Newton and the Counterfeiter

Jonathan Rée writes:

Towards the end of 1688 the Dutch Republic tried to bounce Britain into war with France by main military force. The chief plotter was a scion of the royal house of Orange-Nassau and nephew and son-in-law to the British king, but he had none of the poise and magnificence that were supposed to go with a royal pedigree. William, Prince of Orange was a mousy, middle-aged sociophobe, famous for combining blatant adultery and sanctimonious piety, and loved by no one except, maybe, his docile wife, Mary. But he was a skilful practitioner of the political arts, and over a period of twenty years he had won himself a battery of quasi-monarchical powers throughout the Dutch provinces. He thanked God for sending the wind that sped him and 15,000 Dutch soldiers to Torbay on the auspicious date of 5 November; but he also took care to smooth the path of providence by means of a web of alliances with dissident members of the British ruling class.

(LRB 20 January 2011)

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