The Prince of Orange lands in England

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER I....continued

It was the bold and illegal steps which the King did not scruple to use in order to secure the two grand objects at which he aimed, that first opened the eyes of the English people to the danger which threatened their religion and their liberties. The Scottish people, by sad experience, had their eyes opened long before.

Ever since the Restoration in 1660 the two royal brothers had been engaged in the most unscrupulous efforts to force upon them a Church system which they disliked; and the bloody persecution through which they passed for refusing to submit to Government dictation in matters of faith, had sowed in them the seeds of hatred to the reigning house, and made them associate with the name of the Stuarts everything unprincipled, tyrannical, and base. North and South Britain were, therefore, quite agreed that something should be done to remedy the state of things which existed, and to protect the interests that were now in such imminent peril.

It so happened that the King's eldest daughter, the Princess Mary, was married to her cousin William, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of Holland, who, by his mother, was grandson of Charles I. of England, and by his father was great grandson of the celebrated William the Silent, the first prince in Europe who avowed and practised those principles of toleration which lie at the foundation of all religious freedom. She and her husband were known to be attached to the Protestant religion, and to take a deep interest in the affairs of England. Persons whose political or religious opinions made them in any way obnoxious to the English Court, had for some time past been in the habit of crossing over to the Hague, and putting themselves under the protection of William. From daily intercourse with these refugees, the Prince was kept constantly informed in regard to the state of public feeling in great Britain, and of the course which matters were likely to take. He knew that civil liberty was constantly infringed upon by the King's disregard alike of the wishes of his subjects and of the laws of the land; that the Protestant religion itself was in imminent danger; that no hope could be entertained of the next heir to the crown, because the Prince of Wales was an infant, and that if he survived he would be certain to be educated in the opinions, religious and political, of his father; that the nation was on the point of another civil war, perhaps more fierce and bloody than that which brought Charles I. to the scaffold; and that there was every probability that the sceptre might now pass away for ever from a family which had been twice tried and twice found wanting. Considerations such as these made him listen with favour to the inducements held out to him, as the nearest Protestant relative of the reigning family, to interfere in the affairs of the nation by force of arms, and to assume the direction of the Government. Nor can it be supposed that he was indifferent to the consideration, that his position as King of England would at once place him at the head of the Protestant interest in Europe, and give him scope for carrying out more effectively the grand aim of his life—to check the influence of Louis XIV., and to set limits to the great military power of France, which even then threatened to overshadow the nations.[3]

The result was, that the Prince unfurled his flag emblazoned with the scroll, "The Protestant Religion and the Liberties of England," underneath which was the motto of his house, "I WILL MAINTAIN"; and on the 5th of November, 1688, landed with a small army of 15,000 men at Torbay, in the South of England. The part of the country where he landed had suffered severely for the help which it had given to Monmouth's rebellion some short time before, and the people were at first reluctant to commit themselves by joining his standard; but in course of a fortnight the tide of popular feeling began to rise; noble after noble joined him; town after town declared for him; and one military troop after another went over to his side. Everywhere the populace received him with acclamations, and, without having to fight a battle, he advanced to London by slow marches, as if at the head of a triumphal procession. King James, deserted by all, finally left London on the 18th of December, and was permitted to withdraw from the kingdom. At three o'clock of the day on which James left Whitehall, William entered London and took possession of St. James's. A Convention of Lords and Commons soon after met, voted that King James had abdicated the Crown and had left the Throne vacant, and accepted William and Mary as King and Queen of England. They were proclaimed formally in London on the 13th of February, 1689; and, so soon as the necessary forms could be complied with, Scotland followed the example of the sister nation.

Great Britain was thus practically unanimous in accepting the change of government; but with Ireland it was different. The majority of the Irish people preferred James to William, took up his quarrel, and made it the occasion for a new attempt to regain their independence.

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[3] So much was this felt throughout Europe to be of vital importance, that the Pope himself sympathised with the invasion, and the Catholic Court of Austria ordered public prayers to be offered for the success of William's expedition to England.—Avaux, p. 170. See also Macpherson's Original Papers, vol. i., p. 299.

William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research into identifying participants at the siege which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry, tracing, where possible, the family lineage; and the second part includes 352 entries on the Jacobite side. Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.