William III of England

William III and II
Colour oil painting of William
Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1680s
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
Reign1689[1] – 8 March 1702
Coronation11 April 1689
PredecessorJames II & VII
SuccessorAnne
Co-monarchMary II
Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel
Reign4 July 1672 – 8 March 1702
PredecessorWilliam II
SuccessorSecond Stadtholderless period
Prince of Orange
Reign4 November 1650[2] –
8 March 1702
PredecessorWilliam II
SuccessorJohn William Friso (titular)
Born4 November 1650
[NS: 14 November 1650][2]
Binnenhof, The Hague, Dutch Republic
Died8 March 1702 (aged 51)
[NS: 19 March 1702]
Kensington Palace, London, Kingdom of England
Burial12 April 1702
Spouse
Mary II of England
(m. 1677; died 1694)
HouseOrange-Nassau
Stuart
FatherWilliam II, Prince of Orange
MotherMary, Princess Royal
ReligionProtestant
SignatureWilliam III and II's signature

William III (Dutch: Willem; 4 November 1650 – 8 March 1702),[2] also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from the 1670s and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death. Popular histories usually refer to his joint reign with his wife, Queen Mary II, as that of William and Mary. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II.[3] He is sometimes informally known as "King Billy" in Northern Ireland and Scotland,[4] where his victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by Unionists and Ulster loyalists.

William was the only child of William II, Prince of Orange, who died a week before his birth, and Mary, Princess of Orange, the daughter of King Charles I of England. In 1677, during the reign of his uncle King Charles II of England, he married his cousin Mary, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Charles II's brother James, Duke of York. A Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic King Louis XIV of France, in coalition with Protestant and Catholic powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In 1685, his Catholic uncle and father-in-law, James, became King of England, Scotland and Ireland. James's reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain, who feared a revival of Catholicism. Supported by a group of influential British political and religious leaders, William invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, he landed at the south-western English port of Brixham. Shortly afterwards, James was deposed.

William's reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him and his wife to take power. During the early years of his reign, he was occupied abroad with the Nine Years' War (1688–97). Queen Mary II died in 1694. In 1696, the Jacobites plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate William and return his father-in-law to the throne. William's lack of children and the death in 1700 of his sister-in-law Anne's last surviving child Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, threatened the Protestant succession. The danger was averted by placing distant relatives, the Protestant Hanoverians, in line. Upon his death in 1702, the king was succeeded in Britain by Anne and as titular Prince of Orange by his cousin, John William Friso.

Early life

Birth and family

Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal, in a yellow gown and William II in a black suit

William III was born in The Hague in the Dutch Republic on 4 November 1650.[2][5] Baptised William Henry (Dutch: Willem Hendrik), he was the only child of Mary, Princess Royal and stadtholder William II, Prince of Orange. His mother was the eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and sister of King Charles II and King James II and VII.

Eight days before William was born, his father died of smallpox; thus William was the sovereign Prince of Orange from the moment of his birth.[6] Immediately, a conflict ensued between his mother and paternal grandmother, Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, over the name to be given to the infant. Mary wanted to name him Charles after her brother, but her mother-in-law insisted on giving him the name William (Willem) to bolster his prospects of becoming stadtholder.[7] William II had appointed his wife as their son's guardian in his will; however, the document remained unsigned at William II's death and was void.[8] On 13 August 1651, the Hoge Raad van Holland en Zeeland (Supreme Court) ruled that guardianship would be shared between his mother, his paternal grandmother and Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, whose wife, Louise Henriette, was William II's eldest sister.[9]

Childhood and education

William's mother showed little personal interest in her son, sometimes being absent for years, and had always deliberately kept herself apart from Dutch society.[10] William's education was first laid in the hands of several Dutch governesses, some of English descent, including Walburg Howard[11] and the Scottish noblewoman, Lady Anna Mackenzie.[12] From April 1656, the prince received daily instruction in the Reformed religion from the Calvinist preacher Cornelis Trigland, a follower of the Contra-Remonstrant theologian Gisbertus Voetius.[11] The ideal education for William was described in Discours sur la nourriture de S. H. Monseigneur le Prince d'Orange, a short treatise, perhaps by one of William's tutors, Constantijn Huygens.[13] In these lessons, the prince was taught that he was predestined to become an instrument of Divine Providence, fulfilling the historical destiny of the House of Orange-Nassau.[14]

The young prince portrayed by Jan Davidsz de Heem and Jan Vermeer van Utrecht within a flower garland filled with symbols of the House of Orange-Nassau, c. 1660

From early 1659, William spent seven years at the University of Leiden for a formal education, under the guidance of ethics professor Hendrik Bornius (though never officially enrolling as a student).[15] While residing in the Prinsenhof at Delft, William had a small personal retinue including Hans Willem Bentinck, and a new governor, Frederick Nassau de Zuylenstein, who (as an illegitimate son of stadtholder Frederick Henry of Orange) was his paternal uncle.

Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his uncle Cornelis de Graeff pushed the States of Holland to take charge of William's education and ensure that he would acquire the skills to serve in a future—though undetermined—state function; the States acted on 25 September 1660.[16] This first involvement of the authorities did not last long. On 23 December 1660, when William was ten years old, his mother died of smallpox at Whitehall Palace, London, while visiting her brother, the recently restored King Charles II.[16] In her will, Mary requested that Charles look after William's interests, and Charles now demanded that the States of Holland end their interference.[17] To appease Charles, they complied on 30 September 1661.[18] That year, Zuylenstein began to work for Charles and induced William to write letters to his uncle asking him to help William become stadtholder someday.[19] After his mother's death, William's education and guardianship became a point of contention between his dynasty's supporters and the advocates of a more republican Netherlands.[20]

The Dutch authorities did their best at first to ignore these intrigues, but in the Second Anglo-Dutch War one of Charles's peace conditions was the improvement of the position of his nephew.[19] As a countermeasure in 1666, when William was sixteen, the States officially made him a ward of the government, or a "Child of State".[19] All pro-English courtiers, including Zuylenstein, were removed from William's company.[19] William begged De Witt to allow Zuylenstein to stay, but he refused.[21] De Witt, the leading politician of the Republic, took William's education into his own hands, instructing him weekly in state matters and joining him for regular games of real tennis.[21]

Other Languages
български: Уилям III
brezhoneg: William III
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: William 3-sṳ (Yîn-koet)
한국어: 윌리엄 3세
Bahasa Indonesia: William III dari Inggris
ქართული: უილიამ III
latviešu: Viljams III
norsk nynorsk: Vilhelm III av England
Simple English: William III of England
српски / srpski: Вилијам III Орански
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: William III od Engleske
Türkçe: III. William
Tiếng Việt: William III của Anh
粵語: 威廉三世