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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

King Billy

I have recently realised the coincidences of the two invasions of our south-west coast. No doubt real historians will be aware of it, but my school history seemed to jump from Good Queen Beth to the Growth of the Labour Party. The latter being helped by the teacher at least pretending to be an arch Tory, which made the class rebellious and study Labour assiduously, which produced credits in our School Certificates.
The first of the coincidences was the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 which I wrote about in the Marshwood magazine last October, with the “Glorious Rebellion” of William of Orange in 1688. They both sailed from Holland. Monmouth, who was the illegitimate son of King Charles II, landed at Lyme Regis and his rebellion ended with his and many other executions. He was trying to depose King James II who had been crowned in 1685, as it was feared he might make the country catholic. But William of Orange sent some British regiments who were in Dutch service to help King James quell Monmouth’s Rebellion, although this may not have been necessary. Britain and Holland were both fighting France at that time and we noted the other month that Lt Col Dawson-Damer of Winterbourne Came was Quarter Master General to the Prince of Orange at Waterloo.
King James’ children, Anne and her sister Mary were both brought up as Protestants by their mother, Anne Hyde. When Anne died, James converted to Catholicism and married Mary Beatrice, the catholic daughter of the Duchess of Modena in 1673. A male heir, James Edward Stuart was announced in 1688 which caused many to fear that England might revert to Catholicism.
William of Orange, a protestant, had married his cousin, Mary, the second daughter of King James, so both Monmouth and William had a relationship to the English royal family. William was invited by several English politicians in June 1688 to come and perhaps depose James. There were seven politicians, “The Immortal Seven”, signatories to the invitation, including Lord Lumley, who had been involved in the capture of Monmouth, and Admiral Edward Russell.
William landed in the West Country, another coincidence, at Brixham, in Devon on 5th November 1688 from his ship The Brill. There was a considerable difference between the two invasions, in that William was much better supported with 250 large ships and 60 fishing boats, together with several thousand troops, both cavalry and foot soldiers.
William advanced to Sherborne Castle and was welcomed by John Digby, Earl of Bristol. William’s wife, Mary, was a close friend of the earl’s sister, Lady Anne Digby. William then issued a proclamation that he was a liberator, not a conqueror. The army of James II was on Salisbury Plain under the command of Lord John Churchill who, with protestant officers, announced that the army would support William. As a result, King James fled to France in December.
Cecil Cullingford, in a History of Dorset, writes that Thomas Erle Drax erected a tablet in 1780 over an ice-house in Charborough Park which is inscribed “Under this roof in the year 1686 a set of patriotic gentlemen of this neighbourhood concerted the great plan of THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION with the immortal King William, to whom we owe our deliverance from Popery and Slavery….”.
William did not wish to become regent or that Mary should reign alone and she agreed. So in February 1689, a Convention Parliament offered them the crown as joint monarchs. The Scottish Parliament also agreed and they were crowned in April. A Declaration of Rights settled any succession in favour of Mary’s children, then Anne and her children, followed by then any children of William by a later marriage, thus showing careful thought to the future.
William became an assertive monarch and would not show favour to either parliamentary party. He was frequently out of the country, pursuing military conflicts, which required Parliament to provide adequate funds. This caused continual conflict, as they did not wish to allow him to gain the upper hand and lose their present parliamentary freedom.
In 1690 King James, with French assistance, landed in Ireland and summoned the Jacobite Parliament. He still had a large following in Ireland, mainly catholic in the south. But William III’s army managed to cross the river Boyne near Drogheda, outflanking James’s Jacobite army and crushingly defeating them in what is known as the Battle of the Boyne. King James fled back to France, and Waterford and Dublin shortly capitulated. Limerick was more difficult to defeat, but by the end of 1691, all of southern Ireland was conquered by William’s army led by John Churchill, later to become Duke of Marlborough. The Battle of the Boyne is often said to have crushed the hopes of Irish Catholics and King William was blamed for the horror and bloodshed. It is still celebrated, or scorned, on 12th July and has created problems between the catholic and protestant people of Northern Ireland.
I remember discussing years ago our involvement with Ireland with an Irish friend in the Royal Air Force and he referred to “King Bully, so it was”. I cannot recall whether he was from “Nor’ren Ireland” or the south, or if he meant “King Billy” and had confused me with his Irish accent.
Queen Mary died of smallpox in 1694. Her husband, King William died in March 1702 after a fall from his horse, when it stumbled on a mole-hill at Hampton Court. This resulted in the Jacobite toast to “the little gentleman in black velvet”. William and Mary had no children.
Anne, the second daughter of James II, had been brought up a protestant. She married Prince George of Denmark in 1683, but their children died young. She was friendly with Sarah and John Churchill and was influenced by them. Anne agreed to the Act of Settlement in 1701 to ensure a protestant succession and on William’s death, she became Queen in 1702. Prince George did not share the throne and died in 1708. Anne apparently took considerable interest in parliamentary affairs. Anne died in 1714, with no heir. As a result of the Act of Settlement of 1701, the Electors of Hanover were the nearest protestants to succeed to the British throne, so George Ludwig of Hanover became George I of Britain, heralding a succession of Georgian kings.
An elderly man said “And Queen Anne is dead”, to two of us young boys, after we had made an obvious comment. I have not heard this phrase since, but I believe it used to be common.
I consider this is sufficient history, at least for this month!
Bridport History Society will have a Zoom meeting on Tuesday 13th April at 2.30, opening at 2 pm, about “Loders Court Estate 1799 – 1916: Victorian Life in a Dorset Village” by Helen Doble. For details contact Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard on 01308 425170 or email
Cecil Amor, Hon President, Bridport History Society.

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