The Good Queen Anne: Mother of Great Britain

Guest article written by: Karlie

Queen Anne

On 28 July 1683 Anne Stuart –daughter of the future King James II and his wife Anne Hyde — married Prince George of Denmark in London at the Chapel Royal in St James Palace. As is often the case with royal marriages, Anne and George’s union was not a love match; but rather a political one; which was principally brought about by Anne’s uncle King Charles II and King Louis XIV of France, in an effort to establish an Anglo-Danish alliance, in order to weaken the Dutch.

It is said that Anne (a young girl of nineteen) accepted “her fate [marriage] stoically.1”, and that George (a man eleven years his wife’s senior) approached the union in the manner in which he generally approached all aspects of his life: with a relaxed attitude…

Prince George of Denmark
Prince George of Denmark

Their marriage was by all accounts a happy one, in which they grew to love and respect each other. Apparently, “In her marriage to George of Denmark, Anne was very much the senior partner both by royal rank and of personality.2” However, their marriage was not without its obstacles.

Anne’s first child, a daughter, was stillborn. Her second and third children, two daughters (Mary and Anne Sophia) died as small children from smallpox. Anne’s fourth pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. Two more pregnancies followed: one stillborn and another miscarriage…. Until finally, on 24 July 1689, Anne gave birth to a son William, aka the Duke of Gloucester.

Prince William

William was described as a “delicate child3”. In his infancy, he “was seized with convulsive fits4” so terrible that “…every day they expect[ed] his death…5” However, William recovered and Anne and George did their best to ensure the health and safety of their beloved son and only heir, which included keeping him away from the “polluted air of London…6”.

Anne became pregnant ten more times after William was born. Five of those pregnancies resulted in a miscarriage, two babies died in their infancy, another stillborn, and the last two children — born in September 1698 and January 1700 – were, also, still born.

Anne with her husband, Prince George of Denmark, painted by Charles Boit, 1706
Anne with her husband, Prince George of Denmark, painted by Charles Boit, 1706

Unfortunately, Anne and George could not seek solace in the fact that they had at least one child because in July 1700 William began to suffer from “headache[s], nausea, a sore throat, [and] fever7”. After several painful attempts by the doctors to help cure him, young William never recovered. He died, aged eleven, on 30 July 1700 from either small pox or acute bacterial pharyngitis. Anne was beside herself with grief at the loss of her son. She confined herself to her rooms and gardens where she could be alone with her thoughts…

On record, Anne had been pregnant a staggering seventeen — perhaps eighteen or nineteen — times. There have been various theories as to why none of Anne and George’s children made it past childhood. There are two rather salacious theories. One suggests that George had syphilis and it was passed on to Anne which “produced hydrocephalus in young [William] Gloucester8”. The other theory was that Anne’s father James II had “infected both of his wives and eleven of his fifteen legitimate children with syphilis. 9” In regards to Anne’s own health, theories include: “Rhesus incompatibility or some other blood-group antigen10”; “hemolytic disease in the fetus11”; “a deformed pelvis12”; “a “dropsical infection13”; “intra-uterine growth retardation due to placental insufficiency14”; and porphyria.

The Royal Collection © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (c. 1701-14)

The most widely accepted explanation for Anne’s reproduction troubles, is that she suffered from an autoimmune disorder known as antiphospholipid syndrome. (It bears mentioning that Anne’s elder sister, Mary, had suffered a similar fate: all three of her children were still born.)

On 8 March 1702, Anne became Queen of England, Ireland and Scotland her husband, became Consort. Anne succeeded her brother in law William III and before him his wife (Anne’s sister) Mary II. Protestant England still looked to the newly crowned couple to secure and continue the Stuart line. However, Anne never bore more children. What’s more, her beloved husband George died “of asthma and dropsy from which he had long been afflicted15” on 28 October 1708.

Anne had seldom been inclined to good health. As a child, she was afflicted with poor eyesight, and had once contracted smallpox. But following the many pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths and personal losses Anne’s health worsened.

Anne suffered greatly from gout and rheumatism. One of Anne’s biographers, Anne Somerset, points out that she may even have had lupus.

Anne eventually became so sedentary and overweight that she had to be ushered around in a wheelchair (she even had to be carried to her coronation). In the end, having suffered a stroke, Queen Anne became bed ridden. Her body so swollen that she was unable to move altogether. At age just forty nine Anne died on 1 August 1714 at Kensington Palace.

King George
King George I of Hanover

Her body so large that it had to be placed in a type of square-shaped coffin, Anne was buried alongside her husband and children in Westminster Abbey. Her passing marked the end of the Stuart dynasty. George I of Hanover inherited the crown and was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1714-1727.

Anne had reigned for only twelve  years. In those years she had accomplished a lot; even if she was, sadly, unable to provide an heir. She had been instrumental in bringing about– alongside Parliament– the Treaty of Union which united England and Scotland. This act — along with her infamous friendship with Sarah Churchill– is perhaps what Queen Anne is best remembered for and not that she had had seventeen pregnancies which all resulted in death and heartache.

In addition to feeling a massive amount of sympathy for Queen Anne, one can and should also remark upon her resolve and courage to not only carry on after so many personal defeats, but that she still took on the extensive responsibilities of being Queen. I find it quite touching and poetic that Anne wanted the people of her realm to look to her as a motherly figure.

The Scottish author and poet Tobias Smollett said of the late Queen Anne:

“She felt a mother’s fondness for her people by whom she was universally beloved with a warmth of affection which even the prejudice of party could not abate. In a word, if she was not the greatest, she was certainly one of the best and most unblemished sovereigns that ever sat upon the throne of England, and well deserved the expressive, though simple epithet of “the good Queen Anne”16”.

1 Queen Anne by Edward Gregg
2 Lord Churchill’s Coup: The Anglo-American Empire and the Glorious Revolution Reconsidered by Stephen S. Webb
3, 4, 5, 6, 7 The English Royal Family of America, from Jamestown to the American Revolution by Michael A. Beatty
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 The Royal Doctors, 1485-1714: Medical Personnel at the Tudor and Stuart Courts by Elizabeth Lane Furdell
15 A Complete History of England: From the Descent of Julius Caesar …, Volume 10 by Tobias George Smollett
16 Elegant Extracts: Or, Useful and Entertaining Passages in Prose …, Volume 2 by Tobias Smollett

About the Author:

kL16loFoI’m Karlie (also known as History Gal on Twitter)! I’m a pre-med student from the U.S. I have many interests including reading, writing, drawing and painting but my passion is History. I have read and love to read just about every period in history but I am most interested in the Tudor period. I’m intrigued, not just by the Tudor dynasty, but also by the world in which they lived: the people, the religion, the politics, the conflicts, the events, the castles, the beautiful clothes, just overall their way of life.

It should go without saying that I love England and its rich history. My dream is to go there and see as many Tudor related places as I can!

Follow on Twitter: @HistoryGal_

3 thoughts on “The Good Queen Anne: Mother of Great Britain

    1. You’re correct. It was a minor mistake. I was thinking of Anne’s reign as Queen of Great Britain & Ireland from 1707-1714, which lasted for 7 years. I’ll have it revised/expanded.


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