The Weekly Monarch .6

Queen Anne

Queen Anne by Michael Dahl, 1705

Full name: Anne Stuart
Born: 6th February 1665, St James’ Palace
Daughter of James II and Anne Hyde
Reigned: 8th March 1702 – 1st of August 1714

If you know anything about Queen Anne, you will probably know that when she died she was so large her coffin was almost square. Or you may know that she was involved in a scandalous relationship with a woman? How about the fact that she was officially the first monarch of Great Britain? To be honest, I only knew about the coffin fact until I began researching her. 

One of the most interesting things about Anne was how she was never actually meant to be Queen. When she was born in 1665, her Uncle Charles II was only 5 years into his reign and still recently married. He did not have any children yet, but it was still assumed that he would. Despite this, it was still not thought that Anne would be Queen owing to her having an elder sister. However, as you may recall from my post on Charles II he did not produce a legitimate heir. The crown therefore came to Anne’s father, James II  who was an unpopular king. His reign was unsuccessful and he was forced to abdicate in favour of Anne’s elder sister Mary and her husband William of Orange who became joint rulers. However, they were unable to produce an heir, and after William’s death in 1702, Anne became Queen. In addition to this Anne and Mary’s mother, Anne Hyde was not royal, not normally allowed for monarch. She had worked as a chief maid to the Princess Royal, which is how she met James II. When Anne was born, other royal families looked down on her due to her mother’s lower birth rank, It was never expected that she would be Queen.

The fates were not looking great for Anne when she succeeded the throne, as she herself  had no heir either. Accounts do vary on the exact number, but Anne was said to have had at least 16 pregnancies, with only a few resulting in a living child. Her longest living son, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, died at the age of 11 from smallpox. This was only 2 years before Anne came to the throne, already in her mid 30s, and therefore unlikely to conceive again. The succession had been a major concern throughout the Stuart’s reign’s, owing to the problems with religion. Anne was the last protestant monarch in the Stuart family.

Despite this sadness of losing so many children, Anne’s reign was fairly positive, owing to her immediate popularity after the dislike of her dutch brother-in-law. A favourable act that was passed during her reign was the 1707 Act of Union. This brought together England, Scotland and Ireland as Great Britain (Wales formed part of the Kingdom of England) under one parliament and therefore Anne was the first monarch of Great Britain. She lost popularity due to her close friendship with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The Duke, John Churchill was a highly accomplished military commander and was victorious at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. This success led Anne to bequest him and his wife Sarah the royal residence at Woodstock. This is where he had Blenheim Palace commissioned, though with public money, much to the annoyance of the people. 

Anne’s friendship with his wife continued to a point of being a major political concern. Their friendship had been forged long before Anne became Queen, however, Anne became more and more dependent on Sarah. Their letter’s to each other were very informal, showing how Anne treated her as though they were equal status. ‘Mrs Freeman’ and ‘Mrs Morley’ were how they referred to each other. To top this off, Anne made Sarah Mistress of the Robes, the most senior position in the Royal Court for a woman to hold. This power and influence was significant. Rumours of them having a secret romance were questioned. Yet it did come to an end owing to political disagreements. 

Despite what was speculated about Anne’s private life, she was devoted  to her husband, Prince George of Denmark who died in 1708 of chronic lung disease. His and Anne’s marriage had been a strong and close one, despite their children’s deaths. Anne was deeply sadden by his death, which may explain why she became to rely on others so heavily. Her death came in 1714. She had suffered with gout for many years and had not been able to walk for last few months. It must have been a horrible and painful death. As the last protestant Stuart, parliament used their power to find a new heir, a distant cousin in Hanover, George I.



The Weekly Monarch .5

Louis XVI

Louis KingsQueenand allthat.jpg
Louis XVI by Antoine-Francois Callet

Full name: Louis Auguste de France
Born: 23rd August, 1754 at Versailles
Son of Louis Dauphin of France and Maria Josepha of Saxony
Reigned: 10th May 1774 – 10th August 1793 (executed 21st January 1793)

This post is late…I know, I’ve had a very busy week, so therefore I’m making this one a bit different by writing about the French Monarchy rather than the British.
I’ve always been really intrigued about Louis XVI, as he was the last Bourbon King and his death drastically changed life in France, providing the people with a voice which culminated in the French Revolution.

Louis’ early life was fairly short, owing to the fact that he died at the age of 39. Like a lot of kings, Louis was ill prepared for the throne as he was not expected to be king. Within a five year period, his father (the heir) and his brother (the next in line) were dead. He became his grandfather’s heir. As child, Louis had shown intellectual promise, and was good at history and latin. However he was very introverted and shy.

In 1770 at the age of 15, he was wed to his distant cousin, Marie Antoinette. It was not deemed a successful marriage at first owing to the rumour or assumption that it had not been consummated. This was thought the case owing to the fact their first child was born eight years after they married. Their marriage was considered to be distant. Marie was unpopular owing to her family history, as the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor whom encouraged France to join the Seven Years War, there were concerns that this may happen again.

Louis became King of France at the age of 20. He was a weak king though, to give him credit he tried to be a good one. Initially there was hope, he implemented a religious policy which supported non Catholics in France and his foreign policy was popular in backing the Americans against the hated British during the Wars of Independence. However, his main failure was his inability to address the issues in the country, particularly fiscal policies, which resulted in serious economic issues across the nation. The country was organised by social standing into Three Estates. The First was Clergy and the Church which made up 1% of the population. The second was the nobility which was also only about 1% of the population. The third was everyone else. The Ancien régime, which was the political and social system that had been in place in France since the middle ages. Under this system everyone was a subject of the king. The King had the power to call the Estates General to discuss the issues within the country.

In 1789 the meeting took place at Versailles, and the representatives of the Third estate were angry over their forced poverty. This set in pace the events of the French revolution. It was the suppression of the people and the clear divide between the king and his subjects that caused the fall of the monarchy. In August 1792 Louis’ title was removed. By September France was declared a republic. He was executed in January 1793 in Paris.

Louis’ reign could be viewed as a disaster. I personally feel he was really just unlucky. His reign was simply the final straw for many. Having inherited the throne during a time of instability with huge debts owing to previous wars, the country needed change. Louis was not suited to be a ruler, and really should not have been king. The French Revolution shows (like the Russian one) that systems need to be updated, and possibly more importantly, The People whom these rulers are often ignorantly unaware of, will ultimately have their say.