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

Included in palace admission (members go free)

A large four poster bed covered in detailed period fabric, in a bedroom covered in dark green wall decor
Things to see

Explore the beautiful private rooms at Kensington Palace where Mary II once took her meals, relaxed and entertained.

Closed until 31 March 2020

Kensington Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

NEW Christmas holly and foliage on the main table in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace
Events Member only

Join craft gardener Barbara Smith, to learn how to create a festive masterpiece for your table at home.

1 and 7 December 2019

Hampton Court Palace

11:00 and 14:00

Separate ticket (advance booking required)

Historic Royal Palaces retail product - drinking glasses, books and deer cushion

Shop homewares

In our home section you will find stylish lifestyle home accessories and furnishings, including cushions, tapestries, ornaments and much more which will add those finishing touches to make your room complete.

From £9.99

The Wildflower crystal and pearl tiara sparkles with florets of crystals and an elaborate foliage design.

Shop jewellery

Choose from our stunning collection of jewellery, including pieces inspired by the palaces and the people who lived in them. These beautiful collections include necklaces, rings, earrings, charm bracelets, bangles and pendants.

From £14.99

Historic Royal Palaces retail product - light green and white crockery and stationary, a table setting.

Shop afternoon tea gifts and accessories

Exclusive English fine bone chine tea sets inspired by our historic royal palaces. Collect our traditional Palace china afternoon tea sets, with designs including elements from all our royal palaces.

From £10.00