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France becomes 'le mâitre de la mer'

JAMES II (1633-1701). King of England 1685-1688.
Important Autograph Letter Signed in French ('J R') to Comte Lauzun, 1 page 4to with integral address-leaf and red wax seal, Brest, 20 July 1690. Written just after his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, James celebrates the defeat of the Anglo-Dutch navy, leaving France 'le maître de la mer'; he urges pursuit of 'ce que j'avois proposé', which carries no risk.
William of Orange had usurped James's throne, but the exiled King still held on to Ireland. With the inadequate assistance of Louis XIV, the King of France, James hoped to rouse the people of Ireland against William and thus to establish a stronghold from which to invade and win back the throne of England. He was convinced that the Irish people would join his cause and that the English were sufficiently disenchanted with William's reign to welcome him with open arms. The failure of the plan was due to the insufficiency of the materiel provided by Louis, which meant that the Irish, however willing to support James's cause, could not be appropriately armed.
  The disaster (for James) of the Boyne had taken place on 1 July and he had made his way eventually to Brest. The Dictionary of National Biography gives his arrival in Brest as 'about 23 July'. There was however ten days difference between English and French dating, as England was yet to adopt the 'new style' calendar, and the date of the present letter as '20: Juillett' suggests that James had probably already been in France for about a week rather than that DNB is wrong in its dating.
 Lauzun had been at the Battle of the Boyne with the King, and shared the orderly retreat with him. He had also been responsible for the safe conduct to France of the King's wife and child.
 The defeat of the Anglo-Dutch Navy took place off Beachy Head. The French did not lose a single ship, the English lost one and the Dutch four. Torrington, in charge of the Fleet, was court-martialled, but acquitted. The effect of the defeat on the Orange supporters was, however, greatly mitigated by William's victory at the Boyne.
[No: 20233]


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