William and Mary, King and Queen of Great Britain

William, the son of Willem II, Stadholder, and Prince of Orange, and Mary, daughter of Charles I,  was born at Binnenhof Palace, The Hague, Novemember 14 1650.
He married Mary, daughter of James II of Britain, November 4 1677 at St James's Palace, London.

William and Mary succeeded as James II as King and Queen of Great Britain in 1689.


William III and Mary II

Prince William of Orange, a maternal grandson of Charles I, arrived in England in November 1677 to marry Mary, eldest daughter of James II. The marriage was a symbol of Anglo-Dutch unity against the French at the time of the Dutch War.

Mary was only 15 and cried at the thought of leaving for Holland with a stranger. However, she did become fond of her husband and the Dutch people.

 Het Loo Palace, begun in 1685 for Willem of Orange.

In 1688 William of Orange arrived off the English coast at the head of a Dutch invasion fleet, having been invited by the opponents of James II, Princess Mary's pro-Catholic father. Both Mary and William were Protestants.

James II employed Irish troops to boost his dwindling military support, and a strong force was dispatched to hold Reading to prevent William's army advancing to London. They were driven from the town by a 300 troops despatched by the Count of Nassau and pursued as far as Twyford. 

Resistance melted as the Prince made his way to London and James II fled to exile in France abandoning the throne for William to share with his wife. In February 1689 they succeeded as William III and Mary II, King and Queen of England and Ireland, and in May accepted the Scottish Crown.

Mary II had no children and died in 1694, aged 32, of smallpox having reigned for only five years. William III became ill after breaking a collar bone when his horse stumbled. With the prospect of no direct heir, Parliament passed the Act of Settlement which decreed that in the event William III, or his sister-in-law Princess Anne, not having issue, the crown would pass to Sophia, Electress of Hanover, granddaughter of James I. This ruled out the possibility of a Catholic succeeding to the British throne, including James Prince of Wales and other descendants of James II by his second wife Maria of Modena.

William III died of pleurisy, in Kensington Palace, the home he and Mary II had built, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his wife's sister, Queen Anne.

Kensington Palace, London (W H Pyne)