An exploration of the thriving 17th-century cultural exchange between Holland and England.
England doesn’t bear too many traces of its once-close relationship with the Dutch, writes Jardine (Renaissance Studies/Queen Mary, Univ. of London; The Awful End of Prince William the Silent, 2007, etc.), who attempts to set the record straight with this examination of Anglo-Dutch relations. She begins by outlining the audacious Dutch invasion of 1688, sanitized by history as a “Glorious Revolution” whose (British) protagonists “invited” William of Orange to rule England with his wife Mary, daughter of England’s unpopular James II. Jardine writes in awestruck tones of William’s impeccable organization in steam-rollering the English and notes how widely accepted he was by people whose country was occupied by his troops. Dutch culture had been seeping into English society for quite some time, she points out: There were links between the Dutch and English royal families; both countries were Protestant; scientists and artists from both cultures had close ties. At the center of her retelling stands Constantijn Huygens, an advisor to the House of Orange whose exquisite taste in art and culture helped him act as a sort of 17th-century PR man for the Dutch. Also crucial is the author’s investigation of the posthumous rewriting of history that occurred in the aftermath of William’s invasion. Jardine meticulously studies the exchange of ideas between England and Holland, displaying an impressive ability to look at the bigger picture and tie together seemingly disparate strands of culture: art, commerce, even gardening. In her depiction, England had already borrowed huge swaths of Dutch culture, paving the way for William’s rule. Illustrations and photographs that reveal the prevailing Dutch aesthetic of the time add weight to the author’s words, and she leaves no stone unturned as she documents just how many significant figures from Holland held sway over English culture.
Absorbing, enjoyable reading.