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WILLIAM III - Letter Signed to the Elector of Cologne, 1701

  • £1,850.00

WILLIAM III (1650-1702)

Letter Signed and Subscribed (“Mon frere / Votre tres affectione frere William R”) to “Mon Frere” [Joseph Clemens of Bavaria, Elector of Cologne], telling him that he is sending the Earl of Galway to explain his intentions and discover his correspondent’s sentiments on the subject [of a proposed anti-French alliance].

1 page 4to in French, Loo, 29 August 1701.                          

A letter written at a crucial moment in the prelude to the War of the Spanish Succession.

Trans: “As I have just arrived in this country, I thought it necessary for the common cause to explain to you my intentions and to know your feelings on this subject. I found it suitable to send you the Earl of Galway, Lieutenant General in my armies, to discuss with you on my behalf, whom you will listen to with favour and can have complete trust in what he tells you in my name, most especially when he assures you of my kind thoughts and sincere friendship . . .”

After a lengthy and difficult period of treaties, secret treaties, alliances, and changed alliances, matters came to a head in November 1701 with the death of the sickly Spanish king, Charles II. France, Austria, England and the United Provinces had proposed a seemingly endless stream of proposals over the years, each trying to protect and enlarge their own territorial interests. Charles himself had named Joseph Frederick of Bavaria, a candidate acceptable to the British and the Dutch, as his successor; however, Joseph Frederick’s death from smallpox two years before Charles threw everything once again into disarray.

The death of James II, deposed king of England, just weeks after this letter, prompted Louis XIV to recognise James’ son, James Edward Stuart, as the rightful king of England, adding to the tension, and when Austrian forces invaded the Duchy of Milan, part of Spain’s Italian territory, France retaliated and the war which was to last for over a dozen years had started.

William III, never on cordial terms with Louis XIV, had spent the years before the outbreak of the war trying to cement an alliance with other European powers to oppose Louis’ expansionist ambitions. In this case, the mission to the Elector of Cologne, at the time an ally of France, failed.

The Earl of Galway, Henri de Ruvigny, was born into a French Huguenot family and had served in the French army. However, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the family emigrated to England. His younger brother served alongside William III in Ireland, and was killed at the Battle of the Boyne.

The letter has been inlaid, and has a minuscule hole at the fold, but is otherwise in very good condition.


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