(Penguin Monarchs #33 (2015)) This is a lively, jauntily-paced, unabashedly opinionated and well-informed potted history this, just the right length (somewhat briefer than the Very Short Introductions Series) for someone who wants to know a bit about a monarch, but who is not a historical royal watcher. I learned a fair bit from its scanty 80-something-pages, such as:
The impact of this Dutch Protestant value system on the English he came to rule has been underestimated, like almost everything else William of Orange brought them. A major feature of life in the Calvinist Netherlands was a significant degree of tolerance towards other faiths and denominations, something not native to England at that time, however much we now pride ourselves on it as a core aspect of notional ‘Englishness’.(18)
It was also heartening to learn that they must be pretty much nearly the only scandal-free monarchs in British history:
Their reign effectively killed off the world of the Restoration, with its duels and debauches, its gropers and fumblers, whores and orange-wenches, clap-doctors, cuckolds, rogues and bullies. Part of the trouble with William and Mary, for succeeding generations, has been that they were too seriously respectable.(74)
And finally, that the 1690s was a really interesting time to be alive that has yet to be seriously exploited by period dramas/historical fictionalizers, as according to the author
There is no worthwhile historical fiction set during this period. The action of Peter Greenaway’s much-admired film The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) is located (with several deliberate anachronisms, including a cordless phone and a painting by Roy Lichtenstein) within an authentic enough atmosphere of arriviste prosperity in 1694. Nobody, so far as I can tell, has ever tried to write a play, an opera or a ballet about William and Mary. Such an exercise might repay the effort involved.(88)
Get cracking, then, my friends! I promise to read/watch the results. And I will likely read and/or collect more from this little gem of a series, albeit no monarchist I (though some of my forbears came to Canada when the wind was southerly [they, being mad but north-northwest, still knew a hawk from a handsaw] as United Empire Loyalists—i.e. they bravely ran away, away from 1776 and all that)!