King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences

William III and the history of England

Title page, printed in red and black and frontispiece portrait of William III from featured itemTitle page and frontispiece portrait of William III from The history of England, 1744Paul Rapin de Thoyras (1661-1725), named on the title page reproduced here, was a French Protestant historian who wrote under English patronage and was responsible for a number of important volumes of English history. He was part of the force that accompanied William on his invasion of England in 1688 and fought in the subsequent Williamite War in Ireland. This continuation of the history of England is, however, written by the second author named on the title page, Nicholas Tindal (1687-1774), an English clergyman, who had translated much of Rapin de Thoyras’s earlier work.

William III, shown in the frontispiece reproduced here, was a Dutch Protestant who had fought Louis XIV’s French forces in various campaigns and was recognised as a staunch upholder of the Protestant faith. For this reason, William, who was a nephew of James II and indeed married to James’s (Protestant) daughter Mary (his first cousin), was approached by members of the Protestant ruling class in England to challenge James’s Catholic rule.

On 5 November 1688 William landed at Brixham in southwest England with a largely Dutch army of 35,000 men. Opposition to the invasion was limited, with both Protestant officers in James’s army defecting in large numbers and members of the aristocracy pledging their support to William. The casualties that did occur were of a small number and for this reason the revolution has been termed the ‘bloodless revolution’. With no chance of regaining power, James attempted to flee to France, but was captured. However, he was then released and allowed to complete his escape across the English Channel, an outcome which suited both parties: his life was preserved and William avoided making him a martyr for Catholicism.

Following negotiations with the English parliament regarding William’s sovereign status – as daughter of the former King, his wife Mary was in effect first in line to the throne – William and Mary were crowned joint sovereigns, meaning one or the other would continue to reign when the other had died. The line of succession would then pass to Mary’s sister Anne, a Protestant. This settlement ensured a Protestant line of succession and was enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights, which officially excluded Roman Catholics from the throne.

In this exhibition

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