Yolande van de Deijl: The Orange Way
It must have been an amazing sight when the hundreds of vessels came sailing through the English Channel. Thousands of onlookers flocked the dunes and beaches of Calais and Dover to observe this naval spectacle. Below deck on the battleship Den Briel, captain Van Esch had his men fired a few shots. Only Calais answered with one cannon shot. King James II felt horrified when he got word in London, even though this glorious operation could not come as a surprise. By now everybody was aware that Prince William of Orange and the Dutch had been expanding their fleet and that they were no longer alone. Now this international flotilla, almost three times bigger than the Spanish armada of exactly one hundred years earlier, sailed to do what it was designed for: to peacefully conquer England.
On 15 November, 1688 Orange landed in Brixham in Devon. That is, according to the new style calendar. Some historians and writers, often English and American, use November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, but I base the story on the journal of William’s secretary and bystander Constantijn Huygens. As a European, he adopted the new style and so do I. In his journal, Huygens tells us that William stopped at towns and hamlets and mansions of gentry who backed him. The route William and his army travelled from Brixham to London is called ‘the Orange Way’ and its course was first recorded by Les Ham as a walk in a book by that title (Meridian Books, 2003). There have also been eloquent recorders and eye witnesses like Gilbert Burnet and John Whittel.
In seventeenth century England, roads were no more than a recognized track over which people travelled. A trail, trodden down by horses, carriages and men, at some places as broad as hundreds of yards; at other points narrowed down to one or two yards. The poor condition of the roads and the dreadful weather in November and December 1688 slowed down progress, but it was essentially according William’s plan, to use time to influence James’ disposition. It worked. During the six weeks, William received support from nobles, officers and townsfolk. King James painfully observed how his officers joined Orange. When his most trusted officer John Churchill and his other daughter Anne left his side, James became desperate and paralyzed. It took him weeks to decide to follow his wife and son to France. He would never return.
Although Jacobite historians try to convince us otherwise, William did not come as a conqueror like his namesake in 1066. I believe William turned out to be a game changer. Most of all, William had been invited by English nobility and merchants to save England. Without their urgent request he would not have done it even though he had plenty of reason to. It is safe to conclude that this invasion was a win-win for England and for the Dutch Republic and eventually for Europe as a whole.
The period that followed William’s curious expedition is known as ‘the Glorious Revolution’ and after King William’s reign, that lasted thirteen years, the English carried on his ideas under a different name, ‘Balance of Power.’ The essentials remained the same and England could become the naval power of a new era and Europe finally got peace, albeit a fragile one, with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
It is these six weeks, preceding the Glorious Revolution, that inspire my photography and writing. As a visual person and anglophile, I love traveling in the footsteps of William. By capturing the landmarks between Brixham and London, I try to illustrate and visualize the march and imagine how it might have been. Through the lens, I hope to conceive an alternative, a somehow contemporary view of the traces William and his regiments left behind. History often presents itself in mysterious ways. In my forthcoming book about the Glorious Revolution, I investigate the crucial developments en route and scrutinize the key characters in this sensational Anglo-Dutch history.
Yolande van der Deijl (orangeway) is the author of the forthcoming The Orange Way, to be published initially in Dutch. For those interested in the book or in the Orange Way as a next holiday destination, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Piers Alexander: William and the Fifth Columnists: Propaganda, Spying and the Glorious Revolution
William of Orange’s 1688 invasion was a long time coming. Between 1671 and 1688, William became the first modern monarch to use propaganda and “fifth columnists” to sway public opinion, first against the England-France alliance, and then against James II.
Though the last Stuart kings were both (at one time affectionate) uncles to William of Orange, those family ties were inevitably broken by religion and geopolitics.
William, orphaned by the age of ten, carried the blood of English and Scots kings, but was staunchly Dutch and Protestant by upbringing. His great-grandfather, William the Silent, had been murdered by a Catholic fanatic; his grandmother was a Huguenot, a persecuted minority in Catholic France; and his country was continually threatened by Louis XIV’s France.
At the age of 21, William of Orange – at that time barred the rulership of Holland – came to realise that his uncle Charles II had signed a secret treaty with France aimed against the Dutch. In the subsequent war, his country suffered several defeats and was forced to make concessions to both England and France – although he benefited by being made stadtholder (ruler), now with Charles’ backing.
During the conflict, in 1673-74, William employed Peter Du Moulin, a member of England’s Council of Trade, to spread propaganda against the Anglo-French alliance, playing on anti-Catholicism as well as general suspicion of the French. By 1674, England withdrew from the war – a victory for William’s “fifth columnists.”
After the accession of James II in 1685, William again resorted to back channels to secure his position as next in line to the throne (expecting to reign jointly with his wife Mary, James’ daughter). He made contacts with leaders of the opposition as well as James’ allies, and became concerned about the potential for a second republican revolution in England. It is also arguable that he became even more concerned about losing the succession when James had a baby son by his second wife: William’s plan was to use the English military and naval power to deter France from attacking Holland again.
William’s agents became more adept at espionage, sending letters with invisible ink or by bypassing customs searches by putting letters on board at Gravesend. Officers of the Crown failed to prevent the secret correspondence that gave William confidence in his plans.
Ultimately, the opposition leaders called the “Immortal Seven” wrote to William to invite him to become king, and so the invasion began.
After his accession to the throne, espionage and plotting remained a feature of William’s rule. Assassination plots abounded – both real and invented – and the new king remained on his guard until his death in 1702. Perhaps this is unsurprising, considering his country had been at war with his own uncles twice before he was 22 years old.
Piers Alexander (website) is the author of The Bitter Trade, a historical novel set during the Glorious Revolution. The Bitter Trade won the Pen Factor and a Global Ebook Award for modern historical fiction, and is a top 5 European historical fiction bestseller on Amazon.com.
I reviewed Piers Alexander’s debut novel The Bitter Trade and rated it 4 stars! You can find the review here. Do you also want to read the book? Piers will give away 1 signed copy of the book and 3 ebook copies to any of my readers. This giveaway is open worldwide. What do you have to do to win? You just have to follow my blog on WordPress or by email ánd you have to leave a omment on this guestpost. Good luck!