The Invitation

GRANTED that at the turn of the year 1687-88 William of Orange had decided that on certain conditions he would be ready to intervene in England, what kind of conditions did he have in mind? After all, it was possible at least to plan a large-scale military operation and then, if it were not needed, to call it off; what was virtually impossible was to come to a decision at the very last moment and then scrape the barrel to find the necessary resources when the way had been insufficiently prepared either strategically or politically.

One condition that might make intervention necessary was the birth of a son to King James II and Queen Mary of Modena. Mary was now nearly thirty and most of her previous children had been girls; none had survived beyond the age of five. (The taint in the children of the later Stuart crowned heads had come from their wives. For the fathers proved themselves capable of doing their parts. Charles II had two sons who showed some military capacity in the Duke of Monmouth and the Duke of Grafton; James’s son by his mistress, Arabella Churchill, the Duke of Berwick, was to become an outstanding soldier.) Ever since it was known in November 1687 that the Queen was pregnant the birth of a son was considered a serious possibility. The King would regard such an event as happy for his cause; and until then it was thought he would not come to any extreme resolutions. ‘If the Great Belly should in any way fail,’ it was reported to William Bentinck by an intelligencer in England, ‘the Court will take much warmer measures.’ On the other hand, how would the discontented Protestants—those leaders of opinion who had sent letters offering their services to Prince William by the hands of Dijkvelt and Zuylestein—behave if a Roman Catholic Prince of Wales were to be produced? The Imperial envoy in London reported home towards the end of March 1688: ‘Judicious people think if a prince is born an effort will be made to prevent the Catholic succession.

The question for William, then, was whether the birth of a prince would provoke a civil war which might destroy the monarchy or at any rate paralyse England as a factor in European affairs. The kingdom had, after all, accepted the idea of having a Roman Catholic king in 1685 without demur, although at the time of the exclusionist agitation that had seemed most unlikely. Had James now in fact so upset his Protestant subjects that they would resist the coming of a Roman Catholic successor? After all, even if a prince were born, he might not long survive. We have already noted the testimony of the Earl of Shrewsbury that William would have invaded England if a prince had never been born. The tone of the letters written to the States-General by the Dutch ambassador, to William Bentinck by his intelligencers and to the Prince of Orange by his political friends suggests that the Prince and his Dutch colleagues were far more concerned over the immediate possibility of King James packing a pro-Roman Catholic and pro-French Parliament ready to do his will than they were over the ultimate likelihood of a Roman Catholic heir succeeding to the English throne.

Over the shaping of a Parliament there was indeed a struggle between the King and his son-in-law. By informing the public through Fagel’s letter that he was opposed to the repeal of the Test Acts William had nailed his flag to the mast for all to see. Many papers were printed in Holland and dispatched to England giving warnings about the dangers of removing the Tests. Henry Sidney had written asking for thousands of copies of this propaganda to be sent over; and thousands of copies of Fagel’s letter were in fact printed. A Dutch intelligence service established in London by Sidney helped to diffuse this propaganda. Under its impact James II gave up all hope that William would alter his views; according to one account, when it was suggested to the King that William might still be induced to change his mind, he answered that he knew the Prince better than they did; that he was ‘a man inflexible’. And so would James himself have liked to be. William Penn, his principal nonconformist adviser, had attempted to persuade the King to press for a Parliament ready to repeal the numerous penal laws, but to abandon for the time being the hope of ending the Tests. That was thought by independent observers to be a practical proposition and was supported by the Earl of Sunderland. But James then stuck to his full plan. He still hoped for a complacent Parliament. In November 1687 it had been rumoured that a Parliament would be called in March; but when March arrived, it became known that the King had no intention of summoning a Parliament until after the Queen had given birth to their child, an event expected about the end of June.

In any case the various methods employed to secure a suitable Parliament had not yet held out much hope for the King. Some of the Lords Lieutenant commanded to put the Three Questions in the counties had been dismissed or resigned; some had been replaced by Roman Catholics; James’s loyal Protestant Lords Lieutenant like Sunderland, Jeffreys and Rochester (Rochester had been well treated by the King financially after he had ceased to be a Minister and was not the stuff of a martyr) had been unable to make any impression on the counties they visited; Sunderland in April postponed a visit to Warwickshire in view of the general failure elsewhere. The leading gentlemen in Cornwall and Devon, once the heart of royalist enthusiasm, had proved recalcitrant. The Earl of Bath insisted that however often he changed the deputies and justices of the peace, they would never agree to placing their religion in danger. Even in Lancashire, a county strong in Roman Catholic deputy lieutenants and J.P.s, more than two to one, according to Lord Molyneux, the Lord Lieutenant, openly declared themselves to be against the King’s proposals.

Some Lords Lieutenant put the questions formally, but made it clear that they were not at all concerned over the answers they received. As to the boroughs, orders requiring them on one pretext or another to surrender their charters to the Crown had been given ever since 1681  and many new charters issued—often referred to at the time as ‘obnoxious’. James’s purpose had been so to remodel the charters as to be sure that his policy of religious toleration would be fulfilled. Consequently he had actually in some cases called in charters issued by his brother. Yarmouth’s charter had been ‘regulated’ more than once; so had that of other towns. In the course of 1688 thirty-five new charters were issued after the old charters had been surrendered in response to a writ of quo warranto. Lawyers were kept busy all over the kingdom. In Cornwall alone no fewer than sixteen new charters were granted in the first year of James II’s reign. Yet the Earl of Bath’s reports suggested that it was unlikely that M.P.s elected in the Cornish boroughs would favour the repeal of the Tests. Elsewhere all the indications were that however much the Government fiddled with the charters, by nominating members of corporations, by exempting them from oaths and tests and even by restricting the franchise, it was as difficult to be sure of obtaining from the boroughs representatives in the House of Commons who would favour the King’s religious policies as it was from the counties. That was the reason why the Marquis of Halifax, who closely followed the manoeuvres over electing a fresh Parliament, insisted in his messages to William of Orange that he had no need to worry about the likelihood of a Parliament being called in the near future or of its approving the royal programme. Still that was not precisely how William himself was looking at the matter; for his position was a paradoxical one. It was true that a Parliament that was subservient to the King might be dangerous to his own interests; on the other hand, a Parliament exasperated against the King—like the former exclusionist Parliaments or the Long Parliament in 164z—could provoke a situation as dangerous to the stability of the monarchy as the former civil wars had been.

More important to William than either the birth of a Roman Catholic prince or the summoning of an extremist Parliament was the question of a possible military alliance between James II and Louis XIV directed against the Dutch. Such a possibility appeared to be real when the demand was put forward by King James’s Government that the six British regiments in Dutch pay should be sent back to England. The Earl of Sunderland, who had at first regarded this demand as a wonderful coup, afterwards came to recognize it as a first-class blunder. For nothing was better calculated to provoke the Dutch and to induce them to support William’s campaign for rearmament. Not only did the Dutch Government positively refuse to send back the regiments intact, but the French King, who had been invited to subsidize the payment of the recalled regiments, became more and more tepid about the whole idea. Indeed it suited him for the Dutch and English to be at loggerheads. Eventually on March 14 King James published a proclamation ordering the return of all his subjects serving in the United Netherlands. Though a large number of officers did return and become available as the nucleus of new regiments, most of the non-commissioned officers and men stayed with the Dutch. And it was not until May that the French were persuaded to offer a small contribution towards the cost of raising these new regiments.

As to the navy—and it was the naval situation that was really crucial in Anglo-Dutch relations—the behaviour of James and Sunderland over the recall of the regiments actually stimulated the recruitment of Dutch sailors to man a fleet of some twenty warships for a summer guard. Louis XIV showed himself far more concerned over the state of James’s navy than with his army. The French Navy was pretty fully committed to the Mediterranean theatre and Louis XIV was afraid that the Dutch might employ theirs when the spring came to assist the Swedes against the Danes, who were the allies of France. If James were to make available a large fleet and if he could be persuaded to lend his support to the Danes, that would neutralize Dutch activities in the Baltic and the North Sea and help prepare the way for renewed French aggression in northern Europe. Thus even the obscure contest between the Scandinavian kingdoms over Holstein played its part in the history of the English Revolution.

James was certainly worried over the Dutch naval preparations at that time, just as the Dutch authorities closely watched the activity in English shipyards; and a state of mutual suspicion and fear was engendered. On the whole, the reports received by William were soothing. The Dutch ambassador in London thought that the English King just did not possess the means to put a big fleet to sea, even if he wanted to do so. (That incidentally was what Sunderland was then telling the French.) According to Dutch intelligence from England, when Sir John Berry, a naval commander, was ordered to stand by in February he told the King that if it were a question of getting ready for action, he had better ‘put no popish officers in’, for ‘he was sure that the seamen would knock them on the head’. And the French ambassador in Holland was of the opinion that even if James were capable of raising a big fleet that would only serve as an excuse for the Dutch further to increase their own. By the middle of May Sir John Evelyn noted in his diary that ‘the Hollanders did now alarm his Majesty with their fleet so well prepared and out before we were in readiness’. Thus each side grew more nervous of the other. Lord Dartmouth was sent to look at the defences of Yarmouth. In the United Netherlands the ports and other towns were being fortified and plans laid to double the size of the fleet. Louis XIV for a time continued to press James II to fit out twenty-five men-of-war instead of the mere twelve chosen for the summer guard on which preparations were begun in February. But all that James could be persuaded to do in the French interest was to publish a general declaration against disturbers of the European peace, and in time the King of France lost interest. James, though he himself had been a sailor, attached more importance to his army than to his navy. He rightly recognized the military difficulties involved in an invasion from the sea. But realizing his relative naval weaknesses, he did not wish to incite the Dutch. Barrillon was persuaded that one of the reasons why James kept on putting off the calling of a Parliament was that he feared that if he did call a Parliament to meet during the summer ‘Dutch warships would come to the English coasts and the Prince of Orange would omit nothing to stir up trouble and prevent Parliament doing what was asked of it by revoking the penal laws and the Tests’.

But the real reason why James postponed the calling of Parliament was that he was by no means sure that such an assembly would in fact favour his ends. Change though he might his Lords Lieutenant, the answers to the Three Questions were always discouraging; change though he did, by regulation or by the issue of quo warranfo writs, the membership of the parliamentary boroughs, there somehow did not seem to be enough loyalists, dissenters and Roman Catholics to go round. ‘The persons placed in the new corporations,’ wrote the Dutch ambassador on May 1, ‘mostly all are of the same maxims and ideas as those that are removed from them, through which they often alter one and the same corporation two or three times in one month.’ Danby assured William of Orange at the end of March: ‘Our zeal for the Protestant religion does increase apparently every day in all parts of the nation and the examination of the minds of the nobility and gentry had made such a union for the defence of it throughout the kingdom’ that it could not be supplanted except by violence. The Marquis of Halifax wrote a fortnight later that there was ‘rapid motion without advancing a step’ The men ‘at the helm’, he asserted, were divided; the great thing for William to do, he thought, was to do nothing, but wait for the good consequences of the Court’s divisions and mistakes.

By now King James had decided to abandon for the time being, the idea of calling Parliament; though Sunderland collected somewhat more promising reports from the agents that he had sent out to the constituencies than he had obtained from the traditional hierarchy, he could see that he had no hope of getting together a Parliament that was likely to do the King’s will before the autumn; and finally he succeeded in overcoming the various groups of advisers who clustered around Whitehall and in persuading the King at least to postpone holding Parliament until after the Queen’s delivery. According to the Papal Nuncio, from whom an account of the decisive meeting about this question comes, Sunderland observed bluntly that ‘the Anglicans were now utterly estranged from the Government’.

In the light of this view it was strange, but typical of the fatalistic policy of James II, that he now proceeded to provoke the leaders of the Church of England beyond endurance. They had already been angered by the King’s treatment of the Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford. Oxford, after all, had long been the heart both of the Church and of the royalist faith. It had been Charles I’s headquarters throughout the first civil war. When Parliament met at Oxford in 1681 its discomfiture had been evidence of the turning of the tide against the exclusionists. Vainly had the Commission for Ecclesiastical Causes given instructions that the expelled and deprived Fellows of Magdalen should be offered no livings. The monarch ignored all the danger signals. Even when the Bishop of Oxford, who had been forced on the College as its President, died, the King would hold out no olive branch to the Anglicans. The new President, Bonaventura Gifford, was yet another Roman Catholic, one of four papal vicars in England, and the College, now ‘filling apace with Popish priests, and others of the Roman communion, they seized wholly upon the College chapel for the uses of their religion’ Magdalen was a cause célèbre in the higher echelons of the Church. But James spread resentment throughout the rank-and-file of the Church of England by ordering the clergy to read his Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, which he reissued on April 27, from every pulpit in the country.

The Order in Council, published on May 4, stated that the declaration was to be read in London churches on the Sundays May 20 and May 27, and on June 3 and June 10 elsewhere. Precedents enough existed for such an order: the pulpit was the best means of broadcasting royal wishes. But the bolder and more Protestant-minded of the Church leaders determined at last to make a united stand. Among those prominent in the movement were Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, the King’s brother-in-law by his first marriage (less time-serving than his brother, the Earl of Rochester), William Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, and the suspended Bishop of London. On May 12 Clarendon dined at Lambeth with the ageing Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft. He must have screwed up the Primate to action. For on May 18 Sancroft wrote out in his own hand a petition to the King requesting him to withdraw the Order in Council on the ground that the foundation of his declaration of liberty of conscience was illegal, being based on his dispensing power which had often been condemned by Parliament.[Appendix B] When the petition was presented to James he was thunder-struck. This, he exclaimed, ‘is the standard of rebellion’, or ‘of Sheba’, according to another account. That same evening the bishops’ petition was printed and distributed throughout London. In consequence the following Sunday the great majority of the clergy of London refrained from reading the King’s declaration from their pulpits.

The King’s first reaction was that the seven bishops must be punished for their temerity. But how? His advisers were divided. It was rumoured that even the papists were for temporizing and that ‘the only new advice given the King was to hasten Out the fleet and new-model the army’. A general indecisiveness prevailed at and around the Court. Sunderland and the Lord Chancellor Jeffreys were for damping down the affair; they suggested that the King should admonish the bishops rather than try them or punish them. Again might not the bishops be suspended by the Ecclesiastical Commission which had dealt with Bishop Compton and the Fellows of Magdalen? Or could they be tried at common law for treason? Ultimately it was resolved, on the counsel of Jeffreys, that the bishops should be prosecuted for seditious libel before the Court of King’s Bench. When they refused to enter into recognizances for their appearance at the Court they were arrested and sent down the river to imprisonment in the Tower of London.

The day after the bishops were taken to the Tower the Queen was carried in a sedan chair from Whitehall to St. James’s Palace where she planned that her lying-in should take place. During her pregnancy she had been subjected to terrible psychological strains. Long before the child was born gossip had it that the whole thing was a Roman Catholic plot. On January 15 the Earl of Clarendon had noted in his diary that ‘the Queen’s great belly is everywhere ridiculed. . .’. On March 27 the Earl of Danby wrote to William of Orange: ‘many of our ladies say that the Queen’s great belly seems to grow faster than they have observed their own to do’ and expressed the hope that Princess Anne should be on the spot to watch the performance of the midwife. In fact Princess Anne departed for Bath at the end of May. Those malicious gossips who did not voice the suspicion that the Queen was really suffering from ‘dropsy’ asserted that the father of the child could not be the King, but might be the handsome Nuncio, Count d’Adda, or even Father Petre, the King’s Confessor.

However, at ten o’clock in the morning of June 10 a son was born in St. James’s, three or four weeks before the expected time. Few royal births have been more fully documented. Only the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was in disgrace at Court) and Princess Anne were missing from the crowded State bed-chamber in which the birth took place. Immediately after the delivery the child was carried into the next room where, it was claimed afterwards, a substitution took place. In no time at all every sort of rumour was floating around London. Princess Anne, who had not been at the lying-in or delivery, hastened to ‘inform her Sister Mary that though it was possible that the birth might have been genuine, she did not believe it herself nor did thousands of others.

The unhappy parents were not yet aware of all this tittle-tattle. The Mass was celebrated in Whitehall, the ‘Te Deum’ was sung, fireworks were let off and cannon fired. Within twenty-four hours of his birth the Prince of Wales was privately baptized according to the Roman Catholic rite and the Pope was named as his godfather. It was no wonder that his two stalwart Anglican step-sisters, Anne and Mary, insisted on questioning the authenticity of the birth and gave vent to the opinion that he probably would not live very long. The wish was father to the thought. But William of Orange himself had no immediate doubts. Prayers for the Prince were said in Holland; and William promptly sent over his trusted relative, Count Zuylestein, to convey his congratulations and sound out the reactions of the Protestant nobility to this unwelcome and inconvenient event.

Meanwhile the Earl of Sunderland and others of the King’s advisers had soon realized that the arrest of the seven bishops, like the recall of the regiments from Holland, was a political blunder of the first magnitude. ‘The whole Church,’ the Papal Nuncio informed the Pope, ‘espouses the cause of the bishops. There is no reasonable expectation of a division among the Anglicans, and our hopes from the nonconformists have vanished.” Indeed, much to the disgust of the King, leading nonconformists visited the bishops when they were in the Tower to convey sympathy. Sunderland and Jeffreys tried to persuade the King that the birth of his son offered an admirable opportunity for him to grant a general pardon and thereby save his face. But the King was not to be moved. The bishops themselves took a high line. When they were in the Tower they refused to pay the customary fees to the Lieutenant, Sir Edward Hales. When they were brought from the Tower ‘thousands of people stood on each side of the river making great shouts, the bells rang, and people hardly knew what to do for joy’. James II reviewed three battalions in Hyde Park and the Dutch ambassador thought it was ‘surprising that in view of so great a concourse of people so very much affected for the bishops a general insurrection did not take place’. Appearing before the King’s Bench with their counsel the bishops pleaded not guilty, refused to make any admissions, but eventually agreed to stand their trial on June 29 after small personal recognizances from them had been accepted.

Although the bishops’ counsel raised a number of rather ridiculous objections to the Crown’s case (such as that there was no proof that the bishops had signed the petition) in essence the argument was a simple one. The Crown maintained that the petition was a seditious libel because it impugned the King’s honour. It was libelous to say that a Justice of the Peace was dishonest in carrying out his duties; how much more libelous it was to claim that His Majesty did not know how to carry out his. To publish such a statement was to stir up mischief among the people and therefore the libel was seditious. The bishops’ counsel, insisted, however, that all this was irrelevant; no libel had in fact been published by the bishops; they had merely exercised their rights as loyal subjects to submit a humble petition to the Crown. The fact that they had asked the King to withdraw an order because his dispensing power had been declared illegal by Parliament had nothing to do with the case. The King’s rights were not being decided by the trial, only the rights of his subjects.

Four judges tried the bishops before a jury, to which the verdict whether the petition was a libel or not was left. The Lord Chancellor Jeffreys, who had himself formerly been the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench told the Earl of Clarendon that the public trial was extremely unfortunate and that ‘as for the judges, they are most of them rogues’. He also said on June 14 that James II had changed his mind under the pressure of some ‘who would hurry the King to his destruction’. Be that as it might, two of the judges, Chief Justice Wright and Sir Richard Allibone, a Roman Catholic, summed up against the bishops and two in their favour. The jury had to sit all night without heat, food or light to consider their verdict. First thing on the morning of Saturday, June 30, it found the bishops not guilty. Huge crowds awaited the verdict and broke into loud cheers when they heard it. ‘The giddy rabble continued their disorderly joys till Sunday morning,’ reported a newsletter, ‘making bonfires all Saturday night.’ The fires were lit even in front of St. James’s Palace and an effigy of the Pope was burnt. The people, according to the Imperial envoy in London, were ‘bold and insolent’ not in the least afraid of the soldiers, and the King’s dispensing power was now being generally called into question. And it was not only the mob who rejoiced. The nobility threw money to the crowds as they indulged in their pope-burning. The King was staggered at the news of acquittal. Before and during the trial he had visited the army camp at Hounslow which was supposed to be there in order to overawe the capital. Instead of that, even the soldiers cheered when they learned of the verdict. Typically, James dismissed the two judges who summed up for the defendants. He also planned to summon the bishops before the Ecclesiastical Commission and even to punish all the clergy who had refused to read his declaration in their churches. But that would have been to make war on the entire Church of England, and the matter was postponed indefinitely.

Well before the birth of the Prince of Wales and the trial of the seven bishops William of Orange had been completing his plans for intervention in England. War, he felt sure, was coming in Germany and he had no wish to have either a hostile or neutral England, with a powerful fleet and a growing professional army lying on his flank. About the middle of April Edward Russell, an admiral and a cousin of the dead Wing martyr, William Russell, and another admiral, Arthur Herbert, whom James II had forced to resign, visited William of Orange in Holland.

Russell told the Prince that ‘he was desired by many of great power and interest to speak very freely to him’. He and his friends, he said, were under heavy pressure from the Court. At the moment they were united. But if the army proved both loyal to the King and obnoxious to the nation, they might be compelled to yield to the King’s wishes. That at least is Burnet’s account of what Russell said. What is not open to doubt is the nature of William’s reply which was to the effect that:

if he was invited by some men of the best interest and the most value in the nation, who should both in their own name and in the name of others who trusted them invite him to come and rescue the nation, and the religion, he believed he could be ready by the end of September to come over.

The Dutch Pensionary, Caspar Fagel, appears to have earlier suggested the same condition on behalf of the Prince. In May the French ambassador at the Hague had been reporting with increasing urgency that he was sure that the Prince of Orange would ‘hazard all’ if a son and heir were born to King James.

Russell and Herbert returned to England, but on May 24 Herbert wrote to William to say that he understood from Russell that it was the Prince’s wish that he should join him in Holland and that he intended to do so shortly. Arthur Herbert was a remarkable character. He had served in the Dutch wars and ten years earlier when he was already a vice-admiral he lost an eye in an accident. In 1683 he was reported to have kept a harem in Tangier. He had lost £4,000 a year when he had resigned from his posts rather than become a Roman Catholic; he was said to be the darling of British seamen. William welcomed him with open arms. In a letter of June 17 he told Herbert how pleased he was that he was satisfied with what Russell had said to him on his behalf and promised him that he would be well looked after if he came to Holland. On May 31 Lord Lumley wrote to the Prince offering his personal services, and earlier the young Earl of Shrewsbury had expressed his anxiety to go over to Holland: so had Lord Latimer, a son of the Earl of Danby. On June 9, the day after the arrest of the bishops, Shrewsbury had again written to the Prince, and nine days later while the bishops were awaiting their trial William was assured that the letter of invitation for which he and Fagel had asked would soon be forthcoming. It was then hinted that besides Henry Sidney (who was William’s principal agent in England and had organized an intelligence service on his behalf), Shrewsbury, Danby, Bishop Compton, and the Earl of Nottingham were ready to commit themselves to rebellion. In fact Nottingham backed out, though he did not reveal his knowledge of these treasonable transactions to the King. And on June 30, 1688 the required letter of invitation was signed by the ‘Immortal Seven’: Shrewsbury, Devonshire, Dariby, Lumley, the Bishop of London, Edward Russell and Henry Sidney.[Appendix C]. The Marquis of Halifax and Lord Mordaunt, who had at one time been enthusiastic for William to intervene, like Nottingham refrained from signing the letter of invitation, but kept the secret. The letter was carried over by Herbert disguised as a common sailor.

The letter pointed out that ‘people generally’ were dissatisfied with the Government’s behaviour in regard to religion, liberties and properties, ‘all of which have been greatly invaded’. It was asserted that nineteen out of every twenty people in the kingdom were desirous of a change and would be ready to take part in a rising against the Government, if they received the promise of protection against the royal forces. ‘It is no less certain,’ the letter observed, that ‘the greatest part of the nobility and gentry are as much dissatisfied, although it is not safe to speak to many of them beforehand.’ The common soldiers, it was thought, were ‘averse to the Popish religion’. But there was a real danger of a packed Parliament. Therefore the Prince should come over soon, presumably to prevent this, and the signatories would ‘attend’ his ‘landing’. On the same day Sidney wrote a letter of his own to the Prince advising him to seek the services of Marshal Schomberg, a famous French general now in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg, to command an invading army and to leave Zuylestein in England until the conspirators had received their answer.

Undoubtedly it was the birth of the Prince of Wales—or his alleged birth, for according to the letter of the Immortal Seven, ‘not one in a thousand believed the baby to be the Queen’s’ —and the trial of the bishops which screwed up these men to commit themselves in black and white to ‘a rising’ against the Throne. Modern historians are divided over the quality of the men who thus committed themselves. In the opinion of the late David Ogg, a close student of the reign, ‘only one name, that of Lumley, could be considered obscure’. Lord Lumley, the owner of a modest estate, was a former royalist and a convert from Rome who had been alienated from the King. Professor Kenyon, on the other hand, maintains that ‘their importance has been greatly inflated’ and ‘William received remarkably little support from the English nobility’. It is perfectly true that neither Nottingham nor Halifax nor Rochester, three of the most influential figures outside the King’s Government, had the courage to go so far. Halifax, by nature a trimmer, a man of wealth, was always a coward and remained so after the revolution. But Halifax had lent his help with his effective, if anonymous, pamphlets. As events proved, men like Nottingham, Clarendon, and the Duke of Ormonde were entirely sympathetic, but did not have the courage to risk all until after William had landed. But there is little solid ground for doubting the statements of men like Danby or the Dutch ambassador, Van Citters, that during the first half of 1688 the King’s policies and methods had thoroughly upset the bulk of the English nobility and that even Roman Catholic peers had been trying to moderate the King’s insistence on pressing, by hook or by crook, for the repeal of the Test Acts by a packed Parliament.

Of course William himself did not look at the questions in the same light as these English Protestant conspirators. Their fears were for their religion, their property, their position in the establishment. When he sent over Zuylestein to congratulate the King and Queen on the birth of their son, he had already made up his mind to intervene in England later, if the military and political situation allowed, to enforce an Anglo-Dutch alliance. What worried him were, first, James’s naval and military preparations, presaging an affiance with France, and, secondly, the dangers that might arise from calling a packed Parliament or even the King’s extremism provoking a civil war from which he himself might be excluded. The arrest of the bishops and the birth of the Prince of Wales had created a sense of an immediate crisis. James had been busy inspecting his army and had sent a fleet of twenty men-of-war and four fireships to the Downs under command of the Roman Catholic Rear-Admiral Sir Roger Strickland. At the same time the French King was at last offering to help James not with small sums of money to pay for his new regiments or to expand his fleet but by actually stationing a squadron of sixteen French warships brought from the Mediterranean to Brest, ready to unite with the English Royal Navy if need be. That offer was put forward and fully discussed between the French and English Courts during June. But the only result of the negotiation, which quickly became common knowledge, was to heighten Anglo-Dutch tension and to convince William of Orange that he must hurry forward his preparations for his operation in England.