Personal letter from King William III to the 2nd Duke of Queensberry relating to his role as the King’s Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. William notes that he has just sent a long official letter, but wants to add one in his own hand to tell Queensberry how pleased he is with the work the latter had been doing on his behalf and that he will find an opportunity to reward him.
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The work mentioned in the letter was Queensberry’s management of the Scottish parliament, which was seeking English help for a colony it had attempted to establish at Darien in Panama with the aim of creating an overland route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This colony had been established against the opposition of the Spanish who claimed the area and that of English merchants, but with enormous financial investment from the Scottish people and government. William had no wish to help the Scots, and Queensberry’s work involved stalling the parliament and avoiding the direct request for help. News arrived that the colony had been destroyed by the Spanish only a couple of weeks after the date of this letter, causing considerable damage to the Scottish economy. This economic crisis, referred to as the Darien Disaster, led to the revival of discussions about uniting England and Scotland into one country, which eventually occurred in 1707 with the creation of Great Britain, again with considerable help from the Duke of Queensberry in managing the Scottish Parliament. Queensberry’s reward for managing the Parliament in 1700, mentioned in this letter, was membership of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of knighthood in England.
Sources consulted: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; The Darien Disaster, written by John Prebble.
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