Departure of William III from Hellevoetsluis, 19 October 1688

Several artists recorded this significant event in British history. The circumstances surrounding the production of this painting are not known but contemporary engravings with keys provide the most accurate means of interpretation. In 1677, William of Orange, 1650-1702, married Mary, the daughter of the future James II of England. Over the following years, Protestant Europe and England looked to William of Orange as their champion. In 1688, English Protestants asked him to invade England to dislodge his father-in-law James II. Since William's principal duty was to the States-General, he needed to obtain their approval to claim the English throne on Mary's behalf. Although the French were ready to do battle on Catholicism's behalf, James did not ally himself with France and he left too late the repealing of Catholic legislation. William thus set to sea and after he landed, on fifth of November, James was allowed to escape to France. Although it is unlikely that William ever intended to be more than Mary's regent, she was adamant she did not want to rule alone. Thus, Parliament offered William and Mary joint monarchy in February 1689 and after her death in 1694, William reigned until 1702. Following an invitation by letter carried by Admiral Arthur Herbert to come to England, but written by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Dr Compton Bishop of London, the Earl of Devonshire, Edward Russell, the Earl of Danby, Henry Sidney and Lord Lumley, known as the 'Immortal Seven', William wasted no more time. On 20 July, he made up his mind and on 22 July he gave instructions to Marshall Schomberg to prepare for an autumn campaign in England.

The painting shows the departure of William of Orange for England. A large fleet is shown assembled in the Maas. It consists of 50 ships of the line, 50 smaller warships and fireships and about 400 transports. The ships fly the Dutch flag and the painting creates the effect of a great Dutch naval event. The English Admiral, Herbert, was given overall command with his flag in the 'Leyden', 62 guns. The fleet sailed on 20 October, but strong north-west winds forced the fleet to return to its anchorage and it did not finally get away again until 1 November. The foreground on the right is occupied with the jetty at Hellevoetsluis, packed with people together with the luggage of those embarking. Near the end of the jetty is Prince William, with Marshall Schomberg, Admiral Herbert, Bentinck and other gentlemen of his train, taking leave of the civic dignitaries of the town. Several of them are shown on their knees before William. Behind is the small boat, or pink, that will take him to the 'Briel', his flagship. In the left foreground is a bezan-rigged yacht, in starboard-quarter view, with several dignitaries on board and a man playing a fanfare. He is answered by trumpeteers positioned in the small pink. There is a small ship on the left sailing in the same direction. The middle distance and background is crowded with the ships of the invasion fleet, with Herbert's flagship prominent just left of centre.

In the foreground, on the right, preparations for loading up the ships are portrayed. Trunks are about to be loaded on to the ships, as well as other items ranging from full-length boots to jugs. The departure was a cause for celebration indicated by a member of the crowd holding a goblet. A coach on the far right struggles to move through the throng together with a closed cart. The depiction of the crowd contains closely detailed observations, such as the driver on horseback with a whip and couples saying their farewells, and the overall scene is one of bustling departure. There is an engraving relating to this scene by Romeyne de Hooghe which shows it as uppermost of two images, with the landing at Torbay. Although the painting has been attributed to Abraham Storck, it is likely that several hands were involved in its production. One artist painted the detailed shipping and another the figure groups, and an artist such as Jan Rietschoof, 1652-1719, may also have been involved. There is an indistinct inscription bottom left.

Object Details

ID: BHC0325
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Storck, style of Abraham; Rietschoof, Jan
Vessels: Leiden (1687)
Date made: unknown
People: King William III
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 1060 mm x 1365 mm x 90 mm;Overall: 29 kg;Painting: 889 mm x 1168 mm

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