Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Battle of Narva

Today, 311 years ago, an 18 year old monarch led his troops into his first battle against the might of Russia. His name was Charles XII, and he was King of Sweden.
Sweden was a formidable power on the Baltic Sea when Charles XII came to the throne. But he was young, and Peter the Great of Russia and Augustus II of Poland combined to take Swedish territory, thinking that Charles would not resist. However, Charles XII would not let this happen, and the Great Northern War began.
The Russians formed a mighty army of 30,000 soldiers and besieged the fortress of Narva. Charles XII came to the rescue with less than 10,000 Caroliners (the term for troops of Charles XII).
Charles determined to attack , even though there was a violent snowstorm blowing in the faces of the Russians. “With the storm, they won’t see how few we are!” he told his generals. The Swedish army fearlessly stormed the Russian entrenchments, splitting the Russian army in two. Many Russians tried to retreat across the Narva River via the bridge, but it collapsed and many drowned. Darkness fell, and the Swedes were in the enemy camp, but with two large groups of the Russians on either flank. In the morning, the two armies, amounting to perhaps 20,000 Russians, surrendered to Charles XII. 18,000 more had been killed or drowned, while the Swedish loss was less than 2,000 men. Charles XII had taken more prisoners than were soldiers in his entire army, in addition to 171 flags and 145 cannons. The Battle of Narva was a complete victory for the Caroliners.
Charles XII demonstrated considerable maturity. To be able to plan for battle, to attack, to be void of fear, and then to be blessed with victory—this is indeed something which many men aged 18 years have lost today. However, with God’s help, we can recover the maturity that Charles XII demonstrated at his first and most glorious victory.
Note: The orders of battle of both Russians and Swedes at Narva can be found at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Louise de la Valliere

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions--Psalm 51:1

"My sin has been public; my repentance must be public too"--Louise de la Valliere

"I speak knowingly, and nothing but what I have seen and has been related to me by undeniable witnesses, and I never knew or heard of but one [Louise de la Valliere] who did not one way or other deceive their gallant, and am persuaded that she was misled merely by the love of the person of the prince which she has shown by her quitting the world and going into a nunnery of a very strict rule, where she has lived ever since a great example of penance and mortification;"--James II

Of all the powerful posts in Louis XIV's France, Louise de la Valliere held the highest as the King's mistress. However, by the grace of God, she saw the error of her ways, renounced her position in deep repentance, and joined a convent. Louis XIV's court did not understand her, and apparently persecuted her for her decision, for she said "When I am in trouble at the Carmelites' [convent], I will think of what those people have made me suffer." They could not understand why she would give up wealth, titles, position, and even love...for what? For something that is worth far more than all of these.

She sacrificed to follow the Word of God.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Not-So-Glorious Revolution

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The Williamite treason and plot!—author's adaptation of traditional rhyme

On November 5, 1688, Prince William of Orange set foot on English soil, beginning the struggle for power that would ultimately be known as the “Glorious Revolution.”
Most Protestants see it much as R. M. Ballantyne put it: “The great Revolution of 1688, which set William and Mary on the throne, also banished the tyrannical and despotic house of Stuart for ever; opened the prison gates to the Covenanters; restored to some extent the reign of justice and mercy; crushed, if it did not kill, the heads of Popery and absolute power, and sent a great wave of praise and thanksgiving over the whole land. Prelacy was no longer forced upon Scotland. The rights and liberties of the people were secured, and the day had at last come which crowned the struggles and sufferings of half a century.”

So…was William of Orange justified?

James (future James II) had married Anne Hyde, and had two daughters: Mary and Anne. Mary married William, Prince of Orange (in the Netherlands), and Anne married George, Prince of Denmark. In 1671, Anne Hyde died, and in 1673, James, a Catholic, married Mary of Modena, a Catholic. In 1685, James II succeeded to the throne upon Charles II’s death. On June 10, 1688, Mary of Modena had a son named James Francis Edward Stuart, or James III.

In the English law, a younger son would succeed to the throne before an older daughter. This rule was used with Henry VIII’s children: Edward VII, the youngest child, was first on the throne, then Mary, the oldest, then Elizabeth, the youngest daughter. This meant that James III would become king of England before his sisters, Mary and Anne.

Perhaps this would have been tolerable for William, had it not been for one more factor: France. William had devoted his life to building a “Grand Alliance” against France and her “Sun King”, Louis XIV. The Grand Alliance comprised the Catholic Hapsburg Empire (roughly Austria and Germany), Catholic Spain, the Duchy of Savoy, and the Protestant Netherlands. But one country was missing: England. William of Orange desperately wanted England in his Grand Alliance, but James—remembering that France had kept him safe from Cromwell—refused. Instead, he stayed neutral in the war that was brewing.

When James III was born, seven noblemen asked William to claim the crown in his wife’s name. They said that James III was not the real son of the King, but that the King intended to foist him on the English people to create a Catholic dynasty.

William was glad to oblige (though he had congratulated the King and Queen on the birth of their heir, and later said he believed James III was their lawful son), for this would draw England into his “Grand Alliance”. He prepared a fleet and army to land in England, which they did on November 5. His declaration when he landed said that he was here, not to claim the crown, but to persuade James to dismiss his Catholic councilors. However, he met with a cold welcome from the English, who did not like a foreign power on English soil.

James’s army was around him, but many treacherous officers such as John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough, deserted to William. Mary of Modena and James III fled to France, escorted by the Duc de Lauzen. James II was captured by William, and entered London, then was moved to Rochester. While in Rochester, James attended Mass…with the supposedly Protestant Dutch Blue Guards. He told the colonel that “…while in the English army not 1000 men in every 180,000 were Catholics, the invading army, professedly to vindicate the Protestant liberties, was two-thirds of it composed of Catholics.” After, he escaped to France, not trusting himself in England.

Now, Parliament declared the throne vacant, and offered—not to James’s daughter Mary—but to William and Mary! In fact, Mary ruled in name only; the real power was William. James II had brought liberty of conscience to England, but William III made life intolerable for the Irish Catholics by breaking the Treaty of Limerick. Incidentally, this would strengthen the French because young Irish soldiers went to France to fight in the Irish Brigade against the English.

While life would seem bad for James II, he consoled himself by saying that it was the will of God. An excellent way to see the unfortunate “Glorious Revolution”.