William III of England

Orfeas Katsoulis | Jun 3, 2023

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William III (Willem III in Dutch and William III in English), born November 14, 1650 in The Hague and died March 8, 1702 in London, was stathouder of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel belonging to the United Provinces from July 9, 1672. He also became king of England and Ireland (as William III) and king of Scotland (as William II) from February 13, 1689 until his death.

Born of the house of Orange-Nassau and titled Prince of Orange, William confronted Dutch politicians who wanted to prevent the return of the office of stathouder. The disastrous year of 1672, in which the United Provinces faced a coalition led by France and England, allowed William to become stathouder, however, and he managed to safeguard Dutch interests in the various peace treaties.

Grandson through his mother of King Charles I, who was beheaded during the Great Rebellion, William married his first cousin Princess Mary of England in 1677, the eldest daughter of the English heir to the throne James, Duke of York. When James became king in 1685, his Catholicism and unpopular policies alienated him from the predominantly Protestant English public. In what was called the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, William overthrew James II and won the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland. In the British Isles, William III ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death on December 28, 1694. He continued his opposition to the France of Louis XIV during the war of the League of Augsburg and his reign marked the transition from the personal power of the Stuarts to the power controlled by the Parliament of the House of Hanover.

Birth and family

William-Henri of Orange was born in The Hague in the United Provinces on November 14, 1650, the only child of Stathouder William II of Orange-Nassau and the Royal Princess Mary of England. The latter was the eldest daughter of King Charles I and sister of his successors Charles II and James II of England.

Eight days before William's birth, his father died of smallpox, so William became Prince of Orange from the day of his birth. Immediately, a dispute began between the royal princess and William II's mother, Amelie of Solms-Braunfels, over what to name the child. Mary wanted to name him Charles after her brother, but her grandmother preferred William or Willem to improve her chances of becoming stathouder. William II had named his wife guardian of his son in his will; however, the document was not signed at the time of William II's death and was therefore invalid. On August 13, 1651, the Hoge Raad (Supreme Court) ruled that the guardianship would be shared between his mother, his paternal grandmother, and Elector Frederick William I of Brandenburg, whose wife Louise-Henriette was his father's older sister.

Children and education

William's mother showed little personal interest in her son; she was sometimes absent for years and deliberately kept herself out of Dutch society. William's education was mainly provided by several Dutch governesses, some of whom were of English descent like Walburg Howard. From April 1656, the prince received daily instruction in the Reformed religion from the Calvinist priest Cornelius Trigland, a follower of theologian Gisbertus Voetius. The ideal education for William was described in the Discourse on the Food of His Highness the Prince of Orange, a short treatise written by one of William's tutors, Constantine Huygens. In these lessons, the prince learned that he was predestined to become an instrument of divine providence to fulfill the historical destiny of the House of Orange-Nassau.

Education and training

From the beginning of 1659, William spent seven years at the University of Leiden where he received a formal education under the guidance of the professor of ethics Hendrik Bornius. While at the Prinsenhof in Delft, William was accompanied by Hans Willem Bentinck and Frederick Nassau of Zuylestein, the illegitimate son of Stathouder Frederick-Henri of Orange-Nassau. He learned French from Samuel Chappuzeau (who was dismissed by William's grandmother after his mother's death).

The grand pensioner Johan de Witt and his uncle Cornelis de Graeff urged the States of Holland to take charge of William's education so that he would obtain the skills necessary for future governmental functions; the States agreed on September 25, 1660. This initial involvement of the authorities did not last long. On December 23, 1660, when William was ten years old, his mother died of smallpox at Whitehall Palace in London while visiting her brother, King Charles II. In her will, Mary asked Charles II to look after William's interests and he asked the Dutch states to stop interfering. To appease the English king, they agreed on September 30, 1661. In 1661, Zuylenstein began to work for Charles. He urged William to write letters to the king of England asking him to help him become stathouder. After his mother's death, William's education and tutelage began to become a point of tension between supporters of his dynasty, the Orangemen, and supporters of the more republican Netherlands.

The Dutch authorities did their best to ignore these intrigues, but during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, one of Charles II's conditions for peace was to improve his nephew's position. In retaliation, the States of Holland officially made William a ward of the government. All pro-English supporters, including Zuylenstein, were excluded from his entourage. William begged De Witt to allow Zuylenstein to stay, but he refused. De Witt, the most influential politician in the United Provinces, took charge of William's education; he taught him politics and national affairs and regularly played short-palm with him.

Removed from the position of stathouder

Upon the death of William's father, the provinces had suspended the title of stathouder. The Treaty of Westminster of 1654, which ended the first Anglo-Dutch war, had a secret annex attached to Oliver Cromwell's demands: the act of exclusion, which forbade the province of Holland to appoint a member of the house of Orange to the title of stathouder. After the English Restoration, the act of exclusion, which had not remained a secret for very long, was declared null and void because the Commonwealth of England (with whom the treaty had been concluded) no longer existed. In 1660, Mary and Amelia tried to convince the various provinces of the States to appoint William as the future stathouder, but they refused.

In 1667, as William approached his 18th birthday, the Orange party again tried to bring him to power by securing for him the titles of stathouder and captain general. To prevent the restoration of the influence of the House of Orange, De Witt authorized the Haarlem pensioner Gaspar Fagel to push the States of Holland to issue the perpetual edict of 1667. This text stipulated that the captain-general or admiral-general of the Netherlands could not become stathouder of any province. Despite this, William's supporters sought ways to increase his prestige, and on September 19, 1668, the States of Zeeland received him as First Noble. To receive this title, William had to escape the attention of his guardians and secretly travel to Middelbourg. A month later, Amelie allowed William to run his own household and declare his own majority.

The province of Holland, the center of anti-orangemenism, abolished the office of stathouder and four other provinces did the same in March 1670, establishing the period of so-called "Harmony. De Witt demanded an oath for each regent (all but one accepted). William saw this as a defeat, but in reality the arrangement was a compromise: De Witt would have preferred to ignore the prince altogether, but now his rise to the command of the supreme army was irresistible. De Witt then agreed that William would be admitted as a member of the Raad van State (Council of State) and then to the body managing the defense budget. William entered the council on May 31, 1670 with full voting powers despite De Witt's attempts to limit his role to that of advisor.

Conflict with the Republicans

In November 1670, William obtained permission to travel to England to press Charles II to pay at least part of the 2,797,859 guilden (about 190 million euros in 2013) of the debts of the House of Stuart to the House of Orange. Charles II could not pay but William agreed to reduce the sum to 1,800,000 guilden. The English king discovered that his nephew was a staunch Calvinist and a patriotic Dutchman, so he reconsidered his idea of showing him the secret Treaty of Dover with France, which provided for the destruction of the Dutch republic and the installation of William as "ruler" of a Dutch rump state. In addition to political differences, William was concerned about the lifestyle of Charles II and his brother James, who drank, gambled and had many mistresses.

The following year, the security of the republic deteriorated rapidly because of the imminence of an Anglo-French attack. Faced with this threat, the States of Gelderland requested that William be appointed captain-general of the Dutch army as quickly as possible despite his youth and inexperience. On December 15, 1671, this idea was officially adopted by the States of Utrecht. On January 19, 1672, the States of Holland made a counter-proposal: to appoint William as head of the army for a single campaign. The prince refused and on February 25, a compromise was reached: an appointment by the States General for one summer, followed by a permanent appointment on his 22nd birthday. At the same time, William wrote a secret letter to Charles II in January 1672 asking his uncle to exploit the situation by lobbying the states general to appoint him as stathouder. In return, William would ally the republic with England and serve the interests of Charles II as much as "the honour and loyalty due to this state" would allow. Charles II did not respond to the proposal and continued military preparations with his French ally.


For the United Provinces, the year 1672 turned out to be calamitous and was called Rampjaar ("year of all disasters") because of the Dutch War and the Third Anglo-Dutch War; the Netherlands were invaded by the France of Louis XIV, England, Münster and Cologne. Although the Anglo-French fleet was defeated at the Battle of Solebay, French troops entered the provinces of Gelderland and Utrecht in June. William withdrew with the remnants of his army on June 14 to Holland where the States had ordered the destruction of the locks to flood the country on June 8. Louis XIV, considering that the war was over, began to negotiate to obtain as much money as possible from the Dutch. The presence of a large French army in the heart of the republic caused a general panic and the people turned against De Witt and his allies.

On July 4, the States of Holland appointed William as stathouder and he was sworn in five days later. The next day, a special envoy of Charles II, Lord Arlington, met William at Nieuwerbrug. He offered William the title of prince of Holland in exchange for his surrender; the stathouder, however, was a mere official and had no authority to accept. When William refused, Arlington threatened to annihilate the Republic. William made his famous reply: "There is only one way to avoid this: die defending it to the last ditch. On July 7, the flooding of the land was over and the advance of the French army was stopped. On July 16, Zeeland offered the position of stathouder to William.

Johan de Witt was unable to assume his role as grand pensioner after being wounded in an assassination attempt on June 21. On August 15, William published a letter from Charles II in which the English king argued that the main reason for the war was the aggressiveness of De Witt's faction. With the people now hostile to De Witt, he and his brother Cornelis were murdered by a citizen militia at The Hague on August 20. After this, William replaced many Dutch regents with his supporters.

Although William's complicity in the lynching was never proven, he hindered attempts to prosecute the leaders of the conspiracy and rewarded some of them with money, such as Hendrik Verhoeff, or with high positions, such as Johan van Banchem and Johan Kievit. This damaged his reputation in the same way as his later actions in Glencoe.

William III continued to fight the French and English by allying himself with Spain and Brandenburg. In November 1672, he took his army to Maastricht to threaten the French supply lines. In 1673, the situation improved. Although Louis XIV captured Maastricht and William's attempts to take Charleroi failed, Admiral Michiel de Ruyter defeated the Anglo-French fleet three times; this led to England's withdrawal at the Treaty of Westminster, and after 1673 the French gradually withdrew from the Dutch territories (except for Maastricht) while advancing elsewhere.

Fagel proposed to treat the liberated provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel as conquered territory (Generality country), as punishment for their swift surrender to the enemy. William refused, but he obtained a special mandate from the States-General to appoint all new delegates to the states of these provinces. William's supporters in the senate of Utrecht appointed him hereditary stathouder on April 26, 1674. The States of Gelderland offered him the titles of Duke of Gelderland and Count of Zutphen. Negative reactions to this decision in Zeeland and in the city of Amsterdam, where the stock market collapsed, finally led William to refuse these honors; he was appointed stathouder of Gelderland and Overijssel instead.

Marriage with Mary of England

During the war with France, William tried to improve his position by marrying his first cousin Mary Stuart, the eldest daughter of Duke James of York, eleven years his junior. Although he anticipated resistance to a union with the House of Stuart from the merchants of Amsterdam, who hated his mother (another Mary Stuart), William believed that marrying Mary would increase his chances of gaining the kingdoms of Charles II and move the English monarch away from his pro-French policies. James was not ready to consent to the marriage, but Charles II put pressure on his brother. Charles II tried to use the possibility of marriage as an advantage in the war negotiations, but William insisted that the two issues be resolved separately. Charles II relented and Bishop Henry Compton married the couple on November 4, 1677. Mary quickly became pregnant after the wedding but suffered a miscarriage. After another illness in 1678, she was never pregnant again.

Throughout the marriage, William acknowledged only one mistress, Elisabeth Villiers, in contrast to the many mistresses his uncle had publicly. On the other hand, he was said to have had an affair with Arnold Joost van Keppel, a teenager of rare beauty.

Peace with France and intrigues with England

In 1678 Louis XIV sought to make peace with the United Provinces, but William was very suspicious of the latter, and he believed that the French king wished to become the universal monarch of Europe; Louis XIV described William as "my mortal enemy" and saw him as an execrable warmonger. The small French annexations in Germany (the policy of reunions) and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 caused a massive influx of Huguenot refugees into the Republic. This led William III to join various coalitions against France, such as the League of Augsburg in 1688.

In April 1677, he went to Saint-Omer, which had been under siege for more than ten days by Philippe d'Orléans, Louis XIV's brother, to bring him reinforcements. On April 10, he met the French king's troops in Noordpeene, this battle called La Peene or Cassel was decisive. The city of Saint-Omer surrendered a few days later, thus becoming the last city of Artois to be integrated into the French royal domain.

After his marriage in November 1677, William became a potential candidate for the English throne if his father-in-law (and uncle) James was excluded from the succession because of his Catholicism. During the Exclusion Bill crisis in 1680, Charles II invited William to come to England to strengthen the king's position against the "exclusionists" before withdrawing his invitation. Nevertheless, William secretly lobbied the States General to send a letter to Charles II begging him to prevent a Catholic from succeeding him, without explicitly naming James. After receiving indignant reactions from James and Charles II, William denied any involvement.

In 1685, when James II ascended the English throne, William tried a conciliatory approach while trying not to offend the English Protestants. William, always looking for ways to reduce the power of France, hoped that James II would join the League of Augsburg, but by 1687 it was clear that he would not. Relations between the two men subsequently soured. In November, James II's wife, Mary of Modena, announced that she was pregnant. That same month, to gain support from English Protestants, William wrote an open letter to the English people in which he disapproved of James's tolerant religious policies. Many English politicians considered him a friend, maintained secret contacts with him, and began negotiating an invasion of England.

Invasion of England

William was initially opposed to invasion, but most historians agree that he began assembling an expeditionary force in April 1688, as it became increasingly clear that France would remain occupied with its campaigns in Germany and Italy and thus could not attack when William's troops were in England. Believing that the English would not accept a foreign invader, he sent a letter to Rear Admiral Arthur Herbert in which he requested that the most influential Protestants in England invite him to attack first. On June 20, 1688, James's wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son (James Francis Stuart), which ousted William's wife from the first place in the order of succession and presaged the establishment of a Catholic dynasty. Public anger was also heightened by the trial of seven bishops who had publicly opposed James II's Declaration of Indulgence, which guaranteed religious freedom to his subjects, a policy that seemed to threaten the Church of England.

On June 30, 1688, the day of the bishops' acquittal, a group of political figures later called the "Seven Immortals" sent a formal invitation to William. William's intentions regarding the invasion were made public in September 1688.

He landed at the head of a Dutch army at Brixham in southwest England on November 5, 1688. This event is recounted by William Turner in a painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832 and entitled The Prince of Orange, William III, embarked from Holland and landed at Torbay, November 4, 1688, after a stormy passage.

He proclaimed upon his arrival that he would maintain the liberties of England and the Protestant religion. William had landed with about 11,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. James II immediately lost all his support after William's arrival; Protestant officers in the English army deserted (including John Churchill, James's most experienced officer) and many nobles throughout the country declared their support for the invader.

James II initially tried to resist William but his efforts were useless. He sent emissaries to negotiate with William but secretly attempted to flee on December 11. A group of fishermen arrested him and he was taken back to London. William nevertheless allowed James II to leave the country because he did not want to make him a martyr for the Catholic cause.

Accession to the throne

William convened a parliament of convention in England, which met on January 22, 1689. William felt his position was precarious; even though his wife was at the top of the order of succession to the throne, he wished to rule as king in his own right, not as a mere king consort. The only precedent for a joint monarchy in England was in the sixteenth century when Queen Mary I Tudor married Prince Philip of Spain. Philip remained king only during his wife's lifetime and restrictions were placed on his power. On the other hand, William wanted to remain king even after his wife's death. The Tory majority in the House of Lords proposed acclaiming Mary as sole monarch, but she refused out of loyalty to her husband.

The House of Commons with a Whig majority had quickly decided that the throne was vacant and that it was safer for the sovereign to be Protestant. The Tories in the House of Lords disagreed, but after William refused to be a regent or to reign only until his wife died, there were negotiations between the two Houses and the Lords agreed by a narrow majority that the throne was vacant. Parliament passed the Bill of Rights on February 13, 1689, in which it ruled that James II, by attempting to flee, had abdicated and thus left his throne vacant. The crown did not pass to James' son James Francis Stuart (who would have been the heir apparent under normal circumstances), but to William III and Mary II as joint monarchs. It was, however, on condition that "the full exercise of the royal power be exercised by the Prince of Orange in the names of the said Prince and Princess during their common life.

William III and Mary II were crowned together on April 11, 1689 by Bishop Henry Compton of London. Usually the coronation was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the title holder, William Sancroft, refused to recognize the overthrow of James II.

William III also called a meeting of the Scottish Parliament, which took place on March 14, 1689. The latter sent a letter of conciliation, but James II sent haughty and uncompromising orders, which led to a majority vote in favour of William III. On April 11, the day of the English coronation, the convention finally declared that James II was no longer king of Scotland. William III and Mary II received the crown of Scotland, which they accepted on May 11.

Return to calm

William III of England encouraged the passage of the Act of Toleration of 1689, which guaranteed religious freedom for some Protestant "non-conformists. However, this did not extend toleration as far as William III would have liked, as the religious freedoms of Catholics, anti-Trinitarians and some Protestants were still limited. In December 1689, one of the most important constitutional documents in English history, the Bill of Rights, was passed by Parliament. This act, which reconfirmed some of the provisions of the old Bill of Rights, placed restrictions on royal prerogatives. Among other things, it prevented the king from suspending laws passed by Parliament, raising taxes or an army in time of peace without Parliament's consent, infringing the right of petition, denying the right to bear arms to Protestant subjects, interfering in parliamentary elections, punishing members of both Houses of Parliament for what is said during debates, offering excessive acquittals or inflicting cruel punishments. William III was opposed to such constraints but chose not to enter into conflict with Parliament, and agreed to abide by the law.

The Bill of Rights settled the question of succession to the Crown. After the death of one of the two co-monarchs, the other would continue to reign. The next in line of succession became Mary II's sister, Princess Anne, and her descendants. Nevertheless, any children William III might have from a future marriage would be included in the order of succession. Catholics, as well as those who married Catholics, were excluded.

Jacobite revolts

Although much of Britain recognized William III and Mary II as its joint monarchs, a significant minority refused to accept the validity of their accession to the throne, arguing that the divine right of kings descended directly from God and was not delegated to Parliament. Over the next 57 years, the Jacobites pressed for the restoration of James II and his heirs. Non-Jacobs in England and Scotland, including more than 400 clergymen and several bishops of the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopalian Church, as well as many laymen refused to swear allegiance to William III.

Ireland was controlled by Catholics loyal to James II and Franco-Irish Jacobites who had arrived from France with French forces in March 1689 to participate in the Jacobite rebellion, one episode of which was the siege of Derry. William III sent his war fleet to clear the city in July and his army landed in August. These troops failed to gain the upper hand, and William III personally intervened to command his army and win the Battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690; James II fled to France after the defeat.

On William III's return to England, his close friend, the Dutch general Godert de Ginkell, who had accompanied William III to Ireland and commanded a cavalry corps at the Battle of the Boyne, was appointed commander in chief of the armed forces in Ireland. In the spring of 1691, he was given control of all the troops there and after several battles, he captured Galway and Limerick. After difficult negotiations, the last Jacobite troops surrendered on October 3, 1691 at the Treaty of Limerick. This put an end to the pacification of Ireland by William III and for his services, the Dutch general received the formal congratulations of the House of Commons and the title of Earl of Athlone by the king.

A series of Jacobite uprisings also took place in Scotland, where the viscount of Dundee raised forces and won the battle of Killiecrankie on July 27, 1689, but he died in battle a month later at the battle of Dunkeld. William III offered amnesty to Scottish clans that had risen up if they proclaimed their allegiance by a specified date, but his government in Scotland punished latecomers in the Glencoe massacre of 1692; this event became infamous in Jacobite propaganda because William III had signed the orders. Giving in to popular anger, William III dismissed those responsible for the massacre; however, they still enjoyed royal favour; in the words of historian John Dalberg-Acton, "one became a colonel, another a knight, a third a peer and a fourth an earl.

William III's reputation in Scotland deteriorated further when he refused to support the Darien Project, a Scottish attempt to create a colony in present-day Panama that ultimately turned into a disaster.

Parliament and factions

Although the Whigs were William III's main supporters, he initially favoured a policy of balance between the Whigs and the Tories. The Marquess of Halifax, a man known for his ability to chart a moderate political course, won William III's confidence early in his reign. The Whig majority in Parliament, which had hoped to dominate the government, was disappointed by these decisions. This balanced approach to governance did not last beyond the 1690s, as warring factions made it impossible for the government to pursue an effective policy, and William III called for a new election early in the year.

After the election of 1690, William III began to favour the Tories led by Lords Danby and Nottingham. The tories were in favour of preserving royal prerogatives, but William III faced parliamentary opposition when he asked parliament to fund his prolonged war with France. As a result, William III began to prefer the Whig faction. The Whig government was responsible for the creation of the Bank of England. William III's decision to grant a royal charter to the bank in 1694, a private institution owned by bankers, is his most significant economic legacy. It laid the foundation for English dominance of world trade in the 18th century in place of the United Provinces and the Bank of Amsterdam.

William III dissolved Parliament in 1695, and the new Parliament was controlled by the Whigs. There was also a sharp rise in his support following the revelation of a Jacobite plot to assassinate him in 1696. Parliament passed a bill of attainder (conviction without trial) against the leader of the conspiracy, John Fenwick, who was beheaded in 1697.

War in Europe

William III was frequently absent from the kingdom during the League of Augsburg's war against France; he left England in the spring and returned in the fall. While he fought abroad, his wife Mary II governed the kingdom following his advice. Whenever he returned to England, Mary II relinquished her power unconditionally, an arrangement that continued for the rest of his life.

After the victory of the Anglo-Dutch fleet over the French fleet at the Battle of La Hougue in 1692, the League of Augsburg controlled the seas for a short period and Ireland was pacified by the Treaty of Limerick. At the same time, the League lost ground in Europe as William III lost Namur in the Spanish Netherlands in 1692 and was defeated at the Battle of Neerwinden in 1693.

Beginning of the solitary reign

Mary II died of smallpox in 1694, leaving William III to rule alone. He was deeply affected by her death. Despite his conversion to Anglicanism, William III's popularity declined sharply during his reign alone.

Rumors of homosexuality

During the 1690s, rumors of William III's possible homosexuality led to the publication of numerous satirical pamphlets by his Jacobite opponents. He had close male assistants, including two Dutch courtiers to whom he gave English titles: Hans Willem Bentinck became Count of Portland (en) and Arnold Joost van Keppel, named Count of Albemarle, 19 years the king's junior, was reputed to have been his lover since 1685. These relationships with male friends and his apparent lack of mistresses led his enemies to suggest that he preferred homosexual relationships. However, modern biographers of William III still debate the veracity of these rumors and many argue that they are merely products of the imagination of his opponents, while others believe there is some truth to them.

Bentinck's proximity to the king stirred up jealousy at court, but most modern historians doubt that there was a homosexual element in their relationship. William III's young protégé, Keppel, aroused suspicion and gossip because he was 20 years younger than he was, remarkably handsome, and had been raised to the title of count with some ease. Portland wrote to William III in 1697 that "the benevolence your Majesty has for a young man and the manner in which you seem to allow his liberties ... causes the world to say things which I am ashamed to hear. He added that this "tarnished a reputation that had never before been subject to such accusations. William III, however, laconically dismissed such suggestions, stating, "It seems to me very extraordinary that it is impossible to have esteem and consideration for a young man without it being criminal.

Relations with France

In 1696, the Dutch territory of Drenthe made William III its stathouder. In the same year, the Jacobites plotted to assassinate William III and restore James II to the English throne, but they failed. Under the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (September 20, 1697), which ended the war of the League of Augsburg, Louis XIV recognized William III as the rightful ruler of England and provided no further support to James II. Deprived of the support of the French dynasty after 1697, the Jacobites were no longer a threat during his reign.

The end of the 17th century saw the succession to the Spanish throne become the dominant issue in European affairs. Spain possessed, in addition to the Iberian Peninsula, vast territories in Italy, the Netherlands and the New World. King Charles II of Spain was sterile and therefore could not have heirs; among his closest relatives were King Louis XIV of France and Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire. William III sought to prevent the Spanish crown from passing into the hands of one of these sovereigns, as this would unbalance the balance of power in Europe. William III and Louis XIV agreed on the first partition treaty that defined the division of the Spanish Empire: Duke Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria would get Spain while France and the Holy Roman Empire would share the remaining territories. Charles II accepted the nomination of Joseph-Ferdinand as heir and the possibility of war seemed to recede.

However, the death of Joseph-Ferdinand from smallpox caused the problem to return. In 1700, the two sovereigns agreed to the Treaty of London, according to which the Italian territories would pass to a son of the French king and the others to a son of the Holy Roman Emperor. This agreement irritated the Spaniards, who wanted to avoid the disintegration of their empire, and the Holy Roman Emperor, for whom the Italian territories were more interesting than the others. However, the death of Charles II in 1700 completely reshuffled the cards, as he left all the Spanish territories to Philip, a grandson of Louis XIV, in his will. The French took advantage of this to ignore the Treaty of London and claim the Spanish throne. In addition, Louis XIV alienated William III by recognizing James Francis Stuart, the son of the former King James II who died in 1701, as King of England. The new conflict, which was called the War of the Spanish Succession, continued until 1713.

English Succession

The succession of Spain was not the only issue that concerned William III. His marriage to Mary II had produced no children and it seemed unlikely that he would remarry. Mary II's sister, Princess Anne, had had many children, but all had died in childhood. The death of Prince William of Gloucester in 1700 left Princess Anne alone in the order of succession established by the Bill of Rights of 1689. Since the complete extinction of the line of succession would have encouraged the return of James II's line, parliament passed the Act of Settlement of 1701, in which it specified that the crown would pass to a distant relative, Electress Sophie of Hanover, and her Protestant heirs if Princess Anne died without issue and if William III had no heirs. Several dozen Catholics who were Anne's closest relatives were excluded from the succession. The act applied in England and Ireland but not in Scotland, whose Parliament had not been consulted before Sophie's choice.

Death of the king and succession

On March 8, 1702, William III died of pneumonia at the age of 51, in his Kensington palace, a complication related to a broken collarbone from a fall from a horse. As his horse had stumbled over a molehill, many Jacobites celebrated the "little gentleman in the black velvet jacket". Years later, Winston Churchill, in his book A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, put it more poetically when he said that the fall "opened the door to a troop of unseen enemies. William III was buried in Westminster Abbey beside his wife. His sister-in-law Anne became queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The death of William III put an end to the Dutch House of Orange whose members had been stathouder of Holland and most of the other provinces of the United Provinces since the time of William I the Silent. The five provinces in which William III was stathouder (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel) all suspended the office of stathouder after his death. Thus, he was the last patrilineal descendant of William I to be appointed stathouder of the majority of the provinces. In the will of William III, John William Friso of Orange inherited the principality of Orange and various lordships in the Netherlands. He was a patrilineal relative of William III and the son of his aunt Albertine-Agnès of Orange-Nassau. However, King Frederick I of Prussia also claimed the principality because his mother, Louise-Henriette of Orange, was the older sister of Albertine-Agnès. Under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, Frederick William I of Prussia ceded the principality of Orange to the French king Louis XIV, but retained the title in its full name. Friso's son, William IV, shared the title of "Prince of Orange", which had accumulated great prestige in the Netherlands and in the entire Protestant world, with Frederick William after the partition treaty of 1732.

William III's main achievement was to contain France when it was in a position to impose its will on most of Europe. During his lifetime he opposed Louis XIV of France and this effort continued after his death during the War of the Spanish Succession. Another important consequence of his reign was to end the simmering conflict between the Crown and Parliament that had existed since the first monarch of the House of Stuart, James I, came to power in 1603. The struggle over the division of powers had led to civil war during the 1640s and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. During the reign of William III, the conflict was resolved in favour of Parliament by the Bill of Rights in 1689, the Triennial Act (which limited the term of Parliament to three years) in 1694 and the Act of Settlement in 1701.

The modern Orange Order is named after William III and celebrates his victory at the Battle of the Boyne each year with parades in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland on July 12. William III, or King Billy as he is sometimes called in Northern Ireland, appears frequently on Loyalist murals where he is traditionally depicted on a white horse.

William III issued a royal charter for the College of William and Mary (in present-day Williamsburg, Virginia) in 1693. Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is named after Fort Nassau which was renamed in his honor in 1695. Similarly, Nassau County on Long Island is also named after William of Orange and Long Island was called Nassau at the time of Dutch settlement.

New York City was briefly renamed New Orange in 1673 after the city was taken over by the Dutch. Its name was given to the fort and administrative center of the city on two separate occasions reflecting its ownership: Fort Willem Hendricks in 1673 and Fort William in 1691 when the English drove out the settlers who had taken over the city and the fort.

William III was played on screen by :

In 1674, William received the full title of "Willem III, by the Grace of God Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, etc., Stathouder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, etc., Captain-General and Admiral-General of the United Provinces. After their accession to the English throne in 1689, William III and Mary II used the titles "King and Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, etc.". Claims to the throne of France were only symbolic and were invoked by all kings of England since Edward III, no matter how much French territory they controlled.

The coat of arms used by the king and queen was: quarterly, 1 and 4, three fleurs-de-lys gold on azure (which is France) and three lions in pale gold (which is England), on 2, gold, a lion of gules, double tressure flory and counterflory of the same (on the whole azure semé de billets or, a lion of the second brochant, armed and lampassed of gules (which is Nassau). On his last coat of arms, William used the motto Je Maintiendrai representing the House of Orange-Nassau.


  1. William III of England
  2. Guillaume III d'Orange-Nassau
  3. ^ William was declared King by the Parliament of England on 13 February 1689 and by the Parliament of Scotland on 11 April 1689.
  4. ^ a b c d e During William's lifetime, two calendars were in use in Europe: the Old Style Julian calendar in Britain and parts of Northern and Eastern Europe, and the New Style Gregorian calendar elsewhere, including William's birthplace in the Netherlands. At the time of William's birth, Gregorian dates were ten days ahead of Julian dates: thus William was born on 14 November 1650 by Gregorian reckoning, but on 4 November 1650 by Julian reckoning. At William's death, Gregorian dates were eleven days ahead of Julian dates. He died on 19 March 1702 by the Gregorian calendar, and on 8 March 1702 by the standard Julian calendar. (However, the English New Year fell on 25 March, so by English reckoning of the time, William died on 8 March 1701.) Unless otherwise noted, dates in this article follow the Julian calendar with New Year falling on 1 January.
  5. ^ Frederick William was chosen because he could act as a neutral party mediating between the two women, but also because as a possible heir he was interested in protecting the Orange family fortune, which Amalia feared Mary would squander. Troost, pp. 26–27.
  6. ^ In the province of Friesland that office was filled by William's uncle-by-marriage William Frederick, Prince of Nassau-Dietz.
  7. ^ Due to the change to the Gregorian calendar, William's victory is commemorated annually by Northern Irish and Scottish Protestants on The Twelfth of July – cf. Troost, pp. 278–280
  8. Guillaume III est proclamé roi par le Parlement d'Angleterre le 13 février 1689, mais la proclamation du Parlement d'Écosse ne survient que le 11 avril.
  9. Frederico Guilherme foi escolhido por poder agir como neutro entre as duas mulheres, porém também por estar interessado em proteger a família Orange-Nassau como possível herdeiro, algo que Amélia temia que Maria fosse desperdiçar.[5]
  10. Outra possibilidade é que a dissertação foi escrita por Johan van den Kerckhoven.[9]
  11. Como Rei da Escócia, Guilherme era "Guilherme II", já que anteriormente havia existido apenas um rei escocês chamado Guilherme.[74]
  12. Vilmos korában Európában kétféle naptárt használtak: a Brit-szigeteken és Kelet-Európa egyes részein a julián naptárt, a kontinens többi részén pedig – beleértve Vilmos születési helyét Holland tartományban és Hollandia néhány más részén – a Gergely-naptárt. A Gergely-naptár 10 nappal járt a julián naptár előtt, így Vilmos születési ideje 1650. november 14. a Gregorián-, illetve november 4. a julián változat szerint. További érdekesség, hogy 1752-ig az angol újév január 1-je helyett március 25-ére esett. Vilmos halála idején a Gergely-naptár már 11 nappal járt előbbre. Mivel akkor Nagy-Britanniában még a julián naptárt használták, halálának napja 1702. március 8-a volt (a Gergely-naptár szerint viszont március 19.). Hacsak nincs külön jelölve, a cikkben szereplő dátumok a julián naptárt követik.
  13. 'Act of Union 1707, forradalom Skóciában'. Az Egyesült Királyság Parlamentje. [2008. június 15-i dátummal az eredetiből archiválva]. (Hozzáférés: 2009. március 1.)
  14. Claydon, 9
  15. Claydon, 14

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