Page 6, 28th August 1970

28th August 1970
Page 6
Page 6, 28th August 1970 — OXFORD REHABILITATED
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Organisations: House of Lords
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OXFORD REHABILITATED

by Sir CHARLES PETRIE

Robert Harley: Puritan Politician by Angus McInnes (Gollancz 48s.)

REVOLUTIONS gener ally bring the scum to the surface, and the so-called Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 was no exception; so it is in no way surprising that the two leading statesmen of Anne's reign should have been Bolingbroke and Harley. The former was a man without honour or religion, a profligate of unexampled recklessness, but capable, by fits and starts, of extraordinary industry.

Harley, who was in due course made Earl of Oxford, had risen by patient mastery, described in detail in these pages, of all the forms of Parliamentary procedure: he could speak at any hour, at any length, and on any subject, but what he said, except when he was making personal insinuations against an opponent, was

Touring France: Ile de France by Marion Deschamps (G. P. Foulis 45s.)

THE author is an authority on various aspects of travel, especially France. She has often contributed to the CATHOLIC HERALD travel features.

The book provides an excellent guide to that region of France which includes Char tres, Versailles, Fontainebleau, amongst others.

Marion Deschamps's considerable knowledge of Church history lends the book an unusual air of authority in a sphere where other writers are often diffident. mere gas. In effect, he was a solemn windbag. and he has hitherto passed as nothing much else. but now Mr. McInnes has set out to rehabilitate him.

So far as foreign policy is concerned he has to some extent succeeded. This is an extremely scholarly work, and the author has gone to a great deal of trouble to prove that the Treaty of Utrecht, one of the few satisfactory, because eminently reasonable, international settlements of modern times, was at least as much Oxford's work as Bolingbroke's.

In taking this Line he is, of course, at variance with the late G. M. Trevetyan, but he does so on the ground that "Oxford's most spectacular contribution to the peace came not at the conference table but in the House of Lords." Not all readers will agree, but it is a point to be taken into consideration, and it is argued convincingly for what it is worth. Mr. McInnes is also correct in his assertion that in the last resort Oxford was a Hanoverian, not a Jacobite, but that was only after James III had refused to turn Protestant to suit his convenience. Previous to that he had promised that if James would change his religion he would both persuade Anne to name the Stuart her heir in her will, and move in Parliament for the repeal of the Act of Settlement.

Oxford clearly never realised the nature of the man with whom he was dealing. for James, unlike his ancestor. Henry IV of France, refused to sacrifice his faith for the sake of a throne. So Harley fell between the Jacobite and Hanoverian stools, and one of the first incidents in the reign of George I was his incarceration in the Tower, though it must be said to his credit (Mr. McInnes might have made more of this) that he stayed to face the music, and did not bolt to the Continent like Bolingbroke.




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