How glorious was the Glorious Revolution?

Was William of Orange’s seizure of the British throne in 1688 a triumph for sensible, constitutional monarchy, or a victory for a cabal of Protestant men at the exclusion of the rest of the nation? Lucy Worsley considers the evidence

Portrait of William III of Orange, found in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the January 2017 issue of BBC History Magazine

What’s your opinion of William III? Born in Holland in 1650, he took the throne in 1688 after deposing the Catholic James II. At Hampton Court, where I work as chief curator, we present William as a ‘Good King’: a patron of art (he built half of our palace), a monarch who respected parliament, and a loving husband to his English wife, Mary, with whom he shared the throne. Our collection contains a pair of the king’s stockings, even a little red silk vest that he wore pinned around his somewhat skinny, asthmatic chest. We often tell the story of how the smog of central London forced England’s new king to abandon the damp palace of Whitehall when he took power in 1688, and to rebuild Hampton Court as a pleasant riverside retreat for himself and his beautiful Stuart wife.

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