Friday, 7 September 2018

Queen Anne – The last monarch of the Stuart Dynasty by Trisha Hughes #Stuart #History @TrishaHughes_

Queen Anne –
 The last monarch of the Stuart Dynasty
By Trisha Hughes

Portrait by Michael Dahl, 1705 — Wikipedia 

When it comes to tragic lives, Queen Anne undoubtedly wins the competition hands down, mainly due to her horrific gynaecological record. In sixteen years, she had seventeen pregnancies: twelve were either miscarried or stillborn, having died weeks before in her womb. Of all her children, only one survived to 11 years of age before he died as well. There would have been nothing more heart-breaking than seeing Anne and her husband mourning together over a tiny empty cot. Sometimes they wept uncontrollably together. Other times they would just sit in silence, staring at nothing. It must have been unimaginably awful.

By the time Anne came to the throne, after the death of her sister’s husband William of Orange, she was sick with grief after losing so many children and she took the throne knowing she was the last of her line - The Stuart dynasty.

No one had ever called Anne glamorous. She had poor vision, she was not highly intelligent, and she suffered from polyarthritis, blotchy skin and gout. From birth, she was plagued with numerous health problems and no one had ever really expected her to live to adulthood. In any case, England was not too concerned. She was the second of James II’s two daughters and her uncle, Charles II, seemed more than willing to produce a large family. Anne was so far down the line, she was almost forgotten.

Anne grew up in a world full of controversy and death. In 1669, at only 4 years old, she was sent to France for some medical treatment where she lived with her paternal grandmother Queen Henrietta Maria at a chateau outside of Paris. Within a year, her grandmother was dead and she was hurriedly sent to live with her aunt, Henrietta Duchess of Orleans, who had been married for 10 years to Louis XIV’s younger brother Philippe.

Henrietta had been having problems with her own health. For 2 years, she’d been complaining of an intermittent, intense pain in her side and shortly before Anne arrived, the pain had progressed and she was having digestive problems as well. One morning late in June, she felt the all-familiar pain in her side again and days later, she was dead.

With the sudden death of her aunt, Anne was hurriedly rushed back to the family home in England. In two years, Anne had lost two close family members and had already lived in four different homes. But there were even more changes for her in the future.

There didn’t seem a time in Anne’s short life when someone wasn’t dying. In the space of nine months, Anne’s mother died of breast cancer, her young brother Edgar died and in December of the same year, her youngest baby sister Catherine died as well. Of her seven brothers and sisters, the only sibling left was her elder sister Mary. 

Her world at six years old must have been so full of confusion and death. On top of everything else that had happened in her short life, she and Mary were only one year away from being sent to live at Richmond in the care of Colonel Edward Villiers and his wife Frances. After their mother’s death, they would be separated from their father who was starting a new chapter in his life by marrying an Italian princess only seven years older than Anne herself. On the bright side however, she was also only one year away from meeting the charismatic Sarah Jennings. Not too far in the future, Sarah Jennings would become Sarah Churchill after marrying John Churchill, a promising young officer in the English army and the brother of her father’s former mistress, and she would be destined to become Anne’s closest friend and advisor for most of Anne’s reign, although somewhat controversially.

To have had so many changes in her young life must have left the 14-year-old almost numb with shock. Her mother, grandmother and aunt were all dead and her father had little to do with her. She had lost all but one of her siblings except for her elder sister Mary who had left the country to live with her new husband, William of Orange, in Europe. Anne was utterly alone.

To all intents and purposes, Anne must have been a lost little girl, isolated and alone. It helps to explain why Sarah Jennings was able to step in and cement their relationship with such ease in a world full of upheaval and it’s easy to understand why Anne clung desperately to the one constant in her life. 

At fifteen, Anne was still unbetrothed and her uncle Charles II had begun looking for an eligible match who would be welcomed by his Catholic ally, Louis XIV of France. Prince George of Denmark, the younger brother of King Christian V, seemed the ideal match and Anne’s father James eagerly consented. It was the ideal solution to diminish the influence of his son-in-law, William of Orange. 

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

 Although an arranged marriage, both Anne and George seemed devoted to each other and England breathed a sigh of relief. Within a couple of months, Anne fell pregnant and England celebrated joyously with the news. But the revelries did not go on for very long. Anne miscarried soon after the announcement and sadly for her, it would be the first of many. 

Year after year, pregnancy after pregnancy, miscarriage after miscarriage, Anne began to lean more heavily on Sarah for support and companionship. When babies died, Sarah was the one by her side comforting her. When Anne’s uncle Charles died and her father James, a staunch Catholic, became king, it was Sarah who fully understood the implications.

The year 1687 was particularly devastating for Anne. In January, she suffered a miscarriage and barely two weeks later in the first two weeks of February, her only two surviving children, Mary and Anna Sophia aged 2 and 1, died of smallpox within six days of each other. In October the same year, Anne delivered a stillborn son when she was 7 ½ months pregnant and in April of the following year, she miscarried yet again. Through all of it, Anne became more dependent and emotionally fragile and Sarah seemed to be Anne’s most loyal companion. As for the smart, young, ambitious Sarah, it was the perfect arrangement.

The House of Stuart desperately needed an heir for its survival and England was beginning to feel nervous. That nervousness escalated when James and her stepmother finally produced a son in 1688 and a Catholic succession seemed more than likely. That is, until Parliament stepped in and invited Anne’s brother-in-law, William of Orange, to invade and he had done the unthinkable and taken up Parliament’s offer. The Glorious Revolution had begun.

On July 24, 1689, Anne gave birth to a live baby boy at Hampton Court Palace and Parliament held their breath. The child was baptized William Henry three days later and his godfather King William III declared that the title of Duke of Gloucester would be his. After William’s birth, Anne would eventually go on to have more unsuccessful pregnancies: two premature babies who lived for about two hours, four stillbirths, and four miscarriages.

When Young William was born, he seemed to be a bright, healthy little boy. But soon, Anne’s worst fear was realised and he began to suffer from a series of convulsions. Knowing the fate of her other children, his doctors feared the worst. Anne and George were inconsolable and never left his side, wringing their hands and crying softly throughout the night. Almost miraculously, he pulled through, although weaker and less lively than before.

Young William did not walk or talk until the age of 3 and as he grew older, it became more apparent that there was something terribly wrong with the child. The little boy had to be held up by his servants when he attempted to walk and even then, he tottered. He could not even go up and down stairs without help. Although he seemed to have grown, although slowly, by 5 years old, his head was so round that his hat was big enough for most men. This was the dawning of awareness that William had hydrocephalus. 

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

Anne and George seemed oblivious and glowed with happiness. Until his 11th birthday when he complained of a headache and a sore throat. Everyone assumed it was because of the excitement from his birthday so he was put to bed and left alone to rest. In the evening, his throat had worsened and he had chills. His doctors used the usual dreadful treatments of the time, bleeding and blistering, which no doubt made the boy’s already fragile condition even worse. It was as his mother and father were bent in anguish over his bed that William died in the morning of July 30, 1700 at Windsor Castle. His death meant the end of the Stuart dynasty.

Portrait from the school of John Closterman, circa 1702. 
Parliament searched desperately through the Stuart family tree looking for a more suitable candidate than the Catholic son of James II and his second wife, Mary of Modena - James Francis Edward Stuart. But with fifty of Anne’s Catholic relatives standing in a long queue to claim the throne, they needed to be quick. One by one they went through the list crossing names off, even the names of those who had a legitimate claim to the throne were discarded in their frantic attempt to find a Protestant heir. Until the name Sophia Electress of Hanover finally popped up. She was the granddaughter of James I through his daughter Elizabeth and as such, she had Stuart blood running through her veins and she was a Protestant. Parliament quickly told Sophia the good news and then breathed a sigh of relief.

George’s death in October 1708 marked the point when things became unglued for Anne. With her rock gone, what was the point anymore? Even Sarah Churchill had proved to be more an antagonist than a friend. Occasionally she would rouse herself but it was never with the same fervour as before.  

Although considerably older than Anne, Sophia of Hanover enjoyed much better health.  Then one day, she was walking in the gardens of Herrenhausen when she ran to shelter from a sudden downpour of rain. It was there, alone in the garden, that she collapsed and died. 

One month later, at only 49 years of age, Anne suffered a stroke and died as well. After twelve months in bed, obesity and gout, seventeen pregnancies had finally taken its toll on her body.

It would be a new era for England and they were to find that their new king, George of Hanover, was a short, quiet German who could barely speak a word of English. 

David Green: Queen Anne P. 335
Maureen Waller: Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England PP 293-295
Anne Somerset: Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion P 165

Vikings to Virgin

The Hazards of being King

In Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King Trisha Hughes provides the reader with a pacey introduction to the many pitfalls faced by the ambitious as they climbed the dangerous ladders of royalty. It is easy to think that monarchs are all powerful, but throughout the Dark and Middle Ages it was surprisingly easy to unseat one and assume the crown yourself. But if it was easy to gain ... it was just as easy to lose.

From the dawn of the Vikings through to Elizabeth I, Trisha Hughes follows the violent struggles for power and the many brutal methods employed to wrest it and keep hold of it. Murder, deceit, treachery, lust and betrayal were just a few of the methods used to try and win the crown. Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King spans fifteen hundred years and is a highly accessible and enjoyable ride through the dark side of early British monarchy.

Virgin to Victoria

The Queen is Dead. Long live the Queen

 After the death of Elizabeth I’s sister, ‘Bloody Mary’, England had high hopes for their new queen when she came to the throne. 25-year-old Elizabeth I attended her first council exuding an air of quiet confidence, even though she was inheriting a bankrupt nation torn apart by religious discord. It was chaotic.

Despite her amazing legacy and despite what her father, Henry VIII, had desired above all else, Elizabeth failed England in one vital point. She never married and did not leave an heir to the Tudor dynasty. By making that one fateful decision, she left the path open for the Stuarts in Scotland to take over and life would never be the same.

‘Virgin to Victoria’ travels in time through Elizabeth I’s amazing life, through the confusion of the Stuart dynasty, through the devastation of a Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell, through horrific battles for the throne and through the turbulent and discordant Hanover dynasty with its intricate family squabbles.

Queen Victoria did not ask to be Queen. It was thrust upon her by the accident of birth and then by a succession of accidents that removed all others who stood between her and the throne. She assumed it reluctantly and, at first, incompetently. Parliament was sure the 18-year-old could be relied upon to leave the job of running the country to the professionals.

Couldn’t she?

Trisha Hughes

I was born in a little outback town called Blackall in Central Queensland, Australia. From there my parents moved to the Brisbane suburb of Fortitude Valley where I grew up to be a tiny, self-reliant little girl.

My first book, ‘Daughters of Nazareth’ is my story, written eighteen years ago, fuelled on by the discovery of a family I never knew I had.  It’s full of family secrets, tremendous heartache but proves the human spirit’s amazing ability to triumph over adversity. Nineteen years ago, after just one phone call, my life changed abruptly. With that change came a passion for writing and I have been writing ever since.

I love writing crime novels but my passion is with the history of the British Monarchy. The first in my‘V2V’ trilogy is ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’ published in 2017. The second in the series is due for release on 28th April this year and is called ‘Virgin to Victoria – The Queen is Dead. Long live the Queen.’ The final book, ‘Victoria to Vikings – The Circle of Blood’ will be released early 2019.

Trisha loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website •  Twitter • Facebook


  1. Trisha, what a fabulous post. You made the history of the Stuart line so easy to read. The paintings almost told a story of their own.

  2. Queen Anne had such a tragic life. Thank you for sharing her story with us.

  3. I found myself crying when I finished reading your post, Trisha. What a tragic life, Anne had.


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