‘If he Deserves it’: William of Orange's Pre-Revolution British Contacts and Gilbert Burnet's Proposals for the Post-Revolution Administration


  • Robin Eagles

  • Earlier versions of this article were given at the ‘Diplomats, Agents, Adventurers and Spies’ conference held at the University of Kent in September 2008 and at the Seventeenth Century Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research. I am grateful for the comments I received on both these occasions. References to the manuscripts at Woburn Abbey are cited by kind permission of the duke of Bedford and the trustees of the Bedford Estates; I am grateful to the marquess of Northampton for granting permission to consult the manuscripts at Castle Ashby. I must also thank Grant Tapsell, who read a draft of this piece, and whose generous comments have prevented me from making a catalogue of errors. I am grateful to the Trustees of the British Library for permission to reproduce material in the Appendix © British Library Board, Add. MS 32681, ff. 317–18.


The revolution of 1688–9 has been studied from a variety of angles, but few historians have paid much attention to the sheer depth of William of Orange's acquaintance with a broad swathe of British society. Many of the choices the prince made during the invasion and in the years leading up to it were influenced by his contacts in Britain. He knew the court well and had made some efforts to influence the timings of parliaments and the direction of policy under his uncles, Charles II and James II. The shape of the regime that emerged after his successful overthrow of James II was also informed by his knowledge of a number of senior British politicians and this is reflected in a list compiled by one of his followers, Gilbert Burnet, in the course of the revolution. This article seeks to cast new light on the preparations that lay behind the invasion and the reasons for the appointments that were made in the new administration of William and Mary.