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History Rewind: Marriage of William of Orange and Mary

On 4th November 1677, the future joint Monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland, Queen Mary II and King William III married at St James’ Palace.

Although their marriage was, in broad terms, quite a happy one, their wedding day was far from a joyous occasion. Mary, a mere 15 year old girl, is said to have wept continuously throughout the ceremony, and the arranger of the marriage, King Charles II, is reported to have behaved like a joker at the event, making silly jests and seeking attention.

The Bishop of London, Compton, performed the ceremony at St James’ Palace in a passage near to Mary’s chambers. Unlike the Royal weddings we witness today, back then they were very private affairs, especially with regards to attendees. The 9pm service (that’s right 9pm!) was, however, followed by a riotous celebration, and at 11pm they began the ritual of the public seeing the couple into their wedding bed and the throwing of a symbolic stocking – a far cry from today’s street parties and gathering on The Mall!

Although Mary was unhappy with her partner to begin with, the nation was completely the opposite – in fact they were ecstatic with the King’s choice of husband for his niece. William of Orange was seen as the Protestant champion of Europe in contrast to Charles II’s brother and future successor, James Duke of York, who had been a devout Catholic for almost two decades. Wedding celebrations took place all over England and Scotland, and even at this early stage there was talk of William being a viable candidate for the Throne, should the more senior members of the Stuart family be as Absolutist as King Charles I was, and King Charles II was supposedly becoming.

William and Mary were only married for 17 years as on 28th December 1694, Queen Mary II died at Kensington Palace. King William was completely devastated over the loss of Mary and so too were her people. King William continued to reign on his own until his death in 1702, when he was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Queen Anne.

They may have been married for only a short time, however the legacy of ‘William and Mary’ lived on for a very long time. Perhaps the greatest legacy to them both is the William and Mary college in Williamsburg, Virginia. Although one of their greatest legacies in this country is probably the painting of them both on the ceiling in Painted Hall, Greenwich.

Featured Photo Credit: Fred Dawson via photopin cc

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