Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill: William III, RIP

William III of England died on March 8, 1702 and his sister-in-law Anne succeeded him. This blogger and author, Andrea Zuvich, takes great issue with the commonly accepted idea that he died because of a fall from his horse:

“William III died in a riding accident.” How many times have I heard this? According to the evidence, this was almost certainly not the case. William III had a constant battle with his lungs and it was a problem with his lungs that lead to his death – not merely falling from his horse. . . .

She presents evidence from his autopsy and concludes:

In plain English, he died from pneumonia: his lungs were in a terrible state. He had suffered from chronic asthma throughout his life, and as we know, pneumonia is most likely to occur in those who are elderly, very young, or chronically ill. William was chronically ill. Even in our own time, people die from pneumonia regularly throughout the world.

So, what about the broken bone which has constantly been attributed to his death? . . .

It had been set and was okay:

Nonetheless, the Jacobites (followers of King James II) merrily toasted to the mole as the “gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat,” for pushing William towards the Grim Reaper – something they had attempted but been unable to do.

I feel quite sorry for William. By the time of his death, he had ruled alone as King since his wife Mary’s untimely death in 1694 and he had been the target of several unsuccessful assassination attempts. He knew he was despised because he was a foreigner – a Dutchman on the throne of England. He felt more comfortable around his fellow Dutchmen, but this only served to make him all the more unpopular. . . .

By 1702, of course, the Jacobites were backing James II's male heir, James Francis Edward Stuart, whom King Louis XIV of France recognized as King James III of England and VIII of Scotland when James II died in 1701.

She concludes with this detail:

In the event, William’s death garnered little attention. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, apparently in the middle of the night, without any great ceremony. His body was placed beside that of his wife in the same vault.

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