Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Picking Up a Crown

El Jefe has been busy with work and other matters this week, so time to post has of necessity been limited. However, today is an interesting historical anniversary, hence this post.
Today in 1689, the British "Glorious Revolution" culminated in the proclamation of the stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, William, Prince of Orange and his wife Mary as King and Queen of England (Scotland would come later).
Proclamation of the new monarch was the result of William’s successful invasion of Britain in 1688 with a Dutch army – following an invitation from Protestant supporters in Britain. The Catholic King, James II, (William's father in law), deserted by his army and faithless adherents, fled the country along with his Queen and heir (“James III” or “the Old Pretender”) for France. Louis XIV gave King James, for his residence, the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (west of Paris) -- Louis XIV's own birthplace -- where, after a futile campaign to defend his Irish crown from William --King James spent most of the rest of his days. For the king, residing at this place possibly made up a little for having to go on living after losing three kingdoms.

William must have been quite a man: on paper his armies should have been insufficient and his fleet was no more than barely equal to King James’s. But William and his admirals evaded the Royal Navy; got William and his army (18,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry) down and across the Channel and ashore intact (no foreigner since William the Conqueror has managed that); engineered the defection of James’s generals and politicians; intimidated the legitimate king out of the country without much shooting; filched himself King James’s crown; and, found his home country a new and powerful ally against France. Splendid work.

Still, I’ve never been much of an admirer of King William: although he's interesting. I’m not Catholic, but I confess to having more than a little sympathy for King James, incompetent monarch that he was. A foolish king certainly, but he was defending his birthright and (as he saw it) his country as best he knew how against a foreign invader and usurper, and he perhaps would have succeeded in keeping his throne had he been less passive, more ruthless with dissidents and wavering nobles, and more interested in fighting than trying to negotiate.
Not much relevance to anything now, of course, but, like The Godfather, an interesting story.

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