Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anne Stuart, Queen Regnant of Great Britain and Ireland

Anne Stuart, queen of England, Ireland and Scotland (reign begins, 19* March 1702)


Although we tend to think most often only of the reigning Tudor queens, Mary and Elizabeth, and maybe, on occasion, of Queen Victoria, there are two other female monarchs who have sat on the English throne (other than the current one), two sisters, Mary and Anne Stuart.

Queen Anne,
1705 painting by Michael Dahl
Today, 19 March,* the younger of those two women, Anne, became queen of England. The daughter of the deposed King James II, Anne ruled for a relatively short time, from 1702 until 1714.

She is most frequently remembered (if she is remembered at all) for having been pregnant seventeen times--most of these pregnancies ending in miscarriage or stillbirths, none of her children surviving childhood. More cruelly and callously, she is often reviled for being fat. This focus on her body, and on its reproductive "failings," along with dismissal of her as being stupid, weak, and manipulated by favorites, is unfair, and recently historians have begun a reassessment of her role as queen. 

In his biography of Anne, David Green argues that "Hers was not, as used to be supposed, petticoat government. She had considerable power; yet time and time again she had to capitulate." Maureen Waller notes that traditional assessments of Anne may have more to do with the biases and assumptions of male historians than with Anne's abilities--or lack of them.

There are several full-length biographies to choose from--David Green's Queen Anne, Edward Gregg's Queen Anne, and Anne Somerset's Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion. Maureen Waller, to whom I referred, above, includes a discussion of Anne in her Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power, the Six Reigning Queens of England, and treats both Stuart queens, Mary and Anne, in her Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown, but she presents an extremely negative view of Anne.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Anne's life is her passionate and disastrous friendship with Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough and, later, with Abigail Hill, baroness Masham. Somerset is particularly good with her analysis on the significance of these relationships. 

*Dating for William's death and Anne's accession often vary in sources, depending on whether the date is given in the Old Style or New Style [the calendar shifted in 1752]--in the Old Style, Anne's becoming queen occurred on 8 March, but for the purpose of this blog, I'm posting about Anne today, using the New Style!