William and Mary, Heroes of the Glorious Revolution
William, one of the leading Protestant champions of Europe, and Mary, his young cousin and wife, reigned jointly for only five years. In 1694 Mary died from smallpox and William ruled alone for another eight years. Although short, their reign was notable for the inauguration of the Declaration of Rights and triennial elections, both of which limited the sovereign's power and reaffirmed parliament's. In warfare, however, it was another matter: although William was the first monarch who was not granted an independent income, he was also one of the last to lead his armies in person. He involved England decisively in European affairs and created a new balance of power on the continent. During William's absences at war, Mary was regent. Although she had wept when first told, aged fifteen, that she was to marry her unprepossessing and charmless cousin, they developed a close and loving relationship. Popular with the nation, a connoisseur of architecture, music, and gardens, she encouraged the work of Henry Purcell and persuaded William to buy Kensington House, which was rebuilt by Wren and later became one of the major royal residences.
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Queen Mary's ruby ring, a gift from her husband William III and which she wore at her coronation is on display in our current exhibition Unseen Treasures. Learn more about this extraordinary piece of jewellery in our article written by Dr. Fiona Claperton.