Thursday, November 4, 2010

William III and Mary II Wed

'The throne being thus declared vacant, the important question remained, by whom it should be filled. This was warmly disputed. The Tories were contented that the Prince of Orange should exercise the regal power, but only under the title of Regent. They could not reconcile themselves to the dethroning a King and electing his successor ; and contended, that James's course of misconduct did not deprive him of his kingly title, but only operated like some malady, which rendered him unfit to have the exercise of regal power. The Whigs replied, that this doctrine would prevent their deriving the desired advantages from the Revolution, since, if James was in any respect to be acknowledged as a sovereign, he might return and claim the power which is inalienable from the royal right. Besides, if James was still King, it was evident that his son, who had been carried abroad, in order that he might be bred up in Popery and in arbitrary doctrines, must be acknowledged after the death of James himself. They, therefore, declared for the necessity of filling up the vacant sovereignty. A third party endeavoured to find a middle opinion, with regard to which the objections applicable to those we have just expressed should not hold good. They proposed that the crown should be conferred on Mary, Princess of Orange, in her own right ; thus passing over the infant Prince of Wales, and transferring their allegiance to Mary as the next Protestant heir of the crown.

The Prince of Orange, who had listened to, and watched these debates in silence, but with deep interest, now summoned a small council of leading persons, to whom he made his sentiments known.

He would not, he said, interfere in any respect with the right of the English Parliament, to arrange their future government according to their own laws, or their own pleasure. But he felt it necessary to acquaint them, that if they chose to be governed by a Regent, he would not accept that office. Neither was he disposed to take the government of the kingdom under his wife, supposing she was chosen Queen. If either of these modes of settlement were adopted, he informed them he would retire entirely from all interference with British affairs. The Princess, his wife, seconded her husband's views, to whom she always paid the highest degree of conjugal deference.

The wisdom and power of the Prince of Orange, nay even the assistance of his military force, were absolutely indispensable to the settlement of England, divided as it was by two rival political parties, who had indeed been forced into union by the general fear of James's tyranny, but were ready to renew their dissensions the instant the overwhelming pressure of that fear was removed. The Convention were, therefore, obliged to regulate the succession to the throne upon the terms agreeable to the Prince of Orange. The Princess and he were called to the throne jointly, under the title of King William and Queen Mary, the survivor succeeding the party who should first die. The Princess Anne of Denmark, was named to succeed after the death of her sister and brother-in-law, and the claims of James's infant son were entirely passed over.'
On November 4, 1677 Prince William of Orange married Mary Stuart, to improve his chances of succeeding to the English throne.  Sir Walter Scott provides background and results in "Tales of a Grandfather" (text above).

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