Ok, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday with the relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 removed the Catholic James II in favor of his Protestant daughter, Mary II, and son-in-law, William III. A co-rule was established in the early days of 1689 that required a slight alteration to the succession since Mary and Princess Anne both had better claims to the throne than William.
Mary, however, refused to consider ruling as queen regnant with her husband as consort, and so not only was he made co-monarch, but Anne agreed to delay her succession until after William’s death if Mary pre-deceased him.
I don’t know how many of you saw the recent film, “The Favourite,” but I did, and while I liked it, I also think it’s worth digging into what truth the story captured, and where they took some poetic license. The story follows a theoretical love triangle between Queen Anne and two members of her household, the Duchess of Marlborough and Lady Masham. All three women, of course, existed, and while we can never know for certain what happened behind closed doors, there is a long paper trail that follows this trio, so let’s dig in.
William III and Mary II, or William and Mary of Orange, mark Britain’s only pair of co-monarchs, but the five years in which they jointly reigned were hardly smooth-sailing after the quiet drama of the Glorious Revolution. For starters, the idea that they were in any way equal was a farce, though how that unfolded publicly versus privately looked quite different. Mary, the daughter of the deposed James II, was widely accepted as the true Protestant monarch, if you assumed that Catholics should not sit on the throne and that James II’s infant son was either a changeling or Catholic, or both. William, on the other hand, was a foreigner, a thing trusted less by the English than a woman ruler in the 17th century.
Mary Beatrice of Modena was only queen for a brief and volatile three years, but she bears the notable moniker of being the last Catholic to wear the crown, her husband, James II, serving as the last Catholic monarch. Born in Italy, her career in England was marred by growing religious paranoia and hysteria, accusations of her son being a “changeling” and exile. She would live through the reigns of her two stepdaughters – Mary II and Queen Anne – and in fact outlive them both, surviving to see the first four years of the German House of Hanover in England despite her son biding his time in exile. Today we’re going to take a look at her time as Duchess of York and queen.
In October 1660, rumors began swirling that the child Anne Hyde was carrying was fathered by the King’s brother, James Stuart, Duke of York. Even worse, the child wouldn’t be a bastard because the couple secretly married the month before. James’s mother, Henrietta Maria of France, was enraged; Anne’s father, Edward Hyde, a councilor to Charles II, stated publicly that he would rather his daughter was James’s whore than his wife. In short, it wasn’t well-received.
On Sunday, we examined the religious friction that defined the Stuarts, finally prompting the Glorious Revolution. The story ends with the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the end of the Stuart line, but it’s worth zooming in on this time and examining how extraordinary the beginning the House of Hanover truly was. Echoes of it, further cemented by anti-German sentiment in the 20th century, can still be heard today in how we talk about the House of Windsor and its members, from Prince Philip joining the British Royal Family in 1947 to Earl Spencer’s eulogy of his sister in 1997. So, here’s what happened.
James II’s first two daughters are rightfully famous and they grew up to be queen regnants of Great Britain who collectively reigned from 1688 to 1714 as the last Stuart monarchs. They are perhaps best known, however, for benefiting from their father’s dethronement during the Glorious Revolution which saw him forced into exile while his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, William of Orange, were asked to rule instead. His problem was one of faith, for James had converted to Catholicism as an adult. Had his second marriage to yet another Catholic remained infertile it’s possible he could have kept his crown, but the 1688 birth of a son made his rule intolerable to the Protestant English.
He and his wife, Mary of Modena, ended up in France at Louis XIV’s court at Versailles. The French king gave his royal guests use of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, not too far outside of Paris. It was there, on the 28th of June 1692 that Mary gave birth to a daughter, Louisa Maria Stuart.
Queen Anne is Britain’s forgotten queen regnant, her reign and influence dwarfed by the influence and gains of her predecessor, Elizabeth I, and her successor, Queen Victoria. But it was her queenship that was most closely used as a model when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, not necessarily as a template to follow, but certainly in terms of precedents laid out for how a female monarch could rule. Unlike the Virgin Queen or the morbid tenure of Mary I, Anne was the first queen regnant to rule with a husband who was not given equal footing to his wife. She also marked the end of the Stuart line, her 18 pregnancies failing to provide a single child that lived until adulthood.
She followed closely on the heels of her sister, Mary II, who ruled jointly with her husband, the Dutch William III, after the deposition of their father, James II, in the Glorious Revolution. Her rule, and the succession that followed her of the German George I, solidified Britain as a Protestant nation, one that still held a deep suspicion of Catholics, particularly in the ranks of its government. Indeed, for the entirety of her reign, her stepmother and half-siblings lived in exile in France, still claiming that by bloodline Britain was theirs. And in that they were technically correct, but Britain’s aversion to papacy had deep-seated roots stemming back to the Tudors and suspicion of foreign involvement, from Rome to France to Spain, and it was through Queen Anne and her sister before her that Britain declared its religion unchangeable.