03 October 2014

The Paper Battlefield: The Glorious Revolution of 1688/1689

The Glorious Revolution was the first war to be fought on paper, not on the battlefield. It’s a story of secret treaties, heartfelt letters of betrayal, religious policies and propaganda, and not a single shot was fired when the crown changed hands (though hundreds of thousands of Scots and Irish suffered in its aftermath). Here are the print and paper battles that shaped modern England:
The Secret Treaty of Dover
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.

The Secret Treaty of Dover, © BBC

The Fifth Columnists and their Pamphlets
William of Orange’s 1688 invasion was a long time coming. Between 1671 and 1688, William became the first modern monarch to use propaganda to sway public opinion, first against the England-France alliance, and then against James II. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War that followed the Treaty of Dover, William employed Peter Du Moulin, a member of England’s Council of Trade, to spread propaganda against the Anglo-French alliance. Their pamphlets played 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.”

Secret letters and invisible ink
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.

The London Gazette and the Declaration of Indulgence
James II made two crucial mistakes, which antagonized England’s large non-conformist population. First, he tried to suppress news of Louis XIV’s brutality in France by censoring the London Gazette, making Protestant leaders even more suspicious of his Catholicism. Then he issued the Declaration of Indulgence, which allowed freedom of worship. Paradoxically, this encouraged thousands of Huguenots to flee to England, bearing more tales of Catholic cruelty.

A treasonous letter, a pleading letter
Ultimately, the opposition leaders called the “Immortal Seven” wrote “The Invitation to William” to become king, and so the invasion began. More touchingly, James II wrote to his daughter Mary (William’s wife) just before the Dutch fleet set sail, appealing to her filial instincts:

Though I know you are a good wife, and ought to be so, yet for the same reason I must believe you will be still as good a daughter to a father that has always loved you so tenderly… You shall still find me kind to you, if you desire it.”

It was not enough. Too much had been written: leaders and public alike had turned their back on the king, and a revolution accomplished at the stroke of a pen.

If you’re interested in the Glorious Revolution, check out Yolande van der Deijl’s site: www.orangeway.net

Yolande has followed in the tracks of William’s invasion. For those interested in the book or in the Orange Way as a next holiday destination, please write to yolandevdd@gmail.com
Piers Alexander 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.

To find The Bitter Trade on Amazon / Kindle: www.smarturl.it/UHamazon