Hallam and Burke are among the famous English writers who have written with deep admiration of William III. de Luxembourg et le Prince d'Orange has value as showing a Frenchman's enthusiasm for Louis XIV, but is utterly biased.
The author has a great affection for, and has learnt much from, such pleasing, inconsequent, unreliable, but delightful ancient books as History of Flanders (London, 1701), L'histoire du Stadthouderat, by Raynal (Paris, 1780); House of Austria, Bancks; History of the House of Orange, by Richard Burton (1693); Tableau de l'histoire gnrale des Provinces-Unie, A. Cerisier (1782); and The Netherlands Historian, 1672, etc.; they are full of atmosphere and details which give, as much as fact, the very spirit of the times.
A false description of a person's appearance will also give a false description of their character; a careless touch of this nature will considerably mislead the reader.
William III has frequently been so wrongly described; the author has read of him as "broken-nosed," "hunchbacked," with "a mouth indicated by a thin line," as of "a mean exterior," etc.
It was a piece of deep irony that the first constitutional King of England, who was to reign but not to rule, a position that the English parliament intended to be akin to that of the Doge of Venice, should have been a man of temper as imperious as that of any absolute monarch, and nothing but self-control and wisdom amounting to genius could have reconciled such a character with such a position—"a terrible burden," William wrote to Waldeck, "and one almost too heavy for my shoulders." The author wishes to make it clear that no religious or political controversy is intended to be opened, that she feels no prejudice against any of these long-dead people, nor their faiths, nor their actions, but that she does believe there is a danger nearly as great in avoiding all bias as in yielding to bias; she cannot deny herself the courage of appreciation nor conceal the enthusiastic interest in the subject which has been the sole reason for writing this book; it is not a challenge to any possible views or convictions, nor does it intend to be provocative, though the subject is one that has, even to our own day, raised the bitterest controversy and the most virulent expression of opinion.
The portraits given have been selected with much trouble and care; the importance of pictures in the realization of history has perhaps been hardly sufficiently regarded; a period, a personality, a whole attitude to life can often be understood better from a painting than from sheets of exposition; the academic histories, valuable as they are, have an atmosphere of lifelessness through the absence of illustrations and all pictorial detail; as soon as one is interested in characters, one desires to know what they were like in their persons, and it is certain that when one has examined hundreds of likenesses of one man or woman, a distinct personality emerges, built up from the various details of good, bad and indifferent pictures, engravings, busts, and medals.
The vivid and touching Lettres et Mmoires de Marie, Reine d'Angleterre (The Hague, 1880), are of the first importance, and there is an interesting collection of Mary II's earlier letters in Letters of Two Queens, by B.English historians have written of him as king of England, but seldom shown him against his Dutch background, and seldom without a reserve even in their praise; he was not English, he did not attempt to disguise disappointment and an aloof disdain for much that was English; England, as a country, he thought "vilain." This attitude was, from first to last, unpardoned; his great services could not take the place of good fellowship; his wide policies could not excuse his scorn for insular absorption in local disputes; he never wholly succeeded, till on his deathbed, in uniting the English in one common front against a common foe, and the English never more than partially succeeded in drawing him into party factions; the man whom the Whigs have so extolled and the Tories so reviled was profoundly contemptuous of the party politics of Whigs and Tories alike; his interests, his ambitions, his loves and likings were elsewhere—in brief, a foreigner.