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Pw A 2090 : Notes giving instructions on the conduct of secret correspondence; n.d. [1687-1688]

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From the latter part of 1687 and throughout 1688 private intelligence was being sent from England to the Prince of Orange's supporters who were preparing for the invasion of England and were interested in having knowledge of the day to day political situation in England.

Elaborate plans were made to keep this information secret. Codes were used. The king, James II, and leading ministers in England were not referred to by their own names but were allotted other names in these letters. For instance, James II was referred to as Mr. Kemp.

This letter, one of the earliest in the file, shows other precautions that were taken. The correspondent in England was going to write his letters in an invisible ink. These are the instructions as to how the recipient was to recognize such a letter and how he was to treat the paper in order to make the writing visible.


Pw A 2099 : Copy letter from James [Johnston] to 'Honoured Sir'; 17 Nov. 1687

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Both this and the next document are taken from the file of secret intelligence correspondence. The original letters show signs of the treatment they received to bring up the invisible ink. The paper has been weakened and darkened by the copperose solution. Soon afterwards, fair copies were made of all the letters in the file. These fair copies are cleaner, easier to read, than the original letters and this document and the following one are taken from these contemporary fair copies.

The extract on page 5 is about the expulsion of the Fellows of Magdalen College who were dismissed in November 1687. Their president had died, and the King called upon them to elect his nominee Samuel Parker, Bishop of Oxford. They refused on the grounds that they had already made their choice and that by obeying the college statutes they were obeying the law. Finally, they were deprived of their Fellowships and declared incapable of holding any church preferments. The King had now alienated the universities who had hitherto supported the idea of non-resistance.


Pw A 2141 : Copy of a letter [from James Johnston]; 6/16 Feb. 1688

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As in the previous illustration, this is a contemporary fair copy of a letter in the secret service file. Code names are used for the leading personalities. Mr. Kemp is James II, Seaton is Sunderland.  

One of the factors in James' defeat was the failure of the fleet to put out of port in time to attack the Dutch. This extract shows how strong anti-popish feeling was among sailors, and illustrates the King's refusal to accept advice.


Pw A 2188/8 : Note in handwriting of William Bentinck on possible landing places for the invasion of England in 1688; n.d. [c. 1688]

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One of a series of notes in the handwriting of William Bentinck. Places considered ranged from Bridlington in the north-east right round the coast to the south-west, the area ultimately chosen. This document deals with the south coast. In addition to detailing the coastal towns and the distances separating them, it also includes a figure, in each case, for the number of rivers which have to be crossed between town and town.

Very careful preparation for the invasion went on all through the summer of 1688. These memoranda confirm that there was at least tentative consideration of the north-east coast as a suitable landing point. Part of a letter on the possibility of a north-east landing reads 'If the landing be Northwards it is conceived to be very dangerous to land any near or to London than, some part of Yorkshair'.

At one time, as an alternative to the north-east or south-west, a coastal march was thought possible. One document summarizes the local knowledge of certain individuals about the nature of the coast at various points. The same phrases occur: 'hard ground', 'sandy ground', 'slippery ground from X to Y'. These remarks clearly refer to the suitability of areas for landing.


Pw A 2197/2 : Plan of the order of sailing of the Dutch fleet; n.d. [c.1688]

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Plan showing the order of sailing of the Dutch fleet, which is headed by two pilot boats, followed by 'His Highness' ship, 'The Briel', i.e. William, Prince of Orange's ship. Then there is a line of vessels in line abreast, including some, though not all, of the important figures of the invasion (e.g. Schomberg and Nassau are in command of ships, but not apparently Waldeck, Ginkel or Bentinck). After this come three columns of detachments of ships, mainly under the command of Dutchmen.

The normal order of sailing in the seventeenth century was for the commander in chief with a Union or Standard at the main to be in the centre. He would have ahead and astern of him (or on the right or left if in line abreast) his vice-admiral (red flag at the fore) and his rear-admiral (red flag at the mizzen). The admiral of the van had a white flag at the main and his vice and rear-admirals had white flags at the fore and mizzen respectively. The admiral of the rear squadron had a blue flag at the main and his vice and rear-admirals blue flags at the fore and mizzen. William seems to have used a more military arrangement of his fleet, but he used the naval method of distinguishing seniority by the flag, at the main, fore and mizzen. The flags were presumably of different colours, the order of seniority being as in the Navy, red, white, blue.


Pw A 2247 : Copy of a declaration by William, Prince of Orange [later King William III], at Exeter; n.d. [1688]

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He had had a good voyage across the Channel and made a successful landing at Torbay. Now he has advanced as far as Exeter and is inviting all Englishmen who are interested in maintaining the Protestant Religion and the laws and liberties of their country, to support his enterprise. He promises to protect his adherents against the enemy, i.e. against supporters of James II, whose actions alone, William claims, will be responsible for any severe measures he may have to take.


Pw A 2251 : Requisition order for oxen and wagons, signed by Prince William of Orange, Exeter; 16 Nov. 1688

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A requisition order for oxen and wagons, dated from Exeter, November 16th (Old Style), signed by William as Prince of Orange. It illustrates a point mentioned by William Bentinck in his account of the invasion: the difficulty experienced by the army from the lack of baggage animals and wagons, made worse by poor west-country roads in the autumn. The Prince marched out of Exeter five days later, leaving behind some stores, artillery, etc. for which there was no transport.

William offered a reasonable price for goods that were commandeered, but in an agricultural economy without large surplus stocks of feed, this would not compensate the civilian population for the loss of grain, beasts, etc. at the very start of winter. The army, which numbered over 10,000 foot and over 3,000 horse, unless it carried most of its supplies (which is surely very improbable) must have placed a severe strain on any area where it stayed for any length of time, e.g. around Exeter, around Hindon and around Hungerford.

DOCUMENTS 8 and 9 

Pw A 2235 : [Part of] a [draft] account in French of the march [from Torbay to London] by William Bentinck [later 1st Earl of Portland]; n.d. [c. Dec. 1688]

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Pw A 2231 : [Part of] a [draft] account in French of the march [from Torbay to London] by William Bentinck [later 1st Earl of Portland]; n.d. [c. Dec. 1688]

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Document 8 (Pw A 2235) and Document 9 (Pw A 2231) are pages from Bentinck's own account of the invasion of 1688. The whole account is written in his own hand in French, and is a rough draft with many crossings out and additions. Perhaps Bentinck intended having a fair copy made of the whole. A summary of part of it exists in a clerk's hand. The account of the Channel crossing is only found in a clerk's version. Parts of Bentinck's account seem to have been written originally as letters, and then later the first person has been changed to the third person to make a narrative. There is no direct evidence about the date at which Bentinck was writing.

The whole account is a business-like record of places, dates and the names of persons, with little or no personal comment of any kind.

Note the marginal reference in Pw A 2235 to the arrival of Churchill (later Duke of Marlborough) in William's camp. This extract illustrates the disintegration of James' army. The dates 3rd/23rd, 6th/26th, 7th/27th denote 23rd November/3rd December, 26th November/6th December, and 27th November/7th December in Old and New Style.

Later in the account (Pw A 2231) Bentinck mentions the flight of Princess Anne to Nottingham. Mention is also made of the arrival of the three commissioners, Lords Halifax, Nottingham, and Godolphin, sent by James to parley with William. Lord Clarendon was the brother of Anne Hyde, and therefore brother-in-law of James and uncle of the Princesses Mary and Anne.


Pw A 2221 : List in Dutch relating to quarters for the army; 16 Dec. 1688

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This document is one of the army billeting lists of which there are a number in the Portland Papers. It is dated Dec. 6th/16th and was written by a clerk in a mixture of Dutch, French and English. The writer was probably a Dutchman, doing his best with the spelling of English place names: -

Ambesbury = Amesbury

Apleshire = Appleshaw

East Gratton = East Grafton

Pewyse = Pewsey

The units listed presumably spent one night in the villages.

A large number of the names mentioned can be identified on a modern map. There was a solid grouping of Dutch units round the Prince's H.Q. at Collingbourne Kingston, with the handful of English, Scots, and French Hugenots on the periphery.


DA435.M2.F4 : Map showing William's route down the English Channel and through southern England

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This map has been reproduced from T.B. Macauley, The History of England from the accession of James the Second, vol. III, 1914, p.1183


Next page:  Introduction to The 1745 Rebellion


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