28th January 1697. It was a Mole that Did It!

Any notion that William, Prince of Orange’s accession to the throne was entirely peaceful and unopposed is a Whig reading of history, put about by William’s supporters which included Bishop Burnett appointed to preach the Coronation sermon in April 1689.(1)

Threats came from Jacobite supporters of the deposed James II, one of whom was Sir John Fenwick (3rd Baronet), who Today in 1697 was convicted on a Bill of Attainder following his Apologia explaining his innocence in the proposed threat to kidnap and kill William of Orange on his return from hunting, at Turnham Green near London.(2)


Triumphs of providence

Triumph of Providence. 1697. Broadsheet celebrating William’s escape.


Fenwick wrote: ‘As for what I am to die…I went not to that meeting in Leadenhall Street with any such intention to invite King James by force to invade this nation…And now, O God, I do…commend my soul into thy hands, the great master and preserver of men through the merits of My Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen’.

In this narrative there lies an explanation why so many went to their deaths without any qualms or any sense of terror, for they lived in an age of complete belief and commitment to their Saviour; they ‘knew’ they would soon  be judged at a higher level. We see this today in Islam.

Whether Fenwick had any direct responsibility in the plot, he had indeed previously shown Catholic opposition to the Protestant William and his wife Mary.

He thus paid the ultimate price by being beheaded on Tower Hill. Fellow conspirator Sir George  Barclay escaped, but Robert Charnock who had resided at James’ Court in France was hanged. Nine Jacobite activists in total were to be executed.

Though William escaped assassination he bizarrely died in 1702, after his horse stumbled over a mole-hill whilst hunting. Jacobites were from now on to toast, ‘the little man'[mole] in the velvet waistcoat’,


The blunderbuss supposedly meant to kill William now resides in the Armoury in the White Tower of the Tower of London.

The Fenwicks were a Northumberland family and originally Protestant. Colonel George had fought on the Parliamentary side with Cromwell and taken part in the invasion of Scotland and on the surrender of Berwick had become Governor and later its MP.

A memorial tablet to Colonel George can be seen in the church of Holy Trinity, Berwick, rebuilt 1650-1652, one of only three churches erected in the time of Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

(1) 11th April 1689.

(2) The passage of Bill of Attainder against Jacobite Fenwick was on  25.11.1696.

Ref: wikipedia.org/jacobite_assassination_plot_1696./Pic Image.

Ref: historyofparliamentonline.org.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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