Good Queen Anne; Appraising the Life and Reign of the Last Stuart Monarch
Of the few women who have ruled England in their own right, Queen Anne is least known and most under-valued. Yet, her brief reign saw the small island nation off the coast of continental Europe rise from internal chaos to global might.
Anne Stuart’s story starts with a clandestine marriage -- between her royal father and commoner mother; her birth greeted as a letdown due to her sex; her youth at a court famous for immorality and intrigue; her happy marriage to a handsome prince. Plots aplenty, a secret midnight flight, persecution, and ill-health culminated in a crown and a glorious reign.
Anne ascended the British throne at the dawn of a new century. Her subjects hailed the advent of their first fully English monarch in a hundred years. Secure in the knowledge that Anne’s patriotism, her devotion to the national (Protestant) religion, and concern for her people would guide her decisions, Britons gave Their Queen the ultimate tribute. They termed the twelve stormy years of her rule The Age of Anne.
Neither brilliant, charismatic, nor beautiful, Anne, at age thirty-seven gout-ridden and prematurely aged by seventeen pregnancies that failed to provide her nation with an heir, began her reign by committing to a long, costly, overseas war against Europe’s superpower – Catholic France.
Facing unremitting, fierce, political conflict at home, Anne resolved to practice Moderation, to be above party, steer a middle course between the factions, to be a unifying force in her divided realm.
For three centuries, posterity’s picture of Anne Stuart relied largely on the portrait painted by her dearest friend, then deadliest foe, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. She focused on self-justification and scorn of Anne as a dim-witted, religious hypocrite, a puppet controlled by others. So, anyone who undertakes the task of sifting through a welter of often contradictory evidence in order to tell a balanced story about Anne, faces a challenge.
Judith’s experience as published author of two historical biographies about complex and famous women, qualifies her to meet that challenge. The author’s examination of archives and other primary sources, plus material on Anne’s contemporaries, reveals her as a resolute and practical female, a loving and beloved wife, a woman able to rise above personal tragedy and poor health to become a revered and effective ruler.