Saturday, September 17, 2005

Queen Anne (1665 - 1714)

Queen Anne was the last of the Stuart monarchs. Her reign spanned 12 years - the years of the War of Spanish Succession, and Marlborough's famous victories at Blenheim, Ramilies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.
Anne presided over the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England, creating the parliament of Great Britain on 1 May 1707.She believed in mixed ministries, and managed to achieve that until 1708, when the Whigs became dominant. Then in 1710 there was a major shift to the Tories, which lasted until her death.
Anne was the second daughter of the Catholic King James II (1685-8), but was raised a Protestant under the guidance of her uncle King Charles II. Her marriage to George, Prince of Denmark, was devoted but politically unremarkable. She experienced 17 pregnancies between 1683 and 1700. Only five children were born alive, however, and only one, a son, outlived infancy, but he did not survive to inherit the throne.
It was Anne's involvement with Sarah Jennings Churchill, childhood companion and lady of the bedchamber, that had most impact upon her. Sarah persuaded Anne to support brother-in-law William of Orange, Protestant stadholder of the Netherlands, when he overthrew James II in 1688. It was after William's death in 1702 that Anne became monarch, but prior to her succession she agreed to the Act of Settlement in 1701, signed by William, which promised the throne to the Electress of Hanover (and her heirs) as heir of James I (VI of Scotland). Anne had by this point abandoned the idea of producing an heir.
Despite her belief in mixed political ministries, when it came to foreign policy Anne was at odds with the Tories. Her views were coloured by her devotion to the Anglican Church, and she and the Whigs believed in war on the continent as opposed to a naval campaign.
Sarah Churchill's husband, the Duke of Marlborough, was a Whig sympathiser, winning notable battles as commander of British and allied forces in the continental campaign during the War of the Spanish Succession. Sarah put Anne under pressure to promote Whigs in her ministry, but the queen resisted and eventually dismissed the overbearing couple from her service.
Anne was further embarrassed by Sarah's successor, a confidante planted by the Tories known as Abigail Masham, a cousin of the Tory Robert Harley (who later became Earl of Oxford). In 1708 Harley also lost favour, and Anne was forced to admit the Whigs into her administration once again.
Leading Tories plotted the succession of Anne's exiled Catholic brother, James the old Pretender, but before her death in 1714 Ann ensured the Protestant succession using the capable moderate, Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, as Lord Treasurer. He presided over the trouble-free accession of the Hanoverian prince George Louis (King George I, 1714-27). The Whigs were triumphant.


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