Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mary (1631-1660)

MARY, Princess Royal of England and Princess of Orange (1631–1660), born at St. James's Palace on 4 Nov. 1631, and baptised on the same day by Laud, then bishop of London, was eldest daughter of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. She was brought up under the tuition of the Countess of Roxburghe, and became celebrated for her grace, beauty, and intelligence. In the lighter accomplishments, such as dancing, she excelled, but her general education was defective. In January 1640 a proposed marriage between Mary and William, a lad of fifteen, the son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, was rejected by her father, who wished to marry her to the son of Philip IV of Spain. Subsequent events, however, compelled him to agree to William's offer. On 10 Feb. 1641 he announced to parliament that his daughter's marriage treaty had been brought to a conclusion, and that it only remained to consider the terms of a political alliance between England and the Dutch republic (Lords' Journals, iv. 157). Charles privately believed that, in case of extremity, Frederick Henry would assist him in the maintenance of his authority in England. The marriage was celebrated at Whitehall on Sunday, 2 May 1641. There was little ceremony. Henrietta Maria disliked the match; the elector palatine, Charles Lewis, who had desired to marry Mary himself, refused to attend the banquet. According to the marriage treaty Mary was to remain in England till she had reached her twelfth year; her husband was to allow her 1,500l. a year for pocket-money, and her dower in case of his death was to be 10,000l. a year, with two residences. Henrietta Maria, on quitting England in February 1642, took Mary to Holland, where, in February 1644, she was fully installed in her conjugal position. She gave audiences, received foreign ambassadors, and fulfilled all functions of state with a gravity and decorum remarkable for her years. The following month she mingled in a series of court festivities on the occasion of a recent alliance between France and Holland, and presided over an entertainment given by her husband to the French envoys. With the struggles of her father against the parliament she warmly sympathised. In December 1646 a Dutch man-of-war put in at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where the King then was, bringing him a letter from Mary; she urged him to take the opportunity of escaping to Holland. With her aunt, Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, Mary lived on terms of warm friendship; but with her mother-in-law, Amelia de Solms, her relations were never cordial.

Prince William at his father's death, on 14 March 1647, was elected stadtholder, and in 1648 welcomed to Holland his brothers-in-law, Charles, prince of Wales, and James, duke of York. In 1650 he was foiled in an attempt to seize Amsterdam in order to make himself absolute, and he died on 6 Nov. in the same year, leaving his widow pregnant of a son, afterwards William III, king of England, who was born on 14 Nov. following. The Princess-dowager Amelia, grandmother of the infant prince, wished to become his guardian, on the plea that Mary was still in her minority; but by a decree signed on 15 Aug. 1651 it was settled that Mary should be tutrix of the person of her son, and should dispose of all vacant offices about him and in his possession; while his grandmother and the elector of Brandenburg, his uncle, should be joint inspectors of his property. The States, however, refused to reinstate the prince in the honours enjoyed by his father, and, by contrivance of the princess-dowager, Count Dona was confirmed in his office as governor of the town of Orange by the States-General, although he had taken solemn oath to Mary's husband to maintain the place for her in case of his death, and to obey no orders but hers.

Mary's chief confidants were Catherine, lady Stanhope, who had accompanied her to Holland as governess, and who remained with her as chief lady of honour, and Lady Stanhope's Dutch husband, Heenvliet, who held the post of superintendent of the princess's household. M. de Beverweert, a Dutch counsellor, swayed her opinions in political matters. She was always unpopular in Holland, and did not trouble to learn Dutch. She disliked the people on account of their general sympathy with Cromwell, and declined to employ any Hollander in her son's service. In conjunction with the Duke of York and the queen of Bohemia, Mary sought to celebrate the first anniversary of her father's death (30 Jan. 1650) as a solemn fast, but the proceeding was prohibited by the States of Holland as being offensive to the English parliament. A little later, when ambassadors from the English parliament were received by the States-General, she retired to her dower residence at Breda, but to the influence of her party was attributed the failure of the envoys to conclude an alliance with Holland. In October 1651 Charles II landed at Helvoetsluys, and Mary secretly domiciled him in one of her country houses at Teyling, until he left for Paris. Her readiness to assist her brothers liberally from her own resources, and to bestow money or office on their adherents, roused the jealousy of the States, who at length forbade her receiving her relatives in Holland at all. Mary's court and that of the queen of Bohemia, it was reported by their opponents, were nests of vipers, in which were hatched all plots, not only against Dutch freedom, but also against that of England; and schemes for the assassination of Cromwell were rumoured to originate there (Thurloe, State Papers, ii. 319, 344). The outbreak of war between England and Holland in May 1652 led to a reaction in favour of the house of Orange in many of the states of the Dutch republic. Mary's son, William, was formally elected stadtholder by Zealand and several of the northern provinces, but De Witt, the republican leader, succeeded in excluding him from the state of Holland, and Cromwell, upon negotiating a treaty of peace with the Dutch commissioners, insisted that William should be declared incapable of succeeding to his father's military dignities, and that all enemies of England should be expelled from Holland. Mary passionately declaimed against these proposals, and drew up a remonstrance. But De Witt stood firm, although the country was divided and civil war seemed to threaten it; the treaty of peace containing the offending clauses was signed on 27 May 1654.

Mary's health suffered under the growing anxieties of her position. To save expense in the interests of her brothers, she announced her intention of resigning two of her palaces, retaining only Breda and Honslardyke (ib. ii. 284). In July 1654 she set out for Spa, and passed several weeks there; she afterwards moved to Aix-la-Chapelle, and subsequently visited Charles II at Cologne. She returned to Teyling in October, but again visited Charles at Cologne in July 1655, and took a trip incognita to Frankfort fair, setting out on her journey home on 15 Nov. In January 1656 she visited Paris, where she was royally received.

Mary had not been without suitors in Holland, and George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham [q. v.], had been dismissed her court there on account of the unbecoming importunity of his appeals to her. Unfounded rumours of a liaison with Henry Jermyn, first baron Dover [q. v.], were at one time in circulation. At Paris Charles Emmanuel II, duke of Savoy, Ernest Augustus of Brunswick-Luneburg, and George William, duke of Brunswick, were said to have offered her marriage, while Cardinal Mazarin showed her especial favour. She left Paris on 21 Nov., and after staying at Bruges for two months at the court of Charles II, she returned to the Hague on 2 Feb. 1657, after nearly a year's absence. The Dutch still credited her with political aims in behalf of her son and brother. A proposal secretly made to Charles by Amelia, the princess-dowager, that he should marry her daughter Henrietta, was discovered and warmly resented by Mary. A temporary reconciliation took place when brother and sister met at Breda in October 1659. Next month, when she and the Princess-dowager Amelia took the young Prince of Orange to Leyden to commence his studies there, they were accorded an enthusiastic welcome. The new year (1660) was initiated by the performance in his honour of a tragi-comedy, entitled 'The Amorous Fantasm,' written by Sir William Lower [q. v.], and dedicated in flattering terms to the princess royal.

Meanwhile, in August 1658, Mary, who had attained her full majority, twenty-five years of age, in November 1657, had been acknowledged by the parliament of Orange sole regent for her son, according to the terms of her husband's will. Count Dona, nephew of the Princess-dowager Amelia, who was governor of the town of Orange, warmly opposed this formal recognition of Mary, and threatened to dissolve the parliament of the province by force. The Princess Amelia and the elector of Brandenburg sided with Dona, but Mary firmly asserted her rights (November 1658), and obtained through Queen Henrietta Maria assurances of support from Cardinal Mazarin and Louis XIV. The French king sent a war frigate to cruise in the Rhine to prevent Dona from levying tolls due to Mary on vessels passing down the river, and Dona fitted out gunboats to chase the frigate. Amid these disorders, Mary laid before the States-General a long statement of her claims, to which the Princess Amelia prepared a reply, and Mary another rejoinder. At length, in October 1659, the States-General addressed a remonstrance to Louis XIV, complaining of Mary's action, and requesting that Louis would appoint judges who should compose the strife. To a request that she should accept an accommodation Mary returned an evasive answer. But Louis's suggestion that Dona should deliver Orange into his hands, coupled with the threats of her opponents in Orange to deprive her of her dower, reduced her to a more compliant mood. She made an offer (although she afterwards refused to confirm it) of fifty thousand florins to Dona if he would relinquish the government of Orange, and undertook to send a special messenger to induce Louis to desist from his projected attack. She was too late. The citadel capitulated to Louis's forces on 25 March 1660. Mary tried hard to justify herself in having called in French interference, and laid the blame on Dona.

But relief from her troubles was found in the restoration of her brother to the throne. Charles with his two brothers had joined Mary at Breda, and the young Prince of Orange was sent for by his mother to see his uncle. On 14 May 1660 Mary informed the States-General officially of the invitation to Charles from the English parliament, and she took part in the festivities which followed at the Hague, and accompanied Charles to Scheveling, whence he sailed for England.

Henceforth Mary and her son, now fifth in succession to the crown of England, were accorded in Holland royal honours. On 29 May she celebrated at the Hague the birthday of her brother; and in the evening bonfires were lighted throughout the city. In June she and her son were elaborately entertained for four days at Amsterdam, and left under an escort of armed citizens. Similar honours awaited them at Haarlem, which they visited by special invitation on 18 June. On the 22nd they left for Leyden, and on the 25th departed for the Hague, where they also had a state reception. Mary availed herself of these manifestations of loyalty to open negotiations with some of the leading men in Holland for the reinstatement of her son in his father's dignities when he should come of age. The states of Zealand, Friesland, and Over-Yssel viewed the proposal with favour; Holland required further time for deliberation. But on 25 Sept. 1660 the states of Holland and West Friesland accepted the charge of William's education, and immediately settled upon him a pension of forty thousand florins, and promised to proceed at once to consider the question of his reinstatement. At Mary's request the pensioner of Holland and the principal magistrates of certain towns which she named were appointed to watch over his education; but offence was given to several towns which were attached to his interests—Leyden among others — because their magistrates were not among the commissioners.

On 30 Sept. 1660 Mary set sail for England. The kindness shown by her to her brothers in exile insured her a hearty welcome in London. But, much to her chagrin, she found that her former maid of honour, Anne Hyde [q. v.], was not only the acknowledged wife of the Duke of York, but mother of a prince of the blood royal. She therefore resolved to curtail her visit. London, moreover, did not agree with her, and she seldom stirred abroad. She attended the public service of Whitehall Chapel, whither all flocked who wished to see her, and gave a private reception at Whitehall to Elias Ashmole [q. v.] for the purpose of seeing some anatomical curiosities. She acknowledged a present of 10,000l. sent her by the parliament in a letter dated 7 Nov., and she asked for her long promised dower of 40,000l.,which had not been paid. The king appointed a commission to report upon the matter. In November 1660, when a general embassy from the United Provinces arrived to obtain a renewal of the alliance between Holland and England, the deputy from Zealand waited upon her with special assurances of respect (cf. her letter, 15 Nov.) A few weeks later the deputies of the United Provinces requested her to use her influence with her mother in removing some difficulties in the completion of their treaty. Mary, who was very unwell, was just able on 14 Dec. to dictate an epistle on the subject to her secretary, Oudart. On 20 Dec. the court was thrown into great alarm by a report that she was dangerously ill of the small-pox. Henrietta Maria, after vainly endeavouring to obtain access to her daughter in order to persuade her to receive in her last moments the rites of the Roman catholic church, insisted that at least her own French physician should be admitted to consultation, and this request was granted, unfortunately as it was afterwards proved, since he was one of the warmest advocates of the blood-letting treatment, under which the princess ultimately sank. Still retaining the perfect possession of her faculties, Mary made her will on the day of her death, 24 Dec. 1660. She was privately interred on the 29th in Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, near her brother Henry, duke of Gloucester [q. v.], as she had wished. Collections of verses upon her death were published by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1661. An apparently unfounded report was circulated at the time of Mary's death that she was privately married to Jermyn.

Mary is said to have admired the writings of Jeremy Taylor. In 1660 the bishop dedicated to her his 'Worthy Communicant.'

At Windsor Castle are three portraits of Mary by Vandyck: (1) With her father, mother, and brother Charles; of this picture copies are in the collections of the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Northumberland, and the Earl of Clarendon. (2) With her brothers Charles and James, full-length standing figures. (3) With her brothers and sisters, Charles, James, Elizabeth, and Anna, dated 1637. There is also at Windsor a picture by G. Janssens, representing Mary dancing with Charles II at a ball given at the Hague on the eve of the Restoration. Vandyck also admirably commemorated her betrothal to Prince William of Orange, when he painted the two children in a group at full length, formerly at Dalkeith Palace, but now at Amsterdam, the prince holding her hand, on which is an engagement ring. A single portrait of Mary by the same artist, somewhat similar in detail, has been engraved by Faithorne, Van Dalen, Vaillant, Queeboren, H. Hondius, and De Jode. The Earl of Clarendon possesses an early portrait of three-quarters length, which is described by Lady Theresa Lewis in 'Clarendon and his Contemporaries' (iii. 369). Another juvenile portrait of the princess, painted at the age of nine or ten, is at Combe Abbey, Warwickshire, the seat of the Earl of Craven. The Earl of Crawford has a life-size portrait of Mary by Sir Peter Lely; and a fine portrait of her by Hannemann, which was engraved by Faithorne, is at Hampton Court, a duplicate being in the possession of Earl Spencer. About 1644 she was painted at the Hague, with the Prince and Princess of Orange, her husband, and others, by Isackson. The picture was engraved by Persyn, and a copy of this scarce print is in a volume of German ballads on the thirty years' war in the British Museum. Another portrait of her by Honthorst was engraved by Van Queeboren, C. Visscher, and Suyderhoef. There are miniatures of the princess by P. Oliver, by an unknown artist, and by Hoskins, belonging respectively to Mr. Robert Maxwell Witham, the Earl of Galloway, and the Duke of Buccleuch. Engraved portraits of her at various ages were executed by Hollar in the rare volume entitled 'The True Effigies of . . . King Charles,' &c, 4to, London, 1641 (copied by Richardson), by E. Smith, and C. Danckerts. There is also a print of her by De Jode in 'Monarchy Revived,' which was likewise engraved by Cooper.

[Mrs. Everett Green's Lives of the Princesses of England, vi. 100–334; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Geddes's Administration of John de Witt, i. 85–100; Lefèvre Pontalis's John de Witt (transl. by Stephenson); Sandford's Genealogical Hist. of the Kings of England, p. 572; Nicholas Papers (Camd. Soc.); Granger's Biog. Hist. of England (2nd edition); Cat. of Stuart Exhibition, 1889; Cat. of First Special Exhibition of National Portraits, 1866; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits; Law's Cat. of Pictures at Hampton Court Palace, p. 252; Aa's Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden, xii. 234–235.]

G. G.