James Welwood: Physician to the Glorious Revolution

James Welwood: Physician to the Glorious Revolution

James Welwood: Physician to the Glorious Revolution

James Welwood: Physician to the Glorious Revolution

Synopsis

Dr. James Welwood (1652-1727) might have preferred a quiet life of medicine and Classical scholarship. Instead, he had the fortune, or misfortune, to be a talented political writer during the turbulent years of England's transition from the Stuart to the Hanoverian monarchy. Having to choose between Scottish and German claimants to the throne left many Englishmen with mixed feelings, and the contending factions needed skilled writers to turn out political pamphlets and newspapers, aimed at the increasingly literate British public. It was in this arena that Dr. Welwood was to find his true calling. Welwood was born into a Scottish family heavily involved in the convoluted religious debates of the day. Political, religious, and scientific issues of the time tended to overlap, and Welwood's early years in Scotland proved to be good training for a political career later in life. During the 1680s, the political situation in the British Isles finally became too hot for Welwood, forcing him to flee to the Continent, where he eventually got his medical degree. During the years of exile Welwood became acquainted with the Dutch prince William of Orange and his English wife Mary. When William and Mary were offered the throne of England as part of the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, Welwood returned to Britain with them. William and Mary's supporters in Parliament soon recognized Welwood's writing ability and drew him into the numerous controversies that plagued the rest of the reign. Welwood was given several official medical posts, but used his position, not for personal gain, but to advance the latest scientific discoveries against the entrenched English medical establishment. After the deaths of William and Mary and their successor Queen Anne, the nearest heir to the throne was Prince George of Hanover, staunchly Protestant, and thus acceptable to the majority of Englishmen. James Welwood's later years were devoted to his family, his private practice and his scholarly writing. However, the elderly court physician was to be drawn into one last intrigue shortly before his death. A potential scandal had developed between the Prince of Wales, his mistress, and the lady's husband. Due to his long personal acquaintance with all involved, Welwood was asked by court officials to discreetly negotiate a settlement in the case. Elizabeth Furdell's biography is a colorful evocation of England in the "Augustan" age, whose studied manners concealed a world of intrigue and discontent. This unique era produced the writings of Welwood's famous contemporaries Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift.
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