. How many hundreds of thousands left their homes to find refuge in foreign lands it is impossible to say, but amongst them were great numbers of industrious and skilled artisans and handicraftsmen, who sought asylum in the Dutch Republic and there found a ready and sympathetic welcome. The arrival of these unhappy immigrants had the effect of arousing a strong feeling of indignation in Holland, and indeed throughout the provinces, against the government of Louis XIV. They began to see that the policy of the French king was not merely one of territorial aggression, but was a crusade against Protestantism. The governing classes in Holland, Zeeland, Friesland and Groningen were stirred up by the [pg.270] preachers to enforce more strictly the laws against the Catholics in those provinces, for genuine alarm was felt at the French menace to the religion for which their fathers had fought and suffered. The cause of Protestantism was one with which the Princes of Orange had identified themselves; but none of his ancestors was so keen an upholder of that cause as was William III. The presence in their midst of the Huguenot refugees had the effect of influencing public opinion powerfully in the States in favour of their Stadtholder 's warlike policy. Nor was the Dutch Republic the only State which was deeply moved by the ruthless treatment of his Protestant subjects by the French king. The Elector of Brandenburg, as head of the principal Protestant State in Germany, had also offered an asylum to the French exiles and now reverted once more to his natural alliance with the United Provinces. He sent his trusted councillor, Paul Fuchs, in May, 1685, to offer to his nephew, the Prince of Orange, his friendly co-operation in the formation of a powerful coalition against France. Fuchs was a skilled diplomatist, and by his mediation an understanding was arrived at between the Stadtholder and his opponents in Amsterdam. At the same time strong family influence was brought to bear upon Henry Casimir of Friesland, and a reconciliation between the two Stadtholder s was effected. William thus found himself, before the year 1685 came to an end, able to pursue his policy without serious let or hindrance. He was quite ready to seize his opportunity, and by tactful diplomacy he succeeded by August, 1686, in forming an alliance between the United Provinces, Brandenburg, Sweden, Austria, Spain and a number of the smaller Rhenish states, to uphold the treaties of Westphalia and Nijmwegen against the encroachments of French military aggression. But the design of William was still incomplete. The naval power and financial resources of England were needed to enable the coalition to grapple successfully with the mighty centralised power of Louis XIV.
In England the attempt of James II to bring about a Catholic reaction by the arbitrary use of the royal prerogative was rapidly alienating the loyalty of all classes, including many men of high position, and even some of his own ministers. William watched keenly all that was going on and kept himself in close correspondence with several of the principal malcontents. He was well aware that all eyes were turning to him (and he accepted the position) as the [pg.271] natural defender, should the need arise, of England's civil and religious liberties. The need arose and the call came in the summer of 1688, and it found William prepared. The climax of the conflict between King James and his people was reached with the acquittal of the Seven Bishops in May, 1688, amidst public rejoicings, speedily followed on June 10 by the birth of a Prince of Wales. The report was spread that the child was supposititious and it was accepted as true by large numbers of persons, including the Princess Anne, and also, on the strength of her testimony, by the Prince and Princess of Orange.
The secret relations of William with the leaders of opposition had for some time been carried on through his trusted confidants, Dijkveld, the State's envoy at the English Court, and William of Nassau, lord of Zuilestein. A bold step was now taken. Several Englishmen of note signed an invitation to the prince to land in England with an armed force in defence of the religion and liberties of the Country; and it was brought to him by Admiral Russell, one of the signatories. After some hesitation William, with the consent and approval of the princess, decided to accept it. No man ever had a more loyal and devoted wife than William III of Orange, and he did not deserve it. For some years after his marriage he treated Mary with coldness and neglect. He confessed on one occasion to Bishop Burnet that his churlishness was partly due to jealousy; he could not bear the thought that Mary might succeed to the English throne and he would in that Country be inferior in rank to his wife. The bishop informed the princess, who at once warmly declared that she would never accept the crown unless her husband received not merely the title of king, but the prerogatives of a reigning sovereign. From that time forward a complete reconciliation took place between them, and the affection and respect of William for this loyal, warm-hearted and self-sacrificing woman deepened as the years went on. Mary's character, as it is revealed in her private diaries, which have been preserved, deserves those epithets. Profoundly religious and a convinced Protestant, Mary with prayers for guidance and not without many tears felt that the resolve of her husband to hazard all on armed intervention in England was fully justified; and at this critical juncture she had no hesitation in allowing her sense of duty to her husband and her Country to override that of a daughter to her father. [pg.272] Already in July vigorous preparations in all secrecy began to be made for the expedition. The naval yards were working at full pressure with the ostensible object of sending out a fleet to suppress piracy in the Mediterranean. The Stadtholder felt that he was able to rely upon the willing co-operation of the States in his project. His difficulty now, as always, was to secure the assent of Amsterdam. But the opposition of that city proved less formidable than was anticipated. The peril to Protestantism should England under James II be leagued with France, was evident, and scarcely less the security of the commerce on which Amsterdam depended for its prosperity. The support of Amsterdam secured that of the Estates of Holland; and finally, after thus surmounting successfully the elements of opposition in the town and the province, where the anti-Orange party was most strongly represented, the prince had little difficulty in obtaining, on October 8, the unanimous approval of the States-General, assembled in secret session, to the proposed expedition. By that time an army of 14,000 men had been gathered together and was encamped at Mook. Of these the six English and Scottish regiments, who now, as throughout the War of Independence, were maintained in the Dutch service, formed the nucleus. The force also comprised the prince's Dutch guards and other picked Dutch troops, and also some German levies. Marshal Schomberg was in command. The pretext assigned was the necessity of protecting the eastern frontier of the Republic against an attack from Cologne, where Cardinal Fürstenberg, the nominee and ally of Louis XIV, had been elected to the archiepiscopal throne.
Meanwhile diplomacy was active. D'Avaux was far too clear-sighted not to have discerned the real object of the naval and military preparations, and he warned both Louis XIV and James II. James, however, was obdurate and took no heed, while Louis played his enemy's game by declaring war on the Emperor and the Pope, and by invading the Palatinate instead of the Republic. For William had been doing his utmost to win over to his side, by the agency of Waldeck and Bentinck, the Protestant Princes of Germany, with the result that Brandenburg, Hanover, Saxony, Brunswick and Hesse had undertaken to give him active support against a French attack; while the constant threat against her possessions in the Belgic Netherlands compelled Spain to join the anti-French league which the Stadtholder had so long been striving to bring [pg.273] into existence. To these were now added the Emperor and the Pope, who, being actually at war with France, were ready to look favourably upon an expedition which would weaken the common enemy. The Grand Alliance of William's dreams had thus (should his expedition to England prove successful) come within the range of practical politics; and with his base secured Orange now determined to delay no longer, but to stake everything upon the issue of the English venture.
The prince bade farewell to the States-General on October 26, and four days later he set sail from Helvoetsluis, but was driven back by a heavy storm, which severely damaged the fleet. A fresh start was made on November 11. Admiral Herbert was in command of the naval force, which convoyed safely through the Channel without opposition the long lines of transports. Over the prince's vessel floated his flag with the words Pro Religione et Libertate inscribed above the motto of the House of Orange, Je maintiendray . Without mishap a landing was effected at Torbay, November 14 (5 o.s.), which was William's birthday, and a rapid march was made to Exeter. He met with no armed resistance. James' troops, his courtiers, his younger daughter the Princess Anne, all deserted him; and finally, after sending away his wife and infant son to France, the king himself left his palace at Whitehall by night and fled down the river to Sheerness. Here he was recognised and brought back to London. It was thought, however, best to connive at his escape, and he landed on the coast of France at Christmas. The expedition had achieved its object and William, greeted as a deliverer, entered the capital at the head of his army.
On February 13,1689, a convention, specially summoned for the purpose, declared that James by his flight had vacated the throne; and the crown was offered to William and Mary jointly, the executive power being placed in the hands of the prince.