In August 1682, Mary received the news of the birth of another half-sister, but the little girl lived for just two months. The rest of the year of 1682 was spent rather domestically for Mary; she bought a new cockatoo and items for her household. For William, it was a politically frustrating year. In May 1683, her old friend Frances gave birth to twin boys – just as Mary had wished her in her letters. Tragically, one of them did not survive, and Mary wrote to her, “When I wish you joy of your son you may believe I do it from the bottom of my heart, and that you may have as many more as you can wish, to repair the loss of the dead one.”1 Just a little while later, Frances lost the second twin as well. When Frances suffered a miscarriage a little later on, Mary – knowing the pain all too well – wrote, “One can hardly go about to comfort you, and indeed upon such occasion ’tis only from God it can come whom I beseech to grant you may bear it like a Christian.”2
When her sister Anne married Prince George of Denmark in 1683, Mary was glad to learn that Anne found him congenial. She wrote to Frances, “You may believe it was no small joy to me to hear she liked him and I hope she will do so every day more and more for else I am sure she can’t love him and without that ’tis impossible to be happy which I wish her with all my heart as you may easily imagine knowing how much I love her.”3 Though perhaps happy in her relationship, Anne’s marriage meant the beginning of many years of miscarriages, stillbirths and short-lived children.
In February 1685, Mary’s uncle King Charles II died at the age of 54 without legitimate issue. This meant that her father now became King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland and he would be the last Catholic monarch. Then her protestant – but illegitimate – cousin The Duke of Monmouth launched a rebellion and William duly sent a few regiments to help defend England and his father-in-law. In the end, the rebellion failed, and the Duke of Monmouth was executed in July. With her father now King and still no surviving half-siblings, Mary was now the heir to the throne.
During this time, Mary laid the foundation for the Loo Palace in Apeldoorn. Planning the new palace took Mary’s mind off the family troubles as every letter her father sent her upset her very much. Mary appeared to be unaware of her husband’s attachment to Elizabeth Villiers until her father told her about it. Rumour had it that Mary caught him as he was leaving Elizabeth’s rooms, but this could very well be untrue. In any case, Mary eventually told her husband that “she had kept her sorrow locked in her heart.”4 If he continued to see Elizabeth, he was more discrete about it, and Mary learned to live with it.
During the year 1686, Mary was again in quite ill-health. She had trouble with her eyes and had put on weight – though not because of a pregnancy as many had hoped. She wrote to Lady Mary Forester – who had just had a child – that she was happy for her and “I am not changed in my humour though I am in my shape, but that not by so good a reason as you had when I saw you last, but mere fat. I like this subject so little I shall say no more upon it.”5 Just a short while later, Mary fell from her horse and had to be treated by her doctor.
Meanwhile, in England, things were slowly getting worse. In 1688, Mary’s stepmother, at last, gave birth to a son who lived – James Francis Edward Stuart. With a male and moreover Catholic heir to displace Mary as heiress to the throne, protestant politicians had had enough. At the end of June, one Admiral Herbert came to the Netherlands carrying an important document. The document was signed by the so-called immortal seven and thanked William for being ready to give his assistance and “we have great reason to believe we shall be every day in a worse condition than we are, and less able to defend ourselves, and therefore we do earnestly wish we might be so happy as to find a remedy before it be too late for us to contribute to our own deliverance.”6 William was being invited to invade.
Mary received a letter from her stepmother who wrote, “The first time I have taken a pen in my hand since I was brought to bed, is this, to write to my dear Lemon.”7 She wrote about miscalculating her dates, and that she almost believed she had come before her time if the child had not been so big and strong. Mary was in a dilemma but in the end, agreed that prayers for the boy should be discontinued, if only for the strange rumours surrounding his birth. William convinced Mary that there was no other way of saving Church and State but to dethrone her father. And while William prepared ships and troops, all Mary could do was pray and brood.
Her stepmother learned of the rumours of an invasion and wrote to Mary, “I don’t believe you could have such a thought against the worst of fathers, much less against the best, that has always been kind to you and loved you better than all the rest of his children.”8 Mary arrived in The Hague in October to find a letter from her father. He wrote, “I easily believe you may be embarrassed how to write to me now that the unjust design of the Prince of Orange’s invading me is so public. And though I know you are a good wife and ought to be so, yet for the same reason, I must believe you will be still as good a daughter to a father that has always loved you so tenderly, and that has never done the least thing to make you doubt it. I shall say no more, and believe you very uneasy all this time, for the concern you must have for a husband and a father. You shall still find me kind to you if you desire it.”9
As William’s forces began to build up, James started to panic. On 26 October, William told the Assembly, “What God intends for me I do not know, but if I should fail, take care of my adored wife who has always loved this country as if it were her own,” leaving many of the deputies in tears.10 He told Mary that if the worst were to happen, she should marry again. She assured him that she never loved anyone but him and would never love anyone else.
As Mary waited for news of William, she became ill with kidney pains and found it hard to sleep at night. She was depressed and had to be bled. William had been forced to wait out the weather, and he invited Mary – if only for one last glimpse of her. The second goodbye was even more heartbreaking than the first, and the following day Mary watched as the fleet set sail.
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.127
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.130
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.130-131
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.156
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.161
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.187
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.188
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.192
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.193
- William’s Mary by Elizabeth Hamilton p.194
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