William Sterling

William and Mary

I first ran this course at Crayford Manor in January 2003 but the latest manifestation was on Saturday 14th March 2020 at the City Lit just before the great lockdown.

Following the attempt by James II to re-establish Catholicism in Britain his daughter and son-in-law were invited to oust him to protect the Protestant church. To do so they had to grant more power to Parliament.

This course is a survey of the Life & Times of Britain’s only Joint Monarchs. They came to power in what was called the Glorious Revolution and although they only reigned a short while they laid the foundations for modern Britain. It was also the period of Wren & Purcell. The latter wrote much of his best music for the Queen.

We covered the family background of William and Mary and how they came to be heirs to the throne, the situation in England following the Restoration of the Monarchy, the difficult relationship between Holland and France, the religious tensions and conflicts in England during the reigns of Charles II and James II, why the English supported James’s succession but soon turned against him, the unusual settlement of having joint monarchs, the relationship between the king and queen and with Parliament and the queen’s sister, the role of Queen Mary in promoting music and architecture, the position of the king after her death and his responsibilities as king of England and ruler of the Netherlands, his hatred of Louis XIV and the wars he fought against him.

These are the handouts from the day

The Letter from the Immortal Seven dated 18 June 1688

Letter of invitation


The Declaration of the Lords Spiritual and Tempora

William’s speech

Chronology of Invasion

O dive custos auriacae domus

cabinet ministers 1689-1702

Part of the music written by Purcell for Queen Mary’s funeral

These are the slides as PDFs which you can print or expand on screen.  I shall amend them later with more labels.  In the meantime if there is anything you cannot recall please email me below.

W&M 2020 1 Mary’s background

W&M 2020 2 William’s background

W&M 2020 3 reign

W&M 2020 4 Arts

And some podcasts from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time series

The Dutch East India Company

The Glorious Revolution

The Treaty of Limerick

The Glencoe Massacre


Mary’s Memoirs

The attached document is a transcription of Queen Mary II’s Memoirs for 1689-1693.  I have retained her idiosyncratic spelling and added my own footnotes explaining who the people she mentions were and more details on battles and other events.  Mary was in the habit of keeping a journal and then at the end of the year writing it up into a general narrative.  She presumably would have done the same for 1694 had she survived to the end of the year.  She seems to have written a journal in French before she became queen and that for 1688 survives but my French is not good enough to translate it.  the memoirs for 1689-1693 must have been left at Kensington Palace after her death and kept in the Hanoverian archives after George I moved in.  The archives were moved to Hanover after the death of William IV and the British monarch was no longer ruler of Hanover and a printed version was published in London in 1886.  The originals are not in Mary’s handwriting suggesting they were either dictated or were a later copy, the originals being lost.

The overwhelming sense from the memoirs is of a highly devout woman with many personal psychological problems especially the guilt over the conflict between her father and her husband.  She disliked the business of ruling and is always pleased when she can hand back power to William.  It is also clear she was devoted to her husband and missed him personally when he was on campaign or in the Netherlands. She also suffered bad health and thought she was dying on more than one occasion and prepared herself in the knowledge that it was God’s will.  There are also interesting insights into her relationship with her sister and various ministers and members of the court which help to give a fuller picture of her character.

Mary II memoirs 1689-1693