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History Makers: Queen Anne

The last of the Stuarts is hardly England’s most famous or successful queen, but she endured hardship and despair few could imagine, writes Jonny Wilkes
DRAMA QUEEN With her long list of personal tragedies, Anne’s story wouldn’t seem amiss on even the most dramatic of soap operas
ALAMY X1, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1

History has rarely been kind to Queen Anne. Here ruled a woman, it is judged, whose lack of intelligence and poor health made her, at best, dependent on ministers and close friends, or at worst, entirely manipulated by them. Anne lacked the political savvy to govern independently, leaving a tainted reputation where the last of the Stuarts is portrayed as weak, fat, plagued by gout and too fond of drink. Compared to names such as Elizabeth and Victoria, her place among the nation’s female monarchs ranks pretty low down.

Yes, she was more observer than mastermind of the momentous episodes of her reign 1702 14, but Anne recognised that she lived in changing times. A revolution had ousted her father a decade earlier, and once queen, she faced a Europe at war and an untested, shifting political landscape at home. And in the midst of such turbulent times, one aspect of Anne’s reign can be, if not overlooked, at least relegated to a less important status, even though it may be the most crucial explanation of her state of mind.

In her life, Anne had 17 pregnancies, but didn’t produce a single healthy child. The longest-living – William, her best hope – died aged 11, following a sickly life. Facing this constant stream of personal tragedies, is it any wonder that Anne let herself be carried by other people and events?

ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST © HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II, 2016/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1, ROYAL HOSPITAL CHELSEA, LONDON/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES X1
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The SAS in World War II, Athens vs Persia, Jack the Ripper and the tragedy of the forgotten queen in this month's issue