England has had a long history of successful rulers, and a fair share among them have been women. Great Britain and England are the countries that have had some powerful reigning queens at the time when there was no male heir for the crown. These women rulers were infamous for their ruling and some were best known for being the longest-reigning and the most successful rulers in the entire British history. Queen Anne, The Powerful Woman Ruler of England.
However, in the history of British monarchy, it has always been a tradition that the throne is passed on to the eldest son of the monarch, regardless of how many older sisters are present in the family. This is probably the only reason why the country has had just a few, but very successful queens.
If you have ever had a chance to go through the history of British monarchy, it is very apparent that among the many queens England has had, the queen played two major roles in her life. One is that she was usually used as a political pawn in state dealings and the second infamous role was that of producing as many heirs as she could.
However, even through these difficult situations, there have been eight queens that have ruled England, and who have also managed to notch up pretty impressive records during their reigns. Two of the eight queens have achieved the world record of being the longest reigning queens, two have had the record of having some of the shortest reigns of the country, one of the queen went on to become the country’s oldest ever monarch, and one of the queens was an heir right at the time of their birth.
A few other interesting facts about these queens that make the book is that one of the queens never did achieve her rightful place on the throne, one of them should have never been on the throne at all, and one of the queens was the only one in the entire history of British monarch who was inaugurated by the parliament to rule as a joint sovereign. And three of the queens, albeit being born in the royal family, were in fact not the daughter of the previous ruling monarch.
All of these eight queens of England have ruled the country for a total of just about two hundred years. Four of these queens produced about seventeen heirs between them and the other four died childless and without any health issues.
Among all these famous monarchs, let us dive in deep in this history of one particular queen, Queen Anne of Great Britain.
Queen Anne was born on the 6th of February of 1665 in London England. She was the queen of Great Britain and Ireland from the year 1702 to 1714, until she died in the same year. She was also the last of the Stuart monarch. Queen Anne had always wanted to rule independently , but due to her intellectual limitations and later due to her chronic ill health issues made her to rely heavily on the court ministers. These ministers then directed England’s efforts against France and Spain during the War of Spanish Succession, between the years 1701-1714.
Queen Anne’s reign was mainly characterized by the bitter rivalries between Whigs and Tories, which later cause mayhem and a sort of uncertainty over the succession of the throne.
Childhood and Upbringing-
Queen Anne was the second daughter of James, the Duke of York (King James II) who ruled from 1685-88, and born to mother Anne Hyde. Even though her father was a Roman Catholic, she was brought up to be a Protestant on the insistence of King Charles II, her uncle.
In the year 1683, Queen Anne was married off to Prince George of Denmark, a rather handsome and a devoted companion. One thing that created a political stir all over and made controversies in the monarch was Anne’s close friendship with one of her childhood friends- Sarah Jennings Churchill, who was the wife of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The magnificent lady soon became a close friend of Anne’s and had Anne in her power.
Having had the princess in her full power, with her sweet and kind words and an innerving charm, Sarah was the one who had persuaded Queen Anne to side with the Protestant ruler Willian III of Orange, and the stadtholder of the Netherlands. And then in the future, William was the one who overthrew James III in 1688.
Going by the Bill of Rights of 1689, William and his wife, Mary, who was Queen Anne’s elder sister were then made the king and Queen of England, placing Queen Anne in the line of succession. Albeit being sisters, Anne and Mary were known to have a bitter relationship and fell-out. In the year 1694, after Mary’s death, King William slowly cultivated Anne’s goodwill. But even then, he clearly refused to let Anne handle the reign during his absences from England.
Anne was known to have been pregnant 18 times between the years 1683 and 1700, but only five of her children were alive, and among those five, only one son survived infancy. After his death in 1700, Queen Anne had lost all hopes of providing herself and with her the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland with a successor. And with this, she also accepted to the Act of Settlement of 1701, where she was designated as the successor of the Hanoverian descendants of King James I of England through his daughter Elizabeth.
The Reign of Queen Anne-
In the year 1702, Queen Anne was announced as the Queen upon the death of William in March of that year. Right from the start of her reign, Queen Anne was influenced and motivated heavily by her intense devotion to the Anglican Church. Having been brought up that way, Anne grew to strongly detest the Roman Catholics and Dissenters and had a great sense of sympathy for the High Church Tories.
It was also the time when she wanted to be free from the domination of the political parties. Queen Anne’s first ever ministry, even though it was predominantly Tory, was spearheaded by two neutrals namely, Sidney Godolphin and the duke of Marlborough. There was a decrease in the influence of Sarah Churchill, who was now the duchess of Marlborough, over Queen Anne, even though the duke remained the commander of the British forces.
Over the years, as Queen Anne progressed in her reign, she soon discovered that she had a strong disagreement to the Tories on the strategy for the war. The Queen, Marlborough and the Whigs, all wanted to dedicate the English troops to the Continental campaigns, while on the other hand, the Tories believed that England should keep the enemy occupied principally at the sea.
As a consequence, as Marlborough began to accumulate great and pretty impressive victories on the Continent, more and more pressure was being exerted on Queen Anne to admit Whigs to the administration. Even though, she resisted obstinately, and in the period also grew cold towards the duchess, who then adopted the cause of the Whig politicians.
By the year 1707, the duchess had been replaced in the Queen’s affections by someone named Abigail Masham, who turned out to be the tool of leading the Tory, Robert Harley, who later went on to become the first earl of Oxford.
In one year, by 1708, the games and schemes by Harley and Masham started causing great embarrassment to Queen Anne, and with this she was forced to dismiss Harley and succumb to some of the most prominent Whigs admitted in her administration. As the war prolonged, the entire nation turned against the Whigs. And then in the year 1710, Anne was capable of expelling them and thus appoint a Tory ministry. In 1711, Queen Anne dismissed both the Marlboroughs from her service.
Two years later, in the year 1713, there was an agreement made between Spain and Britain which granted the British a monopoly to continue their slave trade with the Spanish colonies. Under the Act Asiento de negros, the monarch of Britain was qualified to supply these Spanish colonies with 4800 African slaves per year for a span of about 30 years. This contract was primarily assigned to the South Sea Company, a company in which Queen Anne had some 22.5% of the stock.
The advancing age of the queen and her infirmities made the next succession a critical issue in the monarch. The Tories, who were a primary part of the administration at the time, were in good and constant contact of Anne’s exiled Roman Catholic half-brother, James, the Old Pretender. He was someone who was excluded by law from any kind of succession.
Despite of this fact, the suddenness of Anne’s final illness and death thus frustrated any plans the Tories might have had to capture the throne for the Pretender. Queen Anne’s last stint was securing the Protestant succession by placing the lord treasurer’s staff in the hands of one capable, moderate, Charles Talbot, the Duke of Shrewsbury. He then presided over the accession of the Hanoverian prince George Louis or King George I from 1714 to 1727.