James II

William of Orange - 2

On October 3, the bishops strongly counseled the king that an entire reversal of his policy would be advisable. The now somewhat subdued monarch conceded to nearly all of their demands. The reforms had just begun to be implemented when the news arrived that the Dutch fleet had been driven back by a storm. The concessions were immediately withdrawn, lowering James even more in the confidence of the nation.

Early in September, however, the king next received, through his envoy at The Hague, certain news of the prince’s design to descend on England. At the same time James learned that numerous lords and gentlemen had crossed the sea, and would return under the banners of the invader. Upon the reading of this letter the king remained speechless, and as it were, thunder-struck. The airy castle of a dispensing arbitrary power, raised by the magic spells of Jesuitical counsels, vanished in a moment, and the deluded monarch, freed from his enchantment by the approach of the Prince of Orange, found himself on the brink of a precipice, whilst all his intoxicating flatterers stood amazed and confounded at a distance, without daring to offer him a supporting hand, lest his greater weight should hurry both him and them into the abyss.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Prince of Orange was providing transports and embarking his troops with the utmost diligence. To justify his undertaking to the world, he published, on the 10th of October, a declaration in twenty-six articles, comprehending, first, an enumeration of the oppressions under which the English nation groaned; secondly, a statement of the remedies which had been used in vain for the removal of these grievances; and thirdly, a declaration of the reasons that moved him to undertake the deliverance of England. “His expedition,” he said, “was intended for no other design but to have a free and lawful Parliament assembled,” to which all questions might be referred, touching “the establishment of the Protestant religion, and the peace, honor, and happiness of these nations upon lasting foundations.”

All things being ready, the Prince of Orange took solemn leave of the States. Standing on the threshold of his great enterprise, he again protested that he had no other objects than those set forth in his declaration. Most of the senators were melted into tears, and could only in broken utterances declare their love for their prince, and their wishes for his success.

The Deliverance of England

On October 19, William boarded; and the Dutch fleet, consisting of fifty-two men-of-war, twenty-five frigates, and as many other ships that carried supplies, horses, and the foot soldiers, put to sea with a wind out of the south, southwest. Admiral Herbert led the fleet, and Vice-Admiral Evertzen brought up the rear, with the prince in the center carrying an English flag emblazoned with his arms, surrounded with the legend, “For the Protestant Religion and Liberties of England.”

Gathered beneath the banners of William, now advancing to deliver England and put the crown upon many a previous conflict was a brilliant assemblage, representative of several nations. Besides the Count of Nassau, and other Dutch and German commanders, there came with the prince those English and Scottish noblemen and gentlemen whom persecution had compelled to flee to Holland. The most illustrious of the French exiles joined in this expedition, and contributed by their experience and bravery to its success. Moreover, 736 officers, mostly veterans, accustomed to conquer under Turenne and Condé, commanded in William’s battalions. Besides these was a chosen body of three regiments of infantry and one squadron of cavalry, composed entirely of French refugees. Each regiment numbered 750 fighting men. Marshal Schomberg commanded under the orders of the Prince of Orange, and such was the confidence reposed in his character and abilities that the Princess of Orange gave him, it is said, secret instructions to assert her rights and carry out the enterprise, should her husband fall. Two other refugee officers were similarly commissioned, should both the prince and the marshal fall. Thus had his two greatest enemies provided William with an army. Louis of France and James of England had sent the flower of their generals, statesmen, and soldiers to swell this expedition; and popish tyranny had gathered out of the various countries, and assembled under one avenging banner, a host that burned to fight the great crowning battle of Protestantism.

The first night the fleet was at sea, the wind veered to the north, setting to the northwest. It soon rose to a violent storm which continued all the next day. The fleet was driven back to the shores they had just left, but there was loss of neither ships nor life. It was quickly rumored in England that the Dutch fleet had gone to the bottom, whereupon the Romanists sang a loud, though premature, triumph over the supposed disaster which they regarded as a just compensation for the destruction of the Armada exactly one hundred years earlier. To keep up the delusion and make the English Court more relaxed in their preparations, the Amsterdam and Haarlem gazettes were ordered to relate that a great disaster had overtaken the expedition and that it would be next to impossible for the prince to resume his design until the next spring.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Orange issued a declaration to the English army in which he told them, "We are come to preserve your religion, and restore and establish your liberties and properties, and therefore we cannot suffer ourselves to doubt but that all true Englishmen will come and concur with us in our desire to secure these nations from popery and slavery. You must all plainly see that you are only made use of as instruments to enslave the nation and ruin the Protestant religion, and when that is done, you may judge what you yourselves may expect. . . . We hope that you will not suffer yourselves to be abused by a false notion of honor, but that you will in the first place consider what you owe to Almighty God, and next to your country, yourselves, and your posterity." Wylie, The History of Protestantism, vol. 3, 622. Admiral Herbert addressed a similar letter at the same time to his Majesty's navy, exhorting them to join the prince in the common cause. These appeals had a good effect upon the soldiers and sailors, many of whom resolved not to draw a sword in the quarrel till they had secured a free Parliament and a guarantee for the laws, the liberties, and the religion of England.

The storm continued for eight days, during which the entire fleet was refitted and re-supplied. When all was ready, the wind changed to the east. With the "Protestant wind," as the sailors called it, the fleet set sail a second time. It was divided into three squadrons. The English and Scottish division of the armament sailed under a red flag; the Brandenburghers and the guards of William under a white; and the Dutch and French, commanded by the Count of Nassau, under a blue.