Mon 2 Feb, 2004 03:40 am
I am seeking information of the foreign policy of these British monarchs. I would be grateful for anything that you could give me.
William was a Francophobe. His basic policy was to align Britain with Protestant Europe, particulary the Dutch, to serve as a counter balance to France.
Parliament had executed Charles I in January, 1649. His son Charles was finally restored to the monarchy, by the action of George Monck, in 1660. The power of Parliament was supreme by then, as Charles quickly discovered. He therefore acted through his sister, Madame de France--she had married Monsieur de France, the brother of King Louis XIV--and made secret agreements with Louis to get cash payments, which would allow him to circumvent Parliament. English troops, to the disgust of many in England, fought with the French in the Rhineland--John Churchill, one day to be the famous Duke of Marlborough, made his debut in these campaigns, once joining a "forlorn hope" which stormed the glacis of a German fortress, winning him the praise of Louis.
Charles' sister Mary had married the Prince of Orange. He died while his son was still a toddler, and Mary was the regent for William III, Prince of Orange. That meant he was the Stadtholder of the United Provinces, what we would think of as Holland. That did not mean that he would actually govern Holland, but it did mean that he was at least the titular head of their military. In 1672, Louis invaded Holland. William was eventually drive to the expedient of cutting the dykes, to flood the country and cut off the French. He became a public hero, and waged a life-long war with France, and in particular, with Louis XIV.
The younger brother of Charles II, James, Duke of York (for whom New York is named), was just in his early teens when the children of Charles I were obliged to flee the kingdom. After almost 15 years in the French Army, he was definitely a francophile, and a Catholic. He was a very courageous military officer, if not particularly brilliant. It was an age in which brilliance in military operations was less important than connections which would assure the promotion of officers, so his courage was enough to assure him affection in the hearts of the English.
But in 1685, Charles II died without an heir. James became King James II, and the kingdom grew suspicious that he might want to re-introduce Catholicism (and he did plan the attempt). When his Catholic wife gave birth to a son, the Whig asendancy was quickly up in arms. William III, Prince of Orange had married the elder daughter of James II, named Mary after her aunt, who was now also her mother-in-law. Parliament concluded a deal with William III whereby a Dutch army would land in England to drive out James II, and William and Mary would reign as co-equal monarchs, and if they produced a son (which they did not), he would succeed. Should they produce no heir, then Mary's younger sister, Anne, would succeed to the throne. It gets more complicated later, as Anne produced no heir, but that's not a part of the question.
James II cast about for support, but most English officers suddenly remembered something important they had left at Salisbury (traditionally, the main army base in England), and had to go get right away. When John Churchill left him to ride to Salisbury, James knew the gig was up, and he fled England. William III and Mary II were now the rulers. William made John Churchill Earl of Marlborough, but grudgingly, and did not entrust major military operations to him. When France again threatened Holland, and William returned to Holland to defend that nation, he took a lot of redcoats with him, and John Churchill as well. Churchill spent most of the campaign following William around, with few real responsibilities. That was what was known as the Nine Years War.
That had resulted in what was a fairly satisfactory conclusion for William and his coalition. Their aim was to contain the continental ambitions of Louis XIV, and they had succeeded. But crazy European dynastic considerations impinged, as they so often did. In the settlement of the Nine Years War, the assembled powers had decided, among other things, who would succeed the crazy, celibate monk, Pedro, who ruled Spain, and they did so without consulting Pedro. When Pedro heard of it, he was miffed, and publicly stated that upon his death, he would be succeed by a Bourbon candidate, the Duke of Anjou (i believe, you'll need to look that up to be sure), who was the grandson of Louis XIV (of that i'm certain). This threw the entire settlement out of kilter, because that would unite the Spanish and French monarchies, and pose anew the threat to the European "balance of power." Pedro died in 1701, and William (who was now a childless widower), began to rebuild alliances in order to put armies in the field, and contest the succession. Hence began the War of the Spanish Succession. William died before the war began in earnest, and was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Anne. John Churchill's wife had been Anne's closest confidante and companion in the arid days when William and Mary were on the throne, and Anne was largely a nobody. When she came to the throne, John Churchill was elevated to Duke of Marlborough, and took over command of the armies which would face Louis. The rest, as is said too often, is history.
Basically, English policy turned on the perception of the balance of power in Europe. During the reign of Charles II, the policy was ambivalent, as Charles depended upon Louis' subsidies, but the English were deeply mistrustful of France. Once William was in, the traditional antipathy toward France became carved in stone, along with alliance to Austria, France's long-term opponent for power in Germany, and her rival as most Catholic nation. You could get this all in two or three books. Antonia Fraser's Royal Charles can set the stage for you very well, and is an entertaining read. Almost any good biography of William III will do, he was a deadly boring man, and even the best biographer will play hell making him interesting. For the reign of Queen Anne (1701-1715), the best information is actually about John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, and for that, the best information comes from his illustrious descendant, Winston Spencer Churchill. (Winston was the name of John Churchill's father, and Lord Spencer was his son-in-law, whom he adopted after his own two sons died, so Winston Churchill's very name assured his interest in the subject.) Churchill's biography has often been panned, because he treats with sympathy someone the great English historian Thomas McCauley had condemned, but i've read both, and many other sources, and consider Churchill's work reliable. It is in four volumes, but there is a single volumn abridged edition which you should be able to find at any good university library.
Just a little more: to understand the period, it would really help to understand Louis XIV. He came to the throne in 1643, at the age of five. The French defeated the Spanish at Rocroi two weeks later, and broke the back of Spanish power in the Netherlands forever. (Spain once owned the Netherlands, which we would think of as Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and part of western Germany, because a Burgundian Duke had married an Austrian woman. I won't burden you with the explanation--but that is why France and Louis XIV thought they had any business intervening in Holland and Germany, it had become their "vital interest" after the defeat of the Spaniard at Rocroi.) During Louis XIV's childhood, the kingdom was constantly torn by civil war, and his mother, Anne of Austria (who was Spanish), along with the great Richelieu and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, worked very hard to keep the kingdom for Louis. When Louis turned 23, in 1651, he decided he had had enough of the tutelage of Mazarin, and took control of the kingdom himself, beginning real power in the longest reign in European history (he was king from 1643 to 1714).
The best biography of Louis, in my never humble opinion, is the one by Hillaire Belloc. For really good gossip on Louis court in the latter part of his reign, i recommend the memoirs of St. Simon.
One final pass--i hope you didn't take your screen name from the Roman general, not a very auspicious cognomen . . .
: A terse, yet accurate summation.
: Pedro? Don't you mean Carlos II?
In preference to Churchill (I've read it; it's good but it is somewhat outdated) I'd recommend any of the works by Jeremy Black on 18th century British diplomacy, in particular his overview System of Ambition: British Foreign Policy 1660-1793
. Also, John Lynn's book on the wars of Louis XIV
is good background for this subject. These books should be available in any good library or through inter-library loan.
Yes, Joe, you're correct . . . Carlos II, "The Bewitched" . . .
I can't agree that Churchill's bio is outdated; he also had access to papers in the possession of his uncle, who was, i believe, the ninth Duke of Marlborough, which hadn't been available to McCauley and other biographers. I know of no new information which has come to light since then, at least of any real significance. As for his obvious admiration for Marlborough, that is something one ought to take into account when reading anyone's biography of anyone else.
When William was invited to England to replace James II on the throne, Mary travelled to The Hague to see him off. When a faction in the English Convention Parliament offered her the throne as Queen Regnant, Mary declined. She expressed that she was the Prince's wife and never meant to be other than in subjection to him.