William of Orange was declared King of Scotland, England and Ireland in 1689. This immediately followed the deposition of James VII and II; as a result, William and his wife Mary, who had been proclaimed Queen, were the first people that the Jacobites attempted to overthrow.
In 1672 the Dutch suffered the Year of Disaster known as Rampjaar. The French, English and Germans invaded. While fighting to defend the Dutch, William was made stadtholder in July. The following month, brothers Cornelis and Johan, powerful republican figures in Dutch politics, were brutally killed by Orange loyalists. To this day, opinions are divided as to how linked William was to the deaths. The Franco-Dutch War continued for another six years.
William of Orange and Louis XIV made peace, but remained very suspicious of one another. William also made peace with the English, and sought to marry his cousin Mary to solidify this peace and strengthen his position. Her father, James, Duke of York, was reluctant to marry his daughter to a Protestant, but was persuaded to let it happen by Protestant ministers and his brother Charles II, who had hopes that James’ consent would increase his popularity among Protestants. William and Mary married in 1677.
In 1685, Charles II died, and Mary’s father became James VII and II, making her the heiress to the throne. When people grew resentful of James’ policies, plans were made to get rid of him. William successfully invaded England, James was deposed and William and Mary were there to fill the vacant position. Initially it was suggested that Mary would rule alone, but William was adamant about not being a mere consort, and Mary wanted her husband to rule with her. Those who had originally been against it, acknowledging William’s claim as a grandson of Charles I, complied with their wishes. In 1689, they were crowned Mary II and William II and III.
James attempted to fight back, but William’s forces defeated him at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and James fled to France. Together, William and Mary passed the Bill of Rights, which limited their power as sovereigns. It also excluded Catholics from the throne. William was viewed as overconfident by many of his subjects, and many Scottish people in particular viewed him negatively due to his actions surrounding the Glencoe Massacre, as well as the lack of support he offered Scotland for its Darien scheme, an attempt to become a world trading nation. There was a failed assassination attempt on William by the Jacobites in 1696.
William took a bigger role than his wife when it came to leadership, though she was regularly left to rule on her own when he was fighting on the continent. The Jacobites viewed her as an ungrateful daughter, but to others she was likeable due to her warmth and generosity. Mary died of smallpox in 1694.
Mary and William had had no children, and William never remarried. Mary’s sister Anne was heiress to the throne, but by 1701, despite her many pregnancies, none of her children still lived. This lead to the Act of Settlement, which, ignoring the excluded Catholic Stuarts, stated that if Anne were to die childless, the throne would pass to Sophia of Hanover and her descendants.
In 1702, William’s horse stumbled on a mole’s burrow at Hampton Court Park. William fell off the horse and broke his collarbone. His health deteriorated, and he died from pneumonia. He was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside his wife. The Jacobites did not mourn him, and as the fall at the burrow was believed to have been the source of William’s decline, toasts were made to the mole – the “gentlemen in the black velvet waistcoat”.
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