William III

William of Orange - 1

To prevent a tumult or insurrection, the bishops were conveyed by water to their prison. The thing could not, however, be hidden from the people. Large numbers crowded the banks of the Themes and by loud demonstrations, extolled the constancy of the bishops. Some, falling down on their knees, invoked the bishop's blessings as their barge passed down the river. When they arrived at the Tower, the bishops ascended the stairs between a double row of officers and soldiers who, receiving them as confessors, kneeled to receive their blessing.

The Jesuits had foretold that should the king abolish the penal laws that had been passed in former time, excluding Catholics from holding positions of power, a work so acceptable to heaven, that he would be blessed with a Prince of Wales. It was now that the prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of a son. This was the one thing wanting in completing the plans of the Jesuits. It mattered not how zealous James might be for the cause of popery; without a son to continue in his place, all that was now being accomplished would amount to little. The king had now been provided with a successor, and the arrangement was complete for securing the perpetuity of the Roman faith in England.

The Jesuits' troubles were not yet altogether over, as on June 30, the bishops were acquitted. The joy of the people was unrestrained. The great news was speedily communicated to the cities of Westminster and London, and so loudly did the cities rejoice that their shouts were heard at Hounslo Heath. The soldiers now burst into loud cheers, and the sound was heard by the king who was that day being entertained in the Earl of Fevershams's tent. Wondering what the unusual noise might mean, the king sent the earl to inquire. The earl quickly returned with the reply that it was nothing but the soldiers shouting upon the acquittal of the bishops. "And do you call that nothing!" exclaimed the king, somewhat discomposed. A storm that had been quietly building was now beginning to role in from all directions.

On the very spot where Wycliffe had opened the war in 1360, Protestantism was no fighting one of its most momentous conflicts, in as much as this conflict would determine what fruit was to remain of all its past struggles.

The king, failing to correctly interpret the ominous signs, steadfastly purposed to pursue to the end those projects which appeared to him and his Jesuit advisers to be rapidly approaching. He had already successfully set up his dispensing power and with it was successfully overthrowing the laws, filling the judicial bench with his own men, and daily increasing the Catholic elements of the army by recruits from Ireland. He had dissolved Parliament; and should it please him to reassemble it, the same power which had given him a subservient army would also give him a subservient Parliament. The machinery was in place, ready for the destruction of religion and the liberties of England and with it, the work of two centuries.

Mary II

The imprisoning of the bishops and the birth of the new Prince of Wales were two events which the nation interpreted as sure portents of a coming slavery. As their was no voice in England powerful enough to awaken into life and action that spirit which had given so many martyrs to the stake in the days of Mary. At this time of crisis, the people of England turned their eyes beyond the sea in search of a deliverer. In Holland there was one man whom it seemed bore the qualifications necessary to bring deliverance. William III, of the House of Orange, was married to the daughter of James II and was next heir to the throne, after the young Prince of Wales. From the Tower, the Archbishop of Canterbury had communicated with him, as had the Bishop of London from his retirement in the country. Other bishops now crossed the sea, some of them on the pretext of visiting friends, and some, as they said, to benefit by the German spas. Dispatches and messengers were now constantly crossing and re-crossing the ocean, and James and the Jesuits might have known that the gathering storm was about to break on them had they not felt so secure in the hold they believed they had on England.

The representatives of most of the historic houses in England were more or less openly supporting the movement. Even so early as the death of Charles II, the Elector of Brandenburg is said to have urged William to undertake the deliverance of English Protestantism, offering to assist him; but the prince answered that he would attempt nothing against his father-in-law without an absolute necessity, but at the same time he protested that if he could not otherwise prevent the subversion of the laws and religion of England, he would undertake the voyage, though he should embark in a fishing boat. On a survey of the case, it now appeared to William that an absolute necessity had arisen, and he proceeded to make preparations accordingly.

In weighing his chances of success, William had to take into account the conditions of the other nations of Europe. Ranged against him were Austria, Spain, France, and of course, the monarch to be attacked, James II. These kingdoms, though not actually bound by a treaty, were all leagued together by a common faith and a common interest. Austria had held the balance of power in Europe for five hundred years and was not about to resign it. Spain, though fallen from the height to which it had attained a century earlier, was still a power to be reckoned with. France, her exchequer full and her armies flushed with victory, had never been more formidable than now. Louis XIV might well take the opportunity to attack Holland as soon as William had withdrawn his troops. To protect himself on this front, the Prince of Orange set out to detach, if possible, Austria and Spain from France, representing to them the danger of French ascendancy and pointing out to them that Louis was not so much fighting for the religion of Rome as to make himself a universal monarch. So successful was William that the courts of Madrid and Vienna became very cool toward France, abating to a degree the danger of William's great enterprise.

In his support, many of the princes of Protestant Europe gathered about William. Many names, famous for the part they had played in earlier years, were numbered among his supporters. There were the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and the Princes of the House of Luneberg. Greatly disturbed with the outcome of the Peace of Westphalia after the Thirty Years' War, they were of one mind that it urgently needed to be redressed by upholding the Protestant Church and restoring the liberties of England, while at the same time, setting a limit to the growing power of France.

James' envoy at The Hague, becoming aware of the prince's design to invade England, made the king aware that a plan was underfoot. At the same time, the king learned, to his great dismay, that numerous of the lords and gentlemen of England had crossed the sea and would return under the banners of the invader. The air castle, built by the magic spells of his Jesuit advisers, vanished in a moment.

James' first device to meet the crisis was an attempt to prejudice the people beforehand against the planned invasion. A proclamation was issued warning that a great and sudden invasion from Holland by an armed force of foreigners was imminent and that under some false pretenses relating to liberty and religion, the invading force proposed an absolute conquest of his Majesty's kingdoms and the utter subduing and subjection of his subjects to a foreign power. In addition, the clergy were now courted; and a general amnesty was proclaimed, excepting a score of persons. These measures, however, fell short of having the desired effect, as forced amnesties were always a sign in the eyes of the people of a monarch's weakness rather than a disposition to show mercy.

At this moment an event happened which furnished William with a pretext for the warlike preparations he was so busily pushing forward with a view to his English expedition, and also closed the door by which the French might enter Holland in his absence. On the 2nd of June, 1688, the Elector of Cologne died. This principality commanded twenty leagues of the Rhine, and this placed the keys of both the Netherlands and Holland in the hands of its chief. It was therefore a. matter of grave importance for the peace and safety of the Dutch States who should fill the vacant electorate. Germany and France brought forward each its candidate. If the French king should succeed in the election, war was inevitable on the Rhine, and for this it behooved William of Orange to be prepared, and so his naval armaments went forward without exciting suspicion. It was the German candidate who was eventually elected, and thus an affair which in its progress had masked the preparations of the Prince of Orange, in its issue extended protection to an undertaking which otherwise would have been attended with far greater difficulty.

◄List of Articles►Next Article