William and Mary (William III, 1650–1702; Ruled 1689–1702)

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WILLIAM AND MARY (William III, 16501702; ruled 16891702)

WILLIAM AND MARY (William III, 16501702; ruled 16891702), king of England, Scotland, and Ireland; (Mary II, 16621694; ruled 16891694), queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. William III of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces, was born 4 November 1650, the son of William II of Orange (16261650), who died shortly before the birth, and Mary Stuart (16311660), eldest daughter of Charles I of England. Fiercely anti-French, the future William III led the Dutch in the war against France of 16721678 following the revolution of 1672 that revived the stadtholderate. The future Mary II was born on 30 April 1662, the eldest daughter of James, duke of York (James II; ruled 16851688), and his first wife, Anne Hyde (16381671). William and Mary were married on 4 November 1677 as part of the scheme of Thomas Osborne (16321712), earl of Danby, to move England out of the French orbit and to secure the Protestant succession in the wake of York's conversion to Catholicism. At the time Mary was second in line to the throne after her father, and William was fourth.

Alarmed by political developments under James II after 1685 and determined to bring England into his anti-French alliance, William offered to invade England by April 1688 if he could be assured of the necessary support. The birth of a Prince of Wales to James II's second wife on 10 June 1688, however, provided the immediate cue for action. A group of seven Whig and Tory politicians sent William a signed invitation to come to England's rescue. William, using the rumor that the baby was not really the queen's but had been smuggled into the bed-chamber in a warming pan as a pretext, alleged that James therefore was guilty of trying to defraud William and his wife of their inheritance rights. The Glorious Revolution of 16881689 that followed resulted in the overthrow of James II and the installment of William and Mary as joint sovereigns of England, Scotland, and Ireland, though with full regal power invested in William alone.

William's accession brought England into the Continental alliance to prevent the expansionist ambitions of Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) in Europe. William first secured Ireland, defeating James II's Franco-Irish army at the River Boyne on 1 July 1690 (though Jacobite resistance in Ireland did not finally collapse for another year). William then led the Continental campaign in the Low Countries, but the War of the League of Augsburg (16881697) ended inconclusively with the Treaty of Ryswick (Rijswijk) in 1697, leaving the crucial question of the fate of the Spanish inheritance undecided. In 16981700 William negotiated two treaties with France to partition the Spanish empire upon the death of the Spanish king Charles II (ruled 16651700). But when Charles died in October 1700, leaving his entire empire to Louis XIV's grandson Philip of Anjou (ruled 17001724, 17241746 as Philip V), Louis reneged on the agreement, prompting William to forge a new Grand Alliance (August 1701) to secure partition by force. The War of the Spanish Succession (17011714) broke out shortly after William's death.

The expense of war necessitated a financial revolution and the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694. Setting up the national debt, which needed to be serviced by regular grants of parliamentary taxation, did more than anything else to make the English monarchy dependent on Parliament. William's reign also saw the passage of the Triennial Act in 1694 (guaranteeing new Parliaments every three years) and the lapsing of the Licensing Act in 1695 (thereby establishing freedom of the press), while William's repeated absences in conducting war on the Continent led to the beginnings of the cabinet system of government. However, Mary was not a complete political nonentity. An act of May 1690 made her regent during her husband's absences, and she showed considerable adroitness in dealing with various crises that emerged until her premature death from smallpox in December 1694. Mary died childless, and her sister Anne's sole surviving child, the duke of Gloucester, died in 1700. Consequently in 1701 Parliament passed the Act of Settlement, which conferred the succession on the house of Hanover once the Protestant Stuart line died out, established that future monarchs had to be communicating members of the Church of England, and placed limits on the crown's ability to involve England in war fought in defense of the monarchy's possessions abroad.

In Scotland, William achieved notoriety for authorizing the massacre of the MacDonald clan at Glencoe in 1692, when the clan accidentally missed the deadline for swearing allegiance to the new regime by five days. In Ireland, William's regime presided over the passage of a series of penal laws designed to strike at the Catholic faith that were in clear breach of the Treaty of Limerick, which had ended the Jacobite War in 1691. With his health already deterioratinghe had long suffered badly from asthmaWilliam fell and broke his collarbone when his horse stumbled on a molehill in Hampton Court Park on 20 February 1702. He died from pleurisy on 8 March. Jacobite legend attributes his demise to "the little gentleman in black velvet."

See also Church of England ; Glorious Revolution ; Jacobitism ; League of Augsburg, War of the (16881697) ; Louis XIV (France) ; Spanish Succession, War of the (17011714) ; Stuart Dynasty (England and Scotland) .


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Tim Harris

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William and Mary (William III, 1650–1702; Ruled 1689–1702)

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