Manuscripts and Special Collections

Introduction to The Invasion of England in 1688

Portrait of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (from a sketch by Rigaud)

Portrait of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (from a sketch by Rigaud)

This archive teaching unit, originally written in 1965 and revised in 1976, is based on original correspondence and other papers of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (1649-1709), which were deposited in the Manuscripts Department of the University of Nottingham by the 7th Duke of Portland.

The unit does not aim to give a general account of the revolution of 1688, nor even a comprehensive view of the naval and military operations which brought William, Prince of Orange, to the English throne. These would have required the examination of many more private and public documents.

It is, in fact, a one-sided impression of a great event in English history, derived from the papers of one man. But William Bentinck, the Prince's closest personal friend, was very intimately involved in the invasion, and no account of the campaign can afford to neglect his records.

Almost at first hand, we can read the preliminary correspondence of the conspirators, watch a great fleet sail down the Channel almost touching both the French and English shores, help choose a landing site, hear William appeal for English support, sense the laborious movements of a large seventeenth century army across the south of England, and listen to Bentinck's own account of an operation in the midst of which he received with outward passivity the news of his wife's death.

Note about calendar dates

Many of the documents reproduced here have two dates, one 'Old Style' and one ' New Style', 10 days apart from each other. This is because the Netherlands was using the Gregorian calendar while Britain was still using the Julian calendar. So the army billeting list Pw A 2221 was dated 6th/16th December 1688 because the date was 16th December on the Continent, reckoned according to the Gregorian Calendar (New Style), but the 6th of December in Britain, reckoned according to the Julian Calendar (Old Style).

For more details about the different calendars in use at this time, see the relevant page in the Skills Unit on Dating developed by Manuscripts and Special Collections.


Next page:  Background to the Invasion


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