Glasgow’s Equestrian Statue of William of Orange #History #Scotland

By 1734/5, it was perhaps easier to publicly obscure Glasgow’s contested history. The burgh appears had been the first place to declare for William of Orange in Scotland when the Society people made a declaration of him as ‘Lord Protector’ (rather than King) there in early 1689. A difficult period followed after the Society people clashed with the burgh elite, when the latter attempted to implement William’s policy of toleration of episcopal worship. The burgh generally supported William and certainly backed the Revolution, but the people of it later stridently opposed the Union in tumults in 1706. According to the English spy and pro-Union propagandist, Daniel Defoe, the people of Glasgow had gone ‘mad’ and the burgh was viewed with suspicion by the authorities for some time after the Union.

Glasgow CrossThe King William statue at Glasgow Cross in late 18th century © Glasgow Museums.

The statue to William was erected in 1735, fifty years after Edinburgh had erected an equestrian statue to Charles II, which also has a contested history. Edinburgh’s statue is still in situ, but the statue of William has moved more than once from its former site near the Tolbooth. Today, a monument to the Townhead Martyrs has recently been relocated into the street directly behind the statue.

The inscriptions on the statue of William both in Latin and English reads as follows:

IN HONOUR OF / THE MOST EXCELLENT PRINCE, / WILLIAM III. SOVEREIGN OF GREAT BRITAIN, / PIOUS, VALIANT, INVINCIBLE, / BY WHOSE COURAGE, COUNSEL, AND ADDRESS, / OFTEN DISPLAYED IN THE GREATEST DANGER, / TO THE UNITED PROVINCES, WELL NIGH OVERPOWERED, UNEXPECTED SAFETY WAS OBTAINED; / TO BRITAIN AND IRELAND / PURER RELIGION, LAW, AND LIBERTY, / WERE RESTORED, MAINTAINED, AND TRANSMITTED / TO POSTERITY, / UNDER THE JUST GOVERNMENT OF PATRIOTIC PRINCES / OF THE BRUNSWICK LINE; / AND THE YOKE OF SLAVERY, / INTENDED BY THE FRENCH FOR THE WHOLE OF EUROPE, / WAS AVERTED: / THIS MONUMENT OF HIS IMMORTAL DESERTS, / IN THE XXXIII YEAR AFTER HIS DECEASE, / BEING ACCEPTED WITH THE HIGHEST APPROBATION, / BY THE MAGISTRATES AND PEOPLE OF GLASGOW, / WAS ERECTED, BY HER ACTIVE AND FAITHFUL CITIZEN, / JAMES MACRAE, / LATE GOVERNER OF THE PRESIDENCY OF MADRAS. / MDCCXXXV.

During his life time, King William was William II, rather than the III, of Scots.

Since 1926 the statue has stood on a new pedestal and in some obscurity in Castle Street. The poem composed to celebrate the erection of the statue nearly 200 years earlier certainly obscures the past.

‘The equestrian statue of king William.

It is erected near the cross of Glasgow, upon the northside of the street, the king being mounted upon a stately horse, with his baton in his hand, fixt upon a curious pedestal of fine workmanship, bestowed upon the city by our generous countryman governor [James] M’Crae [of Orangefield (d.1744)], to his immortal honour. It is fenced about with a curious iron rail of excellent workmanship.

A poem on the erecting the equestrian statue of king William, near the cross of Glasgow, given in compliment to the city by the honourable James M’Crae Esq. anno 1734.

With grateful hearts the statue we receive
Of great king William glorious and brave,
Nassaw the prince of Orange, by heav’n design’d,
To curb the proud oppressors of mankind,
With generous thoughts of liberty inspir’d,
And against tyrants and oppressors fir’d.
Boldly declar’d, he for Britanias laws,
Appear’d in our injured country’s cause,
He bought our liberty, and resign’d his all,
Our sacred rights from ruin did recall.
Sure great his genious when the traytours croud,
Ready to strike the blow, their fury vow’d,
Quell’d by his look, and listning to his lure,
They dissipated, and rebell’d no more.
He drove old Saturn out, and all his host,
Asham’d, and with their own politicks lost.
They view’d their ancient seats with upcast eyes,
And with dispair their abdicated skyes;
He rais’d our downpast hopes, dispell’d our fears,
And all the patriot in his scene appears;
Of liberty by him we stand assur’d,
By him the mighty blessings stand secur’d.
By him the widowed lands no more bemoan,
A broken lineage and undoubtful throne,
He fixt succession in our Georges line,
Whereby our future peace the source we find,
With him is fitly plac’d the generous horse,
This represents the hero in his force;
Methinks the steed do’th spread with corps the plain,
Tears up the turff and pull the curbing rein;
Exalts his thunder neck and lofty crest,
And force throw ranks and files his stately breast.
His nostrils glow, sonorous war he hears,
He leaps, jumps and pricks his listning ears,
Led by the hero, he the files invades,
And forceth passage throw the thick brigades.
Hoofs up the turff, spreads havock all around,
Till blood as torrents overflowes the ground.
For glorious ends our hero’s wars design’d,
Promot the common welfare of mankind;
No proud ambition mov’d but Europ’s fears,
The cries of orphans and the widows tears.
Oppress’d religion gave the first alarms,
And injur’d justice set him in his arms.
His conquest freedom to the world afford,
And nations blest the labour of his sword.
‘Tis certain endless joys from freedom spring,
And life in bondage is a worthless thing.
O sacred freedom! which the powers bestow,
To season blessings and to soften woe.
Plant of our growth and aim of all our cares,
The toyle of ages and the crown of wars.
Be thou our ever everlasting charm,
And may this image thy remembrance warm.’
(Reprinted in A View of the City of Glasgow, 255-7.)

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

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~ by drmarkjardine on May 9, 2016.

2 Responses to “Glasgow’s Equestrian Statue of William of Orange #History #Scotland”

  1. Dumfries proclaimed William king ( rather than Lord Protector) on 9 January 1689. “The first evidence of this happy change is supplied by a minute of the Town Council, dated 26th December, from which we learn that on that day a letter was received by the civic body from Lord Athole, President of the reconstructed Privy Council, restoring to the burghal representatives of Dumfries the right to elect their own magistrates…On the 9th of January, 1689, the new Town Council met under the presidency of Provost Craik, and gave orders that the Prince of Orange should be proclaimed King at the Market Cross. This ceremony, however, was not performed till the 24th of April, in order, probably, that due time might be given for rendering it imposing. ”
    From http://www.electricscotland.com/history/dumfries/history37.htm

    • That is an interesting one! The Society people with William Boyd made a proclamation very early on. Obviously, that caused tensions as many refused to accept the deed was done in their name.

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