Mary II of England

Mary II Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland
Mary II
Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland

Template:House of Stuart

Mary II (30 April 166228 December 1694) reigned as Queen of England and Ireland from 13 February 1689 until her death, and as Queen of Scotland from 11 April 1689 until her death. Mary, a Protestant, came to the Throne following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of her Roman Catholic father, James II. Mary reigned jointly with her husband and first cousin, William III, who became the sole ruler upon her death. Popular histories usually know the joint reign as that of "William and Mary". Mary, although a Sovereign in her own right, did not wield actual power during most of her reign. She did, however, govern the realm when her husband was abroad fighting wars.


Early life

Mary, who was born in London, was the eldest daughter of the Duke of York (the future James II) and of his first wife, the Lady Anne Hyde. Mary's uncle was King Charles II; her maternal grandfather, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, served for a lengthy period as Charles's chief advisor. Although her parents bore eight children, only Mary and her younger sister Anne survived into adulthood.

The Duke of York converted to Roman Catholicism in 1668 or 1669, but Mary and Anne had a Protestant upbringing, pursuant to the command of Charles II. Mary's mother died in 1671; her father married again in 1673, taking as his second wife the Catholic Mary of Modena, also known as Mary Beatrice d'Este.

At the age of fifteen, Princess Mary became betrothed to the Protestant Stadtholder and Prince of Orange, William III. William was the son of her aunt, Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, and of Prince William II of Nassau. At first, Charles II opposed the alliance with a Dutch ruler — he preferred that Mary marry the heir to the French Throne, the Dauphin Louis — but afterwards approved, as a coalition with the Dutch became more politically favourable. Pressured by Parliament, the Duke of York agreed to the marriage, falsely assuming that it would improve his popularity amongst Protestants. The first cousins Mary and William married in London on 4 November 1677.

Mary went to the Netherlands, where she lived with her husband. She did not enjoy a happy marriage; her three pregnancies ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. She became popular with the Dutch people, but her husband neglected or even mistreated her. William long maintained an affair with Elizabeth Villiers, one of Mary's ladies-in-waiting.

Glorious Revolution

Upon the death of Charles II without legitimate issue in 1685, the Duke of York became King as James II in England and Ireland, and as James VII in Scotland. He had a controversial religious policy; his attempts to grant freedom of religion to non-Anglicans was not well-received. Several Protestant politicians and noblemen entered into negotiations with Mary's husband as early as 1687. After James took the suicidal step of forcing Anglican clergymen to read the Declaration of Indulgence—the proclamation granting religious liberty to dissenters—from their churches in May 1688, James's unpopularity soared. Public alarm increased when James's wife, Queen Mary, gave birth to a son—James Francis Edward—in June 1688, for the son would, unlike Mary and Anne, be raised a Roman Catholic. Some charged that the boy was "suppositions," having been secretly brought in as a substitute for the Queen's stillborn baby. Although there was no evidence to support the allegation, Mary publicly challenged the boy's legitimacy, leading to a breach with her father.

On 30 June, the "Immortal Seven" secretly requested William III—then in the Netherlands with Mary—to come to England with an army. At first, William was reluctant; he was jealous of his wife's position as the heiress to the English Crown, and feared that she would become more powerful than him. Mary, however, convinced her husband that she cared not for political power. William agreed to invade; his intentions became public knowledge by September 1688, and the Dutch army landed on 5 November. The English people's confidence in James stood so low that they did not attempt to save their King. On 11 December, the defeated King attempted to flee, but was intercepted. A second attempt at flight (23 December) was successful.

In 1689, a Convention Parliament summoned by the Prince of Orange assembled, and much discussion relating to the appropriate course of action ensued. William of Orange felt insecure about his position; he wished to reign as a King, rather than function as a mere consort of a Queen. The only precedent for a joint monarchy dated from the sixteenth century: when Queen Mary I married the Spanish Prince Philip, it was agreed that the latter would take the title of King. But Philip II remained King only during his wife's lifetime, and restrictions were placed on his power. William, however, demanded that he remain King even after his wife's death. Although some individuals proposed to make her the sole ruler, Mary, remaining loyal to her husband, refused.

On 13 February 1689, Parliament passed the Declaration of Right, in which it deemed that James, by attempting to flee on 11 December 1688, had abdicated the government of the realm, and that the Throne had thereby become vacant. Parliament offered the Crown not to James's eldest son, James Francis Edward (who would have been the heir-apparent under normal circumstances), but to William and Mary as joint Sovereigns. It was, however, provided that "the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said Prince of Orange in the names of the said Prince and Princess during their joint lives."

The Bishop of London, Henry Compton, crowned William and Mary together at Westminster Abbey on 11 April 1689. Normally, the Archbishop of Canterbury performs coronations, but the Archbishop at the time, William Sancroft, refused to recognise James II's removal. On the day of the coronation, the Convention of the Estates of Scotland — which was much more divided than the English Parliament — finally declared that James was no longer King of Scotland. William and Mary were offered the Scottish Crown; they accepted on 11 May.


In December 1689 Parliament passed one of the most important constitutional documents in English history, the Bill of Rights. This measure — which restated and confirmed many provisions of the earlier Declaration of Right — established restrictions on the royal prerogative; it declared, amongst other things, that the Sovereign could not suspend laws passed by Parliament, levy taxes without parliamentary consent, infringe the right to petition, raise a standing army during peacetime without parliamentary consent, deny the right to bear arms to Protestant subjects, unduly interfere with parliamentary elections, punish members of either House Parliament for anything said during debates, require excessive bail or inflict cruel or unusual punishments. The Bill of Rights also addressed the question of succession to the Throne. Following the death of either William III or Mary II, the other was to continue to reign. Next in the line of succession would be any children of the couple, to be followed by Mary's sister Anne and her children. Last in the line of succession stood any children William III might have had from any subsequent marriage.

From 1690 onwards, William often remained absent from England, at first fighting Jacobites in Ireland. Whilst her husband was away, Mary administered the government of the realm. She proved a firm ruler, ordering the arrest of her own uncle, Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, for plotting to restore James II to the Throne. In 1692, she dismissed and imprisoned the influential John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough on similar charges; the dismissal somewhat diminished her popularity and harmed her relationship with her sister Anne.

William had crushed the Irish Jacobites by about 1692, but he continued to sojourn abroad in order to wage war with the King of France, Louis XIV. In general, William was away from the spring until the autumn of each year. When her husband was away, Mary acted in her own name but on his advice; whilst he was in England, Mary completely refrained from interfering in political matters. She did, however, participate in the affairs of the Church; she found herself especially concerned with ecclesiastical appointments. She died of smallpox in 1694.


Mary II was succeeded by William III. The line of succession established by the Bill of Rights was almost extinguished; Mary and William did not have any children, all of the Princess Anne's children had died, and it seemed unlikely that William would remarry. Thus, it was deemed necessary to pass the Act of Settlement 1701, which provided that the Crown would go to the nearest Protestant relative, Sophia, Electress of Hanover and her heirs. When William III died in 1702, he was succeeded by Anne, who was in turn succeeded by the deceased Electress Sophia's son, George I.

Mary endowed the College of William and Mary (in the present day Williamsburg, Virginia) in 1693. She also founded the Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich.

Style and arms

Template:Spoken Wikipedia The joint style of William III and Mary II was "William and Mary, by the Grace of God, King and Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, etc." when they ascended the Throne. (The claim to France was only nominal, and had been asserted by every English King since Edward III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.) From 11 April, 1689 — when the Estates of Scotland recognised them as Sovereigns — the royal couple used the style "William and Mary, by the Grace of God, King and Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, etc.".

The arms used by the King and Queen were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland); overall an escutcheon Azure billetty and a lion rampant Or.

Preceded by:
James II/VII
Queen of England
with William III
Succeeded by:
William III/II
Queen of Scots
with William II
Queen of Ireland
with William III

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