Mary Stuart, Princess Royal, daughter of King Charles I & Henrietta Maria, was born on this day 4 November, 1631. Mary was married (at the very young age of 10) to Prince William II of the House of Orange, who was fifteen, and already fast becoming a dissolute young man. Though her nightgown was sewn shut as a precaution against William’s voracious sexual appetite, the next morning he was overheard boasting to his friends that he’d had her anyway!
William II was lecherous, lazy, vain, very handsome – the exact opposite of his son, William III, who was born a week after William II had died from smallpox. William III would be a workaholic, chronically asthmatic, frail and sickly, with a low libido.
Mary Stuart was only nineteen years old when her husband died, and she felt isolated and surrounded by enemies at the Dutch court. It didn’t help matters that she hated her mother-in-law Amalia and the Dutch Republic. She had been brought up to think that an alliance with the Dutch Republic was beneath her, and did everything in her power to try to restore her brother and the Stuart family to the throne and the lives they should have had. She was, however, more fortunate in terms of riches than her Stuart brothers had been. Mary, as Princess of Orange, was owner of some rare items of jewellery such as the Le Beau Sancy – which was recently sold at auction.
When Mary’s brother Charles II was restored to the throne, she pawned her jewels and went off to England to join in the grand festivities, only to catch smallpox – the same dreadful disease that had killed her young husband ten years before. She died St. James’s Palace, aged only twenty-nine!
Ten year-old William, having been fatherless all his life, was now left motherless as well, and was made a Child of State. Mary, ruthlessly criticised by Victorian historians for not being maternal (though she behaved in a normal manner at that time), has largely been ignored by most folk.
Work used: Baxter, Stephen B. “William III.” Longmans, 1966.