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William III and Mary II are the only joint reigning sovereigns in English history. Brought to power as a result of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 which deposed Mary's father - the Catholic King James II - their reign was a crucial period during which new restrictions of royal power helped to lay the foundations of modern constitutional monarchy. In this first biography of the two monarchs for over thirty years, John Van der Kiste provides a lively and accessible account of their lives and times.
William, one of the leading Protestant champions of Europe, and Mary, his young cousin and wife, reigned jointly for only five years. In 1694 Mary died from smallpox and William ruled alone for another eight years. Although short, their reign was notable for the inauguration of the Declaration of Rights and triennial elections, both of which limited the sovereign's power and reaffirmed parliament's. In warfare, however, it was another matter: although William was the first monarch who was not granted an independent income, he was also one of the last to lead his armies in person. He involved England decisively in European affairs and created a new balance of power on the continent. During William's absences at war, Mary was regent. Although she had wept when first told, aged fifteen, that she was to marry her unprepossessing and charmless cousin, they developed a close and loving relationship. Popular with the nation, a connoisseur of architecture, music and gardens, she encouraged the work of Henry Purcell and persuaded William to buy Kensington House, which was rebuilt by Wren and later became one of the major royal residences.
This new biography not only recounts William and Mary's lives and reign but also explores their political influence, the troubled relationships with Mary's father, with her sister - and husband's successor - Anne, and with Charles II's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth who mounted an unsuccessful challenge to the throne. It will be essential reading for all those interested in Stuart history and in the development of the monarchy.
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John Van der Kiste has written nearly 20 books on British and European royalty. His most recent biography, with Coryne Hall, is Xenia: Sister of Nicholas II (June 2002)His other works include Kaiser Wilhelm: Germany's Last Emperor and Georgian Princesses. He also writes historical articles and reviews for local and national journals, and contributed to the New Dictionary of National Biography.
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