On this date in History. Death of King William III-II of England, Scotland and Ireland, Stadholder of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange and the accession of his sister-in-Law/cousin Anne.
Anne (February 6, 1665 – August 1, 1714) was the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland between March 8, 1702 and May 1, 1707. On May 1, 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death. Anne remained Queen of Ireland in the form of a personal union with the British Crown and wouldn’t be politically united with Great Britain until 1801.
Anne was born at 11:39 p.m. on February 6, 1665 at St James’s Palace, London, the fourth child and second daughter of the Duke of York (afterwards James II and VII), and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Her father was the younger brother of King Charles II, and her mother was the daughter of Lord Chancellor Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. At her Anglican baptism in the Chapel Royal at St James’s, her older sister, Mary, was one of her godparents, along with the Duchess of Monmouth and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Gilbert Sheldon. The Duke and Duchess of York had eight children, but Anne and Mary were the only ones to survive into adulthood.
Since Anne’s uncle Charles II, had no legitimate children, her father, James, Duke of York was thus heir presumptive to the throne. His suspected Roman Catholicism was unpopular in England, and on Charles’s instructions Anne and her elder sister, Mary, were raised as Anglicans. Three years after he succeeded Charles, James was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Anne’s sister and Dutch Protestant brother-in-law and cousin William III of Orange became joint monarchs. Although the sisters had been close, disagreements over Anne’s finances, status and choice of acquaintances arose shortly after Mary’s accession and they became estranged. William III-II and Mary II had no children. After Mary II’s death in 1694, William III-II reigned alone until his own death in 1702, when Anne succeeded him.
Anne’s second cousin George of Hanover (her eventual successor) visited London for three months from December 1680, sparking rumours of a potential marriage between them. Historian Edward Gregg dismissed the rumours as ungrounded, as her father was essentially exiled from court, and the Hanoverians planned to marry George to his first cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle as part of a scheme to unite the Hanoverian inheritance. Other rumours claimed she was courted by Lord Mulgrave (later made Duke of Buckingham), although he denied it. Nevertheless, as a result of the gossip, he was temporarily dismissed from court.
With George of Hanover out of contention as a potential suitor for Anne, King Charles II looked elsewhere for an eligible prince who would be welcomed as a groom by his Protestant subjects but also acceptable to his Catholic ally, Louis XIV of France and Navarre. The Danes were Protestant allies of the French, and Louis XIV was keen on an Anglo-Danish alliance to contain the power of the Dutch. A marriage treaty between Anne and Prince George of Denmark, younger brother of King Christian V, (sons of King Frederik III of Denmark and Norway and Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg) Anne’s second cousin once removed, was negotiated by Anne’s uncle Laurence Hyde, who had been made Earl of Rochester, and the English Secretary of State for the Northern Department, Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland. Anne’s father consented to the marriage eagerly because it diminished the influence of his other son-in-law, William of Orange, who was naturally unhappy at the match.
Bishop Compton officiated at the wedding of Anne and George of Denmark on July 28, 1683 in the Chapel Royal. Though it was an arranged marriage, they were faithful and devoted partners. They were given a set of buildings, known as the Cockpit, in the Palace of Whitehall as their London residence, and Sarah Churchill was appointed one of Anne’s ladies of the bedchamber.. Within months of the marriage, Anne was pregnant, but the baby was stillborn in May. Anne recovered at the spa town of Tunbridge Wells, and over the next two years, gave birth to two daughters in quick succession: Mary and Anne Sophia.
Anne’s seventh pregnancy resulted in the birth of a son at 5 a.m. on July 24, 1689 in Hampton Court Palace. As it was usual for the births of potential heirs to the throne to be attended by several witnesses, the King and Queen and “most of the persons of quality about the court” were present. Three days later, the newborn baby was baptised Prince William Henry after his uncle King William III by Henry Compton, Bishop of London. The King, who was one of the godparents along with the Marchioness of Halifax and the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Dorset, declared him Duke of Gloucester, although the peerage was never formally created.
Prince William, Duke of Gloucester was viewed by contemporaries as a Protestant champion because his birth seemed to cement the Protestant succession established in the “Glorious Revolution” that had deposed his Catholic grandfather James II-VII the previous year. Prince William died close to 1 a.m. on July 30, 1700, with his parents beside him. In the end, the physicians decided the cause of death was “a malignant fever”. An autopsy revealed severe swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck and an abnormal amount of fluid in the ventricles of his brain: four and a half ounces of a limpid humour were taken out.” A modern diagnosis is that Gloucester died of acute bacterial pharyngitis, with associated pneumonia. Had he lived, though, it is almost certain the prince would have succumbed to complications of his hydrocephalus.
Although Anne had ten other pregnancies after the birth of Gloucester, none of them resulted in a child who survived more than briefly after birth. The English parliament did not want the throne to revert to a Catholic, so it passed the Act of Settlement 1701, which settled the throne of England on a cousin of King James, Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and her Protestant heirs.
During her reign, Anne favoured moderate Tory politicians, who were more likely to share her Anglican religious views than their opponents, the Whigs. The Whigs grew more powerful during the course of the War of the Spanish Succession, until 1710 when Anne dismissed many of them from office. Her close friendship with Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, turned sour as the result of political differences. The Duchess took revenge in an unflattering description of the Queen in her memoirs, which was widely accepted by historians until Anne was re-assessed in the late 20th century.
Anne was plagued by ill health throughout her life, and from her thirties, she grew increasingly lame and obese. Despite seventeen pregnancies by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, she died without surviving issue and was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. Under the Act of Settlement 1701, which excluded all Catholics, she was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, whose maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, was a daughter of James VI and I.