An extract from a letter sent to the Prince of Orange inviting him to become King of England, 30 June 1688, (Catalogue ref: SP 8/1/224)

This letter was signed by seven English noblemen known as the ‘Immortal Seven’ who invited William of Orange to be King of England to depose King James II (1685-88). In the letter, ‘35’ was a secret code for Edward Russell, Admiral of the Fleet and leading politician. James II was unpopular because of his support of the Catholic religion. William of Orange was married to Mary, eldest daughter of James II by his first marriage to Anne Hyde. Mary had been brought up as a Protestant. When James married again, and his wife Mary of Modena gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stuart, the ‘Young Pretender’, fears grew for the creation of a Catholic monarchy. William of Orange arrived in England in November 1688 and faced little opposition, the event became known as the Glorious Revolution.



The Letter of Invitation* – sent in code dated June 30th 1688

We have great satisfaction to find by 35 [Russell], and since by Monsieur Zuylestein, later Earl of Rochford that your Highness is so ready and willing to give us such assistances as they have related to us. We have great reason to believe we shall be every day in a worse condition than we are, and less able to defend ourselves, and therefore we do earnestly wish we might be so happy as to find a remedy before it be too late for us to contribute to our own deliverance. But although these be our wishes, yet we will by no means put your Highness into any expectations which may misguide your own councils in this matter; so that the best advice we can give is to inform your Highness truly both of the state of things here at this time and of the difficulties which appear to us.

As to the first, the people are so generally dissatisfied with the present conduct of the government in relation to their religion, liberties and properties (all which have been greatly invaded), and they are in such expectation of their prospects being daily worse, that your Highness may be assured there are nineteen parts of twenty of the people throughout the kingdom who are desirous of a change, and who, we believe, would willingly contribute to it, if they had such a protection to countenance their rising as would secure them from being destroyed before they could get to be in a posture able to defend themselves. It is no less certain that much the greatest part of the nobility and gentry are as much dissatisfied, although it be not safe to speak to many of them beforehand; and there is no doubt but that some of the most considerable of them would venture themselves with your Highness at your first landing, whose interests would be able to draw great numbers to them whenever they could protect them and the raising and drawing men together. And if such a strength could be landed as were able to defend itself and them till they could be got together into some order, we make no question but that strength would quickly be increased to a number double to the army here, although their army should all remain firm to them; whereas we do upon very good grounds believe that their army then would be very much divided among themselves, many of the officers being so discontented that they continue in their service only for a subsistence (besides that some of their minds are known already), and very many of the common soldiers do daily shew such an aversion to the popish religion that there is the greatest probability imaginable of great numbers of deserters which would come from them should there be such an occasion; and amongst the seamen, it is almost certain there is not one in ten who would do them any service in such a war.

Besides all this. we do much doubt whether this present state of things will not yet be much changed to the worse before another year, by a great alteration which will probably be made both in the officers and soldiers of the army, and by such other changes as are not only to be expected from a packed Parliament. but what the meeting of any Parliament (in our present circumstances) may produce against those who will be looked upon as principal obstructers of their proceedings there, it being taken for granted that if things cannot then be carried to their wishes in a parliamentary way other measures will be put in execution by more violent means; and although such proceedings will then heighten the discontents, yet such courses will probably be taken at that time as will prevent all possible means of relieving ourselves.

These considerations make us of opinion that this is a season in which we may more probably contribute to our own safeties than hereafter (although we must own to your Highness there are some judgments differing from ours in this particular), insomuch that if the circumstances stand so with your Highness that you believe you can get here time enough, in a condition to give assistances this year sufficient for a relief under these circumstances which have been now represented, we who subscribe this will not fail to attend your Highness upon your landing and to do all that lies in our power to prepare others to be in as much readiness as such an action is capable of, where there is so much danger in communicating an affair of such a nature till it be near the time of its being made public. But, as we have already told your Highness, we must also lay our difficulties before your Highness, which are chiefly, that we know not what alarm your preparations for this expedition may give, or what notice it will be necessary for you to give the States beforehand, by either of which means their intelligence or suspicions here may be such as may cause us to be secured before your landing. And we must presume to inform your Highness that your compliment upon the birth of the child (which not one in a thousand here believes to be the queen’s) hath done you some injury, the false imposing of that upon the princess and the nation being not only an infinite exasperation of people’s minds here, but being certainly one of the chief causes upon which the declaration of your entering the kingdom in a hostile manner must be founded on your part. although many other reasons are to be given on ours.
If upon a due consideration of all these circumstances your Highness shall think fit to adventure upon the attempt, or at least to make such preparations for it as are necessary (which we wish you may), there must be no more time lost in letting us know your resolution concerning it, and in what time we may depend that all the preparations will be ready, as also whether your Highness does believe the preparations can be so managed as not to give them warning here, both to make them increase their force and to secure those they shall suspect would join with you. We need not say anything about ammunition, artillery, mortar pieces, spare arms, &c.. because if you think fit to put anything in execution you will provide enough of these kinds. and will take care to bring some good engineers with you; and we have desired Mr. H[erbert] to consult you about all such matters, to whom we have communicated our thoughts in many particulars too tedious to have been written, and about which no certain resolutions can be taken till we have heard again from your Highness.

[Signed/ see further below] 25. [Earl of Shrewsbury] 24. [Earl of Devonshire] 27. [Earl of Danby] 29. [Viscount Lumley] 31. [Bishop of London] 35. [Russell]. 33. [Sidney].

*(Sir John Dalrymple, Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland, App., I, pp. 228-231)

•Charles Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury (i.e. 25)
•William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire (i.e. 24)
•Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby (i.e. 27)
•Richard Lumley, Lord Lumley (i.e. 29)
•Henry Compton, Bishop of London (i.e. 31)
•Edward Russell (i.e. 35)
•Henry Sidney (i.e. 33)

+ The first five of these men were members of the House of Lords. Lord Talbot received the title “Duke of Shrewsbury” from the Prince of Orange in 1694. Lord Cavendish had earlier been an advocate of the exclusion of the Duke of York from succession to the throne as James II & VII; he received the title “Duke of Devonshire” from the Prince of Orange in 1694. Lord Danby received the title “Marquess of Carmathen” from the Prince of Orange in 1689 and the title “Duke of Leeds” in 1694. Lord Lumley was a famous convert from Catholicism to Protestantism; he received the title “Viscount Lumley” from the Prince of Orange in 1689 and the title “Earl of Scarborough” in 1690. Bishop Compton crowned the Prince and Princess of Orange in 1689. Edward Russell had been in the service of the Prince of Orange since 1683; he received the title “Earl of Orford” from the Prince of Orange in 1695. Henry Sidney had been groom of the bedchamber to James, Duke of York, and master of horse to Anne, Duchess of York; he then served as English envoy to the Hague from 1679 to 1681 and General of the British regiments in the Dutch service from 1681 to 1685; he received the title “Viscount Sidney” from the Prince of Orange in 1689 and the title “Earl of Romney” in 1694.

The “Mr. H.” mentioned at the end of the message is Arthur Herbert. He served as a rear-admiral in the Royal Navy, but was cashiered when he refused to serve with Catholic officers after the Declaration of Indulgence. He commanded the fleet which conveyed the Prince of Orange to England and received the title “Earl of Torrington” from the Prince of Orange in 1689.


Simplified transcript

We are so pleased to hear that your Highness is willing to help us. We strongly believe that England gets worse by the day and we need to protect ourselves before it is too late. We don’t want to give the wrong picture about things and think it is best to explain what is happening. First of all, the people are very unhappy with the present Government which threatens their religion, freedom and property daily. You can believe that 19 out of 20 people want a change of king…


An extract from a letter sent to the Prince of Orange inviting him to become King of England, 30 June 1688, held in the National Archives

Accession Number

TNA Catalogue ref: SP 8/1/224


The National Archives


The National Archives