WILLIAM III and MARY II
Mary II and William III
William was twelve years older than Mary
and was the son of William II, Prince of Orange and Mary
Stuart, daughter of King
Charles I. He never knew his father as he died eight days
before he was born from small pox. When William was ten his mother also
caught this disease, while visiting her brother
Charles II) in London, and died. William was raised a Protestant
and by his thirties had become known as something of a Protestant Champion.
His marriage to Mary was a political match and for many years their personal
relationship was difficult. Mary was only 15 when they married and the
marriage was very much against her will. It is said she wept throughout
the ceremony! But Mary was deeply religious and always did her best to
be a loving, dutiful wife. William, however, did not always try so hard
to be a good husband and had several mistresses, including Elizabeth
Villiers (Mary's lady in waiting). When they married, Mary went to
live with her husband in the Netherlands and her outgoing personality made
her very popular with the people. When she and William became King and
Queen of Britain, she was always more popular than her husband. In fact,
William is one of the most unpopular monarchs in British history.
When William was present in England, Mary let him rule, although she always took the lead in religious matters. But when he was on the continent, Mary ruled alone and did so very well. While their early marriage was difficult, William and Mary did come to care for each other deeply and William was devastated when Mary died of small pox at only 32 years of age. For the rest of his life he cherished a lock of her hair and her wedding ring. After her death in 1694 William ruled alone until he died after a fall from his horse in 1702. As William and Mary had no children, something that always grieved Mary, the crown passed to Mary's sister, Princess Anne.
It was during the reign of William and Mary that the important Bill of Rights (1689) was passed. This limited the power of the monarch considerably, increased the power of Parliament, and made it illegal for a British King or Queen to be a Roman Catholic (or even to marry one).
It was also during the reign of William and Mary that Hampton Court Palace was rebuilt. Much of the old Tudor Palace was knocked down and replaced with a magnificent baroque building designed by Christopher Wren.