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William III and the Godly Revolution (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History) Hardcover – 18 Jan 1996

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Product Description


'… this is a fascinating study which deserves a wide readership and should stimulate renewed scholarly interest in a relatively neglected period.' English Historical Review

Book Description

This book provides the first full account of William III's propaganda during his reign in England, 1689–1702. It explores the self-presentation of the English monarchy at a particularly difficult moment, following the king's irregular succession to the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book 17 July 2009
By Christopehr R. Petrakos - Published on
Format: Paperback
When the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay on November 5, 1688, there were immediate and pressing reasons for him to declare his intentions for invading England. Tony Claydon's, William III and the Godly Revolution examines how the new Prince and his propagandists sold themselves to the English people through an extensive propaganda campaign embracing the rhetoric of what Claydon calls the "Courtly Reformation." The impact of this rhetoric, according to Claydon, was profound, and the chief aim of his study charts out its implications. In this rather short volume, only 237 pages of text, Claydon takes on enormous historiographical issues like the origins of "the Enlightenment" and the modern state. To Claydon, constitutionalism was not nearly as important as religion in these developments, and his major contribution to the field is writing religion back into a period it has historically had no place. Through the examination of an impressive array of pamphlets, printed sermons, and medals, Claydon's book revises the political and religious history of William III and Mary II's reign by illustrating how an essentially non-constitutional religiously based rhetoric was responsible for England's transformation into a politically stable world power.
"Courtly reformation" rhetoric imposed a framework on political debate that limited attempts to undermine the king's royal prerogative. However, before the deployment of this rhetoric could be successful, certain obstacles had to be overcome by William III and his propagandists. The first and perhaps most urgent was the need to repudiate The Declaration of Reasons for appearing in arms in the Kingdom of England. This Declaration, written by William III's propagandists and published a month before his expedition to England, justified the Princes' actions by appealing to constitutional discourse. The Declaration, according to Claydon, posed serious problems for William III once war with France became imminent, since it suggested that "the powers of the monarch should be tightly controlled" (27). At this point, William's propagandists evaded the thorny constitutional issues of the royal prerogative, which William needed to conduct the war, and instead put the propaganda press into high gear refashioning the monarch as providentially justified with a mandate to promote the true church and purify morality. This refashioning had important implications for the exercise of royal authority. Now that the king ruled by providence, according to his propagandists, authority was checked not by common law but by William's "fear of God." According to Claydon, this message "legitimated the regime" and served to "support the court's cause" in defense of William's actions.
It was not merely the exaltation of the new monarch so as to elevate him above the criticisms of party politics that concerned this new rhetoric. "Courtly reformation" was singularly interested in a reformation of manners. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Claydon's argument and his most significant contribution to the period. In contrast to emphasizing the events of 1688/89 as a watershed event in constitutional history, Claydon emphasizes the imposition of a new sociability based on the notion of a "virtuous court." Set in diametrical opposition to the supposedly corrupt and debauched court of Charles II, William's propaganda ministers set out to change the image of the royal household by denouncing luxury and discrediting "worldly grandeur" (91). This new message, promulgated by the press and pulpit, according to Claydon, "nationalized" the foreign born King and, more importantly, reconceived of him as "the very embodiment of the new nation" (132). This is the prime achievement of William III's propaganda: It not only elevated him above party criticism thereby giving him much latitude in conducting foreign policy but also forging an ideology that allowed for a critical assessment of the monarchy without creating political crisis and social breakdown. All of Claydon's evidence for the development of a stable polity rests on royal propaganda and even Claydon admits, "It is hard to make any solid claims for the propaganda's achievements" (22). However, despite this problem, Claydon persuasively illustrates how William III's rhetoric of "courtly reformation" and moral reform provided a context for the development of a stable polity and the foundation for the first "modern state" (236).
4.0 out of 5 stars William III and the Godly Revolution 7 Mar. 2014
By Zachary W. Schulz - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tony Claydon, however, seeks to move the historical narrative away from an analysis of radical Whigs and Dissenters. Instead, in his 1996 William III and the Godly Revolution, he highlights Orange court ideology. He argues that the court employed religious rhetoric to establish their case of lawful invasion and usurpation of the Stuart throne. To that end, Claydon asserts that the court employed a biblically based discourse that he labels "courtly reformation" ideology. This discourse portrayed William as providential, possessing a divine calling to protect his new kingdom and Protestants everywhere from the tyrannies of Catholicism and oppression. (p.3)

Orange court propaganda - most of which was written by or under the direction of Gilbert Burnet, later Bishop of Salisbury - and the Declaration of reasons for appearing in arms in the kingdom of England released prior to William's invasion is essential in understanding "courtly reformation" ideology. Burnet, according to Claydon, rose to predominant court propagandist after his 1688 sermon in St. James, claiming, "That William's invasion had been favoured by God." (p. 31) This providentialism was to become central to all subsequent Orange propaganda, presenting the English as "a people of God" and finding that it was God's will that the Dutch invasion took place as "it had allowed the true church to strike a blow against its Satanic foe," the Catholic faith and James II. (p. 47) Courtly propaganda also proved crucial in excusing William's own widely known disdain for his new subjects, whom William found repellent. (p. 93) While William was abroad, engaged in the continental war against Louis XIV’s Catholic France, Burnet and court propagandists turned to Queen Mary II as the anchor of the “reformation.” Claydon maintains that the Queen became predominant in the "courtly reformation," an unimpeachable representation of godliness, known for her reputation for household sacredness and prayer. Further, as she was English and a Stuart – unlike her Dutch husband - and generally more accommodating of the court’s advisers than William, her prevalence in the “courtly reformation” is not surprising. (p. 94) In sum, Claydon believes that his study of the Orange court, in opposition to the exclusive focus on radical politics alone, will revive other historians’ interest in royal ideology post-Restoration. For Claydon, religion matters. The court influenced public policy “rather longer than the shift of attention [in the historiography] to party and country campaigns would imply." (p. 229)
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