The Anglo-Dutch Favourite: The Career of Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (1649–1709), 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Anglo-Dutch Favourite

The Career of Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (1649–1709), 1st Edition

By David Onnekink


322 pages

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Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (1649-1709) was the closest confidant of William III and arguably the most important politician in Williamite Britain. Beginning his career in 1664 as page to William of Orange, his fortunes gained momentum with the Prince's rise to power in The Netherlands and Britain, emerging as William's favourite at court from the 1670s onwards. Taking a broadly chronological approach, the central concern of this book is not simply to provide a biographical account of Portland's life, but to explore wider political themes within a European context. By analysing Portland's role within William's government it shows how royal favourites could still wield considerable influence on European events and help shape royal policy, particularly with regard to foreign policy. By engaging with the question of why such a figure emerged, this study helps illuminate the workings of William's government and the central role of his foreign entourage. Drawing from archival material in England, Scotland, France and The Netherlands, it ties the history of post-Revolution Britain with political events in the Netherlands. It also analyses Anglo-Dutch political relations during the crucial period of the Nine Years War, Britain's first major commitment to a continental war since the sixteenth century. In so doing it connects Dutch and British historiography and significantly contributes to our understanding of British politics during the 1690s, both domestically and within an international context.


'David Onnekink has made an extremely valuable contribution both to broadening and especially deepening our understanding of the impact of King William III’s statecraft. His is an excellent piece of often ground-breaking research, fully vindicating the business of patient work in widely dispersed archives. The Glorious Revolution of 1688-91 which William III master-minded together with his prime confidant, Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland, operating to begin with from Holland, not only consolidated the British state but also fundamentally changed the political culture of the West, damaging and discrediting absolute monarchy everywhere and setting the stage for Britain's pre-eminence in the eighteenth century. The Glorious Revolution reorganized the governing institutions of Britain itself, as well as British power in Ireland and the Americas and also transformed Britain’s relationship to Europe and altered the balance of power throughout the Western world. Yet, over the decades historians have had great difficulty in properly coming to grips with this vast world-historical event perhaps especially owing to the large amount of widely dispersed but indispensable unpublished as well as published material a not inconsiderable proportion of which is in Dutch. David Onnekink’s book, based on archival research in Holland, Ireland and in Paris as well as Scotland and England, does much to fill the gap. He demonstrates convincingly that vastly important consequences flowed, rather paradoxically, from a court politics which had a number of thoroughly traditional as well as some ’modern’ characteristics. Not the least of the former was the vigorous ’re-emergence of the court-favourite’ in the shape of the mysterious, greedy, deeply unpopular and high-handed Portland. Onnekink’s is indeed the first detailed study ever to focus on, interpret and assess Bentinck’s wide-ranging and unparalleled coordinating role especially in the years 1689-99 in Sc

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The making of a favourite (1649-85); 'For religion and liberty'? The crises of 1688; The consolidation of the Williamite Settlement (1689-91); 'Lord Portland takes all': the re-emergence of the favourite; 'The spirit of contention': politics and parties; 'The great affair': war on the continent; Ganymede: the image of the favourite; 'Arcana Imperii': war and peace (1697-1700); The vestiges of power (1697-1709); Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

David Onnekink is from the Research Institute for History and Culture at Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands.

About the Series

Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750

Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750 Focusing on the years between the end of the Thirty Years' War and the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, this series seeks to broaden scholarly knowledge of this crucial period that witnessed the solidification of Europe into centralized nation states and created a recognizably modern political map. Bridging the gap between the early modern period of the Reformation and the eighteenth century of colonial expansion and industrial revolution, these years provide a fascinating era of study in which nationalism, political dogma, economic advantage, scientific development, cultural and artistic interests and strategic concerns began to compete with religion as the driving force of European relations and national foreign policies. The period under investigation, the second half of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth, corresponds with the decline of Spanish power and the rise of French hegemony that was only to be finally broken following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. This shifting political power base presented opportunities and dangers for many countries, resulting in numerous alliances between formerly hostile nations attempting to consolidate or increase their international influence, or restrain that of a rival. These contests of power were closely bound up with political, cultural and economic issues: particularly the strains of state building, trade competition, religious tension and toleration, accommodating flows of migrants and refugees, the birth pangs of rival absolutist and representative systems of government, radical structures of credit, and new ways in which wider publics interacted with authority. Despite this being a formative period in the formation of the European landscape, there has been relatively little research on it compared to the earlier Reformation, and the later revolutionary eras. By providing a forum that encourages scholars to engage with the forces that were shaping the continent - either in a particular country, or taking a trans-national or comparative approach - it is hoped a greater understanding of this pivotal era will be forthcoming.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General