Who was Queen Anne of Great Britain?

The legacy and life of Queen Anne did not make her an ideal candidate to become queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Born in February 6th, 1665, she was the fourth daughter of the Duke of York. Of all the children of the Duke of York, only Anne and her older sister, Mary, survived beyond adolescence. The king at the time, King Charles II, had no children, so his brother and Anna’s father, the Duke of York, were next in line at the crown. After the death of Charles II in 1685, Anne’s father became King James II in England and Ireland, and King James VII in Scotland, leaving Anne second in the line of succession to the crown, after his sister Mary.

Rise to power

King James II was a Catholic, while Anna and Maria were Protestants. The religious tension within the family was only a miniature of that seen on a national scale. The birth of the son of King James II in 1688 triggered this tension at its peak, as Protestant leaders within Parliament feared that Roman Catholics would conquer the country over the years to follow. They invited Mary and her husband, the Dutch historian William Orange, to invade England. After successfully deposing King James II in 1688, the event that is commonly known as the “Glorious Revolution”, William and Mary were crowned as co-regent King and Queen of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1689. After the death of Mary in 1694 and William’s death in 1702,


Queen Anne fervently supported the union between England and Scotland and eventually saw the passage of the Acts of the Union. These acts affirmed that England and Scotland must by now be united in a single sovereign kingdom, to call Great Britain, with a Parliament instead of two. It was also under his reign that the two parties began to take more clearly form in the British Parliament. The conservatives, whom Anna herself favored, supported the Anglican Church and the gentleman class, while the Whigs were in solidarity with religious dissidents and the growing merchant class. Queen Anne also actively participated in the “War of the Spanish Succession”, in which she declared war on France, in an attempt to curb her growing influence in Europe.

The challenges

The biggest challenge faced by Queen Anne was to choose to be his heir. On this same question, the tension between the Tories and the Whigs deteriorated further. While the Tories, and Anne herself, were in favor of Anne’s Catholic half-brother, James Francis Edward Stuart, to be the heir, Whigs fervently objected to him. Instead, they urged the Queen to fulfill the act of settlement, which forbade any Catholic to inherit the throne, and to choose George of Hanover. Eventually Anne felt compelled by the pressures of the Whigs, and George of Hanover inherited the throne after Anna’s death, as King George I of Great Britain and Ireland.

Death and inheritance

After suffering from multiple health problems and abortions during her life, the stroke that Anne suffered in July 30th, 1714 turned out to be the last straw she could bear, causing her death in August 1st. She was a popular queen in her day and during her reign art, literature and economics saw a steady development. She also actively participated in parliamentary affairs and engaged in democratic politics, instead of abusing the power of the Crown. Nevertheless, it has also been reproached by historians for prejudice and bad judgment. With George of Hanover conquering the throne after his death, Queen Anne was the last British monarch of the House of Stuart, a turning point that saw the end of an important era in British and European history.

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