William III (1650-1702) was born to William II, Prince of Orange (1626-1650), and Mary Stuart (1631-1660), who was the daughter of Charles I of England (1600-1649) and sister to Charles II (1630-1685) and James II (1633-1701). A dedicated Calvinist, William devoted his life to curbing the influence over Europe of the Catholic power of France under Louis XIV (1638-1715).
William was appointed stadtholder in 1672, and used both his position and his considerable skills as a solider and strategist to contain France during the wars of the 1670s. Anglo-Dutch relations were fraught throughout the 1660s and early 1670s, although they improved in 1677, when William married his cousin and James’s daughter, Mary (1662-1694). In 1680 William sided with the Whig faction that sought to exclude James from the line of succession. And from 1681 he remained in contact with leading Whigs such as William, Lord Russell, who was executed for treason in 1683. Charles II’s illegitimate Protestant son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth (1649-1685), was suggested as an alternative claimant to the British throne by some Whigs. William received and entertained him in the United Provinces, much to the outrage of Charles’s and James’s Tory supporters at home.
Although William had nothing to do with Monmouth’s misguided attempt to seize the crown from James in 1685, he probably began planning to invade England in 1687. William’s rationale for invading England was French containment. His uncles had sided with Louis XIV in past wars. He needed control of British foreign policy to aid his struggle against France. The decision to invade was made in May 1688, although whether William intended to seize the throne at this early stage is unclear. After the newborn James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), whom William and his propagandists claimed was illegitimate, William and Mary were the next in line to accede anyway. William could have waited if he wanted to be king. More likely, he simply wanted to force James to change his foreign policy. But the king’s flight and implied abdication forced William to usurp his position. Whatever the complexities of the so-called Glorious Revolution, William and Mary were declared king and queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland on 13 February 1689, and were hurriedly crowned in Westminster Abbey on 11 April.