Anne I

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Personalities >> Anne I

Anne I

Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland (1702-1707), Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1707-1714)

born 6 February 1665, St James's Palace, London, England

died 1 August 1714 (N.S.), Kensington Palace, London, England


Detail of a portrait of Queen Anne by Charles Jervas – Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anne was born on 6 February 1665. She was the second daughter of James, Duke of York, afterwards James II, and of Anne Hyde, daughter of the 1st Earl of Clarendon.

Anne suffered, as a child, from an affection of the eyes. She was sent to France for medical treatment, residing with her grandmother, Henrietta Maria, and on the latter's death with her aunt, the Duchesse d'Orléans.

In 1670, Anne returned to England. She was brought up, together with her sister Mary, by the direction of Charles II, as a strict Protestant, and as a child she made the friendship of Sarah Jennings (afterwards Duchess of Marlborough), thus beginning life under the two influences which were to prove the most powerful in her future career.

In 1678, Anne accompanied Mary of Modena to the Dutch Republic.

In 1679, Anne joined her parents abroad and afterwards in Scotland.

On 28 July 1683, Anne married Prince George of Denmark, brother of King Christian V, an unpopular union because of the French proclivities of the bridegroom's country, but one of great domestic happiness, the prince and princess being conformable in temper and both preferring retirement and quiet to life in the great world. Sarah Churchill became Anne's lady of the bedchamber, and, by the latter's desire to mark their mutual intimacy and affection, all deference due to her rank was abandoned and the two ladies called each other Mrs Morley and Mrs Freeman.

On 6 February 1685, James became King of England.

In 1687, a project of settling the crown on the princess, to the exclusion of Mary, on the condition of Anne's embracing Roman Catholicism, was rendered futile by her pronounced attachment to the Church of England, and beyond sending her books and papers James appears to have made no attempt to coerce his daughter into a change of faith and to have treated her with kindness, while the birth of his son on 10 June 1688 made the religion of his daughters a matter of less political importance. Anne was not present on the occasion, having gone to Bath, and this gave rise to a belief that the child was spurious; but it is most probable that James's desire to exclude all Protestants from affairs of state was the real cause. "I shall never now be satisfied," Anne wrote to Mary, "whether the child be true or false. It may be it is our brother, but God only knows .. one cannot help having a thousand fears and melancholy thoughts, but whatever changes may happen you shall ever find me firm to my religion and faithfully yours."

In later years, however, Anne had no doubt that the Old Pretender was her brother. During the events immediately.preceding the Revolution, Anne kept in seclusion. Her ultimate conduct was probably influenced by the Churchills; and though forbidden by James to pay Mary a projected visit in the spring of 1688, she corresponded with her, and was no doubt aware of William's plans. Her position was now a very critical and painful one. She refused to show any sympathy with the king after William had landed in November, and wrote, with the advice of the Churchills, to the prince declaring her approval of his action.

Churchill abandoned the king on 24 November 1688, Prince George on 25 November, and when James returned to London on 26 November, he found that Anne and her lady-in-waiting had during the previous night followed their husbands' examples. Escaping from Whitehall by a back staircase they put themselves under the care of the bishop of London, spent one night in his house. On 1 December, they arrived at Nottingham, where the princess first made herself known and appointed a council. Thence she passed through Leicester, Coventry and Warwick, finally entering Oxford, where she met Prince George, in triumph, escorted by a large company. Like Mary, she was reproached for showing no concern at the news of the king's flight, but her justification was that "she never loved to do anything that looked like an affected constraint." On 19 December, she returned to London, when she was at once visited by William. Subsequently the Declaration of Rights settled the succession of the crown upon her after William and Mary and their children.

Meanwhile Anne had suffered a series of maternal disappointments. Between 1684 and 1688, she had miscarried four times and given birth to two children who died infants. On 24 July 1689, however, the birth of a son, William, created Duke of Gloucester, who survived his infancy, gave hopes that heirs to the throne under the Bill of Rights might be forthcoming. But Anne's happiness was soon troubled by quarrels with the king and queen. According to the Duchess of Marlborough, the two sisters, who had lived hitherto while apart on extremely affectionate terms, found no enjoyment in each other's society. Mary talked too much for Anne's comfort, and Anne too little for Mary's satisfaction. But money appears to have been the first and real cause of ill-feeling. The granting away by William of the private estate of James, amounying to £22,000 a year, to which Anne had some claim, was made a grievance, and a factious motion brought forward in the House to increase her civil list pension of £30,000, which she enjoyed in addition to £22,000 under her marriage settlement, greatly displeased William and Mary, who regarded it as a plot to make Anne independent and the chief of a separate interest in the state, while their resentment was increased by the refusal of Anne to restrain the action of her friends, and by its success. The Marlboroughs had been active in the affair and had benefited by it, the countess (as she then was) receiving a pension of £1000, and their conduct was noticed at court. The promised Garter was withheld from Marlborough, and the incensed "Mrs Morley" in her letters to "Mrs Freeman" styled the king "Caliban" or the "Dutch Monster."

At the close of 1691 Anne had declared her approval of the naval expedition in favour of her father, and expressed grief at its failure. According to the doubtful Life of James, she wrote to him on 1 December a "most penitential and dutiful" letter, and henceforward kept up with him a "fair correspondence." The same year, the breach between the royal sisters was made final by the dismissal of Marlborough, justly suspected of Jacobite intrigues, from all his appointments. Anne took the part of her favourites with great zeal against the court, though in all probability unaware of Marlborough's treason; and on the dismissal of the countess from her household by the king and queen she refused to part with her, and retired with Lady Marlborough to the Duke of Somerset's residence at Sion House. Anne was now in disgrace. She was deprived of her guard of honour, and Prince George, on entering Kensington Palace, received no salute, though the drums beat loudly on his departure. Instructions were given that the court expected no one to pay his respects, and no attention in the provinces was to be shown to their rank. In May, Marlborough was arrested on a charge of high treason which subsequently broke down, and Anne persisted in regarding his disgrace as a personal injury to herself.

In August 1693 however, the two sisters were temporarily reconciled, and on the occasion of Mary's last illness and death Anne showed an affectionate consideration. The death of Mary weakened William's position and made it necessary to cultivate good relations with the princess. She was now treated with every honour and civility, and finally established with her own court at St James's Palace. At the same time. William kept her in the background and refrained from appointing her regent during his absence.

In March 1695, Marlborough was allowed to kiss the king's hands, and subsequently was made the Duke of Gloucester's governor and restored to his employments. In return Anne gave her support to William's government.

In 1696, according to James, in consequence of the near prospect of the throne, Anne wrote to James asking for his leave to wear the crown at William's death, and promising its restoration at a convenient opportunity. The unfounded rumour that William contemplated settling the succession after his death on James's son, provided he were educated a Protestant in England, may possibly have alarmed her. Meanwhile, since the birth of the Duke of Gloucester, the princess had experienced six more miscarriages, and had given birth to two children who only survived a few hours, and the last maternal hope flickered out on the death of the young prince on 29 July 1700. Henceforth Anne signs herself in her letters to Lady Marlborough as "your poor unfortunate" as well as "faithful Morley." In default of her own issue, Anne's personal choice would probably have inclined at this time to her own family at Saint-Germain, but the necessity of maintaining the Protestant succession caused the enactment of the Act of Settlement in 1701, and the substitution of the Hanoverian branch. She wore mourning for her father in 1701, and before his death James is said to have written to his daughter asking for her protection for his family; but the recognition of his son by Louis XIV as king of England effectually prevented any good offices to which her feelings might have inclined her.

On 8 March 1702, Anne became, by King William's death, Queen of Great Britain, being crowned on 23 April. Her reign was destined to be one of the most brilliant in the annals of England. Splendid military triumphs crushed the hereditary national foe. The Act of Union with Scotland constituted one of the strongest foundations of the future empire. Art and literature found a fresh renascence.

In her first speech to parliament, like George III afterwards, Anne declared her "heart to be entirely English," words which were resented by some as a reflection on the late king. A ministry, mostly Tory, with Godolphin at its head, was established. She obtained a grant of £700,000 a year, and hastened to bestow a pension of £100,000 on her husband, whom she created generalissimo of her forces and lord high admiral, while Marlborough obtained the Garter, with the captain-generalship and other prizes, including a dukedom, and the duchess was made mistress of the robes with the control of the privy purse. The queen showed from the first a strong interest in church matters, and declared her intention to keep church appointments in her own hands. She detested equally Roman Catholics and dissenters, showed a strong leaning towards the high-church party, and gave zealous support to the bill forbidding occasional conformity.

In 1704, Anne announced to the Commons her intention of granting to the church the crown revenues, amounting to about £16,000 or £17,000 a year, from tenths and first-fruits (paid originally by the clergy to the pope, but appropriated by the crown in 1534), for the increase of poor livings; her gift, under the name of "Queen Anne's Bounty," still remaining as a testimony of her piety. This devotion to the church, the strongest of all motives in Anne's conduct, dictated her hesitating attitude towards the two great parties in the state. The Tories had for this reason her personal preference, while the Whigs, who included her powerful favourites the Marlboroughs, identified their interests with the war and its glorious successes, the queen slowly and unwillingly, but inevitably, gravitating towards the latter.

In December 1704, Archduke Charles visited Anne at Windsor and was welcomed as the King of Spain. The same year, Anne acquiesced in the resignation of Lord Nottingham, the leader of the high Tory party. Still in the same year, the great victory of Blenheim further consolidated the power of the Whigs and increased the influence of Marlborough, upon whom Anne now conferred the manor of Woodstock. Nevertheless, she declared in November to the duchess that whenever things leaned towards the Whigs, "I shall think the church is beginning to be in danger."

In 1705, Anne supported the election of the Whig speaker, John Smith, but long resisted the influence and claims of the Junto, as the Whig leaders, Somers, Halifax, Orford, Wharton and Sunderland, were named. In October she was obliged to appoint Cowper, a Whig, lord chancellor, with all the ecclesiastical patronage belonging to the office. Marlborough's successive victories, and especially the factious conduct of the Tories, who in November 1705 moved in parliament that the Electress Sophia should be invited to England, drove Anne farther to the side of the Whigs. But she opposed for some time the inclusion in the government of Sunderland, whom she especially disliked.

In December 1706, Anne finally consented, at Marlborough's intercession, to the inclusion of Sunderland in the government, when various other offices and rewards were bestowed upon Whigs, and Nottingham with other Tories was removed from the council. She yielded, after a struggle, also to the appointment of Whigs to bishoprics, the most mortifying submission of all.

In 1708, Anne was forced to dismiss Harley, who, with the aid of Mrs Masham, had been intriguing against the government and projecting the creation of a third party. Abigail Hill, Mrs Masham, a cousin of the Duchess of Marlborough, had been introduced by the latter as a poor relation into Anne's service, while still Princess of Denmark. The queen found relief in the quiet and respectful demeanour of her attendant, and gradually came to prefer her society to that of the termagant and tempestuous duchess. Abigail, however, soon ventured to talk "business," and in the summer of 1707 the duchess discovered to her indignation that her protegee had already undermined her influence with the queen and had become the medium of Harley's intrigue. The strength of the Whigs at this time and the necessities of the war caused the retirement of Harley, but he remained Anne's secret adviser and supporter against the faction, urging upon her "the dangers to the crown as well as to the church and monarchy itself from their counsels and actions," while the duchess never regained her former influence. The inclusion in the cabinet of Somers, whom she especially disliked as the hostile critic of Prince George's admiralty administration, was the subject of another prolonged struggle, ending again in the queen's submission after a futile appeal to Marlborough in October 1708, to which she brought herself only to avoid a motion from the Whigs for the removal of the prince, then actually on his deathbed. His death on 28 October was felt deeply by the queen, and opened the way for the inclusion of more Whigs. But no reconciliation with the duchess took place.

In 1709 a further dispute led to an angry correspondence, the queen finally informing the duchess of the termination of their friendship, and the latter drawing up a long narrative of her services, which she forwarded to Anne together with suitable passages on the subject of friendship and charity transcribed from the Prayer Book, the Whole Duty of Man and from Jeremy Taylor.

In 1710, Anne's desire to give a regiment to Hill, Mrs Masham's brother, led to another ineffectual attempt in retaliation to displace the new favourite, and the queen showed her antagonism to the Whig administration on the occasion of the prosecution of Sacheverell. She was present at his trial and was publicly acclaimed by the mob as his supporter, while the Tory divine was consoled immediately on the expiration of his sentence with the living of St Andrew's, Holborn. Subsequently the duchess, in a final interview which she had forced upon the queen, found her tears and reproaches unavailing. In her anger she had told the queen she wished for no answer, and she was now met by a stony and exasperating silence, broken only by the words constantly repeated, "You desired no answer and you shall have none." The fall of the Whigs, now no longer necessary on account of the successful issue of the war, to accomplish which Harley had long been preparing and intriguing, followed; and their attempt to prolong hostilities from party motives failed. A friend of Harley, the duke of Shrewsbury, was first appointed to office, and subsequently the great body of the Whigs were displaced by Tories, Harley being made chancellor of the exchequer and Henry St John secretary of state. The queen was rejoiced at being freed from what she called a long captivity, and the new parliament was returned with a Tory majority.

On 17 January 1711, in spite of Marlborough's efforts to ward off the blow, the duchess was compelled to give up her key of office. The queen was now able once more to indulge in her favourite patronage of the church.

In 1712, by Anne's influence an act was passed for building fifty new churches in London.

In 1714, Anne approved of the Schism Bill. She gave strong support to Harley, now Earl of Oxford and lord treasurer, in the intrigues and negotiations for peace. Owing to the alliance between the Tory Lord Nottingham and the Whigs, on the condition of the support by the latter of the bill against occasional conformity passed in December 1711, the defeated Whigs maintained a majority in the Lords, who declared against any peace which left Spain to the Bourbons. To break down this opposition Marlborough was dismissed on the 31 December from all his employments, while the House of Lords was "swamped" by Anne's creation of twelve peers, including Mrs Masham's husband. The queen's conduct was generally approved, for the nation was now violently adverse to the Whigs and war party.

On 31 March, the Treaty of Utrecht was finally signed and proclaimed on 5 May in London. As the queen's reign drew to its close, rumours were rife on the great subject of the succession to the throne. Various Jacobite appointments excited suspicion. Both Oxford and Bolingbroke were in communication with the Pretender's party, and on 27 July, Oxford, who had gradually lost influence and quarrelled with Bolingbroke, resigned, leaving the supreme power in the hands of the latter. Anne herself had a natural feeling for her brother, and had shown great solicitude concerning his treatment when a price had been set on his head at the time of the Scottish expedition in 1708.

On 3 March 1714, James wrote to Anne, Oxford and Bolingbroke, urging the necessity of taking steps to secure his succession, and promising, on the condition of his recognition, to make no further attempts against the queen's government. In April, a report was circulated in the Dutch Republic that Anne had secretly determined to associate James with her in the government. A writ of summons for the Electoral Prince of Hanover as Duke of Cambridge was obtained, but Anne forbade the Hanoverian envoy, Baron Schutz, her presence, and declared all who supported the project her enemies; while to a memorial on the same subject from the Electress Sophia and her grandson in May, Anne replied in an angry letter, which is said to have caused the death of the electress on 8 June, requesting them not to trouble the peace of her realm or diminish her authority.

These demonstrations, however, were the outcome not of any returning partiality for her own family, but of her intense dislike of any "successor," "it being a thing I cannot bear to have any successor here though but for a week"; and in spite of some appearances to the contrary, it is certain that religion and political wisdom kept Anne firm to the Protestant succession. She had maintained a friendly correspondence with the court of Hanover since 1705, and in 1706 had bestowed the Garter on the Electoral Prince of Hanover and created him Duke of Cambridge; while the Regency Act provided for the declaration of the legal heir to the crown by the council immediately on the queen's death, and a further enactment naturalized the electress and her issue. In 1708, on the occasion of the Scottish expedition, notwithstanding her solicitude for his safety, she had styled James in her speech closing the session of parliament as "a popish pretender bred up in the principles of the most arbitrary government." No answer appears to have been sent to James's letter in 1714; on the contrary, a proclamation was issued (June 23) for his apprehension in case of his arrival in England. On 27 April, Anne gave a solemn assurance of her fidelity to the Hanoverian succession to Sir William Dawes, Archbishop of York; in June she sent Lord Clarendon to Hanover to satisfy the elector.

The sudden illness and death of the queen now frustrated any schemes which Bolingbroke or others might have been contemplating. On the 27, the day of Oxford's resignation, the discussions concerning his successor detained the council sitting in the queen's presence till two o'clock in the morning, and on retiring Anne was instantly seized with fatal illness. Her adherence to William in 1688 had been a principal cause of the success of the Revolution, and now the final act of her life was to secure the Revolution settlement and the Protestant succession. During a last moment of returning consciousness, and by the advice of the whole council, who had been joined on their own initiative by the Whig Dukes Argyll and Somerset, she placed the lord treasurer's staff in the hands of the Whig Duke of Shrewsbury, and measures were immediately taken for assuring the succession of the Elector of Hanover. Her death took place on 1 August, and the security felt by the public, and perhaps the sense of perils escaped by the termination of the queen's life, were shown by a considerable rise in the national stocks.


This article is mostly adapted from texts of the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 – “Anne of Great Britain”