Queen Anne of England

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Part 1: Setting the Stage

Queen Anne of England Anne was Queen of England and then Great Britain in the early part of the 18th Century. She presided over a time of war, cultural expansion, and political tension.

She was born on Feb. 6, 1665, in St. James Palace. Her father was James, Duke of York, whose brother Charles was King of England. Her mother was Anne Hyde.

Anne and her older sister, Mary, were brought up in the Anglican faith, by royal command of Charles II. The girls lived at Richmond Palace and were effectively rearer by the governess the Lady Frances Villiers. They studied under private tutors and learned dance, drawing, music, and French. (Anne had been sent to France when she was 3 for treatment for an eye condition.)

Queen Anne and son

She married Prince George of Denmark in 1683. She was pregnant 17 times but had only one child survive. That child was William, Duke of Gloucester, who then lived 11 years before contracting smallpox and dying from it.

Anne's uncle, King Charles II, died in 1685, and her father, James, became king. James had embraced the Catholic faith in 1669 and was very open about this as he ascended the throne. Tensions over religious beliefs had been high in England for nearly 200 years, after King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England. James was not at all willing to declare the Church of England the effective sole faith of the realm. He wanted Catholics to have more rights and more of a public ability to worship the way that they wanted to. Parliament did not agree with such measures, and James dissolved Parliament. He then appointed known Catholics to high-ranking posts within the government and the military. He went a step further in 1687 by issuing a Declaration of Indulgence, which granted complete religious toleration.

England's King James II

James's first wife, Anne, who was Mary's mother, died in 1671. James married Mary of Modena, an Italian teenage princess. In June 1688, he and Mary had a son, named James. A group of Protestant nobles had had enough of James and his favoritism toward Catholics, and they saw in the king's son a succession of Catholic monarchs. The solution, as these nobles saw it, was to find another monarch, one who wasn't Catholic. The solution that these monarchs arrived at was to embrace James's daughter Mary (an Anglican from birth) and, more importantly, her husband, the Protestant William of Orange, as the new monarchs. Mary and William were married in 1677. Anne was too ill from smallpox to attend; she was one of few who survived the dread disease.

William of Orange sailing to England

William accepted the invitation, gathered a large force of soldiers, and landed in Torbay, in Devon, England, on Nov. 5, 1688. The Dutch force was rather large: More than 400 ships brought more than 15,000 soldiers. Technically, James was able to lay claim to a force of about 25,000 soldiers. However, he had so alienated the English army by this point that most of those soldiers pledged their allegiance to the "invader," William and effectively refused to defend their king and country. James, at this point, fell ill himself and was in no position to fight. He also discovered that his other daughter, Princess Anne, had throw in her lot with her sister and so had her husband, the Prince of Denmark. On December 11, James fled the realm.

In February 1689, Parliament decreed that James had abdicated the throne and declared that Mary and her husband, William, were joint monarchs. This set of events was known as the Glorious Revolution. Anne supported her sister in this.

The royal couple were crowned King William III and Queen Mary II on April 11, 1689, in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey. William had to put down two rebellions from James and his supporters. He was also on the Continent for much of his reign, fighting wars against France.

Queen Mary died of smallpox in 1694. She and her husband had had three children, but none of them survived for very long after being born. Anne was by this time the heir apparent to the throne. When her only surviving son, Prince William, died in 1701, Parliament passed an Act of Settlement that stipulated that Anne's successor would be from the family of Sophie of Hanover–so a Protestant, rather than from the Catholic family of James II. The former king died in that same year. His son, also named James, became known as the "Old Pretender."

William of Orange on horseback

Meanwhile, William had continued the Dutch war with France, which dated the Third Anglo-Dutch War in the 1670s. This conflict, known once William was King of England as the Nine Years War, finally ended in 1697. Not long afterward, England was involved in another European conflict, the War of the Spanish Succession. England and the Netherlands joined Austria in order to counter a French ruler on the Spanish throne. Spain's Charles II had died without a child to succeed him and had declared as his successor Philip, the grandson of France's King Louis XIV. England effectively sided with Austria's Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne over France's Bourbon claim.

William, who had been heartbroken for years after the death of his wife, died in 1702, as a result of pneumonia that he contracted while recovering from a broken collarbone, an injury he sustained in a fall from his horse. Anne then became queen. She suffered many maladies throughout her life. At the time of her coronation, she was so debilitated from gout that she had to be carried to the ceremony. She was crowned on April 23, 1702.

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