It is commonly believed that the last successful invasion of England was William the Conqueror’s in 1066. Not so. In November 1688, a largely Dutch army of 24,000 landed at Torbay in Devonshire, and within a few months its commander—William, Prince of Orange—was king of England. Some might say that this was not really an invasion: first because William had come at the invitation of opposition politicians who had urged him to depose James II and restore “the liberties of England”; and second because there was no battle, most of James’s generals having crossed over to William. There were, however, battles in Scotland and Ireland. The so-called Glorious Revolution was also termed a “bloodless” one, but only in England and not throughout the British Isles.
William would reign from 1689 to 1702, jointly with his wife, Mary (James’s daughter), until her death in 1694 and then on his own. He is the hero of Macaulay’s “History of England,” for having led the country (as Macaulay saw it) away from James’s despotism and toward a securely parliamentary monarchy. Yet William is little remembered in England today, despite a fine equestrian statue of him in St. James’s Square.