The House Of Stuart
On 4th May, 1702, England declared war against France. Churchill, leading the Queen's troops, experienced early successes in the war and was rewarded by being created Duke of Marlborough. He went on to gain a historic victory over the French at Blenheim in Bavaria. Anne held a thanksgiving service at St. Paul's and granting him the royal estate at Woodstock and ordered Blenheim Palace built on the site at the expense of the nation. A Further victory followed at Ramillies in Flanders.
Louis XIV consequently gave aid to Anne's Catholic half-brother, and claimant to her throne, James Francis Edward. A French fleet was assembled at Dunkirk in 1708. Whilst meeting with her Council to discuss the matter, the question of whether James should be executed if taken prisoner was raised, Anne became so moved and emotionally upset that she could not carry on with the meeting. James unfortunately came down with measles just as his fleet was about to set sail, the threat was removed and the French fleet chased north.
Sarah Churchill, always a quarrelsome woman, was growing increasingly jealous and at times vehement at Anne's growing attachment to her cousin, Lady Masham. Marlborough, a gifted general, won a further victory against the French at Oudenarde and entered France, capturing Lille, he went on to gain a further resounding victory over Louis XIV at Malplaquet.
Sarah's now stormy relationship with Anne, however, was growing successively more strained. On the way to the Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul's to celebrate the victory of Oudenarde, Sarah provoked an embarrassing public scene, which culminated in her audaciously telling the Queen to "be quiet" on the steps of the Cathedral. Anne could not forgive this public humiliation and it widened the breech between them into a gaping chasm.
Although the crowns of England and Scotland had been united in the person of James I, they had continued to retain their own separate Parliaments. In 1707, both the English and Scottish Parliaments passed the twin Acts of Union, creating the joint kingdom of Great Britain. The act was not popular in Scotland.
George of Denmark fell seriously ill in October, 1708. Sarah visited Anne and was with her when her husband died to offer her support. Queen Anne was devastated. Sarah, true to character, untactfully continued to raise old quarrels with the grieving Queen and would not let the matter rest. Anne's patience with the fractious Sarah was wearing very thin.
Sarah wrote requesting an audience, the Queen, trying to avoid the dreaded ordeal of another meeting with her, wrote that she would be unable to see her until after Easter. Undeterred, Sarah arrived before Easter and characteristically proceeded to bring up a matter of contention, Anne had had enough, the two were never to meet again. At the end of the war the great Marlborough was dismissed from office. It was a poor reward for the services he had rendered his country and the Queen.
THE FINAL YEARS
As Anne entered the final years of her reign and her health declined, the issue of who should succeed her on the thrones of England and Scotland became of mounting importance. Anne personally disliked the Hanoverians, whom the succession had been settled on by Act of Parliament. Sophia of Hanover's son, George, had at one point been sent to England as a prospective suitor for Anne's hand, but after meeting her failed to propose, Anne could not forget this stinging insult to her feminine pride.
It was suspected that Anne naturally preferred the claims of her half-brother, James, known as the Pretender. The Queen herself fuelled such rumours by refusing to allow any of Sophia of Hanover's family to reside in England. In 1712 Anne received a letter from the brother she had never met, asking her to 'prefer your own brother, the last of our line,' he received no reply but she refused to countenance the suggestion of Parliament's putting a price on his head.
When Sophia of Hanover wrote to request that her grandson might take up his position in the House of Lords, Anne's response was furious. Her letter to Sophia was cold and dismissive. Sophia, whose greatest wish was said to have had 'Sophia, Queen of Great Britain' inscribed on her tomb, narrowly missed her ambition when she died suddenly at Hanover just a few months before Queen Anne on 8th June 1714. On 27th July Anne finally decided in favour of the Hanoverian succession.
At half past seven in the morning of 1st August, 1714, England's last Stuart monarch, now vastly obese and ailing, died at Kensington Palace. Arbuthnot wrote "sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller than death was to her." The Queen's body was so swollen with dropsy at her death that she had to be interred in a vast, square shaped coffin. She was buried beside her husband George of Denmark at Westminster Abbey and was succeeded by George I, the first of the House of Hanover.