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Prince William of Orange (as he then was) wears a buff coat, a gold-fringed red sash and the ribbon and Star of the Garter. The horse is wearing a blue shabracque, or blanket, with the Orange arms in gold, and stands looking towards Torbay. The portrait dominates an image showing William's landing in Torbay on 5 November 1688 with 14,000 troops for the invasion of England. The son of Charles I's daughter Mary, Prince William (1650–1702) had married Mary, daughter of his cousin James, Duke of York, in 1677. James had then already converted to Roman Catholicism, which produced a series of political crises after he succeeded to the throne as James II on the death of his elder brother, Charles II, in 1685. These eventually led to powerful English Protestant figures inviting William to usurp the British throne, based on the right of succession of his wife Mary.
The painting is dominated by the image of William astride his white horse. White horses symbolise the heavens, justice and holiness endowed with sacred status. In this context, white is used to signify kingship. The bay can be seen below and the positioning of the rider symbolises his domination over the kingdom.
William III Landing at Brixham, Torbay, 5 November 1688
oil on canvas
H 157.5 x W 132.1 cm