King William III

King William III
Defoe’s intentions with the poem link to a wider remit than ‘Tutchin’s Dutch-bashing as aimed directly at William’s right to reign’. [4] While the xenophobic statements expressed in The Foreigners are addressed on several accounts in the poem, Defoe often turns the poem into a defence of King William III in relation to the events of the time and Defoe expresses his wider political motivations and beliefs. The True-Born Englishman has been described as ‘a very personal and heart-felt tribute to the King.’ [5] (see PART II, p51-line starting ‘Britannia’s song’) The poem expands ‘into a joyous wholesale denunciation of English chauvinism and ingratitude.’ [6] (see PART I, p11 and PART I, p12) It is upon this theme that Defoe attempts to pull apart so called English national identity with several satirical accounts of the true birth heritage of English people. (see PART I, p23-line starting ‘Since scarce one Family’) King William III’s Dutch heritage is an important aspect when considering much of the poem’s thematic approach to ideas of national identity; because the satirical accounts of national identity often relate to the narrow-mindedness towards Dutch heritage.

Defoe is critical of the idea that Englishmen boast of Norman ancestry, when ironically English national identity is made up of several different heritages; ‘the poem draws a circle around those able to laugh at the contradiction of tracing titles back to Norman conquerors’. [7] (see PART I, p14-Line starting ‘a True-Born Englishman of Norman Race?) His continual references to the Dutch suggests that he is defending King William III against those who argue against his right to reign; an Englishmen’s true identity is questionable, so for Defoe it made little difference that the king was from Dutch ancestry. This leads to a denunciation of English chauvinism reaching a ‘magnificent crescendo of comic insult’. [8] (see PART I, p14-Line starting ‘From the most scoundrel’) Defoe on several accounts using satire defines his distaste for the chauvinism in English politics; this chauvinism put King William III in a very difficult position concerning his military. The chauvinism in question saw the parliament of the late 17th century and early 18th century introduce a new law that insisted upon the removal of any person other than English from the military: ‘the final insult to William came in 1699, when parliament, indulging in its growing xenophobia, insisted on an army of native-born Englishmen’. [9] The further insult to the king saw his already politically depleted army reduced even further; the passing of this law forms part of the political undercurrents in Defoe’s poem. The depletion of his King William III’s army was catastrophic for Defoe, which led to him becoming a pro-army propagandist; ideologically King William III’s army was very important to him (see Defoe’s Political Theory and The Monmouth Rebellion).

Along with his political motivations Defoe was a true believer in King William III, he was the archetypal figure that formulates Defoe’s true political beliefs. In a heart-felt satirical pamphlet entitled The Mock Mourners. A Satyr, by the way of Elegy on King William following King William III’s death in 1702, Defoe shows his true devotion to him. (see PART II, p54-line starting ‘William’s the Darling Subject’) In general the pamphlet is attacking what Defoe called the mock mourners, inferring that those that mocked him when he was alive praise him when he is dead: ‘By Native Pride, and want of Temper led, /Never to value Merit till ‘tis Dead: /And then Immortal Monuments they raise,’ [10] (see PART II, p42-line starting ‘Englishman are ne’re contented’) Aside from his heart-felt tributes, Defoe defines in this pamphlet that King William III’s ‘Scepter he laid down’ [11] needs to be carried on after his death. This constitutes the idea that King William III was an extremely important part of Defoe’s ideological political movement because: ‘William’s the moving Centre of the whole/‘T had else a body been without a soul/Fenc’t with just Laws, impregnable it stands,/ And will forever last in Hones Hands.’ [12]

Daniel Defoe, The Mock Mourners. A Satyr, by the way of Elegy on King William, available sources: as part of a subscription to Eighteenth Century Collections Online, the digital facsimile can be viewed at: link

(ESTC T70834)

Unfortunately there is no stable cost-free version available currently.

Footnotes

[4] ibid, p.151
[5] Furbank P.N, Owens, W.R A Political Biography of Daniel Defoe. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006. p.15
[6] ibid, p.15
[7] Backschneider, Paula R Daniel Defoe His Life. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. p.76
[8] ibid, p.16
[9] Mueller, Andreas A Critical Study of Daniel Defoe’s Verse. p.175
[10] Defoe, Daniel, The Mock Mourners. A Satyr, by the way of Elegy on King William. London: [s.n.], 1702. [ESTC T70834, copy on ECCO]. p.1
[11] ibid, p.4
[12] ibid, pp.4-5

Leave a Comment