Saturday, 26 May 2012

Samuel and Elizabeth Pepys

An Unequal Marriage

Samuel Pepys was born 23rd February 1633, the son of tailor John Pepys, who served the thriving law courts in London. Samuel was the fifth child, two of his siblings died before he was born. A further six children were born after him. Of the eleven children only four reached adulthood. Only the last daughter, the second Paulina, and Samuel outlived their father.
Samuel was educated at Huntingdon School. Samuel and his brother Thomas had been sent into Cambridgeshire to avoid the plague. Samuel then moved on to St Paul’s School in London, probably before the age of eleven[i]. In 1650 Pepys attended Cambridge, having had two exhibitions[ii] at St Pauls. Pepys was granted his degree in 1654.

In 1653 Pepys senior was admitted to the ranks of the Merchants Taylors Company, one of London’s Livery Companies, the same year that Oliver Cromwell made himself Protector of the country. On Cromwell’s coat tails came Edward Montagu, one of his neighbours and kin to the Pepys family.
Elizabeth Pepys was born Elisabeth de St Michel in Bideford on 23rd October 1640. She was the daughter of Alexander de St Michel, a Frenchman converted to the Protestant religion. Her brother Balthasar was born the same year. Elisabeth’s mother apparently inherited land in Devon. And the St Michels moved there from Ireland, where they met. Over the next few years any money they had disappeared, as the small family wandered around Europe. Alexander took a variety of jobs, including soldiering and working for a time at the court in exile of Queen Henrietta Maria. In 1652, left alone in Paris, Elisabeth’s mother placed her daughter in an Ursuline convent, and her brother Balthasar was made a page to the Papal Nuncio. Infuriated by his wife’s actions Alexander St Michel carried the family off to London.

Elizabeth was just 15 when she married[iii]. Nothing is known about how she met Pepys, but he was obviously swept off his feet by this bi-lingual pretty but penniless young girl. Pepys possibly persuaded himself that two can live as cheaply as one and the couple were officially married on 1st December 1655 in St Margaret’s Westminster. This was their official wedding date, but the date they celebrated every year was the 10th October. The marriage was consummated that night and it may be assumed that the couple had an illegal wedding on that day[iv]. Elizabeth suffered from ‘painful humours and swellings’ in her vaginal region; so intercourse cannot have been as pleasant for her as for Samuel.
In December too, Edward Montague was called to the Admiralty Commission. In January he found himself joint commander of the English battle fleet. Samuel was selected to look after his important relative’s affairs at home and his apartment at Whitehall, during Montague’s absence on fleet duties.

Unquiet Times
The disparity in age and education did not make for a happy marriage and Pepys’ in-laws looked down upon his lowly birth (throughout his marriage Pepys never visited the St Michel’s). Samuel and Elizabeth were living in one room, possibly in the attics at Whitehall, with little money. Neither set of parents were able to help the couple. Samuel for the first few years suffered the complications of his kidney stone and Elizabeth too suffered from ill health. She had no servants and the young girl, fed on French romantic novels, had a fiery temper. Samuel as well had a temper that would flare up to meet hers. Relatively early in the marriage Elizabeth walked out without notice to her husband and did not return. It would appear that she stayed with a lawyer named Palmer and his family. Palmer possibly encouraged a reconciliation between the married couple.

In March 1658 Samuel Pepys successfully underwent an operation to remove his stone. He was nursed by his cousin Jane Turner. The anniversary of the operation was one of the high days of the Pepys household.
‘This day it is two years since it pleased God that I was cut of the stone at Mrs Turner’s at Salisbury Court. And did resolve while I live to keep it a festival, as I did last year at my house, and for ever to have Mrs Turner and her company with me.’[v]

By now Pepys was working as a clerk for George Downing, diplomat, MP and an official at the Treasury. This work was in addition to looking after Montague’s affairs in his absence with the fleet. Samuel and Elizabeth took advantage of the situation and now rented half a house in Axe Yard, which must have reduced some of the pressures within the marriage.
In May 1660 Pepys accompanied Montague’s fleet sent to escort the new king Charles Stuart back to his kingdom. On the 13th July 1660, Samuel was made Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board; a post in which he was to be exceptionally effective. This new job brought him into contact with the king’s brother the Duke of York. In September Pepys was made a Justice of the Peace and in 1662 was made a younger brother of Trinity House[vi].

Momentous Events
On 5th July 1665 Pepys, now working in the Navy Office, moved his family to Woolwich, following a severe outbreak of the plague in the city. The plague was an intermittent problem, re-occurring every few years. In June the numbers falling ill and dying in London started to increase.

Samuel’s career was not interrupted by the plague, nor was his private life. Pepys stayed in London, working at the Navy Office, despite the thousands of Londoners dying every week. At the end of the year the family returned home.
The following September another disaster hit the capital. It was Pepys who informed the king and his brother of the fire in London on 2nd September. It was his advice to blow up the buildings in the path of the fire to create breaks, that helped stop the spread of the devastation.

‘And word was carried to the King, so I was called and did tell the King and Duke of York what I saw, and that unless His Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire.’[vii]
That lunch time Pepys and Elizabeth were expecting guests for dinner and Pepys went home after walking through the streets, observing Londoners fleeing with their goods and chattels. It was all noted for posterity. There were five to dinner and a good time was had by all. The party went out after dinner to observe the continuing mayhem.

By the time Samuel and Elizabeth returned home, after spending the evening in an ale-house on Bankside, Pepys was aware that the fire was moving in their direction. Carts were organised as Samuel had his gold and books of accounts brought up from the cellar. Pepys arranged a navy lighter to take his possessions to Bethnal Green for storage at the house of a colleague. The wine was buried in the garden.
‘In the evening Sir W. Penn[viii] and I did dig another and put our wine in it, and I my parmazan cheese as well as my wine and some other things.’[ix]

Pepys had buildings around the Navy Office blown up, in an attempt to save the building.
By now the Pepys were camping out in their home. On the 5th Elizabeth woke Pepys to inform him that the fire was burning at the bottom of Seething Lane. He took her back to Woolwich, where she had stayed during the plague. The house was not burnt and Pepys ordered it cleaned. Meanwhile he took time out to dally with a couple of female acquaintances, one of whom Samuel was carrying on a long-term illicit relationship with. Mrs Bagwell was the wife of a ship’s carpenter (hoping for a promotion from the liaison) from Deptford. Elizabeth came home the next day.

‘And so home and unloaden them by carts and hands before night, to my exceeding satisfaction: and so after supper to bed in my old house, the first time I have lain there; and lay with my wife in my old closet upon the ground, and Balty[x] and his wife in the best chamber, upon the ground also.’[xi]
A Marriage Under Pressure

The Pepys marriage would have been happier if Samuel had been less willing to drop his breeches at the slightest encouragement. Indeed on numerous occasions he informs us that he was sexually assaulting lower class women, if not actually raping them.
‘Finding Mrs Bagwell waiting at the office after dinner; away elle and I to a cabaret where elle and I have été before; and there I had her company toute l’après-dîner and had mon plein plaisir of elle.’[xii]

Elizabeth did not take her husband’s infidelities and chasing after women lying down:
‘And so home, where my wife in mighty pain, and mightily vexed at my being abroad with these women – and when they were gone, called them “whores” and I know not what; which vexed me, having been so innocent with them.’[xiii]

Indeed, Pepys betrayed Elizabeth with her companion Deborah Willett, who joined the household in September 1667, but left precipitately thirteen months later, after Elizabeth found Deb and Samuel in a heavily compromising position:
‘For my wife, coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con my hand sub su coats; and endeed, I was with my main in her cunny’.[xiv].

This was the first and only time that Elizabeth caught her husband out in infidelity. The betrayal was even more poignant as Deborah had been treated as a member of the family, almost as a daughter by a couple who were unable to have children. Pepys had commenced his attack on Deb’s virtue in the March of 1668, when he sexually assaulted her. She was in a difficult position as she was totally dependent on his and Elizabeth’s goodwill. In November Deb admitted the affair to Elizabeth, who insisted on her dismissal, offering to slit Deb’s nose if Pepys did not stay away from her. Pepys even agreed to be tailed by his man Will Hewer to allay any suspicions Elizabeth might be harbouring.
Yet when Elizabeth was attracted to a man, or conducted a mild flirtation, Pepys was outraged.

‘And so, well pleased, home – where I find it almost night and my wife and the Dancing Maister alone above, not dancing but walking. Now, so deadly full of jealousy I am, that my heart and head do cast about and fret, that I could not do any business possibly, but went out to my office.’[xv]
Then the couple would often argue, not necessarily over Elizabeth’s flirtations, but over some other matter picked up by the jealous husband. In the instance of the dancing master; in order to restore his supremacy over her Pepys complained of Elizabeth’s use of the word Devil some days later, after what appeared to Samuel to be further provocations on Elizabeth’s part. This is a frequent occurrence – Samuel has to be her master in all things.

The Final Separation
But however much Samuel chased after other women, there is no doubt that he did love Elizabeth:
‘Sad for want of my wife, whom I love with all my heart.’[xvi]

Elizabeth died on 10th November 1669, of typhoid fever, not long after the couple’s return from a trip to the Netherlands. Samuel was grief stricken and for several weeks was unable to apply himself to business with his normal thoroughness. He had stopped writing the diary in May, due to his worsening sight problems. Samuel did not remarry. In 1672 he was made an Elder Brother of Trinity House and served twice as Master. In 1673 the position of Secretary of the Admiralty was given to Pepys and he was elected MP for Castle Rising in the same year.

Pepys remained in public service until the Glorious Revolution, when he lost his job as he would not switch allegiance from his patron James. Thereafter he lived in retirement.
Most of the evidence of the marriage between Samuel and Elizabeth comes to us from Pepys himself, via the medium of his diary. But even in his most private writings Pepys could not lie to himself. And so we have a picture that is relatively even-handed.

To judge Pepys by the morals of the 21st century is tempting. He was an abusive man, who attempted to control his wife through a variety of methods, including his gifts to her. He was also a serial sexual predator, by his own admission. But people and events must be considered within the context within which they lived or occurred. From 1660 on mores and morals were very different even from those prevalent fifty years earlier. By seventeenth century standards Pepys’ treatment of women would not have been considered extra-ordinary. In the reign of Charles II many men were quick to emulate the king’s promiscuity; not least of whom was Pepys’s patron, the Duke of York.


Samuel Pepys – the Man in the Making – Arthur Bryant, Collins Press 1947

Pepys’ Later Diaries – ed. CS Knighton, Sutton Publishing 2004

The Shorter Pepys – ed. Robert Latham, Penguin 1987

Samuel Pepys – the Unequalled Self – Claire Tomalin, Alfred A Knopf 2002

[i] The headmaster of St Paul’s disliked taking boys for schooling over that age.
[ii] Scholarships
[iii] Marriage at this age was not unusual in the 17th century.
[iv] Church weddings were declared invalid in August 1653.
[v] Samuel Pepys – 26th March 1660
[vi] Responsible for training of ship’s pilots
[vii] Samuel Pepys - 2nd September 1666
[viii] Navy Commissioner
[ix] Samuel Pepys - 4th September 1666
[x] Elizabeth’s brother
[xi] Samuel Pepys - 13th September 1666
[xii] Samuel Pepys - 23rd January 1665 – Pepys recorded his sexual adventures in a mix of French, Latin, English and Spanish
[xiii] Samuel Pepys – 9th May 1666
[xiv] Samuel Pepys – 25th October 1668
[xv] Samuel Pepys --15th May 1663
[xvi] Samuel Pepys – 21st June 1663

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Penultimate Stuart - William 111

Reigning Alone

The Death of Mary

William returned to England on 9th November, welcomed with delight by the people of London. He was tired by the strain of what appeared to be a never-ending war. He fell ill and took to his bed on the 20th. Mary nursed him for a few days until she too fell ill. Smallpox was raging through London and she had never had the disease. Mary recovered enough to go to church, where the service was taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a close friend of both king and queen. Within five days the Archbishop was dead, having suffered a stroke, not long after the service. Mary was badly affected by the sudden death of her friend.

William fell ill again and Mary was again worried about his bad health. It was now that Mary caught the smallpox. Mary’s state of health was too poor for her to fight off the illness, as Anne had done in 1677. William intended to return to the continent early in the new year and was busy preparing for the campaign. Mary ordered that people who had not had the disease should be kept away from her. William had a camp bed set up in her room. He told Bishop Burnet:

‘There was no hope for the queen, and that from being the happiest, he was now going to be the miserablest creature on earth.’[i]
William had already lost both his parents to smallpox and he was now to lose the most important person in his life. Anne begged her sister Mary to let her see her once more. The two sisters had not spoken or even written to each other for too long. Anne was pregnant again but was willing to risk the life of her unborn child to make things up with her once very much loved older sister. Mary died in the early hours of 28th December 1694, William in tears at her side. In future years William always shut himself in a personal and private retreat, meditating and praying on the anniversary of Mary’s death. From now on a locket containing a lock of her hair was worn next to his heart.

William was grief stricken when Mary died. Like many strong characters he failed to fully realise how much he gained from Mary’s quiet support. It was feared that England would lose both king and queen. William collapsed when Mary died and had to be carried from the room by the Earl of Portland, from whom William had been estranged for a long time. He kept himself locked in his room for several days until Portland persuaded him to take the air, albeit carried out into the gardens in a chair.

Deep mourning for the queen was ordered on 16th January 1695. By that time Anne had already written to William commiserating him for the loss of his wife and her sister. Prince George was one of William’s earliest visitors. He had always kept his distance from the Sarah Churchill inspired disagreements, between the sisters. Anne visited William at Kensington on 13th January. They talked alone for nearly an hour, both close to tears. William now arranged for all the dignities of the heir to be re-instated for Anne. Both he and Anne realised the importance of confirming the Duke of Gloucester as second in the succession in an attempt to quash Jacobite pretensions to the throne. This first visit was soon followed by others and those of her friends and supporters. Marlborough kissed the king’s hand on 29th March at an audience. 

Mary’s funeral took place on 5th March. The City of |London asked if a statue of the two monarchs could be erected in front of the Stock Exchange, but William had already decided on a permanent memorial to Mary. It was the completion of a project Mary had been vitally interested in – the conversion of the palace at Greenwich into a hospital for seamen.

Return to the Fray
William Bentinck, Earl of Portland

On 12th May William returned to the continent, leaving a council of seven in charge of the kingdom. In September the Allied armies after a lengthy siege took Namur. After the fall of the city William took a short break at Het Loo. The financing of next season’s fighting was readily agreed by the States General, in the first flush of victory. William returned to England on 10th October and it was decided to call a general election to take advantage of the good news[ii]. The king was persuaded to do some electioneering himself. His trip took him from Newmarket to Althorp, then on to Stamford, Lincoln, Welbeck, Warwick, Burford and Woodstock ending at Oxford. He took the advantage of the trip to indulge in his passion for hunting. Everywhere William was greeted with huge enthusiastic crowds.

The new parliament voted £3 million[iii] pounds for the 1696 campaign season. But attacks were made of enormous grants of land in Wales to the Earl of Portland. The gift had previously been part of the Prince of Wales’ demesne. On 22nd January the Commons passed a bill laying down that the lands could only be given away by Act of Parliament. William withdrew the gift, but several months later replaced it with lands in a number of English counties.

In February a plot to assassinate William, prior to an invasion by James and a French fleet, was uncovered. Persons involved in the plot gave warnings to the authorities. William was to be killed while returning from hunting. Those involved included James’ illegitimate son the Duke of Berwick, who fled the country. The home fleet was readied in the Channel to repel any invasion fleet, while trained bands were rushed to the coast. Louis XIV, increasingly disillusioned by James’ attempts to regain his crown, had ordered his generals not to put to sea until they had news of a general uprising in England. The news never came and the troops were disbanded. The plot caused a surge in William’s popularity and from now on, for the rest of his life, security around the king was increased.

James’ proposed use of foreign troops alienated many of his remaining supporters. On 27th April Parliament passed an act for the better security of the king’s person, whereby all MPs recognised William as their rightful and lawful king. The majority realised that a return of James would entail the subordination of England to France, something that was abhorrent to all good Englishmen. The MPs set up an association for the defence of their sovereign and country.

Immediately he heard news of the Association the six year old Duke of Gloucester decided to give an address of his own to his uncle, whose military exploits he followed devotedly.
‘I, Your Majesty’s most dutiful subject, had rather lose my life in your Majesty’s cause than any man’s else: and I hope it will not be long ere you conquer France. Gloster (sic)’.[iv]

Anne as queen in 1705
William and Mary had always adored William, spoiling him with generous gifts. The Duke of Gloucester regularly stayed with his uncle and aunt. Anne had never interfered in the relationship, on the advice of Sarah Churchill. In January William informed Anne that he proposed to give his nephew the Order of the Garter, which was awarded on young William’s birthday in July. William himself was now under pressure from both the Dutch and the English to remarry, but in the event, the reluctant William did not, leaving Anne and the young William as his heirs. Anne also acted as William’s hostess at court functions and on ceremonial occasions, despite having to be pushed around in a wheelchair.

 In May 1697 William arrived in den Haag to open formal negotiations between the Allies and France. Talks had been ongoing for a year. All but the Holy Roman Empire were eager for peace. The talks got caught up in technicalities and on 5th June the town of Ath in Flanders fell to the French. William was able to forestall the French advance on Brussels that swiftly followed. He now sent to the Earl of Portland to conduct secret negotiations with the French, who were not inclined to consider recognition of William as king until after the conclusion of peace and insisted on calling William the Prince of Orange. The peace treaty was signed on 20th September by France, England, Spain and the Dutch republic. The emperor did not sign until 30th October. Louis agreed to:
·         Give up all territories conquered by him in the Low Countries since the peace of Nijmegen in 1678

·         Give back all conquests in Spain beyond the Pyrenees
·         Return many of the towns the French captured in the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of Strasbourg
·         The razing of the Rhine fortresses
·         The return of the estates of the Duke of Lorraine
·         The return of the principality of Orange to William
·         Acknowledgement of William as the rightful King of England

Czar Peter the Great
On the 11th September William met with Czar Peter of Russia, who was on a ‘private’ tour of Europe. He was in Holland to learn the Dutch ship building skills and spent some time working in the shipyards. William and Peter dined together some weeks later. Anne arrived in den Haag to act as William’s hostess and in November gave a ball on William’s birthday.

In London the city had been celebrating the peace since September. The citizens were still in celebratory mood when their king returned in mid-month. William made his triumphal entry into the city, met by the Lord Mayor at Southwark. On 2nd December a great firework display costing £2,000[v] followed a day of thanksgiving that William had declared a public holiday.

Czar Peter suddenly arrived in England on 10th January. Unused to public appearances Peter was again William’s guest at dinner and observed Anne’s birthday ball in February. He spent time in the English shipyards. Peter finally left England in April, happy with the gift of a yacht, giving William a ruby, wrapped in brown paper, worth £10,000[vi] in exchange.
Arnold Keppel, Earl of Albemarle

In January 1698 Whitehall again caught fire and much of the palace was destroyed along with many priceless works of art. William promised to rebuild the palace. Just before the fire William appointed Portland to France as ambassador. Portland had been jealous of Keppel, now the Earl of Albemarle (widely believed to be the king’s sexual partner), and their rivalry was painful for William. Part of Portland’s remit was to attempt to come to agreement with Louis over the vexed question of the Spanish Succession[vii], which was to cause upset on the continent for the next sixteen years. Portland was able to inform William that the French held the English king in great esteem, possibly more so than that with which William was held in his own countries.

The War of the Spanish Succession
 In the summer of 1698 William and Louis came to an agreement to settle the Spanish Succession, while William was spending time in the Netherlands. He returned to England in December to a hostile House of Commons, where a Tory majority were determined to reduce the standing army to 7,000. William was horrified at the proposal to disband an experienced force necessary for the defence of the country. In despair William decided to abdicate and wrote out his abdication speech, requesting a regency council govern, once he had returned home to Holland. His ministers successfully appealed to William’s sense of duty. The forty-nine year old was tired and his health was increasingly worsening. William agreed to the Disbanding Bill in January 1699 and in March his Dutch troops returned home.  

William Duke of Gloucester
William was in Holland when disaster struck in July 1700. His beloved nephew William, Duke of Gloucester died on the 30th aged eleven, possibly from smallpox or scarlet fever. His parents were at his bedside. Like them William was grief stricken and he wrote to Anne:

‘It is so great a loss for me and all England that my heart is pierced with affliction.’[viii]

Anne had suffered yet another miscarriage in January, but now once again the Protestant Succession was in doubt. William, unwilling to marry again, agreed that the next in line to the English throne must now be Sophia, Dowager Electress of Hanover, granddaughter of James I. Sophia visited William at Het Loo in October, where William promised her that he would support her daughter’s husband’s claims to the throne of Prussia.

Louis XIV broke the Treaty of Rijswijk by recognising James’ son as the rightful king of England following the death of his father, thus ensuring English participation in hostilities. Charles II of Spain died in December 1700, willing the throne of Spain to Louis’ grandson, the Duc d’Anjou.  Rather than abide by a treaty, disposing of the Spanish crown to the general agreement of most of Europe, Louis decided to accept the terms of the will. Fighting did not erupt until 1701, with the Earl of Marlborough commanding an Allied army in Flanders. T

The Regency council invited Louis to rule Spain, while his grandson was under age.
William’s health was now so bad he could barely walk, although he was still able to enjoy hunting. His legs were badly swollen and he was afflicted with a permanent cough. William had appointed Prince Jan Willem Friso van Nassau-Dietz, Stadtholder of Friesland as his successor as Stadtholder of all the United Provinces. Prince Jan was also sole heir of all the enormous Orange estates. William returned to England in November 1701, in a state of collapse. But he lingered on until March 1702, when he died on the 8th.

William was at war with France for the majority of his life. But his concern for the safety – first of the Dutch Republic and then of England and Scotland, was foremost in his thinking throughout his life. His loneliness as a child was echoed as an adult, particularly after Mary’s death, as he had few close friends. In his last years his popularity nose-dived partly because he spent a lot of time at home in Holland. The English were unable to appreciate that William had responsibilities to the Dutch, as well as to themselves.


The Later Stuarts 1660-1744 – Sir George Clark, Oxford University Press 1985
Queen Anne – Edward Gregg, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980
William and Mary – John van der Kiste, Sutton Publishing 2003
Peter the Great – Robert K Massie, Abacus 1992
William and Mary – John Miller, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1974
William and Mary - Henri & Barbara van der Zee, History Book Club 1973

[i] William and Mary – John van der Kiste, Sutton Publishing 2003
[ii] William a signed the Triennial Act, allowing for fresh elections every three years, during Mary’s final illness.
[iii] Worth £356,000,000 in 2010 using the retail price index and £5,730,000,000 using average earnings
[iv] William and Mary - Henri & Barbara van der Zee, History Book Club 1973
[v] Worth £1,070,000 in 2010 using the retail price index and £19,600,000 using average earnings
 [vii] The king of Spain was without heir and was believed to be at death’s door. Louis wished to claim the throne for the dauphin, whose claim came through his mother, who had renounced any rights to the succession on her marriage. Her dowry had not been paid and Louis claimed that this meant that Marie-Therese’s renunciation of rights was invalid. The remainder of the courts of Europe were concerned that the thrones of Spain and France would both be held by members of the Bourbon family, thus upsetting the balance of power.
[viii] William and Mary – John van der Kiste, Sutton Publishing 2003

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Penultimate Stuart - William III

The Onerous Tasks of Monarchy

A New Life

William and Mary were crowned on 11th April 1689. James sent Mary a vituperative letter, cursing her if she dared to be crowned while her father and brother were still alive. The letter was arranged to arrive while Mary was dressing for the ceremony.

The Naval Agreement signed in April between the Dutch and English allowed for the command to be taken by an English admiral, during joint actions, in an attempt to soothe English sensibilities. Meanwhile the Scots offered William the crown of Scotland the same month.

The unhealthy air of London did not suit William and Mary had been greatly shocked by her husband’s condition when she arrived in February. His asthma was much worse and the doctors warned that he would not last the year. By April the couple were ensconced at Hampton Court, coming up to London for council meetings once or twice a week. William’s refusal to spend much of his time attending social functions, as opposed to working, was seen by his new subjects as a refusal to court their affections. In an attempt to counteract this impression, in June Mary persuaded William to buy Kensington House, a country house nearer to Whitehall, at the cost of £14,000[i].

Both William and Mary found the ceremonial at the English court an unwelcome change from the relative freedom of the Netherlands. They spent most of the summer together at Hampton Court, where Mary was planning new gardens and Sir Christopher Wren was building a new extension to the Tudor palace. Mary kept only two Dutch ladies in her entourage, but they were treated with disdain by the Queen’s other ladies. Betty Villiers had come to England too, but William’s visits to her were conducted with discretion.

The summer also brought good news - a fisherman entangled the Great Seal in his nets, while fishing in the Thames. Mary regarded its recovery as a sign of God’s favour. On the 24th July Anne was delivered of a boy, who was named William after his uncle. Mary stayed with Anne throughout her labour and William was present at the birth and agreed to be godfather to the little boy now second in line for the throne.

In the autumn, as part of a PR exercise William attended Newmarket for the races, mixing with his new subjects. He was accompanied by Anne’s husband Prince George. This was a crowd pleaser, but people were angered by William’s preference for his Dutch friends, who had given up family and homes for him. William Bentinck, now Earl of Portland, was especially unpopular. Henry Sidney was made Earl of Romney & appointed Colonel of the King’s Foot Guards and was the most influential Englishman at court. Churchill had also been elevated and was made the Earl of Marlborough.

Now in a position to influence English foreign policy, William was able to promote what had become his raison d’être – the containment of French attempts at aggrandisement at the expense of the remainder of continental Europe. This line of reasoning was later to guide essential British policy in Europe - the need to keep the balance of power. In September the English and Dutch agreed to jointly make war on the French and William declared an embargo on trade with France.

Just before Christmas William and Mary were able to move into Kensington House, although work on the house was not yet completed. William supervised the waterworks and fountains in the gardens, while Mary chose the plants. William had many of his favourite paintings– Titians, Rembrandts, Holbeins and van Dykes - hung on the walls, while Mary had much of her favourite blue and white Chinese porcelain brought from Holland, starting a new craze. Even with her favourite things around her, Mary, like William, was homesick for Holland.

Family Problems

Sarah Churchill
William was not impressed by Anne and factions arose supporting the heir against the king and queen. The two sisters were very different in character, as were their husbands – George was indolent, while William was a workaholic. The Marlboroughs, particularly Sarah – Anne’s friend, were highly complicit in rumour spreading. It was claimed that Mary was jealous of Anne’s happy marriage and her ability to have children. Sarah Churchill pressed Anne to assert her rights as heir and encouraged Anne’s feelings of ill-usage, when decisions were not automatically given in her favour.

By the beginning of 1689 James had persuaded Louis to bankroll an attempt to regain the English throne and landed in Ireland supported by French troops in March. The Irish continued to regard James as their king and James was able to build up an army, while the Irish parliament passed an Act for Liberty of Conscience, allowing religious freedom. The city of Derry, supporting William, was besieged by troops on James behalf in April until 28th July, when the city was relieved by the English navy.

In May Louis’ troops withdrew from the Palatinate and the atrocities committed by the retreating troops horrified the English, who declared war on 7th May and the Grand Alliance[ii] was signed. William sent his best troops to fight on the continent, keeping his Dutch troops in England. Fresh troops were recruited to fight in Ireland. It was not until 11th June 1690 that William was able to sail for Ireland, to deal with his father-in-law.

In less than a month William had defeated James’ troops at the Battle of the Boyne on 1st July. William was wounded during the battle and a report was received in Paris to the effect that he was dead and the French celebrated the death of one of France’s most inveterate enemies. James fled back to France, where he remained in exile until his death in 1701. William was able to march into Dublin unopposed. To reduce the opposition a declaration promising a pardon to all common soldiers was published.

Problems at Home and Abroad

While William was away a French fleet defeated the English in a battle off Beachy Head on 30th June. And the Grand Alliance suffered a defeat at Fleurus. Mary, in charge of the country, was concerned that the French might invade while William was absent. Failing to take Limerick by siege William returned to England, to be re-united with Mary at Hampton Court. Mary was pleased by William’s approval of the way she had managed affairs in his absence. Flushed by the king’s successes in Ireland, Parliament voted £2.3 million pounds for the army and £1.8 million[iii] for the navy for next year’s campaigning. William was never again to be so popular with the English.

Early in 1691 William returned to Holland for the first time since becoming King of England. His return was greeted with huge numbers of Dutch citizens, braving the freezing cold, welcoming him home. William was here to attend a Congress of the Grand Alliance in den Haag, with fourteen members of the House of Lords. The congress broke up after agreeing to field an army of 220,000. William stayed in Holland, retiring to his palace at Het Loo, with the Elector of Bavaria and other princes who had attended the Congress. Here he spent his time hunting and enjoying the atmosphere away from the stultifying conventions of the English court. Arnold Joost van Keppel[iv], one of his gentlemen of the bedchamber broke his leg on one hunting expedition.

In Mid-March a French army appeared before the gates of Mons, a vital fortress in the Spanish Netherlands. William immediately joined the army at Halle, where 50,000 Alliance troops were stationed. The Spanish contingent did not make its scheduled appearance and the army, half the strength of the French, was helpless when Mons capitulated.

William intended only a short visit to England when he returned in April, to put a stable government in place; but the uncovering of a Jacobite plot required his attention. The plotters were questioned; William was aware that the loyalty of most of his subjects was not whole-hearted and forgave the chief plotter Lord Preston and most of the imprisoned released. William now returned to the continent, but the fighting season passed without any great excitement. William spent two months hunting in the Netherlands, reluctant to return to court.

Copy of order for massacre
In August 1691 William signed a general indemnity for all Highlanders, who swore an oath of alliegance in by 1st January 1692. By the due date all major Highland chieftains except the Chief of the MacDonalds had done so. The MacDonald was determined to be the last to bend his knee, but unfortunately went to Fort William to swear his oath. From there he was sent to Inverary where he took the oath on the 6th.  Proof of his submission was sent to Edinburgh where it appears to have been suppressed, possibly by the Master of Stair – Sir John Dalrymple one of William’s two Scottish Secretaries, an enemy of the MacDonalds. On 16th January William signed an order for the dealing of all chieftains who had failed to submit. It is not known if he realised how extremely punitive Dalrymple’s measures were to be.

On 13th February 1642 after a week of hospitality from the MacDonalds, a group of 100 Campbells massacred the majority of Clan MacDonald, men, women and children, at Glencoe. The bitterness arising as a result of the act of cruelty lasted generations. William authorised his other Scottish Secretary to launch an investigation.

James Attempts a Further Return

William’s health was suffering during the winter 1691-2. He was spitting blood. For William it was an excuse to return home, secure in the knowledge that his beloved wife was in control in England. For Mary these separations were more difficult. She always worried that she would lose William while he was campaigning. Meanwhile James was preparing for a French funded invasion.

About 20,000 men assembled near Cherbourg. The knowledge that the bulk of the army was on the continent with the king, encouraged the Jacobites in England. James issued a declaration listing those people he would be taking his revenge on. Mary promptly published the declaration along with her government’s comments. This piece of quick thinking heavily damaged James’ cause in England.

The government was also worried about disaffection in the navy. Mary drafted a message to the officers, in which the queen dismissed rumours of their disloyalty as base slanders and expressed her complete confidence in the navy. The officers enthusiastically queued to sign an address assuring her of their determination to fight the French.

The fleet was readied to fight the prospective invasion, whilst Dutch reinforcements were brought to England. All available soldiers were rushed to the coast; captured information had revealed James’ intentions to land in Sussex. The joint fleets set sail for France on 17th May and on the 19th defeated the French at la Hogue, ending James’ hopes of invasion. Mary ordered £30,000[v] be distributed to all seamen in the fleet and gold medals awarded to all officers who had particularly distinguished themselves in the nine hour engagement.

During this fraught period a final break had occurred between the queen and her sister, fomented by the malicious Countess of Marlborough. William dismissed Marlborough in January 1692 and now there was no stopping his wife’s attempts to sow discord between Anne and her sister. The row stretched on through the year and was still simmering when a plot to assassinate William, by order of James, was uncovered. Mary was deeply chagrined that her father would seek the death of her husband.

Princess Anne & the Duke of Gloucester
Despite the break with Anne, William and Mary were very fond of her son the Duke of Gloucester. The young William suffered from hydrocephaly, but enjoyed playing soldiers. Two companies of boy soldiers were under his command. On several occasions William and Mary reviewed his troops, who would receive 20 guineas[vi] from the king, to share amongst themselves.

In England and the Netherlands there was a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the ongoing war with the French. Both English and Dutch felt that William was treating the other with more favour. The Dutch felt that William always threw the Dutch regiments into danger to serve the English crown, while the English thought that they were given all the dirty work.

The campaign of 1693 went badly for the Allies, the French were well established on the Meuse. William’s forces, always heavily outnumbered by the French, had saved Liege, the only ray of light in a generally disastrous campaigning season, which saw the Palatinate overrun. Peace talks kept ending with the French demanding that William and Mary declare the ci-devant Prince of Wales as their successor.  Louis proposed that the young prince be sent to England to be brought up as Protestant[vii].

In April 1694 the Bank of England was established to help underwrite the cost of the war. The king and queen were the first subscribers.

Mary’s health was not good during the summer. She was tired of the responsibilities she had to shoulder when William was away fighting on the continent. At the same time she missed his company and worried that he would not return. Mary had a premonition that her days were numbered.


The Later Stuarts 1660-1744 – Sir George Clark, Oxford University Press 1985

Queen Anne – Edward Gregg, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980

William and Mary – John van der Kiste, Sutton Publishing 2003

William and Mary – John Miller, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1974

William and Mary - Henri & Barbara van der Zee, History Book Club 1973

[i] Worth £1,980,000 in 2010 using the Retail Price Index or £24,400,000 using average earnings –
[ii] Formerly the League of Augsburg, the Grand Alliance consisted of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, England and Scotland,  the Palatinate, the Dutch, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Sweden and Spain.
[iii] Worth £564,000,000 using Retail Price Index in 2010 or £7,680,000,000 using average earnings
[iv] There are many contemporaneous references (possibly Jacobite) to William having an affair with Keppel, as well as the ongoing trysts with Betty Villiers. Keppel had formerly been one of William’s pages. Keppel was made Earl of Albemarle and was in any event a great womaniser. The Jacobites partly based their accusations on the grounds that, unlike Charles and James, William did not have scores of mistresses. It is possible that William was a latent homosexual or did not have strong sexual desires.
[v] Worth £3,660,000 using Retail Price Index in 2010 or £55,700,000 using average earnings
[vi] Worth £2,860 using the retail price index in 2010 or £38,800 using average earnings
[vii] At the age of 15 the value of a forcible conversion for the prince may be viewed with scepticism