Who were William III and Mary II? What was the Glorious Revolution?

King William III (1650-1702) after Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
King William III (1650-1702) after Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723). Credit: National Trust Images/Andy Gallacher

William III and Mary II were joint sovereigns in the ‘Glorious Revolution’, marking the transition to today’s parliamentary monarchy. They reigned from 1689-1702

A Protestant Dutchman of the House of Hague, William was born the sovereign Prince of Orange on 4 November 1650 in the Dutch Republic, his father having died the week before his birth. His route to the English throne came via his mother, Mary, who was the daughter of Charles I. In 1677, William married his 15-year-old English cousin Mary, whose father became James II in 1685, following Charles II’s death. James II was an unpopular king who alienated his Protestant subjects.

William, supported by influential British political and religious leaders, was invited to invade by James’s opponents. On 5 November 1688, he landed at the southern English port of Brixham, Devon.

Queen Mary II (1662-1694)
Queen Mary II (1662-1694). Credit: National Trust

James had little support from his subjects and fled to France. William and Mary became joint sovereigns in what became known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’, which marked the transition to the parliamentary monarchy that still we know today. They reigned together until Mary’s death on 28 December 1694, after which William ruled as sole monarch until his death in 1702.

Key dates

  • 1694 – The Bank of England is founded
  • 1698 – Devon-born Thomas Savery creates the world’s first steam-powered machine