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King William III
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William III
Stadtholder of the Netherlands, King of England, Scotland and Ireland
Reign 13 February 1689 - 8 March 1702
(with Mary II until 28 December 1694)
Coronation Subscript textSubscript text
Born 14 November 1650
The Hague
Died 8 March 1702
Buried Westminster Abbey
Predecessor James II
Successor Anne
Consort Mary II (joint monarch)
Royal House Stuart
Father William II, Prince of Orange
Mother Mary Stuart

William III of England (The Hague, 14 November 1650 – Hampton Court, 8 March 1702; also known as William II of Scotland and William III of Orange) was a Dutch aristocrat and a Protestant Prince of Orange from his birth, Stadtholder of the United Netherlands from 28 June 1672, King of England and King of Ireland from 13 February 1689, and King of Scotland from 11 April 1689, in each case until his death.

Born a member of the House of Orange-Nassau, William III won the English, Scottish and Irish Crowns following the Glorious Revolution, during which his uncle and father-in-law, James II, was deposed. In England, Scotland and Ireland, William ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death on 28 December 1694. He reigned as 'William II' in Scotland, but 'William III' in all his other realms. Among Unionists in Northern Ireland, he is also informally known as King Billy.

William III was appointed to the Dutch post of Stadtholder on 28 June 1672, and remained in office until he died. In that context, he is sometimes referred to as 'William Henry, Prince of Orange', as a translation of his Dutch title, Willem Hendrik, Prins van Oranje. A Protestant, William participated in many wars against the powerful King Louis XIV of France.

Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith; it was partly due to such a reputation that he was able to take the crown of England, many of whose people were intensely fearful of Catholicism and the papacy, although other reasons for his success might be his army and a fleet even larger than the famed Spanish Armada.

His reign marked the beginning of the transition from the personal control of government of the Stuarts to the Parliamentary type rule of the House of Hanover.

Early lifeEdit

Birth and FamilyEdit

William Henry of Orange, the only child of stadtholder William II, Prince of Orange and Mary, Princess Royal of England, was born in The Hague in the Dutch Republic on 4 November 1650. Eight days before William's birth, his father died from smallpox; thus William was the Sovereign Prince of Orange from the moment of his birth. Immediately a conflict ensued between the Princess Royal and William II's mother, 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 or Willem to bolster his prospects of becoming stadtholder. William II had appointed his wife as his son's guardian in his will; however the document remained unsigned at William II's death and was void.[6] On 13 August 1651 the Dutch Hoge Raad (Supreme Council) ruled that guardianship would be shared between his mother, his paternal grandmother and Frederick William, the Elector of Brandenburg, whose wife, Louise Henriette, was his father's eldest sister.

Childhood and EducationEdit

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 William's education was first laid in the hands of several Dutch governesses, and some of English descent, including Walburg Howard. From April 1656 the Calvinist preacher Cornelis Trigland, a follower of the Contra-Remonstrant theologian Gisbertus Voetius, instructed the prince daily in the reformed religion A short treatise, perhaps by one of William's tutors, Constantijn Huygens, details the ideal education for William entitled Discours sur la nourriture de S.H. Monseigneur le Prince d'Orange. 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.

William's uncle, Charles II of England, took an interest in his upbringing.From early 1659, William spent seven years at the University of Leiden for a formal education—though never officially enrolling as a student—under the guidance of ethics professor Hendrik Bornius. While residing in the Prinsenhof at Delft, William had a small personal retinue including Hans Willem Bentinck, and a new governor: Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, the illegitimate son of stadtholder Frederick Henry of Orange. He was taught French by Samuel Chappuzeau (who was dismissed by William's grandmother after the death of his mother).

On 25 September 1660 the States of Holland resolved to take charge of William's education to ensure he would acquire the skills to serve in a future—though undetermined—state function. This first involvement of the authorities would 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 King Charles II. In her will, Mary requested that Charles look after William's interests, and the English King now demanded the States of Holland end their interference. To appease Charles, they complied on 30 September 1661. In 1661, Zuylenstein began to work for Charles, and induced William to write letters to the English king asking his uncle to interfere on his behalf to improve his prospects on the stadtholderate. 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.

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. As a countermeasure in 1666, when William was sixteen, the States of Holland officially made him a ward of the government, or a "Child of State". All pro-English courtiers, including Zuylenstein, were removed from William's company. William begged Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt to allow Zuylenstein to stay, but he refused. 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 in a regular game of real tennis.

Early officesEdit

Exclusion from stadtholdershipEdit

At William's father's death, the provinces had suspended the office of stadtholder. The Treaty of Westminster, which ended the First Anglo-Dutch War, had a secret annex attached on demand of Oliver Cromwell: the Act of Seclusion, which forbade the province of Holland to appoint a member of the House of Orange as stadtholder. After the English Restoration, the Act of Seclusion, which had not remained a secret for very long, was declared void as the English Commonwealth (with which the treaty had been concluded) no longer existed. In 1660, Mary and Amalia tried to convince several provincial States to designate William as their future stadtholder, but all initially refused.

In 1667, as William III approached the age of eighteen, the Orangist party again attempted to bring him to power by securing for him the offices of stadtholder and Captain-General. To prevent the restoration of the influence of the House of Orange, De Witt allowed the pensionary of Haarlem, Gaspar Fagel, to induce the States of Holland to issue the Perpetual Edict (1667). The Edict declared that the Captain-General or Admiral-General of the Netherlands could not serve as stadtholder in any province. Even so, William's supporters sought ways to enhance his prestige, and on 19 September 1668, the States of Zealand received him as First Noble. To receive this honour, William had to escape the attention of his state tutors and travel secretly to Middelburg. A month later, Amalia allowed William to manage his own household and declared him to be of majority age.

The province of Holland, the center of anti-Orangism, abolished the office of stadtholder and four other provinces followed suit in March 1670, establishing the so-called "Harmony". De Witt demanded an oath from each Holland regent (city council member) to uphold the Edict; all but one complied. William saw all this as a defeat, but in fact this arrangement was a compromise: De Witt would have preferred to ignore the prince completely, but now his eventual rise to the office of supreme army commander was implicit. De Witt further conceded that William would be admitted as a member of the Raad van State, the Council of State, then the generality organ administering the defence budget. William was introduced to the council on 31 May 1670 with full voting powers, despite De Witt's attempts to limit his role to that of an advisor.

Conflict with republicansEdit

In November 1670, William obtained permission to travel to England to urge Charles to pay back at least a part of the 2,797,859 guilder debt the House of Stuart owed the House of Orange. Charles was unable to pay, but William agreed to reduce the amount owed to 1,800,000 guilder. Charles found his nephew to be a dedicated Calvinist and patriotic Dutchman, and reconsidered his desire to show him the Secret treaty of Dover with France, directed at destroying the Dutch Republic and installing William as "sovereign" of a Dutch rump state. In addition to differing political outlooks, William found that Charles's and James's lifestyles differed from his own, being more concerned with drinking, gambling, and cavorting with mistresses.

The following year, the Republic's security deteriorated quickly as an Anglo-French attack became imminent. In view of the threat, the States of Gelderland wanted William to be appointed Captain-General as soon as possible, despite his youth and inexperience. On 15 December 1671 the States of Utrecht made this their official policy. On 19 January 1672 the States of Holland made a counterproposal: to appoint William for just a single campaign. The prince refused this and on 25 February a compromise was reached: an appointment by the States-General of the Netherlands for one summer, followed by a permanent appointment on his twenty-second birthday. Meanwhile, William had written a secret letter to Charles in January 1672 asking his uncle to exploit the situation by exerting pressure on the States-General to appoint William stadtholder. In return, William would ally the Republic with England and serve Charles's interests as much as his "honour and the loyalty due to this state" allowed. Charles took no action on the proposal, and continued his war plans with his French ally.

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