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Gourville's character was tainted, and Groen Van Prinsterer thought his evidence valueless.De Pomponne's Mmoires (Paris, 1860) cover the ground between 1671-1679.Peter, is more reliable than the well-known work on this subject by Lefvre Pontalis; Van Praet, in Essais sur l'histoire politique des derniers sicles (Bruxelles, 1867), gives a clear and careful account of the politics of the seventeenth century and the character of William III; interesting as coming from a Belgian.The works of Voltaire, Ranke, Mazure, Masson, Michelet, Guizot and Wagenaars dealing with this period are too well known to be detailed here, as are the volumes by Miss Strickland and Miss Everett Green, brilliant but prejudiced compilations.Gilbert Burnet is a classic instance of this; his memoirs, misleadingly called "a history," should be read in the edition edited by Osmund Airy (Oxford), 1897-1900, and in conjunction with the "Supplement" edited by Miss H. Foxcroft (Oxford), 1902; these show how the well-meaning writer, if not deserving of the hostile judgment delivered by Ranke, must be received with reserve; the same must be said of Wicquefort, another contemporary historian.
William III appeared under many aspects to his contemporaries; he was in Holland at once the heroic deliverer of State and Faith, and the ambitious Prince riveting chains on a free people; to the majority a popular idol, to the minority a cautious tyrant; in England he was first Prince of the Blood, husband of the heiress to the Crown, chief of an Opposition composed of careful, moderate, reasonable men (with the weight of the strong Protestant feeling of the country behind them), later he was to be the Great Deliverer or the Usurper, Champion of Whigs and Nonconformists, detested by Roman Catholics and Jacobites—"Dutch William," "Little Hook Nose," "the Squeezed Orange"—a subject of frantic praise and gratitude, and of unrestrained slander and abuse; in Ireland, "King Wullie"; in Scotland, "A man raised up by God" for the Covenanters, and for the Highlands an alien pretender to the ancient honours of the Stewarts; to Louis XIV's bitter pride he was "the Little Lord of Breda"; to the rest of Europe the head and heart of the largest confederation ever ranged together against one power, a personality so dominant that his minister could talk of the Emperor's actions as depending on their master's directions, and broadsheets show him at the Hague as bear-leader of the German Princes; and with this the Champion of Protestantism was approved of by the Papacy, well-wished and secretly encouraged by the able and upright Odaleschi, Innocent XI; most of the Princes with whom he fought against France, and with whom he lived on terms of intimate friendship, were Roman Catholics, and yet he attained his highest honours to the mob cry of "No Popperie!
William Henry, by the Grace of God Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, of Vianden, of Buren, of Leerdam and Meurs, Baron of Breda, Marquis of Ter Veere and Vlissingen, etc., etc., Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, West Friesland, Utrecht, Overyssel, and Gelderland, Captain and Admiral-General of Their High Mightinesses the States General of the Netherlands (der Unie), afterwards King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. We may claim stupendous discoveries in science, but this is not a virtue; nor have these same discoveries been always turned to virtuous ends; we can claim a wide religious tolerance (probably our one achievement), but it is doubtful if this is not indifference, and that we are not persecutors merely because we are apathetic on questions of dogma; it must also be admitted that tolerance has always been an attitude of fine minds and is no modern discovery, and that the temper of the bigot and the fervour of the fanatic are by no means extinct.
The modern conception of history is that of a continuous movement, the beginning of which eludes the most patient research and the conclusion of which is, of course, beyond any possible surmise; historians are no longer content with labels nor satisfied to trace the rise and fall of nations or ideas, the bloom and decay of such institutions as the feudal system, the Holy Roman Empire, or the scope and influence of movements such as the Renaissance, or the Reformation; this wide view, in which no one nation has a greater share, or one ideal a larger prominence than another, naturally tends to dwarf and even obscure the events and the personalities that, under the former school of historians, showed in such startling importance; dramatic incident, picturesque legend, fade in the clear light of this wide vista, and commanding figures, once of heroic proportions, are reduced to trivial measurements; the impersonal progress of humanity is all that remains; nor have we much right to use the word "progress." Despite a great deal that flatters us in our modernity, a cool historian could scarcely claim that the standards of honour, morality and aspiration, which mankind has set up for himself from time immemorial, have been more steadily adhered to in one age than in another, including our own; that the ignorance, superstition and ills of humanity have been more glaring in one age than in another, including our own; the assurance that scolds and scorns the past, and talks of modern enlightenment and modern standards as if these had nearly reached perfection, is assuredly affording matter for amusement to future generations.
A false description of a person's appearance will also give a false description of their character; a careless touch of this nature will considerably mislead the reader.
William III has frequently been so wrongly described; the author has read of him as "broken-nosed," "hunchbacked," with "a mouth indicated by a thin line," as of "a mean exterior," etc.