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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Mary II of England


Mary was born at St. James's Palace in London on  April 30, 1662. She was the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York (the future James II), and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Mary's uncle was King Charles II,

Although her mother bore eight children, all except Mary and her younger sister Anne died very young, and King Charles II had no legitimate children. Consequently, for most of her childhood, Mary was second in line to the throne after her father.

Mary and Anne were brought up as Anglicans. They were moved to their own establishment at Richmond Palace, where they were raised by their governess Lady Frances Villiers, with only occasional visits to see their parents at St. James's.

Mary's mother died in 1671, and her father remarried in 1673, taking as his second wife Mary of Modena, who was only four years older than Mary.


The 15-year-old Mary married her cousin the Protestant Stadtholder of Holland, William of Orange on November 4, 1677. William was the son of the King's late sister, Mary, Princess Royal, and thus fourth in the line of succession after James, Mary, and Anne. The ceremony took place in St. James's Palace and was officiated  by Bishop Henry Compton.

Portrait by Peter Lely, 1677
Mary's personable and kind nature made her popular with the Dutch population, and her marriage to a Protestant prince was popular in Britain.

Mary suffered a miscarriage after less than a year of marriage, which may have permanently impaired her ability to have children. Her childlessness would be the greatest source of unhappiness in her life.

By 1688, James II 's attempts to restore Catholicism were alienating many of his subjects. When a son was born to him thus increasing the chances of a Catholic dynasty, a group of conspirators met to plot the overthrow of the king and invite his daughter Mary and her Dutch Protestant husband William of Orange to invade England.

William of Orange landed in Brixham, Devon on November 5, 1688 and advanced to London unopposed deposing James II and claiming the throne.

When Mary reached her ousted father, James II's palace, the first thing she did was bounce on all the beds.

On April 11, 1689. William III (Prince of Orange) and Mary II were crowned at Westminster as joint monarchs by the Bishop of London. (The Archbishop of Canterbury refused to officiate).

The Bill of Rights, which was passed by Parliament on December 16, 1689, was one of the most important constitutional documents in English history, It asserted liberties and rights of the nation and declared William and Mary, king and queen. The Act also made it illegal for royals to suspend laws without Parliament's consent or to raise money and gave freedom of speech to MPs in Parliament and freedom in elections. In addition, it precluded any Roman Catholic from ascending the throne.

Mary II, governed the realm for William, while he was away fighting, 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. There was a widespread admiration in Britain for Mary and less so for the often absent William.

Mary by Jan Verkolje, 1685

William made no secret of the fact that he had a life-long mistress, Elizabeth Villiers, but Mary was a loyal and subservient wife.

William and Mary disliked Whitehall Palace, their first home in London, They lived mostly in Hampton Court and were not too put out when one of the maid servants that they had bought with them from Holland set fire to Whitehall Palace and burned most of it down.

Mary was a keen botanist and had the known world combed for species.

In 1690 William and Mary introduced the concept of house and garden with their rebuilt Hampton Court Palace Garden. At the time it was one of the wonders of Europe.

Both William and Mary had a passion for art reflecting their love of gardens including their famous Dutch flower paintings.

Mary II and William III

Mary II fell ill with smallpox in the cold winter of 1694. She refused visits or assistance from anyone who had not already had the disease and died on December 28. The Thames froze, the roads were icy, and the snow never seemed to stop falling, so Mary's funeral was not held until the March.of the following year.

Although he had previously mistreated his wife and kept a mistress, William deeply mourned his wife's death. He continued to rule alone and never married again.

Barristers in the UK still dress in all black in law courts because they are still officially in mourning for Mary.

Source London on £1 A Day by Betty James

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