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The Last of the Stuarts

With The Favourite due in cinemas in January, Emma Slattery Williams wonders why Queen Anne – the woman who oversaw the creation of Great Britain – isn’t more fondly remembered

Britain’s male monarchs vastly outnumber their female counterparts, making the few women who have ruled Britain even more iconic. Elizabeth I and Victoria are hailed as exceptional leaders in a world ruled by men. Tere is one queen, however, who ruled during one of the most important periods of British history but whose reign is often overlooked. How did Queen Anne – the last of the Stuarts – rise above her personal tragedies to oversee the creation of Great Britain?

Anne’s eventful reign was blighted by the tragedies of motherhood and her own ill health

Born in 1665, during the reign of her uncle, Charles II, Anne knew how treacherous the path of the monarch could be – the execution of her grandfather, Charles I, was still fresh in many minds. Her father was James, the Duke of York, heir presumptive, but it seemed doubtful he would rule as there was still time for Charles to produce legitimate children. Anne also had siblings who would need to predecease her in order for her to become queen, so at her birth it looked unlikely that she would ever reign. But out of her seven full-blood siblings, only herself and her elder sister Mary survived to adulthood.

SINS OF THE MOTHER

Her father may have been royalty but her mother – Anne Hyde – was not. She was a common-born lady-in-waiting to James’s sister Mary Her parents’ marriage caused a scandal that rocked the royal family: Hyde was plagued with enemies at court, who spread rumours about her infidelity and unsuitability as a consort to James – causing Anne to later feel unfit to wear the crown.

Though their marriage was arranged, Anne and Prince George of Denmark were devoted to one another

DID YOU KNOW?

Anne was the last British monarch to veto a parliamentary bill. In 1708, she withheld royal assent from a bill that would have armed the Scottish militia – out of fear that the Scots would side with France in supporting her stepbrother’s claim to the throne.

Anne (centre) with her sister Mary and their parents. She spent several years of her youth in France, in a bid to cure her ‘sore eyes’
ALAMY X1, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1, ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST © HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II, 2018/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1
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About BBC History Revealed

Despite being one of the most talked about artworks in history, the Mona Lisa remains enshrined in mystery. And while we will never know what she was smiling about, we explore what we do now know about the world's most famous painting. Plus: We look at the story of Robert the Bruce's fight for Scottish independence, the Nazi Occupation of the Channel Islands and the reign of Queen Anne, which saw the creation of Great Britain.