WILLIAM'S MARY: A Biography of Mary II by Elizabeth Hamilton

WILLIAM'S MARY: A Biography of Mary II

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Lady Hamilton, as in her life of Robert Harley (The Backstairs Dragon, 1970), follows the fortunes of Mary II and her husband William III of England with balanced scholarship and that comprehensive journalist's eye that notes the weather or servants' gratuities. She went to Holland as a bride of fifteen and her initial response to the announcement of the alliance was to weep ""for a day and a half without stopping."" But the marriage, suggests the author, was in the main a close and happy one in spite of William's celebrated if discreet dalliance with Elizabeth Villiers. (Mary's deathbed letter to William, purportedly containing admonitions concerning ""irregularities"" in his conduct, is dismissed as too general and possibly hearsay.) It is obvious that Mary -- energetically pious and untiringly interested in tasteful dwelling places (she was an enthusiastic patron of Christopher Wren) -- had no regal pretensions and gladly thrust the responsibilities of sovereignty on William. After an ignominious defeat of an English fleet of merchantmen by the French in 1693 during one of William's many absences, Mary wrote: ""A woman is but a very useless and helpless creature at all times of war and difficulty,"" adding that the English navy needed humbling anyway: ""I think they have had it."" Her appraisals of the English were indeed not always complimentary. She referred to them as ""lazy,"" and noted in her court circle a ""general peevishness and sylleness in them all."" Lady Hamilton's accounts of the Bloodless Revolution, the uneasy compromises which consolidated the powers of Parliament and the Cabinet, the ragged and humiliating pursuits of the exiled James II, the flurry of charges and countercharges, is a painstaking chronology of the times of this curiously matched pair: William, as per Robb's biography, a conscientious, grave ruler, faithful in his fashion -- and Mary, an unwilling queen but regally handsome, to which the many illustrations here will attest.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1971
Publisher: Taplinger