His Refusal to Hand Over James II of England Was One of Louis XIV’s Greatest Glories

July 7, 2022

William III of England, Prince of Orange.

King William of England was gratified beyond measure when at last he had received recognition from King Louis and was in peace upon the throne. Nevertheless, usurpers are never truly satisfied nor in peace, and this one bitterly resented the fact that the rightful King and his family were still living at Saint-Germain. It was too close to the King of France and to England for his comfort. At Ryswick, he had made every effort to have them banished from the country or at least from the Court, but he had found the King inflexible. He now decided to stake everything on one throw and see whether by making no conditions (he had already won so much), but showering Louis XIV with proofs of his regard and respect, he could not gain his point by sweetness. . . .

King James II of England

The Duke of St. Albans was the precursor of a new English ambassador, the Earl of Portland, after whose arrival he left. No one more splendid could possibly have been nominated. He was attended by a vast and magnificent suite, and his expenditure on his table, horses, liveries, carriages, furniture, dress, and silver was most princely and all in exquisite taste. . . .

King Louis XIV

Portland spoke of the expulsion of King James and his family at his very first meeting with Torcy, the secretary for foreign affairs, even before he had been to Versailles. Torcy very wisely cut him short once and for all, saying that the point had been discussed often and thoroughly during the conferences at Ryswick and that the subject was closed and done with. He said further that he knew that the King would never change his mind and would be exceedingly vexed if the matter were mentioned again.

Lucy Norton, ed. and trans. Saint-Simon at Versailles (New York: Harmony Books, 1980), 42–44.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 836

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