The reign of Queen Anne was brought vividly to life in the popular 2018 film, The Favourite. Olivia Colman earned herself an Oscar for playing the last Stuart monarch in a story that focused on Queen Anne’s close relationships with two influential female courtiers, as they vied for her favours and attention. Queen Anne has not always received such rapt attention from students of British royal history. However, she is a fascinating subject to learn about for a number of surprising reasons:
1- Queen Anne reigned after William III and Mary II – Britain’s only joint ruling monarchs
Queen Anne was born in 1665 while her uncle, Charles II was King of England. When she was 20, her father, James II – younger brother of Charles II – succeeded to the throne, putting her directly into the line of succession. However, James II’s reign was short. It lasted just three years, as his conversion to Catholicism caused much anger among the country’s largely Anglican population. Anne’s Protestant cousin, William of Orange took over, reigning as William III. He ruled jointly with his wife, Queen Mary II, who also happened to be Anne’s sister.
2- Anne went against her father to support her cousin’s claim to the throne
Anne supported her cousin’s reign, going against her father’s wishes. She was subsequently named William and Mary’s heir in the 1689 Bill of Rights. She became Queen following William’s death in 1702 (Mary had passed away eight years previously), and was crowned on St George’s Day (23 April) 1702.
3- Her reign ended the long-lasting Stuart dynasty
Queen Anne was England’s last ever Stuart monarch. The end of her reign brought about the conclusion of a very long dynasty of kings and queens that ruled under the Stuart name from 1603 until 1714, when Anne died from a stroke aged 49. The Stuart dynasty had been an eventful one, witnessing civil war, plague, foreign invasion, the beheading of a King and Britain’s only period as a republic. Anne was succeeded by her second cousin, George I, who ushered in the new Hanoverian dynasty.
4- Queen Anne’s husband was a Danish Prince who was named Lord High Admiral
In 1683, the future Queen Anne married the Protestant Prince George of Denmark. Not only did he formally become Anne’s Prince Consort on the occasion of her Coronation in 1702, but she also appointed him Lord High Admiral, giving him nominal command over the Royal Navy, among other titles and honours. Theirs was a devoted marriage. George represented a huge source of strength and support for Anne, both in their private and public lives together until his death in 1708 after a lengthy period of ill health.
Discover the Medallion: 1702 Prince George Lord High Admiral
5- Several of Anne’s pregnancies ended in stillbirth and none of her children survived to adulthood
Queen Anne had a number of unsuccessful pregnancies, many of which ended tragically in stillbirths. In fact, she had been pregnant at least 17 times by 1700, but had only seen five children born alive. Of those that survived, only one lived past his third year. This was William, Duke of Gloucester, who sadly died aged 11, a few months after Anne’s last attempted pregnancy, which also ended in stillbirth.
6- Anne started her reign as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland – and ended it as Queen of Great Britain
She began her reign as Queen of England, Scotland and the Kingdom of Ireland in 1702. Five years later in 1707, she became ruler of the Kingdom of Great Britain following the Acts of Union. This was not only a key moment in political and royal history. It represented a major change for the whole, newly united country.
7- She oversaw the Acts of Union – a significant political milestone
In 1707, Queen Anne oversaw the Acts of Union, passing two Parliamentary acts in Scotland and England to bring the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland together as one kingdom. The two countries had actually shared a monarch since the Union of Crowns in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland also become King James I of England. However, they had remained separate states by law, with separate legislatures, until the 1707 Acts of Union.
Discover the Medallion: 1707 Queen Anne - Union of England & Scotland
8- Great Britain fought in the War of Spanish Succession during her reign
Queen Anne oversaw the War of Spanish Succession in Europe, which took place between 1702 and 1713. Great Britain fought with The Netherlands and a number of German states against Spain and France. The conflict centred on who would succeed the childless King Charles II of Spain. Various battles and campaigns occurred during the eleven-year war, including the Capture of Douay in 1710. This victory for Queen Anne’s side followed a siege that lasted several weeks, commanded by John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.
Discover the Medallions: 1710 Capture of Douay and
9- Anne enjoyed a close friendship with Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
Much attention was given by Queen Anne to a childhood friend, Sarah Jennings, who later became Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. She shared a close friendship with Queen Anne and enjoyed much influence in her court. Refusal to dismiss the pair from her court caused a rift between Anne and her sister Mary, shortly before the latter’s death in 1694.
10- She was also close to Abigail Masham, prompting rumours of a lesbian relationship
Rivalry sprung up for Queen Anne’s affections in the form of Abigail Hill, an impoverished cousin of Sarah Churchill, whom she had introduced to court in 1704 in a bid to find a position for her. Abigail Hill was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber and developed a close friendship with the Queen. The Duchess of Marlborough tried to force Queen Anne’s hand in dismissing her rival. The Queen maintained a staunch defence of Abigail Hill, now Abigail Masham after marriage to Samuel Masham, groom of the bedchamber to Prince George in 1707. So staunch, in fact, that rumours started to circulate about the pair enjoying a lesbian relationship.
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