Mary, Princess Royal & Princess of Orange

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.



Hear ye! 11 thoughts — so far — on “Mary, Princess Royal & Princess of Orange”:

  1. Deborah Grant

    I am so looking forward to your novel. I’ve wanted to read a historically accurate novel about William and Mary for decades. The closest I ever got was the novel Treason’s Gift where William and Mary each make a brief appearance.

    On the subject of William II, I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I always felt it was lucky for William Henry that his father died when he did.

    1. Andrea Zuvich (The 17th Century Lady) Post author

      Hello, and thank you!

      My desire to write a novel about William & Mary came about after working at Kensington, and I’d say 90% of the visitors during our last exhibition didn’t know who Mary II was (they thought she and Mary, Queen of Scots were one and the same) and that William III was William the Conqueror. Apparently. the Glorious Revolution is out of the curriculum in schools now, which is very sad, and I hope that with a historical fiction book, perhaps interest in this forgotten subject may be renewed?

      I am 380 pages into my work and it is a slow, painstaking process because I am keen on historical accuracy as you are. My early readers seem to like it thus far, which gives me hope others will, too!

      I have to admit I feel the same way about William II! Thanks for commenting – it is always a privilege to meet another William & Mary lover 🙂

  2. dee

    In your research, have you come across any record of the Dutch ship. Princes Roijail Maria being named after her in 1642. I suspect it was named after her but can’t prove it yet. I would love to know the circumstances surrounding the ship, how they named the ships and her very ornate cannons.
    When I am done with this project and can find my WU back to this site, I will read the novel.

  3. Tabitha

    I’ve always believed that Mary Henrietta was the forgotten princess. She was the link between her famous parents and her famous son. She was also sister to two well-known kings and aunt to two celebrated queens. Why, in the past, has no one ever given her a voice? (I’m glad she will have one now).
    You were right on the mark to say that Mary Henrietta’s attitude toward parenting was proper for the time she lived in. There was always a distance kept between mother and son. Motherhood was rarely a hands-on experience for princesses. This may have played a part in William’s reluctance to open himself up emotionally to women. That, and Mary Henrietta’s ill-relationship with Princess Amalia, who proved a force to be reckoned with, probably convinced William to limit his company with the opposite sex and turn to his male Dutch friends for support.
    Mary’s time was focused on restoring her brother, Charles, whom she loved dearly (although I think Henry might have been the favorite, I’m not sure, haha!); the feelings of deep kinship went unrequited as Charles preferred the younger and spunkier Henrietta, Duchess d’Orleans, sweet Minette.
    Mary was sort of pushed into the background, a non-entity. Like other princesses, she had a part to play. Marry and produce heirs. Maintain the alliance.
    I often wonder what she would have been like if she had lived longer, or if William II hadn’t died so young. She must have felt so alone, being surrounded by in-laws she didn’t even care for. One of her few consolations, of course, was Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, but Elizabeth was preoccupied with regaining her family’s land in the Empire, and subsequently dealing with the unsympathetic character of her son, Charles Louis. A lot was happening at The Hague – just not to Princess Mary. Historians mention her in passing; they forget that she lived during one of the stormiest periods of the century – she lost a father, her mother preferred to raise Minette in France, her siblings came and went … where did she find her happiness? Her peace of mind?

    The Stuart and the Orange-Nassau alliance (William and Mary) is close to my heart 🙂

  4. dee

    Does anyone know the name of the ships that brought the Queen and her daughter Princess Royal Maria to Holland in Feb 1642? Is there mention of it in any books or other records?

  5. Molly

    Have you seen any information on a secret marriage of Mary Stuart, Princess of Orange to Philippee de Carteret on Dec 24 1652 and birth of a daughter named Elizabeth Careret on Nov 23 1653 in NJ, USA? I have seen this link in multiple family trees but cannot find any documentation.

    1. Andrea Zuvich (The 17th Century Lady) Post author

      Hello Molly and thanks for your comment. There is no documentation because that never happened – I’ve been in the archives in The Netherlands and throughout the UK: Mary Stuart only had one child and that was a son who became William III. Also, Mary never set foot in the colonies (as they then were) so she could not have born a child there in 1653. I hope this helped!

  6. Linda

    Hi Molly, would you be able to tell me what Mary (of Orange’s) title would have been at the Hague – for example Her Royal Highness Princess Mary? And Willem’s too. Would he have been a Royal Highness, a ‘your Majesty’ or just Stadtholder Willem? Also when Charles was there, would he have been referred to as a ‘serene’ highness? Also the Queen of Bohemia, would she have been called ‘your serene majesty?’ Any info would be great. Thanks, may you be merry 🙂

  7. Terry Ford-Williams

    Jane Lane who was the heroine who helped Charles II, escape after the battle of Worcester. Charles arranged for her to be maid to Mary in her court. have you any knowledge of her presence in the court to the time she and Mary returns in 1660.


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