Monday, April 21, 2008

Orange and Stuart

I'm researching Covenant and Capital right now, and am currently at work on the interaction between England and Holland in the mid-17th century. It is amazing how intertwined the history of these two countries is. And what a fateful turn of events it was that the Houses of Stuart and Orange became connected through marriage in 1641, when William II of Orange married Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I. From that point on, the Dutch Republic was torn between the interest of the estates (the so-called "States party") and the interest of the prince. These had always been in uneasy tension, but with this marriage the tension became unbearable. For from this point on the English royal interest, which itself was at war, hot or cold, with its own estates (Parliament), made use of the House of Orange to further its interest at home and abroad, especially to try to turn the Dutch Republic into a vassal state ruled by the Prince of Orange. The twists and turns of this history are fascinating to follow, and are set forth masterfully by Pieter Geyl in his Orange and Stuart, which, taken together with the corrections brought forward by Simon Groenveld ("The House of Orange and the House of Stuart, 1639-1650: A Revision," in The Historical Journal, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 955-972) provides an unparalleled glimpse into the workings of the Dutch system. Geyl shows just how close the republican experiment, as conducted in the Netherlands, came to complete destruction. It held on by a thread; and it was William III, the son of the first William and Mary (the second was he himself, together with his future wife, yet another Mary Stuart), who actually turned against the Stuart connection, at least in this regard, and sided with the Republic; otherwise it would have been swallowed up by France in 1672. World-changing events, these, the significance of which is not very well appreciated. My book Covenant and Capital will hopefully bring this (and much more besides) forward in a new and convincing way.

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