Map of England

A Protestant England

The fleet originally began in a northerly direction; but the wind being strong and full from the east, this course had to be abandoned on the second day and a westward course was taken. Had the northerly course been persisted in, the fleet would have encountered the English navy, which was assembled near Harwich in the belief that the prince would land in northern England. But happily the wind, rising to a brisk gale, carried them right across to the mouth of the Channel and, at the same time, kept the English fleet wind-bound in port. At noon on November 3, the Dutch fleet passed between Dover and Calais. It was a sight to behold, the fleet sailing proudly between the shores of France and England, its decks crowded with officers and soldiers, while the coast on both sides was lined with crowds, gathered to gaze on the grand spectacle.

William had chosen Portsmouth as his choice of a landing place and advised the pilot to be careful not to steer past it. A haze arose, however, making it very difficult to measure the course; and by the time it had cleared, it was evident that they had sailed farther down-channel than the intended port of debarkation. As the wind still blew from the east, it was impossible to return to it. To go on to Plymouth, the next alternative, involved considerable hazard, for it was uncertain how the Earl of Bath, who commanded there, might receive them. Besides, Plymouth was not nearly so commodious for landing as Torbay, which they had now passed in the haze. While they were considering what to do, the wind became calm. After a few minutes, it changed directions, coming stiffly from the southwest; and within four hours, the whole fleet was anchored in Torbay. Scarcely had the ships dropped anchor when the win returned and blew again from the east.

They had no sooner effected the debarkation of men, horses, and stores, than the wind changed again, and setting in from the west, it blew a violent storm. Sheltered by the western arm of the bay, William’s ships suffered no damage from this tempest; not so the king’s fleet, which till now had been wind-bound at Harwich. They had learned that William’s ships had passed down the Channel, and the commander was eager to pursue them. The calm which enabled William to enter Torbay, had also allowed the king’s navy to leave their roadstead, and setting out in pursuit of the enemy they had come as far as the Isle of Wight when they were met by this storm. They were tossed on the rollers of the Channel for some days, and though at last they managed to enter Portsmouth, it was in so shattered a condition that they were unfit for service that year. By the immediate hand of Heaven, says Burnet, we were masters of the sea without a blow. I never found a disposition to superstition in my temper; I was rather inclined to be philosophical upon all occasions. Yet I must confess that this strange ordering of the winds and seasons, just to change as our affairs required it, could not but make deep impressions upon me, as well as on all who observed it.

England Gathers Around William

For the first few days it was doubtful what reception England would give its deliverer. The winds were Protestant, everyone acknowledged, but would the currents of the political and social firmament prove equally so. The terror of the executions which had followed the uprising under Monmouth still weighed on the nation. The forces that William had brought with him appeared inadequate, and on these and other grounds many stood in doubt of the issue. But in a few days the tide of Protestant feeling began to flow; first the people declared in favor of William—next the gentry of the neighboring counties gave in their accession to him; and lastly the nobles gathered under his banners. Of soul too magnanimous and strong to be either easily elated or easily cast down, this tardiness of the people of England to assert their liberties, which William had come across the sea to vindicate, drew from the prince a dignified rebuke. Addressing the gentlemen of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire (November 15), we find him saying, “You see we are come according to your invitation and our promise. Our duty to God obliges us to protect the Protestant religion, and our love to mankind your liberties and properties. We expected you that dwelt so near the place of our landing would have joined us sooner; not that it is now too late, nor that we want your military assistance so much as your countenance and presence, to justify our declared pretensions, in order to accomplish our good and gracious design. Therefore, gentlemen, friends, and fellow Protestants, we bid you and all your followers most heartily welcome to our court and camp. Let the whole world now judge if our pretensions are not just, generous, sincere, and above price, since we might have even a bridge of gold to return back; but it is our principle rather to die in a good cause than live in a bad one.”

The Flight of James

Courage is as contagious as fear. Crowds of all ranks followed the first accessions to the prince. The bishops, the great cities, the nation at large declared on his side. The king made hardly any show of opposition. The tempests of the ocean had disabled his fleet; a spirit of desertion had crept in among his soldiers, and his army could not be relied on. The priests and Jesuits, who had urged him to violent measures, forsook him now, when he was in extremity, and consulted their own safety in flight. The friends on whom formerly he had showered his, favors, and whom he believed incapable of ever deserting him, proved false; even his own children forsook him. No one stood by him at this hour but his queen, and she deemed it prudent to retire to France. The man who but a few days before stood at the head of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, who had fleets and armies at his command, who had around him so numerous and powerful an aristocracy, was in a moment, with hardly a sword unsheathed against him, stripped of all, and now stood alone, his friends scattered, his armies in revolt, his kingdom alienated and his power utterly broken. Overwhelmed by the suddenness and greatness of his calamities, he fled, no man pursuing, throwing, in his flight, the great seal into the Thames; and having reached the seacoast, the once mighty monarch threw himself into a small boat, crossed the Channel, and sought the protection of the man whose equal he had been till this unhappy hour, but on whose bounty he was henceforth content to subsist.

William Crowned King

The throne being thus vacated, William ascended the throne as the representative of Protestantism. Protestantism planting herself at the center of an empire whose circuit then encircled the globe, saw in this glorious outcome the harvest of the toils and blood of the many thousands of heroes, confessors, and martyrs whom she had nurtured.

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