William III and Mary II

William and Mary ruled jointly after the Glorious Revolution of 1688

William and Mary ruled jointly after the Glorious Revolution of 1688

A bloodless coup

Crowned jointly in 1689, Protestant monarchs William and Mary oversaw important moves towards parliamentary democracy. They also transformed Hampton Court and Kensington Palaces.

No male heirs

Mary was unable to bear children after an early miscarriage caused long term health problems

Queen Mary II, by Sir Peter Lely.  National Portrait Gallery.

The odd couple

Mary, daughter of James II, was sent away aged 15 to the Netherlands to marry William, Prince of Orange. She was a tall, striking brunette, William a short, asthmatic man. However, although theirs was a political match, genuine affection grew between them. When Mary was invited to rule in 1688 she refused to do so without William by her side. They were the first and only couple to rule jointly, although Mary deferred to her husband except when he was abroad fighting. Mary was the more popular of the two, light-hearted and gentle. William was seen as cold and unapproachable. He had little time for court life, and was happier on the battle field

Image: National Portrait Gallery

King James II, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, National Portrait Gallery

'You will be still as good a daughter to a father that has always loved you so tenderly.'

James II in 1688, doubting that his daughter, Mary, would plot against him

William and Mary's Kensington Palace

William and Mary’s decision to re-locate to Hampton Court from Whitehall didn’t please members of the government, who felt they were inaccessible and official business would be difficult to get done. So they also acquired the Earl of Nottingham’s house in Kensington, then west of London, to transform it from a mansion into a palace.

Within weeks the architect Sir Christopher Wren was set to transform the house into a suitable royal residence. The new palace was furnished with a chapel, accommodation for courtiers, kitchens, stables, barracks, but above all, a series of grand rooms or State Apartments where the King and Queen could hold audiences and ceremonies of state.

Death and Legacy

At the end of 1694, Queen Mary died of smallpox in her bedchamber at the palace and William was inconsolable.

In Feb 1702, while riding his favourite horse Sorrell from Hampton Court, the animal stumbled and William fell badly, breaking his collar bone.  Against advice, the King travelled to Kensington Palace. After a few days of deteriorating health, he died.

But the palace was built, and the Protestant kingdom secured, the twin legacies of William and Mary. Perhaps the finest moment of their reign was right at the beginning, when they signed the Bill of Rights after their Coronation in 1689.  This gave proper power to Parliament and began the process of creating parliamentary democracy that we know today in Britain. Never would a monarch be able to rule with power unchecked.  

The bright red walls and hanging art in the King's Gallery at Kensington Palace
Things to see

Explore the King's Gallery, which was transformed by William Kent to showcase the finest paintings of the Royal Collection.

Open daily

Kensington Palace

Highlights Things to see

Explore the beautiful private rooms at Kensington Palace that were once used by Queen Mary II for relaxation and sleep.

Open daily

Kensington Palace

Vertical shot looking straight up at Rubens' Ceiling at Banqueting House Whitehall, London
Highlights Things to see

Marvel at Sir Peter Paul Rubens' ceiling in its original setting of Inigo Jones' spectacular Banqueting House.

Open daily

Banqueting House

Discover the history and design of Kensington Palace and learn about the royals who lived there in the official guidebook.

Official Kensington Palace guidebook

Discover the history and design of Kensington Palace and learn about the royals who lived there in the official guidebook.

£4.99

This beautifully illustrated book tells the fascinating story of Kensington Palace from its origins to the present day.

The official illustrated history of Kensington Palace

This beautifully illustrated book tells the fascinating story of Kensington Palace from its origins to the present day.

£12.95

White Tower luxury embroidered hanging decoration features the iconic White Tower with a silhouetted Tower raven perching at the top of the Tower.

White Tower luxury embroidered hanging decoration

This sparkling silver luxury White Tower hanging decoration is hand embroidered using the same metal thread work techniques used to sew royal dresses and finery in centuries past.

£10.99