Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (1649-1709) was the closest confidant of William III and arguably the most important politician in Williamite Britain. Beginning his career in 1664 as page to William of Orange, his fortunes gained momentum with the Prince's rise to power in The Netherlands and Britain, emerging as William's favourite at court from the 1670s onwards. Taking a broadly chronological approach, the central concern of this book is not simply to provide a biographical account of Portland's life, but to explore wider political themes within a European context. By analysing Portland's role within William's government it shows how royal favourites could still wield considerable influence on European events and help shape royal policy, particularly with regard to foreign policy. By engaging with the question of why such a figure emerged, this study helps illuminate the workings of William's government and the central role of his foreign entourage. Drawing from archival material in England, Scotland, France and The Netherlands, it ties the history of post-Revolution Britain with political events in the Netherlands. It also analyses Anglo-Dutch political relations during the crucial period of the Nine Years War, Britain's first major commitment to a continental war since the sixteenth century. In so doing it connects Dutch and British historiography and significantly contributes to our understanding of British politics during the 1690s, both domestically and within an international context.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; The making of a favourite (1649-85); 'For religion and liberty'? The crises of 1688; The consolidation of the Williamite Settlement (1689-91); 'Lord Portland takes all': the re-emergence of the favourite; 'The spirit of contention': politics and parties; 'The great affair': war on the continent; Ganymede: the image of the favourite; 'Arcana Imperii': war and peace (1697-1700); The vestiges of power (1697-1709); Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
'David Onnekink has made an extremely valuable contribution both to broadening and especially deepening our understanding of the impact of King William III’s statecraft. His is an excellent piece of often ground-breaking research, fully vindicating the business of patient work in widely dispersed archives. The Glorious Revolution of 1688-91 which William III master-minded together with his prime confidant, Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland, operating to begin with from Holland, not only consolidated the British state but also fundamentally changed the political culture of the West, damaging and discrediting absolute monarchy everywhere and setting the stage for Britain's pre-eminence in the eighteenth century. The Glorious Revolution reorganized the governing institutions of Britain itself, as well as British power in Ireland and the Americas and also transformed Britain’s relationship to Europe and altered the balance of power throughout the Western world. Yet, over the decades historians have had great difficulty in properly coming to grips with this vast world-historical event perhaps especially owing to the large amount of widely dispersed but indispensable unpublished as well as published material a not inconsiderable proportion of which is in Dutch. David Onnekink’s book, based on archival research in Holland, Ireland and in Paris as well as Scotland and England, does much to fill the gap. He demonstrates convincingly that vastly important consequences flowed, rather paradoxically, from a court politics which had a number of thoroughly traditional as well as some ’modern’ characteristics. Not the least of the former was the vigorous ’re-emergence of the court-favourite’ in the shape of the mysterious, greedy, deeply unpopular and high-handed Portland. Onnekink’s is indeed the first detailed study ever to focus on, interpret and assess Bentinck’s wide-ranging and unparalleled coordinating role especially in the years 1689-99 in Sc