Anne Stuart Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland

Queen Anne of England
Queen Anne of England
Queen Anne by Michael Dahl
Born:6 Feb. 1665
Queen of England:23 Apr. 1702
Died:1 Aug. 1714

1 Princess Anne's family and education

1.1 Born of a mesalliance

Princess Anne was born of the mesalliance between James Stuart and Anne Hyde. She and her older sister Princess Mary were the only surviving issue of this marriage. Princess Anne spent her early childhood in the royal nursery. Lady Frances Villiers was her first governess. It's said that Lady Frances Villiers more played the role of mother than that of governess1, and at times when royal parents usually delegated the task of raising their children this is probably true.

1.2 Queen Anne's education

Her education was confided to the clergyman named Lake, but she also had other teachers. She was thoroughly educated in domestic skills and music, but only slightly in the knowledge needed to govern. Anne did learn French and mastered that language, but was not properly trained in the grammar and spelling of English. For leisure Anne devoted herself to hunting and gardening2.

1.3 Intellectual capabilities

Queen Anne is often said to have been of mediocre intelligence, but in light of her education it's difficult to make a judgement about that. Queen Anne was devoted to her role, but also very dull. She was not able to make good conversation or was too reserved to do so. She also didn't have the inclination to amuse people by providing entertainment. Being not very healthy too she lacked the leadership, charisma and energy that could have naturally attracted people to the queen. However, this cannot support a conclusion about her intellectual capabilities.

2 Phases of Queen Anne's reign

2.1 Phases of Anne's rule

Anne's rule can be divided into three parts. The first goes from 1702 to 1708 and is marked by Marlborough, Godolphin and Harley being in power. The second part is from 1708 till about 1712 and sees Robert Harley earl of Oxford as Lord Treasurer. The third part runs from 1712 till 1714 and is dominated by the rise of Henry St. John viscount Bolingbroke. This partition of her rule is so important because her favorites usually got so much space to direct politics that, though Anne remained queen, the government and it's actions could change dramatically. This giving the appearance that Anne was ruled by her favorites.

2.2 The Marlborough's 1702 - 1708

This phase starts with Anne continuing Marlborough as commander of the English army, and appointing him as Captain-General. Though Marlborough had already been appointed as commander by William III, and though he was her favorite, the fact that she had him command the army gave the alliance many victories over the French. The unrivalled superpower status of France would be broken in three major battles, and England came up to par with it. This was achieved not only by military skill, but also by his political actions. Marlborough got the power to deploy his political talents in concert with Eugen and Heinsius. William had used Marlborough only in a military capacity.

The political appointments she made in the first part of her reign can also be said to have been very good. She continued Godolphin as the financial wizard who fuelled the war machine without ruining public finances. Next to that she succeeded for a long time in preventing a one party government that would have associated the monarchy with one party. This she did by carefully balancing between parties.

2.3 Abigail and Harley 1708 - 1712

From about 1707 Queen Anne came under the influence of Abigail Hill. In 1710 Queen Anne dismissed Godolphin, and appointed Robert Harley as chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1711 Harley became Earl of Oxford and Lord Treasurer. Harley started to negotiate separately with France in 1711. These negotiations would lead to the peace of Utrecht in 1713.

The expedition to Canada in 1711 was prepared by St. John, and was in itself a smart decision with an eye to the upcoming peace. Had it succeeded, it would no doubt have given England the whole of Canada at Utrecht. Queen Anne gave her assent to Abigail Hill's brother Brigadier-General (since April 1710) John Hill as commander of the invasion force and Rear Admiral (since March 1711) Hovenden Walker as naval commander. Queen Anne took a huge risk with these appointments because Hovenden's experience at independent command was limited, and John had none. The expedition failed even before it landed.

2.4 Abigail and Bolingbroke 1712 - 1714

The last phase of Queen Anne's reign saw the ascendancy of Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke led negotiations with France, but was also in contact with the pretender. In the final version of the Treaty of Utrecht France got off lightly. Perhaps it had to do with Bolingbroke playing with ideas of restoring the pretender. In the end Jacobite attempts to frustrate the Hanoverian succession were defeated and Anne's reign ended well.

3 General principles of Queen Anne's rule

3.1 Guarding the Royal prerogatives

Though her favorites, and thus the politics of her government would change, Anne's rule did have some consistency. First of all she stood on her own rights and privileges. This meant that though she had to keep the composition of parliament in mind when choosing ministers/secretaries she insisted on her right to choose them, opposing the thought that parliament should determine who was to be in power. The principles she adhered to in this respect were: First that members of government should be loyal to (=serve) her, not to a political party. Secondly that having a one party government would mean that the crown and her person would fall into the hands of party-government and lose its independence. In these respects she was successful in for most of her reign having a mixed government of moderate Whigs and moderate Tories leaving the power and prestige of the crown intact as far as possible. This achievement does point to having some wisdom in ruling.

3.2 Religious devotion

Another principle was her sincere religious devotion. While previous English courts were sometimes centers of brilliance or appeared as luxurious brothels, hers was a cheap and dull court observing the ceremonies, but having no further attraction whatsoever. Her devotion would furthermore make Queen Anne a protector of the Anglican Church opposing her to all other denominations. It was also a strong factor in her appointments, meaning that e.g. she liked the very religious Harley, and shunned others for the lives they lived in private.

4 Balance of Queen Anne's rule

4.1 Favorites

Queen Anne is often described as having been ruled by her favorites, this up to a point that she was described once as 'a foolish woman led by another foolish woman'. Further investigation shows that, though her servants did get a lot of space to follow a certain policy, they also very often did not get their way.

I think that in order to determine whether or not Anne was ruled by others, it is useful to compare the measure in which some contemporary monarchs were ruled by their favorites. The pitfall in such a comparison is that in retrospect appointing an able politician or general is described as 'wisdom in choosing advisors'. Appointing a servant that later screws up is described as 'being ruled by favorites'. Another problem is that of the constitution of the kingdom they rule, meaning that Louis XIV's had much more freedom to do what he wanted than Anne, Leopold or Josef had.

On top of that almost all sources written at the time were written from a male perspective, definitely viewing women as the weaker sex. Suppose Louis XIV had been Queen Louise I and acted like Louis XIV. I do not doubt we would now have lots of books about how Chamillart and Torcy directed French politics in stead of Louise I. The same goes for Anne now described as having been 'ruled by others'. If she had been named King Ann the appreciation of her person would probably be very different. By this I do not state that Anne was a strong willed person mostly relying on her own judgment (she was not), but I do want to indicate that the male perspective of historians and sources probably distorts the picture to a large extent.

4.2 English achievements under Anne's rule

It might be useful to look at Anne's rule from a wide perspective: During her rule England would rise to great power status, and continue to grow fast in aspects like culture and economy. It is a reasonable question to ask if England could have achieved more during the Spanish Succession War than it did under her rule. The answer to this question is: Yes, England could have achieved some more things by conquering Canada and rolling back the French frontiers at Utrecht. The opposite question is if England could have done worse. The answer to this is: Yes, England could have done far worse. E.g. if Queen Anne had followed the policies of Charles II and James II.

We can try to make a judgement of Queen Anne's reign by making some kind of measurement. We can look at the number of goals England could possibly achieve, and how much of them it did achieve:

4.3 English goals and whether they were achieved

Targets of English politics in 1700 and whether they were achieved
Naval dominance: Achieved: England became the dominant naval power
Dominance in the Mediterranean: Achieved: By getting Gibraltar and Minorca
Stable government Achieved: Having survived party strife political stability was coming soon
Financial stability Achieved: The most well financed government by 1714
Commercial goals Achieved: The Assiento was a big bonus
Scottish problems Achieved: Solved by the act of Union
Conquering North America Partly achieved:Foundations laid at Utrecht by having New Foundland and Acadia
The Spanish inheritance Partly achieved:Spanish possessions outside of Spain saved from the Bourbons
Pushing back France Failed: Only some border corrections between France and the Southern Netherlands.
Spain Failed: Spain and the Indies were in the Bourbon grasp though it bothered little

Viewing her reign like this I would say that under her rule the England achieved perhaps 80% of what it could possibly achieve, giving George I a dream start of his rule. There can thus be no doubt that the net balance of her rule is very positive.

5 Achievements due to Queen Anne or in spite of her?

The rule of Queen Anne from 1703-1714 saw the United Kingdom rising to pre-eminence in Europe. In appreciating Queen Anne's rule it's of course difficult to determine what acts should be ascribed to her talents, and what should be ascribed to the circumstances. The question becomes: Did the United Kingdom owe its growth to her, or did it achieve this growth in spite of her? Depending on one's perspective both questions can be answered with yes.

By 1702 the British Isles were kind of destined to grow. Geography, the economy, the way England was organized, it all pointed to a bright future. A monarch more talented than Queen Anne, or a monarch less talented than Queen Anne, both would not have changed this. It would have required significant incompetence to stall England's growth.

Great Britain owes to Queen Anne some wise decisions, other decisions were less fortunate or even stupid. Next to that Britain ows her for not doing a lot of other things normal for sovereigns of the time. Like there are: building palaces (Louis XIV), having an army of musicians (Leopold), going to war while one can get all kinds of rewards at the negotiation table (Louis XIV and Max Emanuel), taking foolish risks (Charles XII). In other words: Queen Anne was quite competent, and kind of exceptional by not doing anything stupid.

6 Notes

1) Queen Anne and her court by William Ryan, London 1908 has this statement.
2) For the subjects of her education see Queen Anne by Edward Gregg. Routledge 1984, page 11