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The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: The First Assassination of a Head of State with a Hand-Gun

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The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: The First Assassination of a Head of State with a Hand-Gun
Lisa Jardine

This edition contains a limited number of illustrations.Please note that due to the level of detail, both the map and family tree are best viewed on a tablet.A brilliantly detailed and gripping account of the assassination in 1584 of Prince William of Orange, and the shockwaves it sent through an age.The illustrious ‘Making History Series’, edited by Lisa Jardine and Amanda Foreman, explores an eclectic mix of history's tipping points. In ‘The Awful End of Prince William the Silent’, series editor Lisa Jardine explores the historical ramifications of just such an instance, the first assassination of a head of state with a hand-held gun. The shooting of Prince William of Orange in the hallway of his Delft residence in July 1584 by a French Catholic – the second attempt on his life – had immediate political consequences: it was a serious setback for the Protestant cause in the Netherlands, as its forces fought for independence from the Catholic rule of the Hapsburg empire. But, as Jardine brilliantly illustrates, its implications for those in positions of power were even more far-reaching, as the assassination heralded the arrival of a lethal new threat to the security of nations – a pistol that could be concealed and used to deadly effect at point-blank range.Queen Elizabeth I, William’s close Protestant ally, was devastated by his death and thrown into panic; in the aftermath of William's death, legislation was enacted in the English parliament making it an offence to bring a pistol anywhere near a royal palace. Elizabeth’s terror was not misplaced – as Jardine observes, this assassination was the first in a long and bloody line including those of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 and is all too relevant today.


The First Assassination of a Head of State with a Handgun

Lisa Jardine

EPIGRAPH (#ulink_36d97782-b804-5e6b-82d5-0d3aa0478571)

Politics in a work of literature are a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert, something crude which it is impossible to ignore.

We are about to speak of very ugly matters.

Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma



Cover (#ua8cbf789-ed0e-5c83-a1f5-d004fabfde10)

Title Page (#u00ddda00-bf01-5ab8-b820-c2fb4e92ce6f)

Epigraph (#uf86e1b3f-e67f-5b5b-a70a-c0d54d29c0b2)

Foreword: The Making History series (#ub305c2fa-a185-534c-a9a0-183977b55115)

Introduction: Accidents of History (#u0b83de67-aa44-5dfd-9ac8-973d2e8b4774)

Map: The Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century (#u44989524-62fb-57a9-a676-912d41be0113)

Family Tree: The House of Orange (#u72e78d26-99cb-5808-922f-500cae08d39d)

1: How the Prince of Orange Came to Have a Price on his Head (#u37f1cc26-b02c-5faa-8da4-0d9c5ad1d238)

2: Murder Most Foul (#u4fb0ced5-a56b-5961-9de0-20c2d0f49d28)

3: A Miraculous Escape (#litres_trial_promo)

4: The Wheel-Lock Pistol – Killing Conveniently (#litres_trial_promo)

5: English Aftermath 1 – ‘She is a Chief Mark they Shoot at’ (#litres_trial_promo)

6: English Aftermath 2 – Pistols and Politics (#litres_trial_promo)

Finale (#litres_trial_promo)

APPENDIX 1 (#litres_trial_promo)

APPENDIX 2 (#litres_trial_promo)

APPENDIX 3 (#litres_trial_promo)

APPENDIX 4 (#litres_trial_promo)

APPENDIX 5 (#litres_trial_promo)

Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo)

Notes (#litres_trial_promo)

Further Reading (#litres_trial_promo)

Index (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

Praise (#litres_trial_promo)

Also by the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

FOREWORD (#ulink_2034b6b7-603a-552e-bcd4-e6c8d34bfe7d)

When Prince William the Silent was gunned down in the hallway of his Delft residence in 1584, his death rocked the cause of Protestantism in the Low Countries. Without their charismatic leader, the Dutch opponents of the occupying Catholic forces of Philip II of Spain looked likely to be brought permanently under the domination of the Habsburgs.

In the event, the Dutch Protestant cause managed to carry on its opposition to the Habsburgs, and eventually succeeded in establishing an independent Dutch Republic. But the assassination of William of Orange with a small, concealed, self-igniting handgun had lasting repercussions across the face of Europe. William had been a marked man for many years, with a Catholic price on his head. Honour and riches had been publicly promised to anyone who could assassinate him. Yet in spite of elaborate security, a lone assassin armed with a hidden pistol was able to penetrate William’s ‘ring of steel’ and shoot him at point-blank range in his own home. After that, no head of state would ever feel safe again, and regimes across the Continent enacted legislation attempting to ban small hand-guns entirely, or to restrict their use in the vicinity of a prominent political figure or head of state.

The assassination of William the Silent, then, marked the moment when new technology intruded into the lives of public figures, emphasising their perpetual vulnerability to violent assault. The event was one of those milestones in history – a marker, a turning point, an epoch-making incident, a directional laser-beam of light from the past to the future – on which our understanding of the past depends. Lisa Jardine’s account highlights the extraordinary way in which events on the ground at key moments in history influence forever what comes after them.

The Awful End of Prince William the Silent is the second title in an exciting series of small books edited by Amanda Foreman and Lisa Jardine – ‘Making History’– each of which covers a ‘turning point’ in history. Each book in the series will take a moment at which an event or events made a lasting impact on the unfolding course of history. Such moments are of dramatically different character: from the unexpected outcome of a battle to a landmark invention; from an accidental decision taken in the heat of the moment to a considered programme intended to change the world. Each volume of ‘Making History’ will be guaranteed to make the reader sit up and think about Europe’s and America’s relationship to their past, and the key figures and incidents which moulded and formed its process.

Amanda Foreman Lisa Jardine

Introduction (#ulink_8a40c170-4a48-5b12-9f6d-d499d8f79a93)

Accidents of History

William of Nassau, scion Of a Dutch and ancient line, I dedicate undying Faith to this land of mine. A prince I am, undaunted, Of Orange, ever free, To the king of Spain I’ve granted A lifelong loyalty.

(First verse of the Dutch national anthem, the ‘Wilhelmus’)
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