Courtly reformation : Williamite propaganda after the glorious revolution in England
This thesis starts from the assumption that historians of political thought have not provided an adequate account of William III's propaganda in England. It argues that the case put by the English regime in the 1690s was not based upon constitutional discourse (a field which has received much attention), but upon a neglected rhetoric of "courtly reformation". This was a Protestant, near-millennial, and biblically-based language, which was promoted by a group of propagandists around Gilbert Burnet, and which presented the new King as the divine instrument of spiritual renewal. Its main tenets were that a debauching popery had been eroding God's true Church in England since 1660; that 1688 had been a providential deliverance from this threat; and that William must be supported as the godly magistrate who would lead the English in purging their sins. In its first section, the thesis demonstrates that Orange propagandists abandoned constitutional arguments in the winter of 1688/9 [chapter 1]. Realising that such arguments would limit monarchical power, government spokesmen dropped them in favour of the rhetoric of reformation, which was more favourable to the court [chapter 2]. Over the next years, they promoted this language through a variety of initiatives, including hitherto unstudied programmes of public fasting and publication of court sermons [chapter 3]. In its second section, the thesis demonstrates how courtly reformation addressed three problems facing the 1690s regime. First, the rhetoric countered criticism that William governed in Holland's interests by reminding his subjects that spiritual renewal must include support for godly Protestants abroad [chapter 4]. Next, the language helped to contain damaging party disputes. It avoided constitutional issues which divided Whigs and Tories, and calmed religious tensions by reassuring both non-conformists and Anglicans that they were vital to William's purging mission [chapter 5]. Finally, the propaganda defused "country" suspicions of the regime by insisting that a reforming King would work for administrative honesty and efficiency [chapter 6].