William of Orange Takes Exeter

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William of Orange Takes Exeter

Exeter, Devon The 9th of November 1688 AD

Having landed at Brixham , not the destination originally intended, William of Orange had to adjust his plans somewhat. His force of perhaps 18000 - 20000 men was not in the best condition after a week of sea crossing and delays before it, his horses even moreso were unfit for action after being kept at sea for so long. Thus it made sense to set up a base and recuperate. This would also make it easier for the gentry and nobility of the South West to make their way to his side. It was also preferable for William, should he be attacked, not to have to fight in open country where the temporarily poor condition of his horses and men would tell against him.
Exeter was chosen for this base, and on November 9 William, still proclaiming himself the saviour of English Protestantism rather than the countryís King, duly entered the city. The magistrates having failed to stop him fled; but its clergy remained and were against him, refusing to pronounce his propaganda from their pulpits. Williamís campaign was not without difficulty, but it was intelligently carried out.
Even his entrance to Exeter was carefully stage-managed. His army had been warned not to forage let alone pillage the country, and was paid three months advance wages to keep good order and obviate the need for theft. William therefore avoided local opprobrium.
William arrived in Exeter with his troops in good order. A great show was made by the future King being accompanied by 200 black men from his colony of Surinam, dramatically and contrastingly clad in white uniforms and turbans. The cityís population was impressed, and William won them over. More to the point, the sons of three of the great Whig peers of the day arrived to join him; so did two Tory grandees, even if local gentry showed greater circumspection. Elsewhere, though, more were declaring for him. James II was already on the back foot, dithering about how to react to the invasion. In Exeter William calmly planned his next moves and prepared his forces.

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