The Emperor still protested, but his protest was of little moment so long as Lewis and the two maritime powers held firmly together. Nor was the bitter resentment of Spain of more avail. The Spaniards cared little whether a French or an Austrian prince sat on the throne of Charles the Second, but their pride revolted against the dismemberment of the monarchy by the loss of its Italian dependencies. Even the dying King shared the anger of his subjects, and a will wrested from him by the factions which wrangled over his death-bed bequeathed the whole monarchy of Spain to a grandson of Lewis, the Duke of Anjou, the second son of the Dauphin. The Treaty of Partition was so recent, and the risk of accepting this bequest so great, that Lewis would hardly have resolved on it but for his belief that the temper of England must necessarily render William's opposition a fruitless one. Never in fact had England been so averse from war. So strong was the antipathy to William's foreign policy that men openly approved the French King's course. Hardly any one in England dreaded the succession of a boy who, French as he was, would as they believed soon be turned into a Spaniard by the natural course of events.
The succession of the Duke of Anjou was generally looked upon as far better than the increase of power which France would have derived from the cessions of the last Treaty of Partition, cessions which would have turned the Mediterranean, it was said, into a French lake, imperilled the English trade with the Levant and America, and raised France into a formidable power at sea. " It grieves me to the heart," William wrote bitterly, "that almost every one rejoices that France has preferred the Will to the Treaty." Astonished and angered as he was at his rival's breach of faith, he had no means of punishing it. The Duke of Anjou entered Madrid, and Lewis proudly boasted that henceforth there were no Pyrenees. The life-work of William seemed undone. He knew himself to be dying. His cough was incessant, his eyes sunk and dead, his frame so weak that he could hardly get into his coach. But never had he shown himself so great. His courage rose with every difficulty. His temper, which had been heated by the personal affronts lavished on him through English faction, was hushed by a supreme effort of his will.
His large and clear-sighted intellect looked through the temporary embarrassments of French diplomacy and English party strife to the great interests which he knew must in the end determine the course of European politics. Abroad and at home all seemed to go against him. For the moment he had no ally save Holland, for Spain was now united with Lewis, while the attitude of Bavaria divided Germany and held the House of Austria in check The Bavarian Elector indeed, who had charge of the Spanish Netherlands and on whom William had counted, openly joined the French side from the first and proclaimed the Duke of Anjou as King in Brussels. In England the new Parliament was crowded with Tories who were resolute against war. The Tory Ministry pressed him to acknowledge the new King of Spain; and as even Holland did this, William was forced to submit. He could only count on the greed of Lewis to help him, and he did not count in vain. The approval of the French King's action had sprung from the belief that he intended to leave Spain to the Spaniards under their new King. Bitter too as the strife of Whig and Tory might be in England, there were two things on which Whig and Tory were agreed.
Neither would suffer France to occupy the Netherlands. Neither would endure a French attack on the Protestant succession which the Revolution of 1688 had established. But the arrogance of Lewis blinded him to the need of moderation in his hour of good-luck. In the name of his grandson he introduced French troops into the seven fortresses known as the Dutch barrier, and into Ostend and the coast towns of Flanders. Even the Peace-Parliament at once acquiesced in William's demand for their withdrawal, and authorized him to conclude a defensive alliance with Holland. The King's policy indeed was bitterly blamed, while the late ministers, Somers, Russell, and Montague (now become peers), were impeached for their share in the treaties. But outside the House of Commons the tide of national feeling rose as the designs of Lewis grew clearer. He refused to allow the Dutch barrier to be re-established; and a great French fleet gathered in the Channel to support, it was believed, a fresh Jacobite descent, which was proposed by the ministers of James in a letter intercepted and laid before Parliament. Even the House of Commons took fire at this, and the fleet was raised to thirty thousand men, the army to ten thousand.
Kent sent up a remonstrance against the factious measures by which the Tories still struggled against the King's policy, with a prayer that addresses might be turned into Bills of Supply; and William was encouraged by these signs of a change of temper to despatch an English force to Holland, and to conclude a secret treaty with the United Provinces for the recovery of the Netherlands from Lewis, and for their transfer with the Milanese to the house of Austria as a means of counter-balancing the new power added to France. But England was still clinging desperately to a hope of peace, when Lewis by a sudden act forced it into war. He had acknowledged William as King in the Peace of Ryswick, and pledged himself to oppose all attacks on his throne. He now entered the bed-chamber at St. Germain where James was breathing his last, and promised to acknowledge his son at his death as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The promise was in fact a declaration of war, and in a moment all England was at one in accepting the challenge.
The issue Lewis had raised was no longer a matter of European politics, but the question whether the work of the Revolution should be undone, and whether Catholicism and despotism should be replaced on the throne of England by the arms of France. On such a question as this there was no difference between Tory and Whig. When the death, in 1700, of the last child of the Princess Anne had been followed by a new Act of Succession, not a voice had been raised for James or his son; and the descendants of the daughter of Charles the First, Henrietta of Orleans, whose only child had married the Catholic Duke of Savoy, were passed over in the same silence. The Parliament fell back on the line of James the First. His daughter Elizabeth had married the Elector Palatine, and her only surviving child, Sophia, was the wife of the late and the mother of the present Elector of Hanover. It was in Sophia and her heirs, being Protestants, that the Act of Settlement vested the Crown. It was enacted that every English sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England as by law established. All future kings were forbidden to leave England without consent of Parliament, and foreigners were excluded from all public posts.