Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

APRIL 30th

On this day in history in 1662, was born Queen Mary II.

Mary was a princess who conspired to have her father, King James II, removed from the throne, and when crowned as queen, allowed her husband to rule as king.

Mary was born on 30th April 1662, at St. James Palace, London, the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York, and his first wife, Lady Anne Hyde. Her uncle, King Charles II, had no legitimate children, so his heir presumptive was her father, James, and the next heir was Mary. In 1671, Mary’s mother died and in 1673, James married again to Maria Beatrice d'Este. If James and Maria were to have a son, then he would succeed to the throne in place of Mary, but sadly Maria had a succession of miscarriages and it looked as if no heir was to be forthcoming. The situation was complicated when, in 1674, James was obliged to announce that he had converted to Catholicism. Parliament brought in an Exclusion Bill designed to deny James the right to succeed to the throne but, after pressure from the king, the Bill was withdrawn. In 1677, Mary married William of Orange, a Dutch stadholder, or governor of the Netherlands, and took up residence with her husband in Holland.

In 1685, King Charles died leaving six sons but no legitimate heir. Some in Parliament wanted to give the throne to Charles’ eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth, but Charles had insisted on his deathbed that the legitimate succession must be followed. Parliament was unhappy about having a Catholic monarch, but they figured that Mary, a good Protestant, would come to the throne sooner rather than later, and all would be well.

James turned out to be a king who tried the patience of his subjects and of Parliament. Soon after his coronation, his nephew, Charles’ son Monmouth, led an armed rebellion against him but was defeated in battle. James had Monmouth beheaded at the Tower of London, and even ordered that a blunt axe be used so that he would die slowly. James tried to protect himself against rebellion by maintaining a standing army, and placing Catholics as senior officers, and suspending laws which prevented him from employing Catholics. He sent out a proclamation granting toleration, and civil rights, to Catholics and made priests read it out in their pulpits on Sunday morning. When seven bishops protested, James had them locked up in the Tower. His advisors told him to be careful but he wouldn’t listen, because he didn’t understand why everybody was against him. And in 1688, his wife, Maria, finally gave birth to a son, bringing the possibility of a Catholic heir to succeed to the throne.

Mary was not pleased to see her chance of succession evaporate. She set up a whispering campaign, saying that the infant was not a true son of James and Maria, but had been smuggled into the palace in a warming pan. Almost everyone in the kingdom turned against James, who by now had developed what is now known as ‘paranoid schizophrenia’, a mental illness where the victim feels that he is being persecuted, and he started behaving in an irrational manner, locking himself away for days at a time.

Mary made a few discrete suggestions to group of prominent lords that her husband William should be called in to restore order. William was sent for and landed with a small army, at which point, James panicked and fled to France to seek help from the French king, Louis XIV. Parliament was delighted that James had fled and passed a resolution that he had abdicated the throne, and so they offered the crown to Mary. Mary said that she would accept, provided that William was appointed king, and that they should both rule together. Parliament awarded the throne to William and Mary jointly, but Mary was happy to allow William to rule the kingdom, and she contented herself with overseeing church appointments and appearing in great ceremonial occasions. On the eve of their coronation, Mary received a letter from her father in France, ordering her not to go ahead, but Mary pressed on. She wanted the glory of majesty.

William and Mary lived happily as joint monarchs and ruled wisely together, and hoped to have children to succeed them, but in 1694, Mary succumbed to smallpox and died suddenly, aged 32. William was devastated. He stated that "from being the happiest; he was "now going to be the miserablest creature on earth". William continued to reign alone. He did not marry again and in 1702, his horse stumbled on a molehill when he was out riding, and he fell and broke a collarbone. He developed pneumonia and within a week was dead. When the attendants were laying out his body, they found a locket around his neck. Inside was a lock of Mary’s hair.

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