Maritime Art

William of Orange Leaving Hellevoetsluis for England, 1688

By R. De Hooge (1645-1708)

This etching by the Dutch engraver Romeyn de Hooghe shows the fleet of William III in the river Maas at his moment of departure to seize the English throne in 1688. It is one of the most significant naval events of the period and is captured here in all of its chaos and energy by de Hooghe, a strong supporter of William.

The fleet was immense; it consisted of 50 ships of the line, 50 smaller warships and fireships and around 400 transports, 5000 horses and 40,000 crewmen and soldiers. The embarkation alone took 16 days. It was led, for political reasons, by the English Admiral, Herbert, in the 62-gun Leyden. William sailed on the 30-gun frigate Den Briel. Thousands turned out to watch the event from shore. At sea, guns are being fired in salute while on shore countless hats are thrown into the air in celebration. The image is full of other close observations of an event which would have overwhelmed the senses.

The fleet sailed on 20 October, but this bubble of energy was burst by strong north-west winds that forced the fleet to return. On 1 November they sailed again, this time with success. The fleet landed in Torquay; the English king, James II, escaped to France; and William and his wife Mary (James’s daughter) assumed the English throne.

The Society has published a number of significant articles on this event and this period, including:

Pepys’s Organisation and the Mobilization of 1688, a detailed and thorough examination of the Navy in 1688 and the role played by Pepys in its organisation and supply. It argues that the Royal Navy would have been in an even weaker position had it not been for Pepys and his associates’ eye for detail, their energy and their talent for making things happen.

Tangier, the Navy and its Connnection with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which centres on the influence Admiral Arthur Herbert exerted on the events that culminated in William of Orange replacing James II on the English throne. Tangier, England’s largest outstation at the time, had by 1680, a large garrison and an even larger fleet commanded by Herbert, who ironically, although he owed his appointment to James’s patronage, had agreed with his officers that William would not be prevented from landing in England to usurp James. These officers by 1688, held important posts and in the crux of the article Peter Le Fevre explores, with extensive references, how Herbert, by patronage and even money achieved this.

English Flag Officers, 1688–1713 explored this period during which the organisation of a fleet and its squadrons could be represented by the classification of admirals, vice-admirals and rear-admirals. The article recounts the historical conditions which determined the appointments during this period. The inconsistencies of the Sergison list are mentioned, and Rooke’s Journal is also quoted as a source for facts.

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