Marriage of William of Orange and Mary

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Marriage of William of Orange and Mary

St James's, London The 4th of November 1677 AD

In broad terms the marriage of William and Mary developed into a happy one, though after several miscarriages early in the marriage Mary was unable to bear children. The success of the marriage came in spite of William’s probable bisexuality – he advanced two young Dutch favourites rather flamboyantly when King of England – and soon his adherence to his mistress, the Countess of Orkney.
Even the portents of the wedding day were far from good: Mary, a mere 15-year-old, is said to have wept throughout the ceremony, her first cousin William a less than dashing figure hunched beside her, his large nose dominating an otherwise plain face. King Charles , who had arranged the marriage to secure support in his foreign policy ambitions, much against the wishes of his brother James Duke of York (the future James II of England, VII of Scotland, and Mary’s father), behaved like a half-witted golf-club joker at the event, trying to lighten the atmosphere, making foolish jests, and seeking attention.
The Bishop of London, Compton, performed the ceremony at St James’s Palace in a passage near to Mary’s chambers, with few witnesses present – contrary to our own modern ways, royal weddings were very private affairs in this era, at least as regards attendance. After the 9pm service, however, there was riotous celebration (Charles II was never one to miss a chance to carouse), and then at 11 o'clock the public seeing of the couple into their wedding bed, the throwing of a symbolic stocking, and the King’s bawdy comments as he pulled the curtains on that wedding bed.
If Mary was unhappy with her partner at first, the nation was extremely delighted, William seen as the Protestant champion of Europe in stark contrast to James Duke of York, Charles II’s brother and heir, an avowed Catholic for almost two decades by then. There were celebrations all over England and Scotland, and probably even at this time there were thoughts that William was a viable candidate should the more senior members of the Stuart dynasty prove as absolutist and idiotic as Charles I had been and Charles II was becoming (little did they know it but James II would in time go on to top the charts of Stuart fools, adding faint-heartedness to pig-headedness): better William than another Cromwell .

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