King William III and Queen Mary II


William III of England (November 14, 1650–March 8, 1702; also known as William II of Scotland, William Henry, and William of Orange) was a Dutch aristocrat and the Holy Roman Empire's Prince of Orange from his birth, King of England and Ireland from February 13, 1689, and King of Scotland from April 11, 1689, in each case until his death.

Born a member of the House of Orange-Nassau, William III won the English, Scottish, and Irish Crowns following the Glorious Revolution, during which his uncle and father-in-law, James II, was deposed. In England, Scotland and Ireland, ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death on 28 December 1694. He reigned as "William II" in Scotland, but "William III" in all his other realms; he is also informally, and affectionately, known as "King Billy" among Protestants in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

William was appointed to the Dutch post of Stadtholder on June 28, 1672, and remained in office until he died. A Protestant, William participated in many wars with the powerful Roman Catholic King of France, Louis XIV. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith; it was partly due to such a reputation that he was able to take the crown of England, many of whose people were fervent anti-Catholics (though his army and fleet, the biggest since the Armada, provided more cogent reasons for his success).

His reign marked the beginning of the transition from the personal control of government of the Stuarts to the Parliamentary type rule of the House of Hanover.

Mary II (April 30, 1662–December 28, 1694) reigned as Queen of England and Ireland from February 13, 1689 until her death, and as Queen of Scotland from April 11, 1689 until her death.

Mary, a Protestant, came to the throne following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of her Roman Catholic father, James II. Mary reigned jointly with her husband and first cousin, William III, who became the sole ruler upon her death. Popular histories usually know the joint reign as that of "William and Mary." Mary, although a sovereign in her own right, did not wield actual power during most of her reign. She did, however, govern the realm when her husband was abroad fighting wars.

William continued to be absent from the realm for extended periods during his war with France. England joined the League of Augsburg, which then became known as the "Grand Alliance." While William was away fighting, his wife, Mary II, governed the realm for him, but acted on his advice. Each time he returned to England, Mary gave up her power to him unbegrudgingly. Such an arrangement lasted for the rest of Mary's life.

Although most in England accepted William as sovereign, he faced considerable opposition in Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish Jacobites— those who believed that James II was still the legitimate monarch after his abdication — won a stunning victory on July 27, 1689 at the Battle of Killiecrankie, but were nevertheless subdued within a month.

William's reputation suffered following the Massacre of Glencoe (1692), in which hundreds of Scotsmen were murdered for not properly pledging their allegiance to the new king and queen. Bowing to public opinion, William dismissed those responsible for the massacre, though they still remained in his favour; in the words of the historian John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, "one became a colonel, another a knight, a third a peer, and a fourth an earl."

In Ireland, where the French aided the rebels, fighting continued for much longer, although James II had to flee the island after the Battle of the Boyne (1690). The victory in Ireland is commemorated annually by the Orange March.

After the Anglo-Dutch Navy defeated a French fleet at La Hogue in 1692, the naval supremacy of the English became apparent, and Ireland was conquered shortly thereafter. At the same time, the Grand Alliance fared poorly on land. William lost Namur, a part of his Dutch territory, in 1692, and was disastrously beaten at the Battle of Landen in 1693.

Mary II died of Smallpox in 1694, leaving William III to rule alone. Although he had previously mistreated his wife and kept mistresses (the most well known of which was Elizabeth Villiers), William deeply mourned his wife's death. Although he was brought up as a Calvinist, he converted to Anglicanism. His popularity, however, plummetted during his reign as a sole sovereign.

William is assumed by some modern scholars to have been bisexual. He had several male favorites, including a Rotterdam bailiff Van Zuylen van Nijveld. He granted English dignities to two of his Dutch courtiers: Hans Willem Bentinck became Earl of Portland, and Arnold Joost van Keppel was created Earl of Albemarle.

In 1702, William — who did not remarry — died of complications (pneumonia) from injuries (a broken shoulder) resulting from a fall off his horse. It was believed by some that his horse had stumbled into a mole's burrow, and as a result many Jacobites toasted "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat." William was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside his wife.

Much more about William and Mary can be found on


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