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Anne, Queen of Great Britain

Background Information

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Anne, in a 1705 portrait by Michael Dahl
Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland ( more...)
Reign 8 March 1702 – 1 May 1707
Coronation 23 April 1702
Predecessor William III & II
Queen of Great Britain and Ireland ( more...)
Reign 1 May 1707 – 1 August 1714
Successor George I
Spouse Prince George of Denmark
Prince William, Duke of Gloucester
House House of Stuart
Father James II & VII
Mother Lady Anne Hyde
Burial Westminster Abbey, London

Anne (6 February 1665 – 1 August 1714) became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702, succeeding her brother-in-law, William III of England and II of Scotland. Her Catholic father, James II and VII, was deemed by the English Parliament to have abdicated when he was forced to retreat to France during the Glorious Revolution of 1688/9; her brother-in-law and her sister then became joint monarchs as William III & II and Mary II, the only such case in British history. After Mary's death in 1694, William continued as sole monarch until his own death in 1702.

On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union 1707, England and Scotland were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain. Anne became its first sovereign, while continuing to hold the separate crown of Queen of Ireland and the title of Queen of France. Anne reigned for twelve years until her death in August 1714. Anne was therefore the last Queen of England and the last Queen of Scots.

Anne's life was marked by many crises, both personally and relating to succession of the Crown and religious polarisation. Because she died without surviving issue, Anne was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. She was succeeded by her second cousin, George I, of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, daughter of James VI & I.

Early life

The Lady Anne at the time of her marriage

Anne was born at St. James's Palace, London, the second daughter of James, Duke of York (afterwards James II), and his first wife, Lady Anne Hyde. Her paternal uncle was King Charles II and her older sister was the future Mary II. Anne and Mary were the only children of the Duke and Duchess of York to survive into adulthood.

Anne suffered as a child from an eye infection; for medical treatment, she was sent to France. She lived with her grandmother, Henrietta Maria of France, and with her aunt, Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, following her grandmother's death. Anne returned to England in 1670.

In about 1673, Anne made the acquaintance of Sarah Jennings, who became her close friend and one of her most influential advisors. Jennings later married John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough), who was to become Anne's most important general.

In 1673, Anne's father's conversion to Roman Catholicism became public. On the instructions of Charles II, however, Anne and her sister Mary were raised as Protestants.

On 28 July 1683, Anne married the Protestant Prince George of Denmark-Norway, brother of King Christian V of Denmark-Norway (and her second cousin once removed through Frederick II), an unpopular union but one of great domestic happiness. Sarah Churchill became Anne's Lady of the Bedchamber, and, by Anne'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.

Accession of James II

When Charles II died in 1685 (perhaps converting to Catholicism on his deathbed), Anne's father became king as James II. But James was not well-received by the English people, concerned about his Catholicism. Public alarm increased when James's second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son ( James Francis Edward) on 10 June 1688, and a Catholic dynasty became all the more likely. 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 her sister 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."

Princess Anne's brother-in-law and sister, William and Mary, subsequently invaded England to dethrone the unpopular James II in the Glorious Revolution.

The "Glorious Revolution"

Anne, in a 1687 portrait by Willem Wissing

Forbidden by James to pay Mary a projected visit in the spring of 1688, Anne corresponded with her and was no doubt aware of William's plans to invade. On the advice of the Churchills—Anne's conduct during this period was probably influenced a great deal by them—she refused to show any sympathy for James after William landed in November and wrote instead to William, declaring her approval of his action. Churchill abandoned the king on the 24th of that month, Prince George on the 25th, and when James returned to London on the 26th, he found that Anne and her lady-in-waiting had done likewise the previous night. He put the women under house arrest in the Palace of Whitehall. However, escaping from Whitehall by a back staircase they put themselves under the care of the bishop of London, spent one night in his house, and subsequently arrived on the 1st of December at Nottingham, where the princess first made herself known and appointed a council. Thence she travelled to 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." She returned to London on 19 December, where she was at once visited by her brother-in-law William.

In 1689, a Convention Parliament assembled and declared that James had abdicated the realm when he attempted to flee, and that the Throne was therefore vacant. The Crown was offered to Mary, but accepted jointly by William and Mary, who thereafter ruled as the only joint monarchs in British history. The Bill of Rights 1689 settled succession to the Throne; Princess Anne and her descendants were to be in the line of succession after William and Mary. They were to be followed by any descendants of William by a future marriage.

William and Mary

Anne, ca. 1690, as painted by Michael Dahl

Soon after their accession, William and Mary rewarded Churchill by granting him the Earldom of Marlborough. Their subsequent treatment of the Marlboroughs, however, was not as favourable. In 1692, suspecting that Lord Marlborough was a Jacobite, Mary dismissed him from all his offices. Lady Marlborough was subsequently removed from the Royal Household, leading Princess Anne to angrily leave her royal residence for Syon House, the Duke of Northumberland's home. Princess Anne was then stripped of her guard of honour, and the guards at the royal palaces were forbidden to salute her husband.

When Mary II died of smallpox in 1694, William III continued to reign alone. Anne then became his heir apparent, since any children he might have by another wife were assigned to a lower place in the line of succession. Seeking to improve his own popularity (which had always been much lower than that of his wife), he restored Princess Anne to her previous honours, allowing her to reside in St. James's Palace. At the same time William kept her in the background and refrained from appointing her regent during his absence.

In 1695, William sought to win Princess Anne's favour by restoring Marlborough to all of his offices. In return Anne gave her support to William's government, though about this time, in 1696 — according to James, in consequence of the near prospect of the throne — she wrote to her father 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.

The Act of Settlement

Princess Anne with her son William, Duke of Gloucester in a painting from the school of Sir Godfrey Kneller, ca. 1694

During this period, Prince George and Princess Anne suffered great personal misfortune. By 1700, the future Queen had been pregnant at least eighteen times; thirteen times, she miscarried or gave birth to stillborn children. Of the remaining five children, four died before reaching the age of two years. Her only son to survive infancy, William, Duke of Gloucester, died at the age of eleven on 29 July 1700, precipitating a succession crisis. William and Mary had not had any children; thus, Princess Anne, the heir apparent to the Throne, was the only individual remaining in the line of succession established by the Bill of Rights 1689. If the line of succession were totally extinguished, then it would have been open for the deposed King James or his son James Francis Edward Stuart (the "Old Pretender") to claim the Throne.

Thus, to preclude a Catholic from obtaining the Crown, Parliament enacted the Act of Settlement 1701, which provided that, failing the issue of Princess Anne and of William III by any future marriage, the Crown would go to Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and her descendants, who descended from James I of England through Elizabeth Stuart. Several genealogically senior claimants were disregarded due to their Catholicism. Anne acquiesced to the new line of succession created by the Act of Settlement.

Anne's reign

William III died on 8 March 1702 and Anne was crowned on 23 April.

The War of the Spanish Succession

Almost as soon as she succeeded to the throne, Anne became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession. This war, in which England supported the claim of Archduke Charles to succeed to the Spanish Throne, would continue until the last years of Anne's reign, and would dominate both foreign and domestic policy.

Soon after her accession, Anne appointed her husband Lord High Admiral, giving him control of the Royal Navy. Anne gave control of the army to Lord Marlborough, whom she appointed Captain-General. Marlborough also received numerous honours from the Queen; he was created a Knight of the Garter and was elevated to the ducal rank. The Duchess of Marlborough was appointed to the post of Mistress of the Robes, the highest office a lady could attain.

The Act of Union

Portrait of Anne in 1702 the year she became queen, from the school of John Closterman

In passing the Act of Settlement, in 1701, the English Parliament had neglected to consult with the Parliament of Scotland or Estates of Scotland, which, in part, wished to preserve the Stuart dynasty and its right of inheritance to the Throne. The Scottish response to the Settlement was to pass the Act of Security; a bill which stated that — failing the issue of the Queen — the Estates had the power to choose the next Scottish monarch from amongst the numerous descendants of the royal line of Scotland. (The individual chosen by the Estates could not be the same person who came to the English Throne, unless various religious, economic and political conditions were met.) Though it was originally not forthcoming, Royal Assent to the act was granted when the Scottish Parliament threatened to withdraw Scottish troops from the Duke of Marlborough's army in Europe and refused to impose taxes.

In its turn, the English Parliament — fearing that an independent Scotland would restore the Auld Alliance (with France) — responded with the Alien Act 1705, which provided that economic sanctions would be imposed and Scottish subjects would be declared aliens (putting their right to own property in England into jeopardy), unless Scotland either repealed the Act of Security or moved to unite with England. Eventually the Estates chose the latter option, and Commissioners were appointed by the Queen Anne to negotiate the terms of a union between the two countries. Articles of Union were approved by the Commissioners on 22 July 1706, agreed to by an Act of the Scottish Parliament passed on 16 January 1707 and an act of the English Parliament passed on 6 March 1707. Under the Acts, England and Scotland became one realm, a united kingdom called Great Britain, on 1 May 1707.

Two-party politics

Anne's reign was further marked by the development of a two-party system as the new era of parliamentary governance unfolded and matured. Anne personally preferred the Tory Party, but "endured" the Whigs.

Because of Anne's personal preferences, her first ministry was primarily Tory; at its head were Sidney Godolphin, 1st Baron Godolphin and Anne's favorite John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, both moderate Tories, but it also contained such high Tories as Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and Anne's uncle Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester. Marlborough and Godolphin kept up connections to the Whigs through the Speaker of the House of Commons, Robert Harley.

But the Whigs, who were, unlike the Tories, vigorous supporters of the War of the Spanish Succession, became much more influential after the Duke of Marlborough won a great victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Most of the High Tories, who had opposed British involvement in the land war against France, were gradually removed from office, and Godolphin, Marlborough, and Harley, by now a Secretary of State, who formed the ruling "triumvirate," were forced to rely more and more on support from the Whigs, and particularly from the Junto Whigs whom Queen Anne particularly disliked. In 1706, Godolphin and Marlborough forced Anne to accept Lord Sunderland, a Junto Whig and Marlborough's son-in-law, as Harley's colleague as Secretary of State.

Although this strengthened the ministry's position in parliament, it weakened the ministry's position with the Queen, as Anne became increasingly irritated with Godolphin and with her erstwhile favorite, the Duchess of Marlborough. Increasingly, the Queen turned for private advice to Harley, who was increasingly uncomfortable with Marlborough and Godolphin's turn towards the Whigs, and was moving closer to supporting the Tory "blue water" policy on the war; and to Abigail Hill, a cousin of the Duchess who became more amenable to Anne as her relationship with Sarah deteriorated.

The division within the ministry came to a head in February 1708, when Godolphin and Marlborough insisted that the Queen must either dismiss Harley or do without their services. When the Queen seemed to hesitate, Marlborough and Godolphin refused to attend a cabinet meeting on 8 February. When Harley attempted to lead business without his erstwhile colleagues, several of those present, including the Duke of Somerset refused to participate until Godolphin and Marlborough returned.

Her hand forced, the Queen dismissed Harley on 11 February. But Godolphin and Marlborough's victory was a hollow one, as their personal relationship with Anne would never recover from the blow. Furthermore, they found themselves increasingly at the mercy of the Junto leaders. Whereas previously they had been able to determine war policy largely as they liked, their total parliamentary dependence on the Whigs meant that they had to consult with Junto leaders Lord Somers and Lord Halifax. This dependence on the hated Junto only increased the Queen's dislike of the ministry.

Death of her husband

Half-crown coin of Anne, 1708. The inscription reads in Latin: ANNA DEI GRATIA (Anne by the Grace of God).

Anne's husband, Prince George of Denmark, died in October 1708. His leadership of the Admiralty was unpopular amongst the Whig leaders; as he lay on his deathbed, some Whigs were preparing to make a motion requesting his removal from the office of Lord High Admiral. Anne was forced to appeal to the Duke of Marlborough to ensure that the motion was not made.

Anne was devastated by the loss of her husband, and the event proved a turning point in her relationship with her old friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. The Duchess arrived at Windsor shortly after he died, and forced the Queen to leave the castle and move to St. James's Palace against her will. Anne pleaded to be left alone, and resented the Duchess for insisting that the grieving Queen be attended at all times.

The Whigs used the Prince's death to their own advantage. With Whigs now dominant in parliament, and Anne overbowed by the loss of her husband, they forced her to accept the Junto leaders Lord Somers and Lord Wharton into the cabinet. Their power was, however, limited by Anne's insistence on carrying out the duties of Lord High Admiral herself, and not appointing a member of the government to take Prince George's place. Undeterred, the Junto demanded the appointment of the Earl of Orford, another member of the Junto and one of Prince George's leading critics, as First Lord of the Admiralty. Anne flatly refused, and chose her own candidate, the moderate Tory Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke on 29 November 1708.

Pressure mounted on Pembroke, Godolphin and the Queen from the dissatisfied Junto Whigs, and Pembroke was forced to resign after less than a year in office. Another month of arguments followed before the Queen finally consented to put the Admiralty in control of the Earl of Orford in November 1709.

Later years

Tinted engraving of Queen Anne from an atlas commissioned by Augustus II the Strong, ca. 1706–1710

As the expensive War of the Spanish Succession grew unpopular so too did the Whig administration. Harley, now in opposition, was particularly skillful in using the issue (of the cost of the war) to motivate the electorate. The Queen, increasingly disdained by her ministry's policy of "no peace without Spain," finally took the opportunity to dismiss Godolphin in August 1710. The Junto Whigs (Sunderland, Somers, Wharton, and Orford) were also removed from office, although Marlborough, for the moment, remained as commander of the army. In their place, she appointed a new ministry, headed by Harley, which began to seek peace with France. Harley and the Tories were ready to compromise by giving Spain to the grandson of the French King, but the Whigs could not bear to see a Bourbon on the Spanish Throne. In the parliamentary elections which soon followed, Harley used government patronage to create a large Tory majority.

The dispute was resolved by outside events: the elder brother of Archduke Charles (whom the Whigs supported) died in 1711 and Charles then inherited Austria, Hungary and the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. To give him also the Spanish throne to which he had aspired was no longer in Great Britain's interests. But the proposed Treaty of Utrecht submitted to Parliament for ratification did not go as far as the Whigs wanted to curb Bourbon ambitions. In the House of Commons, the Tory majority was unassailable, but the same was not true in the House of Lords. Seeing a need for decisive action — to erase the Whig majority in the House of Lords — Anne created twelve new peers. Such a mass creation of peers was unprecedented; indeed, Elizabeth I had granted fewer peerage dignities in forty-four years than Anne did in a single day. This allowed for ratification of the Treaty and thus ended Great Britain's involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession.


Anne died of suppressed gout, ending in erysipelas, at approximately 7 o'clock on 1 August 1714. Her body was so swollen and large that it had to be buried in Westminster Abbey in a vast almost-square coffin.

She died shortly after the Electress Sophia (8 June, the same year); the Electress's son, George I, Elector of Hanover, inherited the British Crown. Pursuant to the Act of Settlement 1701, the crown was settled on George as Electress Sophia's heir, with the possible Catholic claimants, including James Francis Edward Stuart, ignored. However, the Elector of Hanover's accession was relatively stable: Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1719 both failed.


Scottish and English Royalty
House of Stuart
Coat of Arms of England (1702-1707).svg
    William, Duke of Gloucester

The reign of Anne was marked by an increase in the influence of ministers and a decrease in the influence of the Crown. In 1708, Anne became the last British Sovereign to withhold the Royal Assent from a bill (in this case, a Scots militia bill).

Preoccupied with her health (she may have suffered from porphyria), Anne allowed her ministers, most notably Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, as well as her favourites (Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and Abigail Masham) to dominate politics.

The shift of power from the Crown to the ministry became even more apparent during the reign of George I, whose chief advisor, Sir Robert Walpole, is often described as the "first Prime Minister."

The age of Anne was also one of artistic, literary, and scientific advancement. In architecture, Sir John Vanbrugh constructed elegant edifices such as Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift flourished during Anne's reign.

Her name also remains associated with the world's first substantial copyright law, known as the Statute of Anne (1709), which granted exclusive rights to authors rather than printers.

Although Anne and her reign have no direct bearing on the style personally, at the time Queen Anne architecture style became popular in the late 1800s, her name connoted a sense of Old World elegance and extravagant, ornate details.

The American city of Annapolis, Maryland, which originally bore several other names, was given its present name in 1694 by Sir Francis Nicholson, in honour of the then Princess Anne. Princess Anne, Maryland, located in the heart of Somerset County, and Princess Anne County, Virginia, were named for her before her accession to the throne. Queen Anne's County, Maryland was named for her during her reign in 1706. Upon its capture from the French in 1710, Port-Royal in Nova Scotia was renamed Annapolis Royal in honour of the Queen.

In popular culture

The BBC TV drama series The First Churchills depicts Anne's life from her childhood to her death, focusing on her friendship with Sarah Churchill. Anne was played by Margaret Tyzack. Anne has also been played on screen by: Anna Kallina in the Austrian silent film Das Grinsende Gesicht (1921) and Josephine Crowell in the silent film The Man Who Laughs (1928), both based on the novel The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo; Gunnel Lindblom in the Swedish TV drama Ett Glas vatten, Judit Halász in the Hungarian TV play Sakk-matt (1977), Liselotte Pulver in the West German film Das Glas Wasser (1960), and Russian actress Natalya Belokhvostikova in the Soviet film Stakan vody (Стакан воды) (1979), all based on the play Le Verre d'eau by Eugène Scribe; and Elizabeth Spriggs in the BBC drama documentary Wren: The Man Who Built Britain (2004). In the 1984 comedy Yellowbeard she is played by Peter Bull (in his last film role) as a fat, senile woman, dominated by Sarah Churchill ( Susannah York).

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal styles of
Anne of Great Britain
England Arms 1603.svg
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Titles and styles

  • 6 February 1665 – 28 July 1683: Her Highness The Lady Anne
  • 28 July 1683 – 8 March 1702: Her Royal Highness Princess Anne of Denmark
  • 8 March 1702 – 1 May 1707: Her Majesty The Queen [of England, Scotland and Ireland]
  • 1 May 1707 – 1 August 1714: Her Majesty The Queen [of Great Britain and Ireland]

The official style of Anne before 1707 was "Anne, by the Grace of God, Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." (The claim to France was only nominal, and had been asserted by every English King since Edward III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.) After the Union, her style was "Anne, by the Grace of God, Queen of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc."


Anne's arms before the Union were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland). After the Union, the arms of England and Scotland, which had previously been in different quarters, were "impaled," or placed side-by-side, in the same quarter to emphasise that the two countries had become one Kingdom. The new arms were: Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England) impaling Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); II Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or (for France); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland). She used the motto Semper eadem (always the same).



Name Birth Death
Stillborn Daughter 12 May 1684 12 May 1684
Mary 2 June 1685 8 February 1687
Anne Sophia 12 May 1686 2 February 1687
Miscarriage January 1687 January 1687
Stillborn Son 22 October 1687 22 October 1687
Miscarriage 16 April 1688 16 April 1688
William, Duke of Gloucester 24 July 1689 29 July 1700
Mary 14 October 1690 14 October 1690
George 17 April 1692 17 April 1692
Stillborn Daughter 23 April 1693 23 April 1693
Stillborn Child 21 January 1694 21 January 1694
Stillborn Daughter 18 February 1696 18 February 1696
Miscarriage 20 September 1696 20 September 1696
Stillborn Daughter 25 March 1697 25 March 1697
Miscarriage December 1697 December 1697
Charles 15 September 1698 15 September 1698
Stillborn Daughter 25 January 1700 25 January 1700

All of Anne's children bore the titles of Prince(ss) of Denmark and Prince(ss) of Norway.

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