Wednesday, 1 October 2014

William III's Blacks from the plantations of the Netherlands

What is known of the '200 Blacks' who came to Britain 'to attend the Horse' with the 200 gentlemen who formed the retinue of William of Orange when he landed at Brixham and proceeded via Exeter to London in 1688?

In a broadside published a week after William's triumphal entry into Exeter  there was an account a bit like a press report, which was republished mostly verbatim a year later by John Whittle in An Exact Diary of the Late Expedition of His Illustrious Highness, the Prince of Orange His Publick Entrance Into Exeter:

Since the foundation of Monarchy, Imperial Orations or the triumphs of the C├Žsars, in the Manner, Grandeur and magnificence of their most sumptuous cavalcades, there was never any that exceeded this of the most Illustrious Hero the Prince of Orange his Entrance into Exeter, which was in manner and form following:

1. The Right Honourable the Earl of Macclesfield with 200 horse, the most part of which were English Gentlemen, Richly mounted on Flanders Steeds, manag’d and us’d to war in Headpieces, Back and Brest, Bright Armour.
2. 200 Blacks brought from the plantations of the Netherlands in America, Imbroyder’d Caps lined with white Fur and plumes of white Feathers to attend the Horse.
3. 200 Finlanders or Laplanders in Bear Skins taken from the Wild Beasts they had slain, the common Habbit of that cold Climat, with black Armour and Broad Flaming Swords.

In the Royal Collection is  a contemporary painting of William's landing,

from which not a lot can be seen, certainly not any white feathered caps,  though here enlargement

and an engraving after Kneller of William himself shows him with an African-descent attendant, holding a helmet to match the king's back and breast armour, though this should not be taken literally

engraving British Museum 

I'm hoping someone has done lots of research on Orange William  and the Netherlands' plantations in the Caribbean....

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