Anne (1665–1714)

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Anne (1665–1714)

Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and the last Stuart monarch, whose devotion to the Church of England and adherence to the Act of Settlement of 1701 undid much of the harm of the earlier Stuart kings. Name variations: Mrs. Morley. Born Anne Stuart on February 6, 1665, at St. James's Palace in London, England; died at Kensington Palace in London on August 1, 1714; daughter of King James II, king of England (r. 1685–1688), and Anne Hyde (1638–1671); sister of Mary II (1662–1694); married Prince George of Denmark, on July 28, 1683; children: 17, including Anne Stuart-Oldenburg (May 12, 1686–February 2, 1687), but only William, duke of Gloucester, survived infancy.

Death of her uncle, Charles II (1685); Glorious Revolution overthrew her father James II in favor of her sister Mary II and her husband William III (1688); Anne succeeded William III (1702); War of Spanish Succession (1702–13); Queen Anne's Bounty established (1704); Union of Scotland Act (1707); Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

Queen Anne secured the English throne nearly a decade after she should have succeeded her sister Mary II . Instead, Anne had spent those years bearing children, while her brother-in-law, William III, ruled England. William had no blood right to the throne, but it had been understood when he and his wife Mary jointly accepted the crown that he would reign upon Mary's death. Anne's opportunity came when the "little gentleman in the velvet coat" met with an accident—a mole, which caused William's horse to stumble, hastened William's death. Constantly ill, this conscientious, pious woman effectively coped with the religious tensions and sweeping events that threatened her nation and reign.

Anne Stuart was born on February 6, 1665, at St. James's Palace in London, England. She was the second daughter and third of eight children of James, duke of York, and Anne Hyde . Only Anne and her older sister Mary survived to become adults. Anne's life was complicated by the politics surrounding the English crown. In 1660, her uncle, Charles II (1660–1685), was restored to the English throne, which the Stuarts had lost in the English Civil War (1642–49). Because Charles and his queen Catherine of Braganza were unable to provide an heir, Anne's father, as duke of York, was next in line for the throne. James, however, had brought scandal to the royal family in 1660 when he married Anne Hyde, daughter of a prominent commoner, Sir Edward Hyde. Despite his transgressions, James would become king as James II (1685–1688) at his brother's death, but widespread discontentment over his Catholicism and behavior would result in his quick removal.

Anne Stuart grew up during these complicated succession struggles within the Stuart dynasty. She and Mary spent much of their youth in the company of female relatives and servants. Because of her poor eyesight, five-year-old Anne spent some time in France with her paternal grandmother Henrietta Maria while receiving treatment from a noted oculist. She returned to England and lived in the rooms at St. James's Palace provided to her family by King Charles II. In the aristocratic tradition of the time, Anne was confined to a nursery and secluded from the adult courtiers. As her prospects of becoming queen were unlikely, she received an extremely narrow education. Though she studied French, elocution, and religion, Anne was more accomplished in music, dance, and playing the guitar. She had no practical studies in history and government, nor did she gain any lessons of life that would benefit a future monarch.

When Anne was six, her mother died of cancer. Rather than leave his nieces and heirs under the exclusive supervision of his brother, Charles II arranged for Colonel Edward Villiers and Frances Villiers to raise and supervise the education of the young girls. Although their parents had accepted the Roman Catholic Church, Anne and Mary were raised as Protestants, upon the acquiescence of their father James and the insistence of King Charles. As the Villiers were staunch Protestants, and Bishop Henry Compton also provided religious guidance to the girls, the princesses became fervent defenders of the Protestant faith. In the Villiers' household, Anne first met Sarah Jennings (Churchill) , the woman who would dominate much of Anne's early reign as queen.

In 1673, Anne's father married a 15-year-old Catholic Italian princess, Mary of Modena .

The English were resigned to the future succession of the Catholic James to the throne, but they had believed that his Protestant daughters, Mary and Anne, would follow him. Thus, the possibility that this marriage could produce a Catholic heir created a clamor in Parliament and the revival of anti-Catholic feeling. In 1678, the anti-James hysteria produced rumors that the pope had planned the murder of Charles II and the succession of his Catholic brother. Known as the "Popish Plot" and based on the perjury of the adventurer Titus Oates, several Catholics were executed before the conspiracy was discredited.

In the Plot's aftermath, a political movement arose aimed at excluding James from the throne, under the direction of a group of men who were derisively referred to as Whigs, a name given to Scottish outlaws. They in turn called their opponents Tories, or Irish rebels. The party labels lasted beyond the unsuccessful Exclusion Crisis, and bickering between the two political parties blighted later reigns.

Throughout the political events dominating English society, Anne—considered dull and ordinary by nearly everyone—lived away from court and estranged from her father. It was now imperative that suitable Protestant mates be found for Mary and Anne. In November 1677, Mary married their Lutheran first cousin, William of Orange, ruler of Holland. Bedridden with smallpox, Anne could not even visit Mary before her departure for Holland and did not attend the wedding. A year later, Anne was to feel more isolated when her dearest friend, Sarah Jennings, married John Churchill.

In 1683, 18-year-old Anne married a Lutheran prince, George of Denmark, an amiable but uninspiring nonentity who became her devoted companion. He was a handsome and pleasant prince but soon settled into a phlegmatic life of obesity and apathy. They loved each other, and George would sustain Anne through the births, illnesses, and deaths of 17 children. Anne's first child was stillborn, and two later pregnancies ended in miscarriages. In 1687, smallpox would claim the lives of her two daughters, Mary and Anne Sophia. Her son William, duke of Gloucester, the longest surviving child, was hydrocephalic; following a sickly life, he would die of scarlet fever in July 1700, at 11 years of age.

When Charles II died in 1685 and her father James II was crowned king, Anne became heir presumptive behind her sister Mary, who now resided in Holland and had failed to conceive in eight years of marriage to William of Orange. Mary of Modena had also failed to produce a male heir in 12 years of marriage to James II, and many assumed her childbearing years were over. Anne, once again pregnant at James' coronation, seemed to hold the key to the future of the Stuart family. She became a rallying point for militant Anglicans, who opposed James' pro-Catholic policies.

Anne's life was dominated by the loss of her children and her own poor health. She suffered from gout, obesity, and premature aging from porphyria, a blood infection found in the Stuart line. When Anne sought an intimate friend and confidante, she found one in her old childhood friend Sarah Jennings Churchill. Sarah was beautiful, ambitious, intelligent and, at times, arrogant. Anne on the other hand was tall, lacked confidence, and, though attractive, not really beautiful. The shy, reserved Anne was captivated by her confident, blunt, and spirited companion, but the friendship meant much more to Anne than it did to Sarah. Anne's emotional reliance on, and devotion to, Sarah made Anne a perfect vehicle for her friend's ambition. In a note to Sarah apologizing for James' initial refusal to give her a position in Anne's household, Anne revealed her characteristic insecurity:

I will try once more, be he never so angry; but oh do not let this take away your kindness from me, for I assure you 'tis the greatest trouble in the world to me and I am sure you have not met a faithfuller friend on earth nor that loves you better, than I do.

Eventually James backed down and Anne appointed Sarah as first lady of the bedchamber. To create a more intimate relationship, Anne suggested that they use private names for each other. Sarah and her husband John Churchill were called Mrs. and Mr. Freeman, another intimate advisor, Sidney Godolphin, was called Mr. Montgomery, and Anne was known as Mrs. Morley.

James II exacerbated fears that he intended to reestablish Catholicism in England by handing down a Declaration of Indulgence, which allowed non-Anglicans to hold public office. He also launched a campaign to remove strong anti-Catholic Anglicans from all government positions, including Anne's own household. The final straw for many Anglicans was the announcement in late 1687 that 30-year-old Mary of Modena was pregnant. Because of the queen's age, many, including Anne, doubted the pregnancy and later the legitimacy of the son, James (who would be known as James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender), born the following June. Anne vigorously denied that the child was her stepmother's, and, consequently, it was rumored that Mary of Modena had faked her pregnancy and that the baby had been smuggled into the royal bedchamber. Public displeasure with King James for his Catholicism and absolutist exercise of royal power was already widespread in England. The prospect of another Catholic heir and an unending dynasty of Stuart Catholic monarchs led to open discontent. When James II was deposed in November 1688, Sarah Churchill convinced Anne to reject her father and support her sister Mary and brother-in-law William of Orange when they landed at Torbay at the invitation of the English nobility. Anne deserted the Court and escaped in disguise into the countryside. On hearing of his daughter's flight, James was devastated: "God help me," he was reported to have cried, "even my children have forsaken me." He then fled to France.

At William's insistence, he and Mary were established as joint rulers of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the revolution settlement of 1689. As William III, he was made coequal with Mary II, and, should Mary predecease him, William was to be made sole monarch of England. Although Anne reluctantly agreed to this settlement, she later referred to it bitterly as her "abdication." Anne was recognized as their successor if they left no heirs. The bloodless nature of the transfer of power caused the English to hail William's arrival as the "Glorious Revolution." Loyalists to James, called Jacobites, awaited an opportunity to bring James back to the throne.

During the early years of William and Mary's reign, Anne received an income of £50,000 a year voted to her by Parliament. She lived at her own residence on Downing Street that was called the Cockpit. But the unique political circumstances of the Glorious Revolution fostered a change in the structure of politics. Loyalty to the "Crown" became more abstract and less vested in the person of the monarch, and so a kind of "loyal opposition" to the monarch emerged, centered around Anne, and continued to shape British politics throughout the 18th century. Drifting into opposition to William and Mary soon after the revolution settlement was made, Anne attracted a number of politicians to her camp who looked forward to reaping the benefits of office as soon as she succeeded to the throne.

Antipathy between Anne and the new monarchs centered around the volatile issues of succession, money, and the Churchills. William resented and feared Anne's hereditary claim to the throne and tried to keep Anne financially dependent on his own generosity; she was given no share of her father's personal estates and no guaranteed personal income. The major problem faced by Anne was her sister's disapproval of Sarah Churchill. When Anne refused to dismiss her closest friend, a rift developed between the sisters. This breach widened in 1691 when charges of treason were brought against Sarah's husband John Churchill. The ambitious Churchill had been a brilliant supporter of William in the Irish campaign, but became involved with dissident elements when he felt his services had been inadequately rewarded by the king. John Churchill, for a short time, was deprived of all offices and confined to the infamous Tower of London. When Anne bluntly refused to part with Sarah, Anne's husband was relieved of all his government offices. Outraged, Anne left the Palace of Whitehall, assuring Sarah: "I am more yours than can be expressed and had rather live in a cottage with you than Reign Empress of the world without you." In her letters, Anne referred venomously to William as "that Monster" or "that Dutch abortive."

An atmosphere of outright hostility persisted between Anne and William until, in 1694, Mary died suddenly of smallpox. Anne and William were devastated by their loss, and both reached an uneasy truce that lasted for the rest of his reign. The king also restored Churchill to his favor. While Anne bided her time until she would succeed her childless brother-in-law, she made a reconciliation by letter with her exiled father before his death on September 6, 1701.

After creating the alliance leading to the War of Spanish Succession to block the territorial ambitions of his French archenemy Louis XIV (1643–1715), William III died of complications from the riding accident on March 8, 1702. Anne's coronation was held in London on April 23. She was 37-years-old, and her health was so precarious that she had to be carried to her coronation on a low canopied chair of state with the six-yard train flowing over it. Her coronation gown was velvet, the petticoat of gold tissue, and both were embroidered with jewels and diamonds. The coronation crown was covered with diamonds and diamonds overlaid the cross at the top of the dome. The motto on the coronation favors stated that: God has sent our hearts content.

[Anne's] passionate affection for Sarah Churchill … was to give her much pleasure and later much pain. Sarah's voluminous writings have been largely relied upon by Anne's biographers as a basis for assessing her character, but it has to be remembered that what Sarah recorded was chiefly written after they had quarreled. The fact was that Anne was an extremely conscientious Queen.

—Antonia Fraser

Two weeks later, England declared war on France. Having dominated European affairs for half a century, Louis XIV now intended to place his grandson, Philip of Anjou, on the throne of Spain, as the Spanish king had died without heir. England determined to put a check on Louis' aggression, which threatened to upset Europe's delicate balance of power. When Louis was told of Anne's move, he jokingly replied, "It means I'm growing old when ladies declare war on me." Louis' overconfidence was soon deflated by a series of setbacks on the field.

The War of Spanish Succession catapulted Sarah's husband John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, into the international spotlight. An able military strategist, Marlborough routed the French at the Battle of Blenheim (1704) and continued to achieve surprising gains against them throughout the war. Sarah Churchill had been appointed groom of the stole, keeper of the privy stole, and mistress of the robes. Her intimacy and closeness to Anne guaranteed John his command and a free hand over the entire British army. While John served as Anne's emissary abroad, another old friend, Sydney Godolphin, served Anne at home as lord treasurer. A nominal Tory, Godolphin was an able financier and administrator whose first loyalty was to Anne. The junior member of Anne's inner circle of ministers was Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, another moderate Tory. Harley was indispensable to Anne because of his ability to manage the House of Commons and to preserve good relations between Anne and her parliament.

Despite her physical problems, Anne attempted to attend all cabinet meetings, read all petitions, made all necessary religious and political appointments, and performed a myriad of other monarchial duties. She was politically astute in never totally trusting either the Whig or Tory political factions. She constantly shuffled her government leaders and often utilized "mixed ministries" composed of ambitious but capable officials.

In time, Anne realized that she disagreed with the Tories' war strategy. Despite the spectacular victories by Marlborough, the Tories believed that England should only engage the enemy at sea, but Anne, Marlborough, and the Whig Party favored the utilization of ground forces in continental Europe. Godolphin's government became progressively more Whig. Sarah's relationship with Anne developed a breach when Sarah exerted excessive pressure to remove ministers unsympathetic to her husband's war policies. An ardent Whig, Sarah had become even more arrogant and sometimes abusive to Anne. By 1707, her affectionate relationship with the queen had been usurped by Abigail Masham , Sarah's relative, whom Anne had placed in the royal household.

In 1710, Godolphin went too far in his sympathies, unwisely impeaching the cleric Henry Sacheverell for preaching sermons against the Whig faction. Abigail Masham, pro-Tory in her politics, convinced Anne to dismiss Godolphin and to appoint an antiwar Tory government. Their leaders, Harley and Henry St. John, later Lord Bolingbroke, immediately opened peace negotiations with France, dismissed Marlborough in 1711, and, with Anne's approval, restructured the cabinet to secure support for a treaty. The Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713, gave England several naval bases (Gibraltar, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Hudson Bay) and trading privileges in Spanish America, while Philip of Anjou ascended the Spanish throne as Philip V. Following the conclusion of the war, Harley and St. John's rivalry split the cabinet. Anne finally dismissed Harley, but under St. John the cabinet would remain in a state of confusion through Anne's reign.

While Sarah Churchill had always been abrasive, Anne had accepted that as part of her energetic and exciting personality. Sarah was also known to absent herself from her courtly duties for long periods and return to request favors or to champion political causes. The death of Anne's beloved George in October 1708 left the queen with few personal allies. With a growing suspicion about the wealth and power of the Marlboroughs, and advice from Abigail Masham and other enemies of Sarah, Anne finally realized that Sarah's contempt was genuine and her cruel words were deliberate. She stripped Sarah of all offices and compensations in April 1711, eight months before Sarah's husband John was relieved of his military command. This decision remained painful to Anne until the day she died.

From the beginning of her reign, Anne was motivated by her intense devotion to the Anglican Church. She detested Dissenters and Catholics and favored the High Church Tories over the Low Church Whigs. During her reign, she built 50 churches in the new suburbs of London. The Queen Anne's Bounty was established from her private revenues for the benefit of the poorer clergy. Deeply religious, Anne was the last English monarch to practice healing her subjects by touch.

During Anne's reign, a beneficial political settlement was finally achieved with Scotland. The Scots had refused to accept the Act of Settlement (1701), which legally arranged for the Hanoverian succession should both William III and Anne die without heirs. The English were fearful that the Scottish throne might be occupied by a monarch hostile to English interest. To assuage these fears, Anne's government began negotiations to create a union between the two countries. The Scots saw little that was politically advantageous in union, but they astutely saw the possibility of economic advantages previously restricted to the English. Out of these negotiations came the parliamentary union in 1707 that created the Kingdom of Great Britain. A single monarch would rule throughout Britain, as before, but there would be only one Parliament, at Westminster, in which the Scots would be represented. Scotland would gain the desired commercial equality but would retain her Presbyterian faith and distinctive legal and judicial system. In May 1707, Anne gave her royal assent for the Act of Union in a state ceremony in the House of Lords. The first Parliament of Great Britain met on October 23, 1707.

Although Anne demonstrated little interest in the art, drama, and literature of her time, she did provide a receptive climate for the arts. In architecture, Christopher Wren completed the English Renaissance renovation in 1710 of St. Paul's Cathedral, which had been damaged in the Great Fire of London. Sir John Vanbrugh designed the grandest mansion of the time, Blenheim Palace, near Oxford for the duke of Marlborough. Other beautiful buildings from Anne's reign include Greenwich Hospital, Trinity College Library at Cambridge, and the Sheldonian Theater at Oxford. In art, Sir Godfrey Kneller was an accomplished painter who left numerous portraits of the famous people of her reign.

Literature was influenced by the Whig and Tory political arguments. Jonathan Swift wrote devastating articles against the Whigs. Writing in a simple but polished style, Daniel Defoe started a paper called the Review, which was critical of the Tories. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, in their Tatler and Spectator essays, wrote elegantly of correct manners and behavior in all elements of English society. Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock illustrated how a cultivated society depended upon proportion, good humor, and good sense. While Anne's friend Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was busy writing provocative letters, Mary Astell was examining the education of women and the institution of marriage, and poet Anne Finch was holding literary court at her estate in Eastwell Park.

Queen Anne had accepted the principle of a constitutional monarchy, which helped to end the abuse of monarchial authority by placing parliamentary restrictions on the sovereign. She was the last ruler to veto an act of Parliament or to attend the majority of cabinet meetings. Her advancing age and health made the succession her last crucial issue in government. Anne personally leaned toward continuing the Stuart succession. Leading Tories, including Secretary of State St. John, were in constant communication with Anne's exiled half-brother, James, the Old Pretender, who claimed to be James III. Anne distrusted St. John and relied in her last months on her Whig Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Shrewsbury. She also listened to her new woman friend, the moderate Whig Duchess of Somerset. Although she disliked her Hanoverian relatives, Anne refused to support her exiled brother. Her vague references to James in her will, and her reliance on Shrewsbury's advice, left little doubt that she saw her Hanoverian cousin as a guarantee that her beloved Anglican Church would be preserved. In her last days, she refused assistance to the Tory plan to support James. Following her death, Tory efforts to find papers supporting James were fruitless, and George of Hanover succeeded her on the throne as King George I (1714–1727).

Masham, Abigail (1670–1734)

English confidante of Queen Anne. Born Abigail Hill in 1670; died in 1734; daughter of a wealthy merchant of London named Hill; married a page at Court named Masham, in 1707. Favorite of queen Anne of England.

Sarah Churchill 's relationship with Queen Anne began deteriorating soon after Anne's succession. An ardent Whig, Sarah's tactless insistence on converting Anne to her point of view did little to endear her to the new queen, and Sarah also became lax in her attendance at Court. In her absence, Anne began to turn more and more for solace and support to Abigail Hill Masham. A poor relation of Sarah's, Abigail had been given a position in Anne's household at Sarah's request, and Abigail proved attentive and eager to please. When Sarah discovered that she had been supplanted as royal favorite, she was furious to "see a woman whom I raised out of the Dust put on such a Superior air." Anne and Sarah's relationship degenerated into constant bickering. In 1711, Anne finally dismissed Sarah and Sarah's husband John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, from her Court appointments.

Plain in appearance and delicate in health, Abigail Masham was the daughter of a wealthy merchant of London named Hill. When her father filed for bankruptcy, she had no choice but to take employment as attendant of Lady Rivers , before becoming waiting maid to Queen Anne. Masham was not accomplished, but she did possess great powers of mimicry and shared her taste in music with the queen. With the ouster of the Marlboroughs, Masham's husband was raised to the peerage, and Lady Masham became involved in the intrigues of Court, especially those in favor of the Tories and the exiled House of Stuart.

On Thursday, July 29, 1714, the queen's fragile health had turned suddenly critical. After a brief improvement, she went into convulsions the following day. All efforts, pitiful as they were in 18th-century medicine, were used to save the queen. Although they placed garlic at Anne's feet and bled her, she went into a coma. She died in Kensington Palace at 7:30 in the morning of Sunday, August 1, 1714, at the age of 49. Anne had a private funeral and was buried beside her husband Prince George, in a vault with Charles II and William and Mary, in Westminster Abbey on August 24, 1714.


Brown, Beatrice Curtis. The Letters and Diplomatic Instructions of Queen Anne. London: Cassell, 1935.

Churchill, Winston S. Marlborough: His Life and Times. 2 vols. London: George G. Harrap, 1947.

Fraser, Antonia, ed. The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975.

Green, David, Queen Anne. NY: Scribner, 1970.

——. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. London: Collins, 1967.

Gregg, Edward. Queen Anne. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

Holmes, Geoffrey. British Politics in the Age of Queen Anne. London: Macmillan, 1967.

Trevelyan, G.M. England Under Queen Anne. 3 vols. London: Longmans, Green, 1930–1934.

suggested reading:

Butler, Iris. Rule of Three. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1967.

Connell, Neville. Anne, the Last Stuart Monarch. London: Thornton Butterworth, 1937.

Curtis, Gila. The Life and Times of Queen Anne. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972.

Herbert, Paul. Queen Anne. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.


Queen Anne's correspondence with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Lord Godolphin, and the Earl of Sunderlin are the property of Blenheim Palace.

Queen Anne's papers are scattered about several archives: the British Library, Public Record Office, Longleat, and other locations.

Phillip E. Koerper , Professor of History, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama

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Anne (1665–1714)

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