It has been a while but The Forgotten Monarchs are back and this blog focuses on the last Monarch of the House of Stuart, Queen Anne.
Anne was born on 6th February 1665 at St James’s Palace and was the fourth child and second daughter of James, Duke of York (future King James II) and his first wife Lady Anne Hyde. At the time of Anne’s birth her uncle was reigning as King Charles II. Anne was baptised into the Anglican faith in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace with her older sister Mary being one of her godparents, along with the Duchess of Monmouth and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anne and her sister Mary were the only two children of the Duke and Duchess of York to survive into adulthood. As was Royal tradition, the sisters were brought up separated from their father at their own establishment in Richmond, London. On the instructions of King Charles II they were both raised as Protestants. Their father converted to Catholicism and after the death of his first wife he married the Catholic Princess, Mary of Modena. James and Mary bore many children, all of whom were either stillborn or died in infancy, this meant that Anne and her Sister Mary were still third and second, respectively, in the line of succession.
After King Charles II’s death in 1685, Anne’s Father became King James II and to the concern of James’s people and his family he began to give Catholics military and administrative offices. Anne shared this general concern, however, she continued to attend Anglican services. As her Sister was now living in the Netherlands, Anne and her family were the only members of the Royal Family attending Protestant services in England. When King James insisted that Anne baptise her youngest daughter in to the Catholic faith it is alleged that Anne burst in to tears and wrote to her Sister Mary that “The Church of Rome is wicked and dangerous”, this animosity between father and daughter eventually led to them becoming estranged as James continued to try and weaken the power of the Church of England.
As readers will know from previous blogs, the Glorious Revolution saw King James II deposed and his son-in-law and daughter, William and Mary become joint Monarchs. Tensions between Anne and her sister Mary soon began to arise, when Anne requested the use of Richmond Palace and a parliamentary allowance, William and Mary refused both requests. Resentment grew when William refused to allow Anne’s husband Prince George to serve in the military in an active capacity. When Queen Mary II died of smallpox in 1694 and William continued to reign alone, Anne became his heiress apparent and the two reconciled publicly. William restored Anne’s previous honours and passed down to her Mary’s jewels, although he excluded her from government and refrained from appointing her Regent during his absences.
When King William III died on 8th March 1702, Anne succeeded him as Queen Anne and was immediately popular. In her accession speech to parliament, Anne is quoted as saying “As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity of England”, in my opinion this is a Queen who was willing to go above and beyond for her people and did not have her own personal gain at the forefront of her mind, something which could not be said for her two male predecessors. Anne was Crowned on St George’s Day, 23rd April 1702 however being afflicted with gout she was carried to Westminster Abbey in an open sedan chair with a low back so her train could flow out behind her.
In Anne’s very first speech to English Parliament she declared it very necessary to conclude a union of England and Scotland and this conclusion came they were united as a single Kingdom which would be known as Great Britain with one parliament 1st May 1707. As a result of the union between the two kingdoms, a thanksgiving service was held at St Pauls Cathedral with Anne was in attendance. It is said that Queen Anne appeared the most sincerely devout and thankful person in the room.
Anne’s Husband Prince George died in October 1708 and she was devastated and the death of her husband also proved a turning point in her relationship with the Duchess of Marlborough, with whom she was usually on good terms with. The Queen resented the Duchess’s intrusive actions so soon after the death of her husband - the Duchess not only insisted that Anne leave Kensington Palace for St James’s Palace she also removed a portrait of George from the Queens bedchamber and refused to return it in the belief that “it was natural to avoid seeing of papers or anything that belonged to one that one loved when they were just dead”, is this the actions of a true friend to the Queen or did the Duchess of Marlborough have ulterior motives? The Whigs used George’s death to their own advantage, Prince George (who was Lord High Admiral) was unpopular among the Whig leaders, they blamed George for mismanagement of the Navy. After George’s death the Whigs were now dominant in Parliament and with Anne distraught over the death of her husband, they tried to force Anne to accept the Junto leaders Lord Somers and Lord Wharton into the cabinet to take over the position as Lord High Admiral. Anne, however, had other ideas, she insisted that she herself would carry on the duties of Lord High Admiral without appointing a member of government to replace George. The Junto demanded the appointment of the Earl of Orford as First Lord of the Admiralty, Anne though appointed the moderate Earl of Pembroke. When pressure mounted on Pembroke and the Queen, Pembroke resigned after less than a year in office and eventually the Queen consented to put Orford into the position of First Lord.
Between January and July 1713, Queen Anne was unable to walk and by Christmas she was feverish and would lay unconscious for hours at a time, obviously this led to rumours of her impending death. Anne did recover slightly but by March the following year she was seriously ill again. The Queen was rendered unable to speak due to a stroke on 30th July 1714. On 1st August 1714 Queen Anne of Great Britain died, the causes being supressed gout and erysipelas and her cousin George of Hanover succeeded her as King George I, making him the first Monarch in Great Britain from the House of Hanover. On 24th August Anne was buried beside her Husband and children in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey.
Queen Anne is not a Queen people talk about as often as they do say Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, yet what people forget about Anne is that she oversaw the Union of two kingdoms, Scotland and England and became the first Monarch of the newly formed Great Britain, hardly the work of a Queen who should be forgotten. Many historians describe Anne as a fat, constantly pregnant and useless Queen, though what these people are forgetting is that Queen Anne really did prove her worth as Monarch and her people loved her, as Professor Edward Gregg said “Anne was often able to impose her will, even though, as a woman in an age of male dominance and preoccupied by her health, her reign was marked by an increase in the influence of ministers and a decrease in the influence of the Crown”, I believe that what this says is that the way Anne’s reign was steered was not down to her, she was essentially ruled by government but yet she still made a huge impact and she presided over an age of artistic, literary, economic and political advancement that was made possible by the stability and prosperity of her reign, hardly the work of a useless Queen. What do you think? What sort of Queen do you think Anne really was? Are people right to criticise her? And just why do people feel it necessary to diminish the work of a great Monarch? I for one cannot see why Anne and her reign have been pushed in to the background when quite frankly, in my opinion it was one of the most successful reigns in British history.