THE mission of Everard van Weede, Lord of Dijkvelt, to England in 1687 is generally held to have been a turning-point on the road that led to the English Revolution. Not as much is known about the mission as might be wished. Dr. Burnet, the Scottish clergyman in exile at The Hague, for example, states in his memoirs that he was commissioned ‘to draw his [Dijkvelt’s] instructions, which he followed very closely’. It is highly unlikely that William of Orange, who was a statesman, would have left this task to an exile whom he always regarded as a busybody. The truth is that the relations between the United Netherlands and England—and between William and James—had deteriorated, and an exchange of ambassadors was arranged in an attempt to resolve differences. At the same time as Dijkvelt was sent as a special envoy to London, Skelton was replaced by D’Albeville as English ambassador at The Hague, and each mission had, in the late Dr. Japikse’s words, ‘a parallel aim, open as well as secret’.
Dijkvelt’s mission arose out of the many rumours that had been crossing the North Sea during the previous autumn and winter about the scope of James’s naval and military preparations. Might, for example, disputes over the Indies be used as a pretext for an act of aggression similar to the Anglo-French assault in 1672? Dijkvelt was therefore ordered to negotiate over the situation in the Indies, to examine the extent of the English armaments, and to inquire into King James’s policies at home and abroad. Before he left he was also informed about Prince William’s views on religious toleration. William Penn, a leading Quaker and a personal confidant of James II, had come to see the Prince in the previous November in order to sound him informally about whether he would give his public support to the repeal of the penal laws and Test Acts, which the English King had so much at heart. Dij kvelt was instructed to state in broad terms that while William and Mary favoured toleration as such, they regarded the Test Acts as essential to the maintenance of the Stuart monarchy and the Protestant religion; for without them the confidence of the King’s subjects in his impartial administration would be undermined. Just after Dij kvelt was being received for the first time by King James, William was sent an extraordinary letter by the Countess of Sunderland warning him in dramatic terms how unwise it would be if he were to fall in line with the King’s religious proposals. She advised him that there were ‘no offers, no dangers that will not be very artificially showed to Monsieur Dickfield’, as she called him in Anglo-Saxon style. Since the Earl of Sunderland was King James’s principal minister, such a warning was calculated to make a profound impression on William, even if, in fact, Sunderland himself had no hand in his wife’s letter. The Prince realized that his father-in-law required the most delicate handling on a matter so close to his heart and told Bentinck that he thought Dijkvelt could better explain to the English King about ‘la grade affaire de la religion’ by word of mouth than he could himself by writing.
James refused to see Dijkvelt until D’Albeville had been officially received in Holland. D’Albeville, who was himself a Roman Catholic, did his utmost to persuade William to agree ‘- with his master’s views about toleration. Later on he seems to have intrigued against William (his reputation as an intriguer had preceded him); he was certainly in French pay and had promised to work in collaboration with the French ambassador at The Hague; but neither the French nor the Dutch ever trusted him, and, without being incompetent, he proved an even less successful representative in Holland of his Government than his predecessors, Skelton and Chudleigh.
When James first saw Dij kvelt he was anxious to be conciliatory. The King expressed the opinion that the dispute over the Indies, which related to the island of Bantam, west of Java, could be settled; he made light of the fears of the States-General that he was getting ready to make war upon them; his army and navy, he explained, had simply been neglected and needed to be brought up to a higher state of efficiency. He asked that the proceedings against the English officers who had been involved in the attempt to kidnap Sir Robert Peyton should be dropped and that they should be allowed to return home. The question of Orange was discussed and no doubt the King assured Dijkvelt that the English ambassador in Paris (Sir William Trumbull who was about to be replaced by Skelton) was making representations on his behalf. So far, so good. But the day after Dijkvelt arrived James’s declaration of liberty of conscience was published in Scotland and that was soon to be followed by a similar declaration in England. Both these declarations showed clearly that James not only intended to abrogate the penal laws, but to dispense with the Test Acts.
If the King felt that by thus using his royal authority, which had been upheld by the Courts as lawful, he was entitled to ignore the statutory restrictions upon his Roman Catholic and nonconformist subjects, why was it that he was so anxious to have the Test Acts abolished by Parliament when it was obvious that it was going to be extremely difficult to persuade members to do this, since they were for the most part enthusiastic supporters of the Anglican establishment? The answer was, first, that he could not have Roman Catholics in either House unless the Act of 1678 was first repealed, since it had been decided that Parliament had the right to determine the nature of its own membership. As to the Act of 1673, which he had been allowed to nullify after the Godden v. Hales test case, he was afraid that his policy of conferring offices of State on Roman Catholics and dissenters would be reversed by his successors unless either the Act were repealed or he could induce his likely heirs, that is to say his two daughters, to promise their personal approval for its repeal.
Hence the pressure that King James now attempted to bring to bear on William and Mary through Dijkvelt and D’Albeville. (Princess Anne was also under royal pressure in England.) On his master’s behalf Sunderland held out large but vague promises to Dijkvelt if he would announce that William and Mary agreed in principle to the repeal of the Tests. Dijkvelt handled the question as tactfully as he could. He did not openly express disapproval either on his own or on the Prince of Orange’s part of the two declarations of liberty of conscience, but he appears to have hinted to the King that in William’s view the constant and continuing pressure on influential persons to repeal the Test Acts and the extension of his use of the royal prerogative to suspend them might create such grave fears among his Protestant subjects as to bring about a revolution. If Dijkvelt went as far as this—and our sources for these conversations are not entirely satisfactory—it made little impression on the English King. On the contrary, while Dijkvelt was still in England, James wrote to his son-in-law telling him how satisfied people were with his declarations and how all was ‘at ease and quiet’.
According to the contemporary chronicler Nicholas Luttrell, James received during 1687 and 1688 altogether zoo addresses from dissenters and others approving of his declarations, including some from the London livery companies. Such a reception inspired him with the hope that a new Parliament might be fashioned by the reliable Sunderland to repeal the Tests and even made him wonder whether his son-in-law and two daughters might not in the end be persuaded to rally behind him in giving their approbation to ‘liberty of conscience for all’. Was that not, after all, a policy already prevailing in the Dutch States?
William and Mary were polite but inflexible. They insisted that if the Roman Catholics in England were given equality of opportunity in political life, they would not be satisfied, but would press on ’till they were masters’. The fear was also expressed by Dij kvelt—and here he was surely speaking for Prince William—.that if by some means or other the repeal of the Tests were forced through Parliament and in consequence the Church of England were alienated, the monarchy might be overthrown and be converted into a republic as it had been forty years earlier. Then the Stuarts would count for nothing.
In addition to his official mission Dijkvelt had been told to give assurances on William’s behalf to the leaders of the English ruling classes outside the official group at Court; to make it clear to the bishops, for example, that if William and Mary came to the throne they would not permit the destruction of the Church establishment, even though the Prince himself was a keen Calvinist and a Presbyterian. The Protestant nonconformists were told that while the Prince and Princess did not favour the repeal of the Tests, they none the less thoroughly approved of liberty of conscience, and indeed, if it were practicable, would support the comprehension of nonconformists within the Church of England, as had been proposed in 166o. Dijkvelt was in fact instructed to give as agreeable an impression of William as he could: to show that he was neither arbitrary nor imperious, as might reasonably have been deduced from recent happenings in Holland, and that he held liberal, but not too liberal, views on the subject of religion.
Dijkvelt was more successful with the secret than with the official side of his mission; he carried back with him to Holland in the early summer of 1687 a batch of amiable letters privately written to the Prince. Perhaps the most significant of these came from Lord Churchill, a former brigadier-general in the royal army who, though he was an intimate servant and former pageboy of King James, was now through his wife, who was her Lady of the Bedchamber, on the closest terms with James’s younger daughter, Princess Anne. Anne had also been badgered by her father to change her religion or at least to give her public support to the repeal of the Tests. In a letter dated May 17 Lord Churchill explained that the Princess had ordered him to speak to Dijkvelt on her behalf;° she had received the Dutch envoy publicly but had only muttered the politenesses proper to princesses; Churchill assured Prince William that she ‘was resolved by the assistance of God, to suffer all extremities, even to death itself, rather than be brought to change her religion’. Princess Mary had sent her sister a letter by Dijkvelt which Anne had answered earlier, telling Mary how the King their father had refused to allow her to visit her sister in Holland. But she begged Mary to inform no one except William that she had even thought of coming over and that her father had forbidden her: ‘for tis all treason that I have spoke’. In his own letter Churchill assured William that he was resolved ‘although I cannot live the life of a saint, if there be ever occasion for it, to show the resolution of a martyr’.
Apart from the letters of Princess Anne and Lord Churchill, one of the most revealing that the Prince received came from the Bishop of London who explained in a tortuous way how the Protestants in England looked to William as a leader and how ‘if the King should have any trouble come upon him, which God forbid, we do not know any sure friend he has to rely upon abroad, besides yourself. . .’. Dijkvelt also carried over letters from the Earls of Danby, Nottingham, Halifax, Devonshire and Russell, from Arthur Herbert, the two Hydes, Lord Lumley and others. Most of them were written in very cautious phrases, but, after all, there was no real need for them to write at all. For Dij kvelt, who ‘kept a great table’, had seen and spoken to them and was able to take verbal messages to his master. By the very act of writing they indicated that they depended upon the Prince’s protection if the King’s religious mania got out of hand. Dijkvelt had sensed the atmosphere of doubt and fear in London, the pressures that were being brought to bear on all and sundry to accept the King’s religious policies or religious opinions.
While Dijkvelt was still in London, Admiral Herbert, a capable if bucolic naval commander, had resigned his official posts rather than agree to the repeal of the Tests. Soon he was to go over to Holland. The Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the younger peers, who had not yet met Prince William, was to arrive at The Hague that autumn with a letter of introduction from the Marquis of Halifax who described him as ‘without any competition the most considerable man of quality that is growing up amongst us’. Halifax himself told the Prince that he was sure there was unlikely to be a new Parliament in the near future and that James’s ‘great design’ was still held up for lack of sufficient influential converts. When Bonrepaus reached England in July, soon after Dijkvelt left, on his second visit, he reported that only one of James’s Ministers was serving him with single-minded fidelity. He thought that Sunderland, Godolphin and Churchill were already working in secret to merit the favour of the Prince of Orange. Jeffreys was described as ‘very extravagant’ and the Roman Catholic camarilla were alone thought to be completely loyal to the King.
What were the results of the Anglo-Dutch exchange of ambassadors? That James was disappointed is evident. At first he hoped that when Dijkvelt on his return from England conveyed to his son-in-law his personal messages and arguments in favour of William and Mary giving their support to the policy of repeal, they would change their minds and endorse ‘liberty of conscience to all dissenters whatsoever’. But William’s reply to a letter from James, defending his declaration, which was brought over to Holland by Dij kvelt, was to tell his father-in-law pretty bluntly that he could not do anything contrary to his religion and would not agree with what James asked of him. When James realized the hopelessness of his task, he felt dismayed and at last complained about the meetings that had taken place between Dijkvelt and the powerful persons who were no longer members of his Government, such as Halifax and the two Hydes. And he ended his letter of protest with the old sour formula: ‘I shall always be as kind to you as you can expect.’
What were William’s reactions to Dijkvelt’s reports? Here posterity is in the dark. For what is important is what Dijkvelt actually said to William and that we do not know. He could tell his master that there was no immediate likelihood of the King of England making war on the Dutch or concluding a close alliance with France. But what was his view about the domestic situation in England? In the letters that he brought back with him from influential men the message for William was invariably to the effect that Dijkvelt would tell him all that had taken place. He will ‘give you a full account’, wrote Clarendon; Dij kvelt ‘knows everything’, said his brother Rochester. Danby repeated that he was eager for a personal conference with the Prince, if only it could be arranged. Halifax again informed him that a new Parliament was unlikely.
Unquestionably it was on the holding of a new Parliament that William fastened his attention. James had now at last in July, soon after Dijkvelt’s departure, dissolved his Parliament of 1685 and was starting a campaign to pack a new Parliament that would favour the repeal of the Tests. But here lay the unknown territory. Dijkvelt may well have told the Prince that it was most unlikely that James and Sunderland would be able to organize such a Parliament in the near future. If an election were held, it was quite on the cards that a House of Commons, still composed of Anglicans, would show itself extremely hostile to the monarchy, as it had done in 1640. William may have felt that if and when a Parliament were called it might be his duty to intervene in England, not in order to protect the liberties of its people, but to save the Stuart monarchy from destruction. After all, he was a Stuart and his wife was the heiress-presumptive to the throne. For him it was essential that the Government of England should be a friendly one: he knew that on the mainland of Europe a lull prevailed that might precede a storm. For would not Louis XIV be tempted to strike again in Germany before the Emperor Leopold turned his attention back from the Hungarians and the Turks? So William decided that he needed still more information about the state of affairs in England, and in August he sent over another trusted ambassador extraordinary in Count Zuylestein, his own cousin, ‘a person the more dangerous because under the appearance of a man of pleasure and a soldier he had great talent for business’ and was ‘entitled to a degree of confidence from the English malcontents’.” The nominal reason for his visit was to commiserate with the English Queen on her mother’s death. His real object was to confirm the contacts established by Dijkvelt, and to collect the latest intelligence about the state of affairs in England.
‘From July to October, 1687,’ observes Professor Kenyon in his biography of the Earl of Sunderland, ‘the English government was moving in a void, without confidence, expectation or hope for the future’. But a distinction needed to be drawn between the King, who was never more set on having his own way, and his Ministers, who were becoming highly nervous both about the domestic and the foreign situation. James was pleased by the peaceful manner in which his declarations of liberty of conscience had been accepted in England and Scotland. In July he had received D’Adda officially as Papal Nuncio to his Court, and proceeded to try to mediate between his cousin Louis XIV and Pope Innocent XI over a prolonged dispute which had cast a blight upon the unity of Roman Catholic Christendom. It is true that the sixth Duke of Somerset, one of the greatest noblemen in England, had refused as Lord of the Bedchamber to conduct the Nuncio to his first audience at Windsor on the ground that to do so would have been against the law (according to Burnet, he told the King ‘you may be above the law, but I am not’); one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons, the Duke of Grafton, had to take over from him in a hurry. It was from about this time, the beginning of July 1687, that James II determined to abandon all hope of obtaining support from his existing Parliament and to try to fashion another one to do his will.
‘Closetings’ of Members of Parliament—that is to say personal interviews conducted by the King—had gone on ever since the previous year. James now decided to ask the Lords Lieutenant of the counties to carry out closetings on his behalf throughout the whole kingdom. They were instructed to call together their deputy lieutenants, sheriffs, justices of the peace, officials of the boroughs, and other prominent local people and ask them individually whether, if they were chosen Members of Parliament, they would be in favour of taking off the Tests and the penal laws; alternatively, whether they would assist the election of members who were so committed; and finally if they would support the King’s declaration of liberty of conscience by living on friendly terms with Christians of all persuasions. Most of the existing Lords Lieutenant, however, preferred to resign or be dismissed rather than to put these three questions, nominally on the ground that to exert such pressure would be constitutionally improper, though of course Members of Parliament were normally selected largely by agreement among the influential men in the counties. So, as a first step, the King had to appoint new Lords Lieutenant. Nine Lords Lieutenant were dismissed in August; a further four in December. Some of the new appointees were Roman Catholic. They were asked when they went on their rounds to collect the names of suitable Roman Catholics and nonconformists to add to the justices of the peace. In September the King himself went on a ‘progress’ through the west of England, going as far north as Chester. According to what Dr. Burnet heard, he was very gracious to the dissenters he met, even to former adherents of the dead Monmouth. ‘He ran Out,’ wrote Burnet, ‘on the point of liberty of conscience: he said this was the true secret of the greatness and wealth of Holland. . . He everywhere recommended to them the choosing of such Parliament men as would concur with him in settling this liberty as firmly as the Magna Charta had been: and to this he never forgot to add the taking away the Tests. When he came to Oxford he addressed the Fellows of Magdalen College, reprimanding them extremely angrily for their disloyal conduct in refusing to accept his original Roman Catholic nominee as their President and then being reluctant to repudiate their own choice and replace him by the crypto-Catholic Bishop of Oxford. (Later a special royal commission achieved the King’s wishes only by pressure and afterwards most of the Fellows were expelled.) But, on the whole, the King was satisfied with the results of his progress.
However, he had less reason to be pleased with the answers to the three questions put by his new Lords Lieutenant. Throughout the kingdom the local gentry evaded, almost to a man, the pressure to commit themselves in advance of an election. In most places the stock answer was that those elected to the House of Commons would have to decide what to do when Parliament met; in answer to the third question it was generally said in a pious way that they were willing to live in peace with their neighbours, according to the precepts of the Gospels. Even appointments of officials likely to be loyal and friendly to James did not help his cause very much. The Dutch ambassador in London estimated that in December 1687 one third of the sheriffs were Roman Catholics, one third dissenters and one third moderate Anglicans. But even such sheriffs, who were in a position to play a vital part in elections, were cautious. It was noted, for example, that ‘many of the popish sheriffs have estates, and declare that whoever expects false returns from them will be deceived’.
The answers given to the Three Questions in most counties have survived and show an almost unanimous opposition among the influential persons consulted to the repeal of the Test Acts. That became clear even before the returns were completed. The Dutch ambassador reported home at the end of the year that only six out of seventy gentlemen in Norfolk answered the questions as the King wished, and about the same proportion in Wales. Bonrepaus, who was in England at the time, noted that the Lords Lieutenant did not find things as the Court would have liked: ‘even in the most friendly counties only six people favour repeal of the Tests, in others none’. Earlier Van Citters had written to the States-General that the news from all quarters was that the nobility and the leaders of the nation were not to be persuaded to remove the Tests; the only possible exception was in Lancashire ‘where they are for the most part Catholics and fanatics’. As to the boroughs, as distinct from the counties, even here manipulation was far from easy. The King told his Council that he intended to purge the parliamentary corporations of hostile elements, but in fact events proved in 1688 that however often they were purged the ultimate result was not to ensure compliance when it came to religion. And if a House of Commons could not be packed to do the King’s will, it was even more certain that in a House of Lords where the Catholics could not take their seats, men like the proud Duke of Somerset and the astute Marquis of Halifax were not going to be browbeaten into a reversal of all the anti-Catholic laws.
The King’s Ministers and advisers, apart presumably from fanatical Catholics like Father Petre, realized the position. ‘Whichever way Sunderland analysed the situation, he could not feel in the least optimistic. Nor could the Lord Chancellor, Jeffreys. But the King himself was adamant. ‘If His Majesty get not a parliament to take off the Tests within six months,’ said Lord Dover in late November, ‘he will go out of England.’ ‘Le Roi d’An,gleterre,’ reported Barrillon on December i, ‘est resolu de poursuivre ses dessins, queZque opposition qu ‘ii trouve. A fortnight later Van Citters reported that the King had told his Council that he was anxious that his declaration of liberty of conscience should be passed as a law and that anyone who failed to concur with him would be dismissed from office. Thus throughout the winter of 1687-88 and the early spring of 1688 the policy of trying to pack a Parliament continued. In March there was a rumour that such a Parliament would actually be called in May. But by then other
important things were happening. For from early November 1687 the Roman Catholic Queen Mary of Modena was known to be pregnant, thus holding out the prospect of a Roman Catholic dynasty so long as the hereditary succession was upheld; and from that time on the English Government was busy taking steps to strengthen its military resources against all eventualities.
What can William of Orange have been thinking to himself as news of these events and of James’s political frustrations kept arriving by every post from England? Van Witsen, a Dutch Regent, said afterwards that the roots of the revolution of 1688 were to be found in Dijkvelt’s visit to England. D’Avaux, the French ambassador at The Hague, an extremely well-informed diplomatist, dated the beginnings of the revolution from about August 1687 when Count Zuylestein returned to Holland carrying more confidential letters for William from his well-wishers in England. Though others were to describe the decision as not having been taken until June 1688 when a son was born to James II and Mary of Modena, the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was an important actor in the revolutionary conspiracy, was to tell Halifax that William would have invaded England had the Prince of Wales never been born.
We have seen that even earlier than 1687, in the first half of 1686, suggestions had been made to William by Viscount Mordaunt and the Elector of Brandenburg that he should lead a force over to England. Political schemes and military plans of such magnitude were not to be carried through in days or even in a few weeks. No large-scale military expedition against even a relatively stable government in England had been achieved successfully since 1066. Even mighty Caesar had experienced his difficulties in overcoming British barbarians. Only chaos and disorder had smoothed the path of King Henry VII. The Spaniards had sailed through the Channel a hundred years earlier, but had never looked like landing an army. Clearly the idea of possible active intervention had existed in William’s mind for a long time, conceivably ever since 1681. The missions of Dijkvelt and Zuylestein were reconnaissances of the whole political and military situation in his father-in-law’s kingdom. If there was the slightest thought in the minds of the Prince and of his closest advisers of undertaking an expedition so fraught with dangers before the end of September 1688, that is to say before conditions of wind and weather favourable to sailing ships were likely to vanish, then active preparations would have to begin before the winter of 1687-88 was over. Thus it can hardly be doubted that strategic appreciations and concrete plans were already being taken into consideration after the reports of Dijkvelt and Zuylestein had been seen and digested.
The main political question in William’s mind was clearly whether James really intended to call a Parliament and if so, what kind of Parliament it would be. Once James had in session a Parliament ready to back him over his religious policies, the chances of intervention were poor. William had witnessed and no doubt studied the fate of the Duke of Monmouth, whose backers in London had failed him. The Prince had to feel sure that he himself would receive the fullest moral and political assistance if he came to England. That, it seems, is what he wanted most: he never counted on military or material aid arranged by his English sympathizers. The fight, if it came to a fight, would be between professionals, not amateurs. But was not Napoleon I to claim that the moral to the material was in war as three to one? Politically William could look back to the precedents of 1680-81. Then it had been proposed in Parliament that William and Mary should come over to act as Regents, as tutors to a Roman Catholic king who reigned but did not rule. That proposal had been put forward by quite moderate men (like Halifax) in order to thwart the exciusionists whose policy threatened to bring hereditary monarchy to an end. Now might there not be a threat of exclusion in reverse? Quite apart from Mary of Modena’s pregnancy, which was not known for certain until November 1687, might there not be some truth in the rumours that, under pressure from his Jesuit advisers, James would try to prevent the coming of a Protestant successor? That very winter James had written long letters to Princess Mary, trying hard to persuade her to become a Roman Catholic. Princess Anne too had been proselytized. Either a Roman Catholic successor or a Parliament orientated towards popery might carry England over into the French camp. Alternatively—and that one believes was William’s biggest fear—James’s increasingly unpopular actions might give birth to a new republican movement and destroy the monarchy altogether.
Every week the Dutch ambassador in London sent fresh reports of anti-Protestant pin-pricks. A popish master was appointed to a school in Bath; when James was in Oxford he attended Vespers with the Roman Catholic Master of University College; the Protestant President of Magdalen College was finally deposed; Father Petre became a member of the Privy Council and was promised a cardinal’s hat; the Duke of Berwick, James’s illegitimate Roman Catholic son, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and became responsible for the defence of Portsmouth; a Roman Catholic, Sir Roger Strickland, was to command the Channel fleet. In November William took a positive and tigpiflcant decision: he determined to make known not merely to James but to the world at large precisely where he and his wife stood on the question of the repeal of the Test Acts. He got his friend, Caspar Fagel, the Grand Pensionary of Holland, to write a letter (which Dr. Burnet translated into English) in answer to an inquiry from a Scottish Presbyterian, James Stewart, explaining that they were ready to concur in the repeal of the penal laws, provided that Roman Catholics continued to be excluded from both Houses of Parliament and from public employment. Roman Catholics, they thought, should be allowed the same degree of liberty of worship as they possessed in Holland; but the Test Acts must be retained. James was most annoyed over this open letter. At first it was pretended in Whitehall that it was not genuine. But a continuing flood of pamphlets printed in Holland made it clear that Fagel had indeed spoken for his master. In vain a reply was produced entitled Parliamentum Pacificum or The Happy Union of King and People in a Healing Parliament. Already the Fagel—Stewart correspondence had created a sensation.
That same autumn the Marquis of Halifax, a brilliant pamphleteer, anonymously published his Letter to a Dissenter in which he argued that it was not really to the interests of the nonconformists to support the repeal of the Tests. He urged that popery was by its very nature an exclusive religion, and once the Test Acts were repealed the English people might be forced into the Church of Rome. More important than this war of words was the request that was soon put forward officially by King James II that the English and Scottish regiments in Dutch pay should be permanently returned to England. The inspirer of this request was the Earl of Sunderland, now himself teetering on the edge of conversion, who, it has been suggested, thus hoped to strengthen the position of the Roman Catholic party in England if James should suddenly die. It seems a rather complicated motive, but Sunderland had an over-subtle mind. At any rate it was not a particularly feasible proposal. In the first place, James did not possess the funds to pay for the upkeep of six additional regiments, and Sunderland had to try to induce Barrillon to persuade his King to pay for them: that indeed was to put James under the patronage of France. No wonder that Sunderland asked, if the scheme went through, that he should be awarded an additional ‘gratification’ by the French King and a promise of his protection in case of trouble. Frankly he admitted that he needed enough money to put him in a state to face with less concern the revolutions that happened so frequently in English history. In the second place, it was highly unlikely that the States-General would agree to the release of the regiments without putting up a great deal of resistance. It was generally recognized that the mere request was certain to poison the relations between the two nations and to arouse the suspicion that an Anglo-French attack on the Dutch was in contemplation. Thus the Dutch would be alienated without the French being necessarily committed. Finally, after their long sojourn in the Netherlands would these regiments prove loyal to a popish sovereign?
Too late Sunderland realized that this proposal was a blunder of the first order. In February 1688 Van Citters reported to the States-General from London that the English King was expected to put thirty-eight men-of-war to sea in the spring; that a Parliament was to be called in the hope that it would prove anti-Dutch; and that the demand for the recall of the regiments from Holland was accompanied by growing rumours of a coming war. Thus, if in the winter of 1687-88 William was in fact considering the possibilities of intervention in England, an operation which would require the fullest support from the States-General and from leaders of opinion throughout the United Netherlands, by lending substance to alarmist reports James and Sunderland had played right into his hands.
William’s final decision would have to be reached on practical grounds in the cause of Realpolitik. His aim was to prevent and not to start a civil war in England; to assert his wife’s right of succession to the throne; to stop James from concluding a military alliance with France. These were the great simplicities. William had no intention of allowing himself to be pushed into a sudden or desperate enterprise by a few discontented English politicians. He listened, above all, to the Marquis of Halifax who advised him to play a waiting game. He knew that many people in England regarded him as a ruthless Prince who had once adopted a fierce attitude towards the Dutch republican party and had quarrelled frequently with the rulers of Amsterdam. The Whig interpretation of history, stemming from Sir Edward Coke and realized in history books written soon after William died, made the Prince of Orange into the saviour of immemorial English liberties, the spiritual heir of Simon de Montfort and John Pym. So, in effect, he came to be. But that was not the main motive for the actions that precipitated the Revolution of 1688. Before they are detailed, we shall, however, turn back and consider the political theories and constitutional ideas that lay behind the Revolution and may have contributed in some measure to its bloodless success.