Letter of the Prince of Orange to Pope Innocent XII, 1693

The following selections of this document (British Museum, Vatican Transcripts, Add. MS. 15,398) were originally printed on pages 455 and 456 of Martin Haile's James Francis Edward: The Old Chevalier (New York: Dent, 1907). One would be hard put to find a more disingenuous document.

In an Italian Manifesto, sent to Pope Innocent XII by William III at the end of 1693, he attempts to vindicate his "conduct from calumnies," declaring he was called to England "to be the arbitrator and mediator" between James II and his subjects. "The care of calming those turbulences occupied me entirely, and I might have succeeded if that Prince and his subjects had had more condescension towards each other. . . . The death of the Duke of Monmouth and of the greater number of his accomplices had struck terror in the boldest, and had he [James II] not formed the design of imposing his own religion upon all his subjects, it may be said that he would still be on the throne . . . but the ambition of making himself absolute . . . and of imitating the actions of a powerful King, without possessing the same means and the same force, brought down upon him that terrible crowd of misfortunes under which, by a fatal heredity, his head might have fallen, had it not been for the care I took to save and preserve him from the fury of his subjects. . . . At the same time, these revolted people, seeking a powerful Protector and a disinterested mediator, unfortunately cast their eyes upon me, and solicited my presence in England, and my help in securing their religious freedom.

"I was in Holland, at the head of a powerful force, which I had raised, not, as has been reproached to me, for that end, but to support the interests of Pope Innocent XI against Cardinal Fürstenberg, or I may rather say against France." After recounting his arrival in England, he continues: "In a short time I found myself in London, absolute master of all things, not one of King James's subjects having had the courage or the fidelity to strike a blow in his favour. Under these conditions, in the midst of a furious people, burning with wrath against their King, I sent him secret notice to save himself, out of an excess of consideration and tenderness - per un eccesso di considerazione e di tenerezza - and with no view whatever to my own interests. I favoured his flight, and facilitated his embarkation . . . and then, ignoring the services I had rendered him, he excited the most Christian king against me, as if I had been guilty of a misfortune only imputable to his own imprudence and ill conduct. . . .

"The Convention offered me the sceptre, and forced me to accept it; it also forced me, in spite of myself - mio malgrado - to allow myself to be proclaimed King . . . and constrained me to obey the violence of its election - la violenza di sua elezione. I found myself the depositary of a crown which I am ready to renounce for the public tranquillity; and for nearly five years I have reigned on that footing - che io regno su questo piede. The King of France alone persists in disturbing me and treating me as a usurper."

Seven pages are filled with a defence against the accusation of being a tyrant or usurper; and William goes on to declare that he is ready "to renounce the Crown of England, and to leave these islands forever; to restore them to King James and to assure their possession to the Prince his son; and to return to Holland myself . . . if France will only, on her side, confine herself to the execution of the treaties of the Pyrenees, and consent to the nullification of all subsequent treaties." This remarkable document ends with pressing the example of the Catholic powers, who have owned William's sovereignty, upon the Pope; and with a pathetic picture of the poor condition to which the writer will be reduced when, for the public tranquillity, he will have laid down the Crown of England, and resumed his former humble condition in Holland.

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