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'William III is the greatest statesman the Netherlands has produced.' (Podcast)

Machiel Bosman is a historian and writes history disguised as literature. With his book Elisabeth de Flines he was nominated for the AKO Literature Prize and the Libris History Prize in 2008. This book The Robber King, Prince William III and the invasion of England is also nominated for the Libris History Prize. In this podcast, a conversation with the author who makes us aware of an important man in our history.

'While studying history, I was surprised that we do not name the fact that a Dutch prince becomes king of England as one of the great moments in our history. I wondered why this is always tucked away as a kind of footnote. I didn't understand that because he is the greatest statesman the Netherlands has produced.'

Other system of government

'In 1689, William III became king of England after he went to England with a large invasion force and drove out the English king James II, also his uncle and father-in-law, almost without a fight. Then, as he had promised the English beforehand, William III set up a different system of government. The English parliament was given more power and a say, but the English have always pretended that parliament itself enforced that.'

'William's input is very important in the development of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. But the English have claimed it for themselves and parliament has taken the credit. They have wanted to wipe out the whole invasion of William III from their history by making it the Glorious Revolution to be called one of the highlights of their history. So in England they have also wanted to erase him from history for a long time but William III really played a very big role in English and European history.'

World power

'Louis XIV is in power in France at the time, and at that time so strong that the rest of Europe can only narrowly resist France. England is trying to keep a bit out of it, not looking much beyond France and the Netherlands. The most important country after France is the Republic of the Netherlands because of its enormous wealth, at that time the Netherlands is a world power.

The Republic cannot stand up to France, but it can quickly mobilise resources to suddenly stand there as a full-fledged opponent anyway. Until the disastrous year 1672 when we are overrun by France, but even from that we recover. Amsterdam's wealth in the 17the century enormously. In addition, you have the Roman Empire, Germany, but the biggest player in that period is Louis XIV.'


'When King James II wants to introduce 'Freedom of Conscience', giving Catholics many more freedoms they did not have before, things go wrong. He thinks the Anglican Church will then automatically become Catholic. But that church is an established institution that is not just going to give up its power. He finds the church opposing him, but resistance also comes from parliament and the judiciary. And everything culminates in 1688. Then the queen, James II's second wife, is pregnant against all odds after a series of miscarriages and early deaths which, if it is a boy, means there is a chance of a Catholic heir to the throne. Something no one expected anymore.'

'All eyes were on William III and his wife Mary who was the first heir to the throne and both Protestant. William III would thus become king through his wife and the whole James II Catholic adventure was over, it was thought. The child was indeed a boy and so William's succession to the throne was at risk. When James II also jailed a group of bishops in 1688 and lost the trial against them, it was a matter of now or never for William.'

About this podcast

In book podcast The Story, writers talk about their books. The interviews are nice and long, about 45 minutes so there is plenty of time to go deeper into the content. Both fiction and non-fiction and more or less weekly. Also with famous and less famous Dutch and Flemish writers. You can support this podcast with a donation.

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