James II, King of England from 1685 to 1688, increasingly antagonized his people by his forced attempts to restore the Catholic faith to a position of eminence in England; many of his actions were contrary to acts passed by earlier Parliaments (he ruled without Parliament most of his reign). Leading dignitaries of the Church of England, of the Protestant nobility, and some of the high officers of the Army and Navy came to the conclusion that the only remedy to the country's ills was to call in William, the Prince of Orange and Chief Magistrate (“Stadholder”) of the Netherlands, whose spouse Mary, James' daughter, was, until July 1688, the heir-presumptive to the English crown; the prince himself had a position in the list of succession, being a nephew of James.
Over and above the prince's personal ambitions, it was his conviction and that of several other leading personalities in the Dutch Republic that it was in the vital interest of the Netherlands to influence England's policies, and, in particular, to prevent a line-up of England with the France of Louis XIV, who had hostile designs on the Republic. As long as the danger of a French assault on the Netherlands was imminent, the States-General of the Republic would not authorize the “descent” on England, but when late in September 1688 Louis decided to attack the German States on the Middle-Rhine first, the “descent” gained approval.
The peak of the crisis about James' policies in England was reached in summer-early fall of 1688. In the meantime, William assembled a large fleet and force in the Netherlands to “descend” on England, but his sailing was hindered by winds that in September and October blew with nearly total persistence from the westerly quarter. People in England and in the Netherlands were daily watching for weeks the direction of wind. They called the easterly winds “Protestant winds” and the westerly winds “Popish winds.” In addition to making possible the invasion, the “Protestant winds” made it difficult for James to bring over Catholic Irish troops from Ireland.
On or about 26 October (N.S. date4) the wind swung around, temporarily, to blow from the easterly quarter, and on 30 October William's armada set sail. But hardly was the armada out of the estuary of the River Maas, the assembly area, when a violent storm sprang up in the North Sea and beat the ships back to port. Altogether, October was a very stormy month, endangering the armada's safety. About 9 November the “Protestant wind” returned, and the armada sailed. The landing took place at Torbay, on the west side of southern England. The same wind that helped William's ships kept the English Navy immobilized in an area just north of Thames' estuary until after the armada reached Torbay.
In the Appendix a parallel is drawn, with regard to the process of waiting for a favorable wind, between the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 and the “descent” of William the Prince of Orange in 1688.
1 Part 1, “The Mongol Invasions of Japan,” was published in the November 1975 Bulletin(56, 1167–1171); Part 2, “The Year Leading to the Revolution of 1789 in France,” was published in the February 1977 Bulletin(58, 163–168); Part 3, “The Cold Winter 1657–58: The Swedish Army Crosses Denmark's Frozen Sea Areas,” was published in the November 1978 Bulletin (59, 1432–1437); Part 4, “The Great Famines in Finland and Estonia, 1695–97,” was published in the July 1979 Bulletin (60, 775–787); Part 5, “Some Meteorological Events of the Crimean War and Their Consequences,” was published in the December 1980 Bulletin(61, 1570–1583);and Part 6, “Inundations and the Mild Winter 1672–73 Help Protect Amsterdam from French Conquest,” was published in the July 1983 Bulletin (64, 770–778).
2 Institute of History, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
3 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. (Now at the Department of Meteorology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.)