Sunday, 10 February 2019

1688: William of Orange lands at Brixham, Devon

The London Review of Books looks at how we might remove ourselves from the current impasse:

The letters pages reveal further insights: 


Vol. 41 No. 2 · 24 January 2019

David Runciman is right to conclude in his analysis of the Brexit impasse that the attempt ‘to combine parliamentary government with plebiscitary democracy has failed’ (LRB, 3 January). The UK is faced not merely with a constitutional crisis, but with constitutional breakdown. Together, the referendum principle introduced by Harold Wilson and the Parliament Act invented by David Cameron and Nick Clegg – both made possible by an unwritten constitution – have torpedoed constitutional order.

Runciman compares the present crisis to Suez but that was political. Better comparisons might be with the abdication crisis of 1936 or the People’s Budget which led to the Parliament Act of 1911. But the constitution was able to deal with both. The present situation is more intractable. Even if Brexit is somehow resolved the country will remain saddled with incompatible notions of legitimacy – the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament and the sovereignty of the popular will. 

The last time something like this happened was in 1688, when the lawful claims of the Crown clashed catastrophically with the lawful claims of Parliament. That situation was resolved by London’s being occupied for 15 months by a European military power, which is not an option at the present time. A constitutional convention might resolve the difficulty, but how would it be set up, by Parliament or by referendum?

Bill Myers

David Runciman · Which way to the exit?: The Brexit Puzzle · LRB 3 January 2019

And so a foreign king landed in Devon: 

William III Landing at Brixham, Torbay, 5 November 1688.jpg - Wikimedia Commons 

The portrait dominates an image showing William's landing in Torbay on 5 November 1688 with 14,000 troops for the invasion of England. In the background is the Anglo-Dutch fleet, with ships on the far left at anchor flying the Dutch flag.

William III Landing at Brixham, Torbay, 5 November 1688 - National Maritime Museum

This was William of Orange: 

A Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic King of France, Louis XIV, in coalition with Protestant and Catholic powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In 1685, William's Catholic uncle and father-in-law, James, became king of England, Scotland and Ireland. James's reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain. William, supported by a group of influential British political and religious leaders, invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution. On 5 November 1688, he landed at the southern English port of Brixham. James was deposed and William and his wife became joint sovereigns in his place. William and Mary reigned together until Mary's death on 28 December 1694, after which William ruled as sole monarch.

William's reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him to take power in Britain when many were fearful of a revival of Catholicism under James. William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by loyalists in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

William III of England - Wikipedia

And so we end up in Ulster: 

Mural, Donaghadee Orange Hall - geograph.org.uk - 958738.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


Hamfisted said...

When he landed in glorious Devon he was not yet King William but just another Duke William the conqueror. The Glorious Revolution might be better called the glorious coup d'état.

Jeremy Woodward said...

Thanks for the comment, Hamfisted,
Very much like the points you're making.
Perhaps we're heading for another glorious coup d'état...