Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIV.: JAMES II. OF ENGLAND DETHRONED BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, WILLIAM III., AND PROTECTED BY LOUIS XIV. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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CHAPTER XIV.: JAMES II. OF ENGLAND DETHRONED BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, WILLIAM III., AND PROTECTED BY LOUIS XIV. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
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JAMES II. OF ENGLAND DETHRONED BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, WILLIAM III., AND PROTECTED BY LOUIS XIV.
The prince of Orange, still more ambitious than even Louis XIV., had conceived vast designs, which might appear chimerical in a stadtholder of Holland, but which he justified by his great abilities and courage. He wanted to humble the king of France and dethrone the king of England. He found no great difficulty in getting the powers of Europe to join with him against France; the emperor, some princes of the empire, the Dutch, and the duke of Lorraine had at first entered into a private league at Augsburg, in 1681, and were soon after joined by Spain and the duke of Savoy. The pope, without being actually one of the confederates, set them all to work by his intrigues. The Venetians, without openly declaring themselves, favored their designs in secret, and all the princes of Italy were sympathetic. In the North, Sweden at that time sided with the imperialists, and Denmark was a useless ally to France. Upward of five hundred thousand Protestants, who had been driven out of France by the persecution of Louis, and had carried with them their industry and an irreconcilable hatred to the French king, were as a new body of enemies, who dispersed themselves through all the courts of Europe, and animated the confederate powers, already inclined to war. We shall speak of the flight of these people in the chapter on religion. The king was surrounded by enemies on all sides, and had no friend but King James of England.
James II., who succeeded his brother, Charles II., was a Catholic; but Charles did not consent to become a Catholic till toward the latter part of his life, and then only out of compliance with his mistresses and his brother. In fact, he acknowledged no other religion but that of pure deism. His perfect indifference in those points which divide mankind in their disputations had contributed not a little to render his reign peaceable among the English. James, on the contrary, attached by strong persuasion to the Roman Catholic religion from his youth, joined to his belief the spirit of party and zeal. Had he been a Mahometan, or of the religion of Confucius, the English would never have disturbed his reign; but he formed a design to establish the Roman Catholic religion in his kingdom, which was looked upon with the utmost horror by these republican royalists, as a religion of slavery. It is sometimes a very easy matter to establish a religion in a country; Constantine, Clovis, Gustavus Vasa, and Queen Elizabeth did, without any danger, introduce a new religion into their kingdoms by different methods, and had it received by the people; but to bring about changes of this kind there are two things absolutely necessary—a depth of politics, and a lucky concurrence of circumstances, both of which were wanting here.
He could not without indignation reflect that so many kings of Europe were despotic; that those of Sweden and Denmark had lately become so; and, in a word, that Poland and England were the only kingdoms in the world where the liberty of the people subsisted at the same time with royalty. He was encouraged by Louis XIV. to render himself absolute at home, and the Jesuits persuaded him to restore their religion, and with it their credit; but he took such unfortunate measures to compass this that at his first setting out he turned all hearts against him. He began as if he had already obtained the end he aimed at: he entertained a nuncio from the pope publicly at his court, with a train of Jesuits and Capuchin friars; he threw seven English bishops into prison, whom he should have won over by gentle means; deprived the city of London of its privileges, instead of indulging it with new ones; and overturned the laws with a high hand, which he should have secretly undermined; in a word, he acted with so little discretion that the cardinals at Rome used to say of him by way of jest that he ought to be excommunicated, as a person who was going about to destroy the little Catholic religion that remained in England.
Pope Innocent XI. conceived such indifferent hopes of James’s projects that he never would grant a cardinal’s hat, which that prince solicited for his confessor, Father Peters. This Jesuit was a hot-headed, intriguing man who, mad with the ambition of becoming a cardinal and primate of England, pushed his master to the brink of the precipice. The principal persons of the kingdom combined in secret to prevent the king’s designs, and sent a deputation to the prince of Orange. They conducted their plot with such prudence and secrecy that the court was lulled into full security.
The prince of Orange fitted out a fleet, on board of which were to be embarked between fourteen and fifteen thousand men. This prince, who was only an illustrious private person, and had hardly five hundred thousand livres a year of his own estate, was nevertheless so happy in his politics that he saw himself master of money, a fleet, and the hearts of the states-general. He was truly a king in Holland by his skilful conduct, while James lost all regal power in England by his precipitate rashness.
It was at first stated that this armament was designed against France. The true destination was kept a profound secret, though intrusted to more than two hundred persons. Barillon, the French ambassador at London, a man of pleasure, and more conversant in the intrigues of James’s mistresses than those of Europe, was the first imposed upon. Louis XIV., however, was not to be thus deceived; he saw what was going forward, and offered his assistance to his friend and ally, who, thinking himself secure, rejected that aid which he afterward solicited when it was too late, and the prince of Orange’s fleet was under sail. He had been wanting to himself, and he now found everything fail him at once. He in vain wrote to the emperor Leopold; that prince returned for answer, “Nothing has befallen you but what we had foretold.” He depended on his fleet, but his ships suffered those of the enemy to pass them. He might, however, have defended himself by land; he had an army of twenty thousand men, and if he had led them on without giving them time for reflection, it is probable they would have done their duty; but instead of that, he gave them leisure to fix their determination. Several of his general officers abandoned him, and among the rest the famous Churchill, who afterward proved as fatal to Louis as he had done to James, and became so illustrious under the name of the duke of Marlborough. He was the favorite of James, his creature, brother of his mistress, and a lieutenant-general in his army; notwithstanding which he left him, and went over to the prince of Orange at his camp. James saw himself abandoned by his son-in-law, the prince of Denmark, and even by his own daughter, the princess Anne.
And now finding himself attacked and pursued by one of his sons-in-law, abandoned by the other, deserted by his own daughters and bosom friends, and hated even by those of his subjects who were of his own party, he looked upon his fortune as desperate; and, without waiting for the issue of a battle, resolved upon flight, the last resource of a vanquished prince. At length, after being stopped in his flight by the populace, ill-treated by them, and carried back to London, receiving submissively the orders of the prince of Orange in his own palace, seeing his guard relieved by that prince’s, without the least resistance, driven from his house, and made a prisoner at Rochester, he took advantage of the liberty purposely given him to quit his kingdom, and sought an asylum in France.
This was the epoch of the true English liberty. The nation, represented by its parliament, fixed the long-contested limits of the royal prerogative, and the privileges of the people; and having prescribed to the prince of Orange the conditions on which he was to reign, chose him for their king jointly with his wife, Mary, the daughter of King James. From that time this prince was acknowledged by the greater part of Europe as the lawful king of England, by the name of William III., and the deliverer of that nation; but in France they considered him only as the prince of Orange, the usurper of the dominions of his father-in-law.
In January, 1689, the fugitive king came with his wife, the daughter of the duke of Modena, and their son, the prince of Wales, as yet an infant, to implore the protection of Louis XIV. The queen of England, who arrived a little before her husband, was astonished at the splendor with which the French monarch was surrounded, and that profusion of magnificence which she beheld at Versailles; and still more so at the reception she met with from the king, who went as far as Chatou to meet her. “I now do you a melancholy service, madam,” said he, “I hope, before very long, to render you one more considerable and fortunate.” He then conducted her to the palace of St. Germain, where she met with the same attendance as the queen of France herself would have had, and was furnished with everything that ministers to convenience or luxury; presents of all kinds, in gold, silver, plate, jewels, and rich stuffs.
Among other presents she found a purse of ten thousand louis d’or laid on her toilet. The same attention was paid to her husband, who arrived just one day after her; he had six hundred thousand francs a year settled on him for the expenses of his household, besides an infinite number of presents which were made him. He had the king’s own officers and guards. But this noble reception was little, in comparison with the preparations which were made for restoring him to his throne. Never did monarch appear so grand as Louis on this occasion, and James seemed as mean. Those of the court and city, by whose opinions the reputations of men are decided, conceived very little esteem for him. He saw nobody but Jesuits. He alighted at their college in the Rue St. Antoine in Paris; he told them that he was a Jesuit as well as themselves; and, what is still more extraordinary, he said the truth. He had got himself admitted into this order with certain ceremonies, by four English Jesuits, when he was only duke of York. This weakness of mind in a prince, joined to the manner in which he had lost his crown, rendered him so despicable that the courtiers diverted themselves every day with making songs about him. He was driven from England and ridiculed in France, where no one gave him any credit for being a Catholic. The archbishop of Rheims, brother of Louvois, the minister, said openly in his antechamber at St. Germain: “There’s a good man, who has given up three kingdoms for a mass.” From Rome he received only indulgences and pasquinades. In a word, throughout the whole of this revolution, his religion was of so little service to him that when the prince of Orange, who was the head of the Calvinists, set sail to go and dethrone his father-in-law, the Catholic king’s minister at The Hague ordered masses to be said for the success of his expedition.
In the midst of the humiliations which befell this fugitive prince, and the liberality of Louis XIV. toward him, it was a spectacle worthy of attention to see James touching for the king’s evil in the little convent of the English nuns—whether the kings of England have arrogated this singular privilege to themselves, as pretenders to the crown of France, or that this ceremony has been established among them since the time of the first Edward.
The king soon sent him over to Ireland, where the Roman Catholics still formed a strong party; a squadron of thirteen ships of the first rate lay in Brest road, ready to carry him over. All the officers, courtiers, and even the priests who had repaired to James at St. Germain, had their passage to Brest defrayed at the French king’s expense. An ambassador—M. d’Avaux—was nominated to attend the dethroned king, and followed him in great state. Arms and ammunition of all kinds were put on board the fleet, and every sort of utensil, from the meanest to the most valuable. The king went to St. Germain to take his leave of him; where, for the last present, he gave him his own suit of armor, and embracing him affectionately, said: “The best thing I can wish you is never to see you here again.” James had scarcely landed in Ireland with this great preparation, when he was followed by twenty-three more large ships, and a prodigious number of transports, under the command of Château-Renaud. This fleet having, on May 12, 1689, engaged and dispersed the English squadron, which attempted to oppose its passage, and landed the troops in safety, on its return fell in with and took seven Dutch merchantmen, and came back to Brest victorious over the English, and laden with the spoils of the Dutch.
Shortly after, in March, 1690, a third supply set sail from the harbors of Brest, Toulon, and Rochefort. The ports of Ireland and the English Channel were covered with French ships. At length Tourville, vice-admiral of France, with seventy-two sail of large ships, fell in with the English and Dutch fleet of sixty sail, and a fight ensued which lasted ten hours; on this occasion Tourville, Château-Renaud, d’Estrées, and Nemond signalized themselves by their courage and skill, and reflected honor on the French navy, to which it had till then been a stranger. The English and Dutch, who till then had been masters of the ocean, and from whom the French had but a little time before learned the art of fighting their ships in line of battle, were totally defeated. Seventeen of their ships dismasted, or rendered useless, were run ashore and burned by themselves; the rest took refuge in the Thames, or on the banks of Holland. In this whole engagement the French lost but one small vessel. And now, what Louis had been wishing for upward of twenty years, and which seemed so little probable, came to pass; he had the empire of the sea, an empire which indeed was but of short duration. The enemy’s ships of war fled before his fleets; Seignelay, who dared to attempt the greatest things, brought the galleys of Marseilles upon the main ocean; and the seacoast of England beheld this kind of vessel for the first time; by the help of these galleys a descent was made at Tynemouth, and upward of thirty merchant-ships burned in that bay. The privateers of St. Malo and the new harbor of Dunkirk enriched themselves and the state by continual prizes. In a word, for the space of two years there was not a ship to be seen on the sea but those of France.
King James did not second in Ireland these great efforts made by Louis in his favor. He had with him nearly six thousand French, and fifteen thousand Irish soldiers. The river Boyne ran between his army and King William’s: this river was fordable, the water not being higher than the men’s shoulders; but after it was passed there was a deep marsh to cross before they could attack the Irish army, after which a steep ground presented itself, which formed a kind of natural intrenchment. William made his army pass the river in three places, and began the battle in July, 1690. The Irish, who are known to be such good soldiers in France and Spain, have always behaved ill in their own country. There are certain nations which seem made to be subject to another; the English have always been superior to the Irish in genius, riches, and arms. Ireland has never been able to throw off the English yoke since first subdued by an English nobleman. The French stood their ground at the battle of the Boyne; the Irish gave way and fled. King James, who had not once made his appearance during the engagement, either at the head of the French or Irish, was the first to retreat, and yet he had given proofs of great courage on other occasions; but there are times when valor is lost in dispiritedness. King William having had his shoulder grazed by a cannon-ball before the battle, it was reported and believed in France that he was killed. This false report was received in Paris with a scandalous and indecent joy. The citizens and populace, encouraged by some of the under magistrates, made illuminations, rang the bells, and, in several quarters of the town, they burned figures made of osier, to represent the prince of Orange, in the same manner as they burn the pope in London. The cannon of the Bastille were fired, not by the king’s order, but through the indiscreet zeal of the commandant. It might be supposed, from these great marks of satisfaction, and from what is said by a number of writers, that this mad joy at the supposed death of an enemy was the effect of the great dread they had of him. Almost every writer, French and English, has observed that these rejoicings were the greatest panegyric that could be made on William III. Nevertheless, if we only consider the circumstances of the times, and the spirit which then reigned, we shall presently discover that these transports of joy were not produced by fear. The lower class of citizens and the populace know not what it is to fear an enemy, unless when he threatens their city. Far from dreading the name of William III., the common people in France were so unjust as to despise him. He had almost always been beaten by French generals. The vulgar were ignorant how much real glory that prince had acquired even in his defeats. William, the victor of James in Ireland, did not yet appear, in the eyes of the French, an enemy worthy of Louis XIV. The people of Paris, who idolized their monarch, thought him absolutely invincible. The rejoicings then were not the effect of fear, but hatred; most of the Parisians, who were born under the reign of Louis, and moulded to despotic sway, looked upon a king at that time as a demigod, and a usurper as a sacrilegious monster. The common people, who had seen James going every day to mass, detested William as a heretic. The idea of a son-in-law and a daughter, Protestants, driving their father, a Catholic, from his throne, and reigning in his stead, together with that of an enemy to their king, transported the Parisians to a degree of fury; but prudent people were of a more moderate way of thinking.
James returned to France, leaving his rival to gain new battles in Ireland, and settle himself on the throne. The French fleets were then employed in bringing back their countrymen, who had fought to no purpose, and the Irish Roman Catholics, who, being extremely poor in their own country, chose to go over to France and subsist upon the king’s liberality.
Fortune had apparently very little share in any part of this revolution, from the beginning to the end. The characters of William and James did everything. Those who delight to trace the causes of events in the conduct of men will remark that King William, after his victory, caused a general amnesty to be published; and that King James, on the contrary, on his way through a little town called Galway, hanged some of the inhabitants, who had advised shutting the gates against him. Of two men behaving in this manner, we may easily perceive who would be more likely to prevail.
There were still some towns in Ireland that remained in James’s interest, and among the rest Limerick, in which there were above twelve thousand soldiers. The French king, who still persevered in supporting James’s desperate fortunes, ordered three thousand regular troops to be transported to Limerick; and by an additional generosity he sent all provisions necessary for the maintenance of a numerous garrison. Forty transport vessels, under the convoy of twelve ships of war, carried over every needful supply of workmen’s tools, carriages, engineers, gunners, bombardiers, with two hundred masons, a number of saddles, bridles, and harnesses for upward of twenty thousand horse; cannon with their carriages; muskets, pistols, and swords for twenty-six thousand men; besides provisions and clothing, even to shoes. Limerick, though besieged, being thus abundantly furnished with supplies of every kind, hoped to see its king fight in its defence; but James not appearing, Limerick surrendered, and the French ships returned once more to the coast of Ireland, and brought back to France about twenty thousand soldiers and inhabitants.
What is perhaps more extraordinary than all the rest is, that Louis was not discouraged by these continued disappointments; and though he had a difficult war to support against the greatest part of Europe, he nevertheless endeavored once more to change the fortune of the unhappy king of England, by the decisive stroke of making a descent in England with twenty thousand men which were assembled between Cherbourg and La Hogue. More than three hundred transport vessels lay ready to receive them at Brest. Tourville, with forty-four capital ships, cruised off the coast of Normandy to wait for them. D’Estrées arrived in the port of Toulon with thirty ships more, on July 29, 1692. As there are some misfortunes which arise from bad conduct, so there are others that can only be imputed to fortune. The wind, which was at first favorable to d’Estrées’ squadron, changed, and made it impossible for him to join Tourville, who with his forty-four ships was attacked by the combined fleets of England and Holland, consisting of nearly a hundred sail: the French were obliged to yield to superior numbers, but not till after an obstinate fight of ten hours. Russell, the English admiral, pursued him for two days. Fourteen large ships, of which there were two that carried one hundred and four guns, ran ashore, and the captains set fire to them, to prevent their being burned by the enemy. King James, who was a spectator of this disaster, from the neighboring shore, saw all his hopes at once swallowed up.
This was the first check which had been given to the power of Louis XIV. at sea. Seignelay, who after the death of Colbert, his father, had continued to improve the French navy, died in 1690. Pontchartrain, who had been raised from the place of first president of Brittany to that of secretary for the marine department, did not suffer it to decay under his jurisdiction. The same spirit still continued in the administration. France had as many ships at sea after the fatal blow at La Hogue as she had before; for Tourville commanded a fleet of sixty ships of the line, and d’Estrées one of thirty, exclusive of those which were in harbor; and not more than four years afterward—in 1696—the king fitted out another armament, still more formidable than any of the former ones, to transport James over to England, at the head of twenty thousand French. But this fleet only made its appearance on the coast, for the measures of James’s party in London were as ill concerted as those of his protector were well laid in France.
The dethroned king’s party had now no hope left but in hatching plots against the life of his rival; and almost all those who were concerned in these attempts suffered by the hands of the executioner: besides, it is more than probable that, had they succeeded, he would never have recovered his kingdom. He passed the remainder of his days at St. Germain, where he lived on Louis’s bounty, and a pension of seventy thousand francs, which he was mean-spirited enough to receive privately from his daughter Mary, who had been accessory in dethroning him. He died at St. Germain in the year 1700. Some Irish Jesuits pretended to assert that miracles were performed at his tomb. They even talked at Rome of canonizing after his death a prince whom they had abandoned when living.
Few princes were more unhappy than James; nor have we an example in history of a family for so long a time unfortunate. The first of the kings of Scotland, his ancestors, who bore the name of James, after having been detained for eighteen years a prisoner in England, was murdered, together with his queen, by his own subjects. James II., the son of this prince, was killed in battle against the English, at nineteen years of age. James III., after being imprisoned by his subjects, was slain by the rebels in fight. James IV. fell in a battle which he lost. Mary Stuart, his granddaughter, after being driven from her throne, and forced to take refuge in England, where she languished eighteen years in prison, was at length condemned to die by English judges, and lost her head on a scaffold; Charles I., grandson of this Mary, and king of England and Scotland, was sold by the Scots, sentenced to death by the English, and executed publicly as a traitor. His son, James, the subject of this chapter, was driven from three kingdoms, and, to crown the misfortunes of the family, even the birth of his son was disputed. This son, by the efforts he made to recover the throne of his fathers, brought many of his friends to an untimely end; and of late days we have seen Prince Charles Edward, in whom the virtues of his ancestors and the valor of King John Sobieski, his grandfather by the mother’s side, were in vain united, performing exploits, and suffering calamities almost beyond the reach of credit. If anything can justify those who believe in an unavoidable fatality, it must be the continued series of misfortunes which have befallen the family of the Stuarts for over three hundred years.