Tag Archives: William of Orange

23rd December 1688……..James II Ships Out to France.

And so the last monarch of the House of Stuart slipped away, without ceremony, on a ship to France and exile. There were few to witness his supine departure and Bonnie Dundee was not among them. The newly ennobled Viscount had taken his final leave of the King some days previously prior to James embarking on the barge at Whitehall that would transfer him to his final departure point.

James slips away from London on 18th December, heading for the coast.

James slips away from London on 18th December, heading for the coast.

During this exchange Dundee had brought to bear his not inconsiderable powers of persuasion in an effort to persuade James to remain and lead the fight to overturn his unlawful usurpation from the throne by William of Orange. However, this king had never been a man to bend his shoulder to the wheel of personal effort. And faced with a choice between maintaining, after a fashion, his regal court in exile, or the uncertainty and rough life of a counter-usurper he jumped on his boat and fled.

James heads into exile.

James heads for France and exile.

The only historical mark surviving from his precipitate flight is a blue plaque on the wall of the house where he spent his last night in his kingdom and a personal note he left outlining his grievances at the way matters had developed: a prolonged whinge about what was said and done by those who had schemed to bring about his replacement which does nothing to enhance history’s view of his shortcomings as a man and a monarch.

Plaque at the house in Rochester where James spent the night before sailing for France

Plaque at the house in Rochester where James spent the night before sailing for France

From the moment William had stepped ashore at Torbay in November with 21,000 troops behind him, support for James had gradually ebbed away. By the time that the single military action of the campaign was fought at Reading on 9th December , all was done and dusted. A combination of naked self-interest on the part of English and Scottish nobility and lack-lustre leadership from James had served the crown to William and his soon-to-be co-Ruler Anne, on the proverbial silver platter.

James' letter, intended for public consumption, comprising his list of whinges

James’ letter, intended for public consumption, comprising his list of whinges

A week before James’ final departure he had made an initial effort to flee to France. As in most of his kingly endeavours during his reign, he made a hash of it and had been compelled to return to London somewhat shamefacedly. It was at this point, 17th December, the day before he jumped onto his barge to head to Dover that he had a final conference with the last remaining men of substance that he had around him.

Engaged in a conference in Whitehall with various motley individuals who sought to give him false assurances, he withdrew out to the Mall, summoning with him, Viscount Dundee and Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres.  The three men walked awhile and discussed the stark reality of the position.

We have no firm record of this conversation. James, it appears, was determined to flee, fearing that his life was in danger. Both Dundee and Balcarres would have sought to persuade him that if he was going to depart his capital that he should head north to Scotland where firm cause could be made. Their efforts were unsuccessful. Promising to send from France royal commissions for both men to drive his affairs civil and military, he then took his final leave of them.

At this very moment William was arriving in west London at the home of the Countess of Northumberland. The following day with James now gone, he took up quarters in St James’Palace.  On its military side, the Revolution was now accomplished.

 

 

 

 

 

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9th December 1688 The Battle of Reading

This was the main military event of William of Orange’s Dutch invasion.

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Britain, we are often told, has never been successfully invaded in a thousand years. Napoleon and Hitler both gave it serious thought but apparently realised the futility of the idea. And since William’s Norman knights destroyed the Shield Wall of Harold’s Saxons at Hastings in 1066, it has never been successfully attempted.

This, like so many other notions handed down to schoolchildren over the years, is in fact false.

In the dying months of 1688, as James II, the last incumbent of the House of Stuart struggled to hold on to the legacy which had been faithfully handed down continuously over three centuries, a hostile Armada sailed from Holland, intent on removing said monarch from his throne and seizing the kingdom by naked force of arms.

King James II

King James II

Ever since James had ascended the throne following the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685, his calamitous and cack-handed rule had emphasised the divisions within his three kingdoms and given strength to the various bodies of self-interest who were opposed to his Catholicism on the grounds of their own narrow religious inclinations.

On 10th June 1688 James’ wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a male heir and the concerns of many of these bodies now crystallised and plotting for a military overthrow of the British Kingdom which had been on-going since April now burgeoned into action.

James' wife, Mary of Modena

James’ wife, Mary of Modena

 

Chief amongst these holders of vested interest was the Dutch Parliament, the States-General. The smouldering embers of the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78 now re-ignited as this august body, envisaging a formal Catholic Alliance between the British and French thrones with the consequent damage to Dutch interests, moved to direct military intervention.

The Dutch States General in 1688. The principal instigators of the successful invasion of the United Kingdom.

The Dutch States General in 1688. The principal instigators of the successful invasion of the United Kingdom.

William’s fleet of some 500 ships, probably four times greater than the legendary Spanish Armada of 1588, set sail after on 1st November and made landfall at Torbay in Devon 4 days later. 21, 000 hostile and, mostly foreign troops stepped ashore with the Dutch Parliament’s front man, prepared to conquer the kingdom by force of arms.

William lands at Torbay

William lands at Torbay

Amongst their number walked that intrepid military opportunist Hugh MacKay. Under whose generalship  William’s now British Army would be destroyed at Killiecrankie the following summer.

Concern about the threat of a Dutch invasion had been clear for many months. In September King James had written to the Scots Privy Council with instructions that Scotland’s entire standing army, with the exception of the garrisons of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton Castle should forthwith heads south, initially to Carlisle and thence to Chester.

 

It has been argued cogently that these forces could do nothing to stem the progress of William’s invasion force and that had they remained then Dundee would have had considerably greater resources to hand when the decisive Scottish encounter was fought at Killiecrankie ten months later. But this is to surrender to the vicissitudes of hindsight.

 

One week after William’s forces landed, James raised the faithful Claverhouse to the Scottish peerage, conferring upon him the title Viscount of Dundee.

 

Meantime William’s army sat inactive at Exeter. King James’ forces took up station at Salisbury to block the route to London. And on 17th November the King left the capitol to take up personal command of the army.

James’ timorous nature and clumsy handling of his regal responsibilities now began to bear fruit as many of his senior commanders, more mindful of their personal interests than of their proper, sworn loyalty to their rightful monarch, now began to melt away.

 

Given this encouragement, William began to advance from Exeter and as they reached Wincanton, the increasingly irresolute James withdrew the army to Reading.

 

The newly ennobled Bonnie Dundee had watched James’ futile efforts at warfare and the treachery which had done much to make it so, with increasing dismay. Maintaining the Scottish cavalry as a single coherent body he marched it to Reading.

At this point he then endeavoured to present to his monarch the three realistic options which he now believed to face him: to give battle to William, to meet with him personally and negotiate a position or to “make his way to Scotland, upon the coldness he observed in the English army and nation”.

Viscount Dundee

Viscount Dundee

 

The accounts of the battle itself are brief and depressingly similar with the suspicion of convenient re-interpretation inevitably hanging heavily in the air. A contingent of Dutch troops, some 250 in number, against the town. They engaged a portion of James’ army, mostly Irish, and within a short period of time had mastered them. Much is made of the apparent efforts of Reading citizens to our hostile fire from their windows into the ranks of the home army but it stretches credibility somewhat.

 

Nonetheless, the outcome is beyond dispute and any realistic military opposition in England to the hostile Dutch invasion had come to an end.

 

The dismal consequences of this require no repetition: William and his spouse were installed first as joint rulers of England then at a disastrous Convention in Edinburgh in March, the decision was taken to confer the Scottish Crown upon them. Dundee’s subsequent military campaign to restore King James to his throne effectively ended at the Battle if Killiecrankie where Dundee fell at the moment of victory.

 

The unhappy litany of disaster then continues with such notable events as the Massacre of Glencoe and the signing of the Act of Union in 1707.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth of William Carstares – a scoundrel by any standards

John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee was born in 1648. Strangely enough, in that same year, and the one following, a handful of individuals were also born who would all have key roles to play on the enthralling religious, political and military stage that was to be Scotland in the latter part of the 17th century.

Men like John Dalrymple who would go on to become the Master of Stair and play a prominent role in events such as the Massacre of Glencoe and the signing of the Treaty of Union in 1707. Men like Richard Cameron, known to posterity as the Lion of the Covenant. Men like James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth, who was to become Lord Chancellor of Scotland and introduce the use of thumbscrews into the kingdom. Also his brother, John, born in 1649, and would as the Earl of Melfort, do more political damage to King James’ cause than any other during the key period between the Glorious Revolution and the culmination of Dundee’s Rising at the Battle of Killiecrankie.

Also of this generation was William Carstares, born in Cathcart, Glasgow on this day in 1649. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister who held some sympathy at the time with those many who protested against King Charles I’s initiatives but he did not take an extreme position. So the atmosphere of young William’s upbringing was a balanced one, redolent with tolerance and Presbyterian piety.

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 360Cathcart Parish, Glasgow. William Carstares birth place

William, however, did not take after his father who would famously say of him in later years, in a curiously Blackadderesque manner, that ..”he would plot and plot till he plotted his head off. Ministers of the Gospel are not called on to meddle with that work.”

William_Carstares_about_1700William Carstares

Ordained a Protestant minister in Holland, Carstares was drawn into the circle around William, Prince of Orange.

William , Prince of OrangeWilliam, Prince of Orange

During the 3rd Anglo Dutch war (1672 – 1674), Carstares played an important role as master spy for William, moving between England and Holland, under the cunning and completely unsuspicious nom de plume of William Williams. In September 1674 he was arrested in England for espionage. No firm evidence was uncovered despite threats of torture and he was sent to EdinburghCastle where he would remain a prisoner until 1679. He was released then along with a number of other malcontents as the Scottish Government sought to ameliorate the political climate after the Covenanter uprising which had ended at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge.

Undiscouraged by his years in jail, Carstares threw himself once more into the feverish world of political plotting. He was involved in a Whig Plot during the Exclusion Crisis when the presbyterian gentry sought to exclude the King’s brother (James, Duke of York and future James VII & II) from the succession, on the grounds of his Catholicism. The plan was to replace him instead with Charles’ illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. Charles managed to avoid this by using his Royal Prerogative to dissolve the English Parliament, in 1679.

Then in 1683 Carstares was implicated in the unsuccessful Rye House Plot. A scheme which had the naked intention of assassinating both the King and his brother as they travelled to Newmarket races.

Rye_House_1793_Turner (of plot fame)Rye House. Setting for the infamous plot

He was arrested again and this time subjected to various tortures including the Boot and the notorious Thumbikins.

thumbikinsThe dreaded Thumbikins

 He made a deal with the Secretary of State in Scotland, John Drummond, that his statement would not be used against himself. However, it was enough to see the conviction of his fellow conspirator, Baillie of Jerviswood, who was subsequently put to death with all the hideousness associated with traitor’s executions prevalent at the time.

Baillie of JerviswoodBaillie of Jerviswood. Another victim of Carstares shennanigans.

Carstares was subsequently released and headed back immediately to Holland in time to become involved with the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 when an armed force, hostile to the newly crowned King James II & VII, landed at Lyme Regis under the command of Monmouth, while a smaller force landed in Scotland under that incorrigible Covenanting hardliner, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll. The Rising was subsequently crushed at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July by forces loyal to the king. Fortunately, for his political future, Cartsares had remained in Holland, so once again escaped retribution for his crimes.

Sedgemoor 3

Battle of Sedgemoor. Presbyterian hopes crushed again.

When William’s army invaded England in the lead up to the Glorious Revolution in 1688, Carstares was this time on the boat and by William’s side in the newly created official capacity of William’s Royal Chaplain for Scotland.

Landing of William of OrangeWilliam, Prince of Orange, lands at Torbay in 1688.

Finally after all the years of scheming and plotting, Carstares’ fortunes had now become completely transformed. Following William’s triumph, in the aftermath of James II & VII’ s flight to France, he became a hugely influential member of William’s court and would be his primary advisor in all matters Scottish, manipulating affairs through his established methodology of scheming deviousness.

Following William’s death he remained at court as advisor to Queen Mary II & II and was subsequently elected principal of Edinburgh University. He played a key role in pushing through the abhorrence of Parliamentary Union in 1707 and when in 1714 Mary’s successor, Queen Anne, died and the unified parliament cast about Europe to find an acceptably protestant monarch before finally settling on the Electress of Hanover’s son George, Carstares was still around to have the office of Royal Chaplain conferred upon him yet again.

He finally died late in December 1715, of apoplexy, having survived long enough to see the failure of the latest Jacobite military effort to reverse the events of the Glorious Revolution and restore the Stuart Monarchy to the unified throne.

January 24th 1679 – Charles II dissolves the Cavalier Parliament

On this day in 1679 Charles II dissolved the seemingly interminable Cavalier Parliament. This had opened almost 18 years previously in May 1661 but still sat for less time than Charles I’s Long Parliament of 1640 – 1660.

The first act of this august body was to pass the Sedition Act which declared the Solemn League and Covenant null and void and ordered it be publicly burned. 17 years too late in the mind of many, as by then the damage was done. The Solemn League, signed in 1643, was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the English Parliament by which the Scots agreed to provide military aid to the English against their mutual, lawful king, in exchange for their agreement to ensure the extirpation of papacy and prelacy and, ultimately and bizarrely, the imposition of the full weight of dogmatic Presbyterianism on the people of England.

the solemn league

   Solemn League and Covenant – publicly repudiated and burned by order of the Cavalier Parliament

Unsurprisingly there was a host of other legislation passed during this epic sitting and much repealing of legislation passed during the twenty years of the Long Parliament, so rigidly opposed to Charles I. Although at one point Parliament had to adjourn to Oxford to conduct its business due to the Great Fire.

great fire of london                                Great Fire of London – Cavalier Parliament moved to Oxford

This included the Militia Act which placed the command of the armed forces wholly and clearly under the King’s authority. Also the Indemnity and Oblivion Act which pardoned all involved in the regicide of Charles I in 1649 with the exception of those directly involved. Who was to be included on this list was the subject of rancorous debate for some two months as names were added to the original list of seven miscreants and others taken off. John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, walked free.

John Milton

John Milton – pardoned for his part in Charles I’s regicide

Ultimately only thirteen individuals were executed for this heinousness. Although nineteen were imprisoned for life and a further three, already dead by the time of Charles II’s restoration, had their bodies desecrated.

Also repealed was the Bishops’ Exclusion Act of 1642 which permitted the aforementioned Bishops to resume their temporal positions from which they had been heaved so unceremoniously by the previous regime. And the first licensing of hackney carriages took place.

hackney-coach-1680

Hackney cabs – first licensed by the Cavalier Parliament

However, after this promising start relations between the king and his parliament deteriorated. Prejudice against the King’s brother, the Duke of York and future King James II and VII, led to a raft of provocative legislation; requiring the taking of oaths renouncing papal authority, imposing the requirement of parliamentary consent to royal marriages and the threat of charges of high treason against the Duke of York led to a difficult and confrontational atmosphere reminiscent of the situation prevailing under Charles I twenty years earlier.

Ultimately the king’s disastrous foreign intriguing over the Dutch French war, with his foreign secretary Lord Danby, during which it was decided that marrying the Duke of York’s daughter, Mary, to William of Orange would be helpful and constructive step to ensuring the future prosperity of the Stuart monarchy, led to a situation of deep and mutual distrust which was tipped over the edge by the hysterical nonsense of the Popish Plot and Charles was forced to agree the parliament’s dissolution.

 

 

 

The English Convention Parliament (1689) – King James’ Usurpation Legitimised.

James II succeeded to the throne of the three kingdoms in 1685 following the death of his brother Charles II. The three years of his reign were an unhappy time for all as the king’s Catholicism left him unprepared to compromise even a little with the growing religious demands of his mostly Protestant subjects, particularly in Scotland.

James II                                                                   King James II

Dissatisfaction led to intrigue and conspiracy as William of Orange’s ambition for the crown coincided with the desire of many of the men of influence at the Royal Court to replace James with a suitably protestant successor.

Amid much scheming in both Dutch and English courts, towards the end of 1688, a plan was hatched to usurp James. And so, on 5th November William of Orange landed at Brixham at the head of an uninvited army of some 40,000 men, twice the size of the Spanish Armada,

Landing of William of Orange

William of Orange lands at Torbay

On the 9th November William’s forces seized Exeter after the magistrates had fled. And on 18th November Plymouth surrendered to the Dutch. There was a brief skirmish at Wincanton where a small force of James’ English army defeated a small party of Dutch scouts before retreating.

However, as the days went on there were widespread political and military defections to William as James was abandoned by subjects, friends and family.

As the Dutch army marched towards London, James, with characteristic indecision, first fled the capital only to return on being discovered in flight.

However, by 17th December with William and his forces on the verge of entering London there could be no other recourse than the king abandoning his throne and leaving for exile. On this day James was attended by Bonnie Dundee and Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres, the last 2 nobles of his court who remained loyal to the Stuarts.

(c) Traquair Charitable Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres

The three of them walked for a while in the Mall. James briefed Balcarres to attend to the civil affairs of Scotland and told Dundee he would receive a commission to command his army. And he left them trudging disconsolately off into exile.

So James was gone and William had arrived, without any major fighting much to the satisfaction of the miscreants involved. However, such a usurpation was unprecedented and had no easy resolution from the constitutional viewpoint.

William refused to simply take the crown as de facto king, preferring that the whole arrangement be properly documented and he gave instructions for an assembly of peers to be called. This gathering, on 22 January 1689, has become known as the Convention Parliament. Its purpose was to justify the overthrow of the properly anointed monarch and as such it had no legal standing.

For three weeks month arguments were heard as to the various proposals for monarchical arrangements going forward. Should William rule alone, or his wife, Mary who was James’s sister? Should, in fact, the throne pass to James and Mary’s sister Anne, who was satisfyingly protestant and who did, in the fullness of time, inherit the throne. Arguments were also put forward for a republic and the small voices of the loyal bishops proposed that James should be conditionally restored to the throne of his fathers.

De Hooghe's image of William III addressing the convention 'Parliament'

William of Orange addresses the Convention Parliament

It was, however, duly determined that since England was a protestant kingdom only a protestant could rule. The Commons agreed that the throne had become vacant due to the king’s abdication but the Lords rejected this as abdication was then a term of no legal standing. And furthermore that if the throne had become vacant then it should pass to the next in line which would be Mary.

Eventually, amidst the tawdry postulating over how best to tie up the loose ends of the whole debased affair, the Lords proposed that William and Mary should rule jointly, and the Commons agreed on the basis that William alone would hold the regal power.

William IIIs coronation

Coronation of William III and II and Mary II

On 13th February William and Mary were duly proclaimed joint monarchs of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. And on 23rd February, with the same deft touch, the new King William retrospectively converted the Convention into a legitimate Parliament by dissolving it and summoning it again to pass the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689.

He further ordered that a similar assembly be called in Edinburgh in order that he might be properly anointed monarch there. And it was this Convention of the Three Estates which opened on 14 March 1689 from which Bonnie Dundee withdrew and left to eventually raise the standard for the King and commence the campaign which ended at Killiecrankie.

And so a key turning point was reached in the History of Scotland. Within 20 years we would witness such events as the Massacre of Glencoe, the Darien disaster and finally and fatally, Parliamentary union with all that has come to pass from there.

11th August 1674: Bonnie Dundee Saves William of Orange’s Life at the Battle of Seneff

On this day in 1674 occurred one of those events in Dundee‘s life which, like many others, is shrouded in uncertainty.

   In 1672, at 24 years old, he had been commissioned as a junior Lieutenant in Sir William Lockhart’s Scots Regiment serving under the command of the Duke of Monmouth in the French Army of Marshall Turenne. With the ending of this war the following year, Monmouth returned to Britain with his forces. Dundee travelled around Europe for some months then, with the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch war, he returned to Holland, volunteering for William of Orange’s personal guard and was given the rank of Cornet.

In the summer of 1674 William led his army south into the territory of Northern France. This area was defended by a French force commanded by the Prince de Conde, one of the ablest captains of the age. For five weeks both armies manoeuvred around each other without engaging in decisive battle. On the 10th of August, William decided to head for Paris in order to force the enemy into fighting.

Prince-de-Conde-Lg

   Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde

Conde sensed his opportunity and detached a force of 500 horsemen to engage the Dutch vanguard near the village of Seneffe, 30 km NE of Mons in modern Belgium. In the meantime, Condé tried to surround the 60,000 allied troops with the 45,000 men at his disposal. His horsemen successfully kept the Dutch vanguard busy, but his attempted envelopment of the main allied force failed. After ten hours of heavy struggle Condé’s force had suffered 8,000 dead or wounded and William’s army 11,000. Both armies retreated from the battlefield claiming victory.

During the course of the battle William’s horse foundered when in close proximity to the enemy. Dundee pulled William onto his own horse and carried him away from danger.  William duly rewarded this personal service by giving Dundee a commission as Captain in his own regiment of Horse Guards. A body of men commanded by the Count de Somes, who subsequently led the Hanoverian van at the Battle of the Boyne.

Bataille_de_Seneffe_de_B.Gagneraux

 William of Orange unhorsed during the battle

This was the last battle fought by Conde in a long and illustrious career and his conduct of it has been heavily criticised. Particularly as on three occasions he personally led cavalry charges against the Dutch forces at great risk to himself. Nonetheless he was subsequently grandly received by Louis XIV at Versailles. An event magnificently captured on canvas by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Réception_du_Grand_Condé_à_Versailles_(Jean-Léon_Gérôme,_1878)

Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. The Grand                            Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his                            path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs.

There is no mention of Dundee’s rescue of William in any contemporary accounts of the battle. And the tale itself has been contemptuously rejected by the erstwhile British historian Thomas Macaulay, who was, unfortunately,  not fully familiarised with all of the primary sources. Nonetheless, it is clear that Dundee did provide William with some significant personal service around this time. The truth of it is acceptable to all but the die-hard who, in Daviot’s words, will be satisfied with nothing less than William’s personal account with the signature twice witnessed. Whether this event took place at Seneff or the later siege of St Omer in 1677, it clearly did happen. Thus demonstrating his courage in battle and ensuring that his mettle was known to the Prince of Orange.

After the Peace of Nimeguen in 1678, the continent was once more at peace and Dundee resigned his commission in the Dutch service and crossed over to Britain taking with him a reputation for courage and ability that at once recommended him to the King and Duke of York for a man likely to be useful in such affairs as they had then on hand.

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