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William of Orange Entreats Swiss Protestants to Help Him Win the 9 Years' War

7pp manuscript in French comprising a proposal for the "Projët d'Union, avec Sa Majesté de la Grande Bretagne. Au Nom de la Trés-Sainte [sic] Trinité. Amen." [trans: Proposal of Union with His Majesty of Great Britain. In the Name of the Very Holy Trinity. Amen.] Docketed "Project of Araü / 4 August, 1690" in English on the back of the last page. The document outlines 30 articles of a proposed defensive pact between William III aka William of Orange (1650-1702) and several Swiss cantons and cities. Our document almost certainly represents the Treaty as it was presented at the Second Diet of Aarau, 1/11 August 1690.

The document is inscribed overall in secretarial script on two single leaves and four pages of bifold laid paper. Expected folds and isolated wrinkles, chipped edges, and light stains. Edges of the last page have been reinforced with or partly laid down on thicker paper. Else near fine. The text is incredibly neat and legible considering its age. 8.5" x 13."

Just two years earlier, in 1688, William III, along with wife Mary II (both descendants of Charles I), had deposed the Catholic James II during the so-called Glorious, or Bloodless Revolution. William III looked to his eastern neighbors in the "corps helvétique" or Helvetic Body (modern day Switzerland) for three major reasons. First, he needed to justify his coup and establish his legitimacy in Europe by being politically acknowledged as Britain's official new monarch. In addition, William III was just a few years into an almost decade-long conflict, the Nine Years' War aka the War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697). The new British king desperately needed soldiers in this bitter conflict against Louis XIV's Catholic France. Last, Switzerland was also an excellent location for intelligence-gathering against the French and their ever-expanding "l'héxagone."

William III hoped to woo support from fellow Protestants in several Swiss cantons and cities of the loosely organized Old Swiss Confederacy: Zurich, Berne, Glarus, Shaffhausen, St. Gallen, and Appenzelle (and hopefully more, as Article XXIX's aspirational language attests.) The terms of the Treaty are clearly outlined within the document's thirty articles. They clarify such points as: the duration of the treaty; the number of mustered Swiss soldiers and their salaries depending on rank; their legal rights, free passage, access to medical care, and exemption from tariffs; and such delicate considerations as how the Swiss would negotiate with the British while still honoring existing treaties with the Holy Roman Empire, Austria, the United Provinces (Netherlands), Venice, and France, Britain's enemy. Of especial interest is a detailed officers' pay scale reproduced on the last page of the Treaty.

The most important articles of the Treaty (I, III, XIV) elaborate on William III's most pressing need: the mustering of 4,000 Swiss Protestant mercenaries to help him defeat the French.

Translated in part, with paragraph breaks added for improved legibility:

"To all it will be public; as from time to time, and principally since the year 1514. there has been a good friendship and intelligence between the serene Kings of Great Britain, and the Magnificent Lords of the Evangelical Cantons of the Helvetic Body; For this reason, We, William 3d by the Grace of God, King of England, of Scotland, of France; and of Ireland on the one part; and We the Burgomasters [from German "burgermeister" or mayor], advoyers [?], LandAmmans [from German "Landammann" or judge], Big and Small City Councils from the Cities of Zurich, Berne, and Glarus of the Evangelical Religion, as Members of the former Leagues of Upper Germany, on the other part;

Having made meure [measured?] reflection on present conjectures, We the said King William having notified the expedients, by which this ancient and good friendship between Our Crown and the said Cantons can be disposed to a closer union; and in order [to secure] this effect, by [sending] our Envoy Extraordinary to Them, We have charged Our faithful and beloved Thomas Coxe, Squire, to the glory and honor of all-powerful and eternal God, and to the consolation, defense, safety, repose, and reciprocal prosperity of Our Lands and subjects, he has to offer, in Our name, a Defensive Union, and to ask at the same time, in virtue of the above, a Muster of four thousand men, for the Guard of Our Royal Person, and in order to be employed at Our Service:

and the said Ld Coxe, in conformity to His Letter of Credence, having fulfilled His commission, in front of the full Assembly of all the cantons and Evangelical joint allies of the Helvetic Body; and the other Protestant cantons wishing equally to embrace Us, [that is], Zurich, Berne and Glarus, this Royal supervision, and to testify thus to their respect towards His Britannic Majy the Burgomasters, judges, and City Councils and Cantons of Schafhouse [Schaffhausen, Switzerland], Appenzell of the Exterior Parishes, and of the city of St. Gall [St. Gallen, Switzerland], to show to the said Majy their zeal and affection, have similarly consented, regarding their portion, of the said Muster, under the conditions hereafter specified; as such that after diverse conferences, this Defensive Union was sincerely, and after meure [measured?] deliberation, concluded as follows…"

Thomas Coxe (alternately spelled "Cox") was the British envoy to the Old Swiss Confederacy. He was dispatched to Zurich in 1689 and recalled from office in 1692. Details of Coxe's visit to the Swiss cantons to present William III's proposed Treaty are wonderfully described in William John Hardy's "Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of William and Mary, 1693" (London: Printed for his Majesty's Stationery Office by Mackie and Co. Ltd., 1908.) William III's Treaty was actually presented to the Swiss in a series of diets, one of which took place at "Araü" or Aarau, Switzerland, located about 40 km east of Zurich; our document almost certainly represents the Treaty as it was presented at the Second Diet of Aarau, 1/11 August 1690.

Coxe's expense report as reproduced in Hardy's book paints a vivid picture of the late-seventeenth-century diplomatic process. Coxe requested reimbursement for reasonable expenses related to horses, servants, inns, and postage. Yet he also played the gallant host, liberally distributing gifts to locals, and financing bonfires and expensive fireworks displays to celebrate the recent British victory at the Battle of the Boyne (July 1, 1690). It wasn't a party without an open table, and red and white wine fountains… [See attached scans of Hardy's book, pp. 40-41.]

All of William III's hopes were dashed, however, and the hard work of his envoy Thomas Coxe eventually came to naught. Historian L.A. Robertson tells us in his "The Relations of William III and the Swiss Protestants, 1689-1697" (1929) that William III's attempts to hire the Swiss were unsuccessful. Instead, he turned to German princes and the Dukes of Savoy.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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