WILLIAM III  1689 - 1702  (W3)  Lived  1650 - 1702

&    MARY II  1689 - 1694  (W3)  Lived  1662 - 1694


Following the French invasion of the Palatinate in 1688, England and the Netherlands join the League of Augsburg and form a Grand Alliance against the ambitions of Louis XIV.

Peter the Great becomes the virtual ruler of Russia and ratifies the Treaty of Nerchinsk, agreed earlier with Manchu Emperor K'ang-hsi over the line of the Russo-Chinese border.

In West Africa the Ashanti Empire is founded by Osei Tutu. Ten years later he defeats the state of Denkyira and begins trade with the Dutch at Elmina on the coast of modern Ghana.

The distinguished composer Henry Purcell produces Dido and Aeneas, the first English opera. He wrote a great deal of music for the church, the theatre, and court entertainment.

His most famous work, The Avenue, Middelharnis, is painted by the Dutch landscape artist Meindert  Hobbema. A pupil of Ruisdael, his work influenced a number of English painters.


James II, having landed in Ireland, gains much French and Catholic support, but is roundly defeated by William III at the Battle of the Boyne. He returns to exile in France.

The Mughal leader Aurangzeb conquers most of southern India and reaches the height of his territorial power. With his death in 1707 (AN), however, his empire begins to disintegrate.


John Locke, the English philosopher, publishes his Essay on Human Understanding, and two treatises which have a profound influence on the growth of democratic government.


The Salem Witch trials take place in Massachusetts, New England. Whipped up by public hysteria, 150 suspects are arrested and 19 are found guilty and put to death by hanging.

The Glencoe Massacre occurs. A contingent of Campbells, guests of the MacDonalds, turn on their hosts in the early hours and murder their chieftain and 37 of his clan.

After a revolt lasting twelve years, Spain restores its control over the Pueblo people of New Mexico. Nevertheless, they continue passive resistance and retain their cultural identity.


The Englishman William Congreve, one of the most outstanding playwrights of the Restoration period, gains fame with The Old Bachelour, his first comedy of manners.


Experiments by the German botanist Rudolf Camerarius prove the existence of sexes in plants, and demonstrate the part played by pollen in the process of fertilisation.


Following the death of his half-brother, Ivan V, Peter the Great becomes sole leader of Russia. He introduces a programme of modernisation, and plans a policy of expansion.

The English engineer Thomas Savery invents the first water pump to be driven by steam. It had little practical success at the time, but an improved version was not long in coming.

In an incredible feat of endurance, the Chinese emperor K'ang-hsi leads his army across the Gobi Desert and, defeating the Dzungars at Dzuunmod, adds Outer Mongolia to his empire.


The Treaty of Ryswick puts a temporary end to the war between France and the Grand Alliance. By it, Louis XIV loses some territory and recognises William III as King of England.

The Ottoman Turks are routed by Eugene of Savoy at the Battle of Zenta. They admit  defeat and lose much of their European territory at the Treaty of Karlowitz two years later.

The woodcarver Grinling Gibbons completes his work in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. He produced wood carvings for many London churches, country houses and royal palaces.  

The German born artist Sir Godfrey Kneller paints a portrait of William III on horseback to mark the Peace of Ryswick. The painting now hangs at Hampton Court. He produced thousands of portraits during a long career.

Stories or Tales from Olden Times, a collection of fairy tales, is written by the French writer Charles Perrault. It includes Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood.


The so-called Man in the Iron Mask, an unknown French prisoner, is brought to the Bastille in Paris. He died there five years later. Mystery and romance still surround his identity.


The English explorer and hydrographer William Dampier leaves on a three-year voyage to charter the waters and coastline of north-west Australia and the island of New Guinea.


The Great Northern War breaks out between Sweden and her neighbours. The “hero King”

 of Sweden, Charles XII, defeats the Danes and then crushes the Russians at Narva (1701).  

Charles II of Spain dies and leaves his empire to Louis XIV's grandson, Philip of Anjou. He accepts the Spanish throne and plunges Europe into the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Frenchman Guillaume Delisle, a pioneer in the art of mapmaking and a founder of modern geography, produces his map of the world and both celestial and terrestrial globes.


The Act of Settlement accepts Anne, the Queen's sister, as next in line, but stipulates that, should she die without an heir, the throne was to pass to the Protestant house of Hanover.

Jethro Tull, the English agriculturist and inventor, constructs a horse-drawn seed drill which

greatly simplifies the process of planting seeds. He later develops a horse-drawn hoe.

The Scottish pirate William Kidd is hanged. Having been sent out to the Indian Ocean to curb piracy, he turned pirate himself and preyed on shipping along the coast of East Africa. He was arrested in New York.


In March, William III dies of lung cancer soon after a riding accident. He is succeeded by Queen Anne, the Protestant sister of his wife, Queen Mary II.


William III: probably by the Dutch painter Willem Wissing (1656-1687) after a portrait by the Dutch/English artist Peter Lely (1618-1680) – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Mary II: by the Dutch painter Jan Verkolje (1650-1693), 1685 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Bill of Rights: from an engraving by an unknown artist – British Museum, London. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan – https://commons.wikimedia.org.

xxxxxAs we have seen, the autocratic rule and pro-Catholic policy adopted by James II proved widely unpopular. When the birth of a son and heir made possible the continuation of a Catholic monarchy, seven eminent Englishmen invited the Dutch and Protestant leader William of Orange to invade England and seize the throne. In November 1688 he landed at Brixham, Devon, with a force of some 15,000 men and, meeting no opposition, made for London, where he was warmly received. Meanwhile, James II, deserted by his army, escaped to France, determined to return and regain his throne.

xxxxxIn fact, Mary, the elder, Protestant daughter of James II, was the true successor to the throne, but her husband was also descended from the Stuarts. He was the son of William II of Orange and Mary, the eldest daughter of Charles I. It had previously been agreed that if ever Mary came to the throne she and her husband would rule jointly. Thus it was not until 1694, when Mary died, that William ruled alone.

xxxxxThe Glorious Revolution, as it came to be known, was a bloodless overthrow of the Roman Catholic James II. England was a Protestant country once more. Above all, however, it was a triumph for parliamentary supremacy. Though a people's democracy was still a long way off, the era of parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy had begun. Mary and William had been invited to take the throne by a parliament opposed to a ruler who had broken the original contract between King and People. They could hardly claim, therefore, that they possessed a God-given right to govern. The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings might well be well established across the channel, where Louis XIV of France ruled with absolute authority, but in England the monarch was now to be strictly subjected to the rule of law. Indeed, both monarchs accepted their office with strings attached. By the Bill of Rights which offered them the English throne, the true, ancient and indisputable rights of the people of this realm were clearly spelled out. Parliament was given the power to make laws, levy taxes and raise an army, and the rights of the individual were safeguarded. Furthermore, William and Mary were obliged to agree that neither they nor any future ruler of the country could be a Roman Catholic or marry one, a stipulation later confirmed by the Act of Settlement in 1701. At the same time, The Toleration Act granted freedom of worship to Protestant dissenters, but no concessions were granted to the Roman Catholics, either religious or political.

xxxxxWilliam's first task was to consolidate his hold on his new kingdom. This took him to Ireland, where James II had landed and was laying siege to Londonderry. Having failed to take the city James moved his troops to Drogheda, and it was near there in July 1690 that the two armies met. In the ensuing Battle of the Boyne, the Catholic forces, including some 7,000 French infantry, were soundly defeated and James made his escape to France, never to return. At the same time, a revolt in Scotland inflicted a heavy defeat upon the royalist forces at Killiecrankie in July 1689, but its leader, Viscount Dundee, was killed in the battle and the movement lost its impetus. In the following month the rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Dunkeld.

xxxxxWilliam was born in the Netherlands, son of William II of Orange. A skilful soldier and diplomat, in 1672 he was appointed chief magistrate (stadtholder) and captain-general, with the specific task of holding back a French invasion. This he achieved the following year by opening up the dikes around Amsterdam. Then, with the aid of allies, he managed to regain his country's lost land and bring France to a peace settlement at Nijmegen in 1678. After accepting the English throne in 1688 and making his new realm secure, he lost no time in returning to the continent to continue what had become his life's work - the fight to save Holland from the territorial ambitions of Louis XIV. There he assisted in the formation of the Grand Alliance, a coalition of nations which proved powerful enough to keep Holland intact. For the next eight years he waged war in Flanders and played no small part in bringing about the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. This settlement won him favourable terms. He was allowed to garrison key fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands, and Louis XIV was obliged to recognise him as king of Great Britain and Ireland, and to agree not to support any plot designed to overthrow him.

xxxxxIn the meantime, the European conflict between the English and the French gave rise to a colonial war on the other side of the Atlantic. Known as King William's War (just to identify it from three others that followed!) it proved a long and bloody affair. Here France held part of Canada (called "New France") and the English possessed a chain of colonies stretching along the north-east coast of North America. The major incident was an abortive attempt by the English to capture the French stronghold of Quebec. The land force failed to reach beyond Montreal, and a naval attack via the St. Lawrence River suffered casualties and found Quebec too well defended. The war came to a temporary halt by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.

xxxxxWilliam and Mary were not particularly popular in England, but their reign was extremely important for its constitutional implications. No longer was there to be a constant wrangling between monarch and parliament as to who had the right to govern. Of course, there was to be the occasional clash of interest between the monarch and the representatives of his people, but emphasis from now on was to be on the form that parliamentary representation was to take - a question that was to be many years in the political melting pot. As a person, William was reserved and somewhat cold in manner, and, as an ardent Dutchman, he had no real affection for England. But politically his reign was a valuable one, and notable above all for the long struggle that emerged due to the territorial ambitions of a man who, unlike William, had no curb to his authority – the absolute monarch of France, Louis XIV. As we shall see (AN), this saga still had some way to run.

xxxxxIncidentally, William died of lung cancer soon after a riding accident in which his horse stumbled on a molehill and threw him to the ground. The supporters of James II and his successors - the Jacobites - would often drink a toast to the health of the “gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat" - the mole over whose hill William’s horse had stumbled!
























The Glorious


W3 and M2








Snippets During William 3 Reign Synopsis of William 3 Reign

Timewise Traveller is a free non-profit resource. However, if you have found it of interest/value and would like to show your appreciation, the author would welcome any contribution to Cancer Research UK.

To visit our Cancer Research page and make a small donation, click