Anne became queen upon the death of King William III on March 8, 1702, and was immediately popular. In her first speech to the English Parliament, on March 11, she distanced herself from her late Dutch brother-in-law and said, “As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity of England.”
Soon after her accession, Anne appointed her husband George, Duke of Cumberland, Lord High Admiral, giving him nominal control of the Royal Navy. Anne gave control of the army to Lord Marlborough, whom she appointed Captain-General. Marlborough also received numerous honours from the Queen; he was created a Knight of the Garter and was elevated to the rank of duke. The Duchess of Marlborough was appointed Groom of the Stool, Mistress of the Robes, and Keeper of the Privy Purse.
Anne was crowned on St George’s Day, April 23, 1702. Afflicted with gout, she was carried to Westminster Abbey in an open sedan chair, with a low back to permit her train to flow out behind her. On May 4, England became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession, in which England, Austria, and the Dutch Republic fought against France and Bourbon Spain.
Carlos II of Spain had died childless in 1700, and the succession was disputed by two claimants: the Habsburg Archduke Charles of Austria and the Bourbon Philippe, Duke of Anjou.
She took a lively interest in affairs of state, and was a patron of theatre, poetry and music. She subsidised George Frideric Handel with £200 a year. She sponsored high-quality medals as rewards for political or military achievements. They were produced at the Mint by Isaac Newton and John Croker. She knighted Newton when she visited Cambridge in 1705.
Acts of Union
While Ireland was subordinate to the English Crown and Wales formed part of the kingdom of England, Scotland remained an independent sovereign state with its own parliament and laws. The Act of Settlement 1701, passed by the English Parliament, applied in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland but not Scotland, where a strong minority wished to preserve the Stuart dynasty and its right of inheritance to the throne.
Anne had declared it “very necessary” to conclude a union of England and Scotland in her first speech to the English Parliament, and a joint Anglo-Scots commission met at her former residence, the Cockpit, to discuss terms in October 1702.
The negotiations broke up in early February 1703 having failed to reach an agreement. The Estates of Scotland responded to the Act of Settlement by passing the Act of Security, which gave the Estates the power, if the Queen had no further children, to choose the next Scottish monarch from among the Protestant descendants of the royal line of Scotland.
The individual chosen by the Estates could not be the same person who came to the English throne, unless England granted full freedom of trade to Scottish merchants. At first, Anne withheld Royal Assent to the act, but she granted it the following year when the Estates threatened to withhold supply, endangering Scottish support for England’s wars.
Queen Anne addressing the House of Lords
In its turn, the English Parliament responded with the Alien Act 1705, which threatened to impose economic sanctions and declare Scottish subjects aliens in England, unless Scotland either repealed the Act of Security or moved to unite with England.
The Estates chose the latter option; the English Parliament agreed to repeal the Alien Act, and new commissioners were appointed by Queen Anne in early 1706 to negotiate the terms of a union.
The articles of union approved by the commissioners were presented to Anne on July 23, 1706 and ratified by the Scottish and English Parliaments on January 16, and March 6, 1707, respectively. Under the Acts of Union, England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom called Great Britain, with one parliament, on May 1, 1707.
A consistent and ardent supporter of union despite opposition on both sides of the border, Anne attended a thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral. The Scot Sir John Clerk, 1st Baronet, who also attended, wrote, “nobody on this occasion appeared more sincerely devout and thankful than the Queen herself”.
With the Act of Union Queen Anne’s title became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.