William III (1650-1702), stadholder-king

William III of Orange was the son of William II. He was born shortly after his father’s death. The office of stadholder was not hereditary so it was never certain that he would be appointed; in fact most provinces preferred to allow the office to lapse. Yet in 1672, when the Republic was under attack from all sides, people began demanded a strong leader. In no time the prince of Orange was made stadholder and commander of the army and navy. Thanks to the military and diplomatic victories of William of Orange, the enemy was held at bay.

In 1677, William III married his cousin Mary Stuart, a member of the British royal family. Her father, the Catholic James II, was resented by English Protestants. When he had a son, they invited the Protestant William III to oust James from the throne and to take his place. William III gathered an army and sailed to England, where he expelled his father-in-law from England, Scotland and Ireland. In 1689, William II and Mary II were crowned. Although the Dutch king was not much loved in England, he emerged as a champion of the Protestant cause.

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