Today marks the death in 1702 of William III, perhaps better known at William of Orange, the Dutch prince who overthrew James II in 1688, the event which became known as The Glorious Revolution and makes a nonsense of the oft-touted claim that 1066 was the last time England was successfully invaded. Thus Protestantism was secured in the kingdom. William was married to James’s own daughter Mary, a staunch Protestant and willing collaborator in her father’s downfall. The couple were childless, so William’s sister-in-law Anne succeeded him, also on this day in 1702.
William died at Kensington Palace where he had moved the royal household to escape swampy Westminster, which was bad for his asthma. His demise was the direct result of a fall from his horse which stumbled on a molehill, throwing its royal rider. There is an equestrian statue of William in classical garb in St James’s Square. The molehill is included in the work, directly in front of the steed’s rear left hoof. This is why, for many years afterwards, his Jacobite enemies would raise their glasses and toast “the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat”.