Meet My Characters: William & Mary

My Facebook friend, Francine Howarth invited me to partake in the fun of a blog/tag, which entails a questionnaire for a WIP (work in progress). The instigator of the on-going blog/tag is Debra Browne. Please have a look at the websites of my fellow invitees: Alison Stuart, Anna Belfrage.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? I have two main characters in my novels – William, a Dutch Stadtholder and Prince of Orange, and his English first cousin and wife, Mary Stuart, Princess of York. These are historic persons, which I find to be the most difficult kind of characters to work with because a) they were real b) we know some of their characteristics, but by no means all, and c) they are both in some ways controversial, so it’s been pretty difficult to strike the right balance. Also, the time spent in researching not only them, but all the other historical secondary characters is unbelievable. I’ve been working at this since 2010! But when you see that the main characters were people like: John Churchill, Sarah Jennings, the Duke of Monmouth, Hans Bentinck, Arnold Joost van Keppel, John Evelyn, the Duke of Schomberg, and when you consider the major battles such as the Boyne, Aughrim, Killiecrankie, and the massacre of Glencoe, it’s no wonder it’s taken me so long – there are so many historical details that must be incorporated if I want to give an accurate depiction of this time. Also, my weakness as a historian lies in military warfare, and this is something I’ve been working hard to improve.

Collage of characters in William & Mary, created by Andrea Zuvich

Collage of characters in William & Mary, created by Andrea Zuvich

2) When and where is the story set? This story mainly spans the years of 1677-1702 and briefly touches on 1650.  I have found it necessary, as a result of the size of history involved, to make the story into two separate novels. This first one will be from 1677-1695, the other from 1695 to William’s death in 1702. The story takes places in a variety of locations, areas throughout the Dutch Republic (Netherlands), France, Scotland, Ireland, and of course, England. See my locations for William & Mary on my Pinterest board.

William III at the Battle of the Boyne by Jan Wyck. © Government Art Collection

William III at the Battle of the Boyne by Jan Wyck. © Government Art Collection

3) What should we know about him/her? The hero – William doesn’t suffer fools, he hates small talk, he’s irritable, he’s very chronically ill, he has a cold public manner, but deep down he’s loving, generous, and kind. He’s not a very successful military leader, but he has great courage on the battlefield and commands respect. People see him as a Protestant hero. The heroine – Mary’s loyalties will be tested in an extreme way. She must ultimately choose between her father – whom she loved dearly – and her husband – her great love. I certainly don’t envy her this extremely difficult situation. Her choice has massive consequences for the British monarchy, and in the process, she sacrifices a great deal.

William Wissing Queen Mary II (1662-94) Reigned with King William III 1688-94. © Government Art Collection.

William Wissing
Queen Mary II (1662-94) Reigned with King William III 1688-94. © Government Art Collection.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Personal tragedy results in personal conflict between the two main characters and then political upheaval (resulting in the Glorious Revolution) burdens them with greater struggles than they could ever have imagined. Their family problems end up being fought on the battlefields.

Battle of the Boyne, Jan Wyck c. 1693

Battle of the Boyne, Jan Wyck c. 1693

5) What is the personal goal of the character? For the hero: William, above all else, seeks to stop King Louis XIV’s expansion into more land, including the Dutch Republic. Almost everything else is secondary to this goal, which he has fought for all of his life. For the heroine: Mary’s goal is to be a dutiful wife to her husband, and to provide him with an heir. She yearns for a quiet life with William in the Dutch Republic, and for his love, which comes into question with Mary’s enigmatic lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Villiers.


6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? William & Mary and William Alone.

7) When can we expect the book to be published? Very good question – I wish I knew! Unlike His Last Mistress, which was published by Endeavour Press as an eBook, and The Stuart Vampire, which I self-published, I really want this book to be picked up by a big publisher – that’s my goal. I’ll be submitting this to several agencies again and hopefully one of them will be interested this time. (I keep getting, “Whilst your story is very interesting, we cannot be certain of successfully marketing a book set in the 17th-century”). Oh, banana! 🙁

The blurb:

The Civil Wars are over and the Restoration of the monarchy was welcomed with joy, but the reign of King Charles II cannot last forever. Enmity between England and the Dutch Republic have already resulted in two Anglo-Dutch wars, and the hope of peace rests in an alliance between William, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, and his English cousin, Mary Stuart of York. Their union, forged by blood, matrimony, and love, is tested in the extreme by betrayal, intrigue, tragedy, and revolution. Their sacrifices, their triumphs, and the remarkable age in which they lived, bear their names to this day. It was the age of William & Mary.


The Dutch Republic, 1650

Black. The room was swathed in black mourning cloth. Black like her heart. He has come too soon! She thought, the babe will die and I will be left all alone in this God-forsaken place!

The sweat dribbled down her pale oval face, gathered in her armpits and under her milk-filled breasts as she pushed down with another painful contraction. Her forehead was damp with sweat and strands of her chestnut hair stuck in coils against her skin. The young woman’s husband had died only a week before, and she had gone into labour earlier than expected. It had been a week of sheer hell, of the darkest misery imaginable. Willem was gone, cut down in his twentieth year of life by smallpox. He would never see, never get to know, the child she was now bringing into the world.

The Dutch midwives surrounded her, and one assisted her between her quivering pale legs. The young woman gripped the wooden frame of the birthing chair and took in a mighty lungful of air. She threw her head back, the veins bulging out on her slender neck. Her vision went hazy, and the same great heaviness of the past few days came upon her.

Willem…why did you have to die? Why did you have to leave me all alone? You were my one ally, the only one I could turn to, and now you are gone.

From somewhere in the midst of the darkness of her world, she heard piercing cries. They were wailing, screeching sounds, like that of a banshee. Her eyes fluttered open, and her hazy gaze finally focused upon the smiling midwife before her who held a small, bloody baby.

‘Your Highness has been delivered of a fine son.’

A son! This news immediately heartened her – the child was a son; she had produced an heir to the House of Orange-Nassau! She already knew what she would name him. Her mind’s eye saw her father, the Martyr-King Charles, he who had been executed the year before. Then she remembered her beloved brother Charles. Yes, that would be the boy’s name.  I’ll name him Charles.

Amalia van Solms appeared suddenly at the bedchamber door like a black cloud. She clutched at the wooden doorframe, her mourning clothes coating her rigid figure. Amalia had heard. The women looked at each other for a long moment – neither liked the other – and this was one battle the young princess had won. The young woman summoned her strength and raised her head in a haughty attitude – a gesture she knew full well irritated her mother-in-law. Amalia narrowed her eyes, this arrogant creature lives, but my son was taken from me, she thought, with great displeasure. But the wailing babe was now the only part of Willem that lived and Amalia’s eyes brimmed with tears.

In the gloom of mourning, the days continued to pass and the child did not die as everyone had expected…he survived. He was a little fighter, even in the beginning.

But Amalia and Mary, the women of the House of Orange, instead of comforting each other in their mutual sorrow, remained perpetually at odds, as they had always been. The new grandmother took the infant boy up into her arms. Fear suddenly came upon Mary, Princess of Orange. ‘Bring Charles to me,’ she said, as haughtily as she could muster.

Amalia turned, still cradling the baby in her arms, and looked down with contempt at the Stuart girl who now lay recuperating in bed. ‘Charles? No. He will be named Willem Hendrik.’

Mary’s eyes widened in horror as her mother-in-law’s dominant nature once again reared its ugly head.

She couldn’t do that…not after everything…she wouldn’t dare!

‘He is the heir to the House of Orange-Nassau. He is not a Stuart,’ Amalia continued, coldly.

‘He is a Stuart! His grandfather was King Charles! Stuart blood runs in his veins as surely as it runs in my own. And he is my own.’

‘He is not yours. He belongs to the Dutch Republic. Tradition dictates he will be our new William of Orange. Yes, Willem, like his father before him. You are not to interfere.’

Interfere? He is my son!’ Mary exclaimed, angry, hot tears springing from her brown eyes. ‘You cannot name him! You cannot take him from me! He’s my son! He’s mine!’

Hear ye! 6 thoughts — so far — on “Meet My Characters: William & Mary”:

  1. kescah

    I would give anything NOT to be a royal in these houses. What a life. Certainly an interesting pair you are writing about, and the excerpt is a great introduction.

  2. francinehvr

    Great answers! The whole period from ECW right through to the W&M era was a huge turning point in history. The ECW spawned revolutionary thinking across the New World and Europe: subsequently the common man could see he had a voice after all, and that divine rite of kings could be challenged!!! And it was…

    I would have dropped by your blog much earlier, but had my youngest daughter staying over for Easter period. It’s so difficult to get anyone visiting blogs these days. I blame FB!!


  3. Robyn Elliot

    Marketing departments of publishing houses? May the devil take them! They know nada about what readers really want. Memo to marketing; the 17th century is richly fascinating, now repeat…!

  4. Warren Rainey

    Great idea Andrea I have studied William III life for 25 years the only other historical fiction I know of covering his life is the trilogy by Marjorie Bowen so looking forward to read your book

  5. EuropaSylvia

    I am so looking forward to this book! Have it been published? I am very interested in William and Mary, but sadly, I have only seen one novel about them, written by Marjorie Bowen.


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