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William of Orange is welcomed into Exeter

William of Orange's entry into the city, on 9 November 1688, from the Illustrated Magazine of Art 1853

Page added 4th December 2013

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On Tuesday, the 6th of November, William's army began to advance into the country. At Newton Abbot his declaration was solemnly read to the people, and during the two following days he took up his quarters at Ford, the seat of the ancient family of Courtenay. Exeter surrendered at the first, summons, and on the 9th William made his entry in great pomp. Macaulay has described the scene which followed with all that brilliancy of colouring and picturesqueness of grouping which has given to many of his essays as well as to Ms history the charm of a romance. In his words we shall, therefore depict the ceremonial.

"Such a sight had never been seen in Devonshire. Many went forth half a day's journey to meet the champion of their religion. All the neighbouring villages poured forth their inhabitants. A great crowd, consisting chiefly of young peasants, brandishing their weapons, had assembled on the top of Holdron (sic) Hill, whence the army marching from Chudleigh first descried the rich valley of the Esk (sic), and the two massive towers rising from the cloud of smoke which overhung the capital of the west. The road all down the long descent, and through the plains to the banks of the river, was lined mile after mile, with spectators. From the West-gate to the Cathedral-close, the pressing and shouting on each side were such as reminded Londoners of the crowds on the Lord Mayor's-day. The houses were gaily decorated; doors, windows, balconies, and roofs were thronged with gazers. An eye accustomed to the pomp of war would have found much to criticise in the spectacle. For several toilsome marches in the rain, through roads where one who travelled on foot sank, at every step, up to the ancles in clay, had not improved the appearance either of the men or of their accoutrements. But the people of Devonshire, altogether unused to the splendour of well-ordered camps, were overwhelmed with delight and awe. Descriptions of the martial pageant were circulated all over the kingdom. They contained much that was well fitted to gratify the vulgar appetite for the marvellous; for the Dutch army, composed of men who had been born in various climates, and had served under various standards, presented an aspect at once grotesque, gorgeous, and terrible to the islanders, who had in general a very indistinct notion of foreign countries. First rode Macclesfield, at the head of two hundred gentlemen, mostly of English blood, glittering in helmets and cuirasses, and mounted on Flemish war-horses. Each was attended by a negro, brought from the sugar plantations on the coast of Guiana. The citizens of Exeter, who had never seen so many specimens of the African race, gazed with wonder on the black faces, set off by embroidered turbans and white feathers. Then with drawn broadswords came a squadron of Swedish horsemen in black armour and fur cloaks. They were regarded with strange interest; for it was rumoured that they were natives of a land where the ocean was frozen, and where the night lasted through half the year, and that they themselves had slain the huge bears whose skins they wore. Next, surrounded by a goodly company of gentlemen and pages, was borne aloft the prince's banner. On its broad folds, the crowds which covered the roofs and filled the windows read with delight that memorable inscription, ' The Protestant Religion and the Liberties of England.' But the acclamations redoubled when, attended by forty running footmen, the Prince himself appeared, armed on back and breast, wearing a white plume, and mounted on a white charger. With how martial an air he curbed his horse, how thoughtful and commanding was the expression of his ample forehead and falcon eye, may still be seen on the canvas of Kneller. Once those grave features relaxed into a smile. It was when an ancient woman, perhaps one of the zealous Puritans who, through twenty-eight years of persecution, had waited with firm faith for the consolation of Israel—perhaps the mother of some rebel who had perished in the carnage of Sedgemoor, or in the more fearful carnage of the Bloody Circuit—broke from the crowd, rushed through the drawn swords and curvetting horses, touched the hand of the deliverer, and cried out that now she was happy."

William of Orange greets the citizens of Exeter.William of Orange is welcomed to the city.William of Orange greets the citizens of Exeter.Another illustration of William of Orange welcomed into the city.

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