Puffing Billy

Andrew Barclay marks the 300th anniversary of the death of William III.

William III died on March 8th, 1702, of complications arising from a riding accident sixteen days earlier. The ‘little gentleman in black velvet’ had succeeded where Jacobite assassins had failed. The year 2002 was therefore the 300th anniversary of his death.

The anniversary has passed largely unnoticed. In 1988 many felt that the celebrations for the tercentenary of the Glorious Revolution were muted. Those for this tercentenary have, however, been almost nonexistent. No official events were held either in Britain or The Netherlands on or around the actual anniversary. The only event held on the day itself seems to have been a service for the Grand Orange Lodge in Belfast. The Dutch celebrations were confined to a number of local events organised by the royal palace at Het Loo and by the neighbouring town of Apeldoorn. Over the summer the Bank of England used the anniversary as a peg for its exhibition on ‘The Dutch Legacy’. But it is only now, nine months after the anniversary itself, that a group of historians from Europe and North America will meet in Utrecht to reassess William’s life.

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