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William III, King of Great Britain (1650-1702)

William III was the son of Charles I’s daughter, Mary and Prince William of Orange. Following political turmoil in the Netherlands during his minority, he eventually succeeded as ruler there in 1672. In 1688, he was invited to England to oppose James II’s pro-Catholic policies, and with his wife Mary, was created Joint Sovereign, by Act of Parliament, in February 1689.

William III's art collecting shared similar concerns to his predecessors, although he may not have shared their religion or their politics. William needed to show that he and Mary had a legitimate claim to the throne. His patronage of Godfrey Kneller to paint members of the Royal family and court showed just that. Kneller worked in a style and format similar to Van Dyck, creating a strong visual continuity through turbulent political times.

William did not care for Whitehall Palace and preferred to live at Hampton Court, where he commissioned Christopher Wren to rebuild the royal apartments. Whitehall was later destroyed in a fire in 1698. At Hampton Court, the King's Gallery was hung with the Raphael cartoons, and the Queen's Gallery with the Mantegna Triumphs of Caesar (both Charles I acquisitions).

When in London, William preferred Kensington Palace, which was remodelled for him, also by Wren. Here he displayed the Old Master picture collection and sumptuous Brussels tapestries, designed by Daniel Marot. Marot, a French Protestant designer, who had worked for the royal couple at Het Loo, was engaged by Mary to design the furniture, interiors and the gardens.

Mary died in 1694 leaving William broken-hearted. After a pause of three years, he began interest in the building projects again, though the responsibility for the furnishing of them fell to Ralph Montagu, the Master of the Great Wardrobe. Montagu, later 1st Duke of Montagu, had been ambassador to France under Charles II and had distinctively francophile tastes. William's Dutch court had also demonstrated French taste in furnishings previously.

The fashion for France is evident in the silver furniture (associated with the Baroque splendours of Versailles), the rich marquetry furniture and large mirrors that graced William's palace interiors. William took a keen interest in clocks and was the patron of Thomas Tompion the clockmaker. He also re-engaged Antonio Verrio to decorate the ceilings of Hampton Court palace, after Verrio had initially refused.

William was interested in paintings and moved them around within his palaces in Britain and in Holland. In the 1690s around 30 paintings went to Het Loo to hang there and, much to Queen Anne, his successor's, annoyance, never returned.

Reigned: 1689–1702
Consort of Mary II


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