William III

(William III of England, William of Orange)


William of Orange is best known as a persistent enemy of Louis XIV of France, first as Stadtholder of the Netherlands, and later as King of England. He spent most of his adult life fighting against French encroachment in the Rhine valley, and formed a variety of alliances against his arch-nemesis. After assuming the throne of England, his first order of business was putting England on a war footing to oppose France, and only a few years before he died, he created yet another alliance to oppose Bourbon designs on Spain. He was therefore involved in four major wars, including the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the Grand Alliance, the Williamite War in Ireland, and the War of the Spanish Succession. In each case, William defended the Protestant cause against the interests of Catholic monarchies.

William III of England
From the time that William was born in the Netherlands, he was the object of complicated political intrigue. On his father's side, William was a prince of the "Orange" faction in Holland, which descended from the great liberator, William of Orange. On his mother's side, he was a Stuart, the nephew of Charles II. William's father had died before he was born, and he was therefore, the primary claimant to power on the "Orange" side. The Netherlands however, was a nominal republic, and during Williams youth, (which corresponded with the age of the Commonwealth in England), it was controlled by a class of Puritan merchants, led by Johan de Witt, who were opposed to the Orange party. The Commonwealth government of Cromwell had been a supporter of de Witt, but upon the restoration, the government of Charles II supported the Orange faction and sought to help make William hereditary Stadtholder. These behind-the-scenes politics played a major factor in the Anglo Dutch Wars that occurred during William's youth. They were finally resolved in 1672 when England allied itself with France, and attacked Holland. De Witt was murdered shortly thereafter, and William was made Stadtholder. England then withdrew from the war, leaving 22 year old William to fight the generals of Louis XIV in the Franco-Dutch War.

The alliance between the Netherlands and England was strengthened in 1677 by the marriage of Mary Stuart to her cousin William. Her father James II was himself in line for succession and was known to be a Catholic, but he had no son, so it was assumed that Mary would eventually inherit the throne, and her marriage to the most heroic protestant Prince of the age cemented the confidence of the English parliament. The Catholic James II was allowed to ascend to the throne precisely because it was assumed the throne would eventually pass safely to a protestant, but when James produced a son by his second wife, a succession crisis quickly ensued—James was deposed and William and Mary invited to assume the throne of England.

During his first year as King William had to fight supporters of James II in Ireland, but he soon after turned his attentions again to France. He spent most his reign fighting Louis XIV in alliance with Holland, Portugal, Sweden, and the Hapsburg Empire. Although most of the fighting ceased by 1694, only a few years later, a Bourbon claim on the Spanish throne led to the War of the Spanish Succession, which involved most of the same countries who had been involved in the War of the Grand Alliance. William died in 1702 leaving England's war against France to be prosecuted by Anne and her great general, the Duke of Marlborough.

Key events during the life of William III of England:

William of Orange born in the Netherlands.
First Anglo-Dutch War.
Studied at University of Leyden.
Restoration of Charles II in England.
Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Third Anglo-Dutch War.
Death of De Witt. William appointed as Dutch Stadtholder.
  Fought against Louis XIV of France.
Marriage to Mary, daughter of James II.
James II Ascends to the throne.
Glorious Revolution. William and Mary crowned monarchs of England.
Williamite War in Ireland
War of the Grand Alliance: England and Dutch vs. France.
Death of Queen Mary.
Beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Death of William III

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
William III, King of England  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Reign of William and Mary  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Institution of the Penal Code  in  Ireland: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
William the Deliverer  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
William III. and Mary II.óGlen of Weeping  in  Scotland's Story  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
House of Orange  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
William III and the Revolution Settlement  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Coronation of William and Mary
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
William III. Of England
William III. Of England
 in Back Matter
Coucil of war after the Landing of William of Orange
Coucil of war after the Landing of William of Orange
 in Back Matter

The Deliverer had come.
 in Our Island Story

King William III
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Queen Mary II, wife of William III
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Short Biography
James II Catholic king of England, deposed by his daughter Mary and William III.
Louis XIV French King who expanded the borders of France, and lived in great pomp and splendor.
Johan de Witt Statesman who led the Netherlands during the height of Dutch power. Murdered by his 'Orange' opponents.
Comte de Tourville Naval Commander during War of the Grand Alliance. Defeated British at Barfleur.
Mary II of England Daughter of James II, and Queen of England, with her husband William III.
Duke of Marlborough Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Anne of England Last of the Stuart queens, lived during the War of the Spanish Succession.