|Sweden, Britain and the Netherlands
Sweden was a
great power for much of the seventeenth century.
Charles X was so successful a soldier that
only Dutch intervention prevented Swedish domination of the entire
When Charles X died in 1660, his son Charles
XI was only four years old. A regency was established under an
older relative, Count Magnus de la Gardie (1622-86). Charles was not educated
academically or in statecraft, and spent his time hunting bears.
The Treaties of Oliva (1660) and Copenhagen (1660) confirmed Sweden's
dominant position in the Baltic region. The Swedes continued their
long-term alliance with France in the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1661),
in which they contracted to support the French candidate for the
Polish throne. Sweden joined the Triple Alliance (with the Dutch Republic and
Britain) against France in 1668, but then reverted to alliance with the French. In the Treaty of Stockholm (1672) France guaranteed an
annual subsidy of four hundred thousand crowns (600,000 if war broke
out) for Swedish support in Germany.
In 1674, Sweden fulfilled this treaty by attacking
Brandenburg-Prussia, and Charles XI began to direct his country's
affairs personally. Sweden was defeated by the Prussians at the Battle of
Fehrbellin and lost Pomerania.
The Swedes defeated the Danes in the bloody
Lund (December 1676) and again at Malmo (1678). Louis XIV
effectively dictated the terms of the Treaties of Nijmegen and Saint
Germain which restored Sweden's German territories.
Charles XI resented Louis XIV's patronizing attitude and dedicated the
rest of his reign to building up his power domestically. Both he and
ordinary Swedes (clergy, burghers and peasants) blamed the Swedish
nobility for the defeats it had suffered, and in October 1680 the
commoners in the Riksdag allied with Charles to strip the
aristocracy of some of their land, and much of their power and privileges.|
Castle built by Axel Oxenstierna
|The Swedish aristocracy's taste for conspicuous
consumption and architectural pomp reinforced the resentment
felt by ordinary Swedes
The Riksdag of 1682
confirmed the king's right to give and take back royal land in accordance
with his perception of national needs. By the time of Charles XI's
death he had increased the crown's landholding from almost nothing to
about a third of Swedish land.
Charles XI died suddenly at age 42 and was succeeded by the
||Poland (temporarily joined with Saxony under Augustus
the Strong), Russia and Denmark hoped to take advantage of the
king's youth and attacked Swedish territory, but Charles XII proved no
easy nut to crack. His military skill and daring led to the
defeat of Denmark and
Poland-Saxony. Charles XII's initial successes against Russia led him
to underestimate Peter the Great, and this proved his
Charles XII had a number of opportunities to make peace, but he
refused them because he wanted further to extend Swedish power. His
aggression instead accelerated Sweden's decline from great power
il n'y a point de souverain qui, en lisant la vie de Charles
XII, ne doive être guéri de la folie des conquêtes. Car, où
est le souverain qui pût dire: J'ai plus de courage et de
vertus, une âme plus forte, meilleures troupes que Charles
XII? Que si, avec tous ces avantages, et après tant de
victoires, ce roi a été si malheureux, que devraient espérer
les autres princes qui auraient la même ambition, avec moins
de talents et de ressources?"
Voltaire on Charles XII.
[Certainly there is no ruler who would not be
convinced of the folly of conquest by reading the life of
Charles XII. For what ruler can say: I have more courage and
virtues, a more determined spirit, better troops than Charles
XII? So if with all these advantages, and after such
victories, this king was so unfortunate, what hope is there
for other princes who have the same ambition, but less talent
|The great challenge met by the Dutch in the later seventeenth
century was repelling the attacks of Louis XIV. In
the wars of the Grand Alliance (1687–97) and
the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the United Provinces concluded the
alliances and mustered the resources needed to repel the (far larger) French state.|
Anthonie Heinsius (1641-1720)
The struggle against France was directed by
William III, ably assisted by Anthonie Heinsius (van der Heim).
Heinsius valued the liberties of Holland and the other
provinces, but believed that ending French aggression was more
important. He cooperated with William - defending the Stadholder's authority against states rights' advocates.
murder of De Witt in 1672, the
Netherlands considerable financial strength was directed by William
into the war against France.
In 1688, the Dutch backed
William in his gamble to seize the English throne, sending some of
their best regiments across the stormy Fall seas in 1688. The gamble
paid off, and thereafter English military and commercial power was
shifted against Louis XIV.
Englishmen complained that their armed forces and money were being
exploited by the Dutch; Dutchmen complained that England benefited
from the peace they had fought so long for. The English war was fought
largely at sea, ("Britain's best bulwarks are her wooden
walls" i.e. ships) and
English commerce and seaborne trade expanded to some extent at Dutch
expense. The Dutch fought to secure their eastern and southern borders
against French aggression, and could not have achieved this without
The Dutch economy suffered in the 1690's as Louis XIV did all he could
to disrupt Dutch commerce. Wages and living standards continued to
fall even after the Peace of Rijswick (1697) restored some normality
to European trade.|
Jacob von Ruisdael (1628-82)
View of Haarlem
One of the last great Dutch masters was Jacob
von Ruisdael (1628-82), who painted realistic landscapes
concentrating on the delicate effects of sunshine and cloud.
The wars with France from 1672 also inhibited Dutch culture: the art
market crashed and the golden age of Dutch painting ended.
View of the Westerkerk
Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712)
increase in the Stadholder's influence involved a return to Calvinist
orthodoxy such that the universities became reluctant to hire
Cartesian and other progressive philosophers.
Between 1640 and 1660 religious and political divisions in England
resulted in open conflict, military dictatorship and constitutional
experiments. In 1660 the monarchy was restored and Charles II acceded the throne.|
Charles II was inclined toward absolutism but was careful not to
antagonize Parliament or people. He was also inclined to allow some
toleration for the Roman Catholics who had proved his father's
faithful supporters. Indeed, Charles II finally converted to
Catholicism. Nevertheless, he refrained from too openly opposing Anglican
repression of Catholics.
Charles II's reign saw the rise of two political parties - Whigs
"The Cofferous Mob"
Coffee houses became a favored location for political
debate and organization
Whigs and Tories were the earliest political
parties in the modern sense: i.e. an organized group of
people, sharing political ideals who direct their efforts to
ensuring that those with similar beliefs, policies and aims be
elected to power.
History had witnessed court factions, networks of political
patronage and even (in Republican Rome) political groupings
based on family connections. However, only in seventeenth
century England did the rise of representative government and
regular popular elections produce the emergence of party
The Whigs advocated limited, constitutional monarchy and
toleration for Protestant dissenters. Their central basis of support
was amongst the Protestant sects and the London merchants, but many
noblemen and gentlemen who feared Catholicism, absolutism and French
expansion joined Whig ranks.
[The term Whig was taken from extreme Scottish Presbyterians
who fought against royal power from the 1640's onwards].
The Tories favored strong royal government and the preservation
of the Anglican Church and its privileges. Tory sentiments were
strongest amongst the landowning gentry of the English countryside.|
[The term Tory was taken from Irish Catholic outlaws who
murdered English settlers and soldiers during and after the Irish
"Wit and fool are
consequents of Whig and Tory; and every man is a knave or an ass
to the contrary side"
"I have always said the first Whig was the
tensions between Whig and Tory reached their height in the
Exclusion Crisis (1679-81). Charles II's marriage to Catherine of
Braganza had produced no heir, and so his younger brother, James Duke
of York was next in line for the throne.
James, Duke of York
painted c. 1660
James was widely known to be
a Catholic, and the Whigs wanted to exclude him from the succession,
as they feared that he would undermine the Church of England (whose
Supreme Governor was the king). The Tories believed that James would
keep his Catholicism private and uphold the state religion, so they
defended his hereditary right to ascend the throne.
triumphed (1683) and a number of leading Whigs, including
Shaftesbury and his client the philosopher,
John Locke fled to the
In February 1685,
Charles II died from complications following a stroke, and James
"He had been,
he said, an unconscionable time dying; but he hoped that they
would excuse it."
"Let not poor Nelly [Nell Gwyn] starve".
Both quotations are attributed to Charles II
on his deathbed, where he seems to spoken more epigrammatically than when healthy.
James II and the Glorious
Mary of Modena
|James II had married Ann Hyde and they had had
two daughters Anne and Mary. [Family
married William of Orange and
Anne was known for her fidelity to the Church of England.
In 1673, James married Mary of Modena. She bore him a number of
children but all died in infancy. However, on 10 June 1688, a
live, healthy male child was born. Suddenly, England was faced
with the prospect not only of a Catholic monarch, but of a
Shortly after the birth of
James II's son, seven influential Englishmen wrote to William of
Orange asking him to deliver England from the tyranny of James II.
William's army landed
5 November 1688. It rapidly became clear that almost nobody would
fight for James II who fled to the Continent. Later, many supporters
of the Revolution would argue that this flight amounted to abdication.|
Two Treatises of Government
by John Locke provided a theoretical justification for
resistance to James II. Locke wrote much of the Two
Treatises at the time of the Exclusion Crisis, but the book
was first published only in 1689.
William summoned a special
"Convention" Parliament, which met in January 1689 and offered the
crown jointly to William and Mary.The Acts of Settlement of 1689 and 1701 excluded Catholics from inheriting the English throne, leading to the eventual succession of George I.
The Parliament also issued a
Bill of Rights,
justifying the Revolution and outlining rights of Englishmen. (It was
a major influence on the American
Bill of Rights or
first Ten Amendments to the Constitution of 1791).
The Glorious Revolution
partially satisfied both Whigs and Tories. The Whigs obtained the
limited, constitutional monarchy they wanted and a a certain degree of
religious toleration for Protestant Dissenters. To satisfy the Tories,
the Church of England retained its privileged position - only
Anglicans were eligible for senior state offices.
Neither Whigs nor Tories were
completely happy, and bitter party conflicts continued during the
reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). However,
England was basically united in the conflict against France, and
achieved military victories that put the country amongst Europe's
foremost powers. English trade and industry began to grow and
colonial expansion continued, laying the basis for the future British
The “Glorious Revolution” was
one of the very few revolutions of modern history to deserve
its name. It was achieved with gloriously little bloodshed: – few died in the revolution itself and no “Terror” followed
afterwards. It achieved real change: - rather than
substituting one set of masters for another (Bonaparte for
Louis; communists for Czarists), the government of England
became more responsive to the political nation, and liberties
under the law expanded. Only the American Revolution rivals
the Glorious Revolution as such a significant step forward on
the road to liberal democracy.