History of England: Anne, Stewart

Anne was Queen of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1702 until 1714, succeeding William III. She was born on February 6, 1665 to James, Duke of York and Lady Anne Hyde. Anne suffered as a child from an eye infection; for medical treatment, she was sent to France. In 1670 Anne returned from France. Three years later, when she was still a child, she made the acquaintance of Sarah Jennings, who became her close friend and one of her most influential advisors.

 Although Anne received a limited education, she would reign during a critically important period in her nation’s history. During her reign she would oversee two major events in English history, one domestic and one foreign. The first being the Act of Union that united England and Scotland. The second was a major international war, the War of Spanish Succession.

 When the English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, they neglected to consult with the Parliament of Scotland, which wished to preserve the Stewart dynasty and its right of inheritance to the Throne. The Scottish response to the Settlement was to pass the Act of Security. It was a bill which stated that Scotland had the power to choose the next Scottish monarch from amongst the numerous descendants of the royal line of Scotland.

In answer to the Act of Security, the English Parliament, fearing that an independent Scotland would restore the Alliance with France, passed the Alien Act of 1705, which provided that economic sanctions would be imposed and Scottish subjects would be declared aliens, putting their right to own property in England into jeopardy, unless Scotland either repealed the Act of Security or moved to unite with England.

Eventually the Scotland chose the latter option as Commissioners were appointed to negotiate the terms of a union between the two countries. The Act of Union was approved by the Commissioners on July 22, 1706, and was passed by the Scottish Parliament on January 16, 1707. Under the Act, England and Scotland became one realm called Great Britain on May 1, 1707, as the Scots Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London, the home of the English Parliament. Hence, the Act is referred to as the Union of the Parliaments.

As soon as Anne succeeded to the throne, she became envolved in the War of the Spanish Succession. This war, in which England supported the claim of Archduke Charles to succeed to the Spanish Throne, would continue until the last years of Anne’s reign, and would dominate both foreign and domestic policy. Anne appointed her husband, Prince George of Denmark, Lord High Admiral, giving him control of the Royal Navy. Anne gave control of the army to Lord Marlborough, whom she appointed Captain-General.

As the new era of parliamentary government unfolded and matured, Anne’s reign was marked by the development of a two-party system; the Tories and the Whigs. Anne personally preferred the Tory Party. In the last couple years of her life Anne became very ill. She was often bedridden and attended to by doctors. These doctors used many techniques to try to cure Anne including bleeding her and applying hot irons. These crude medicinal techniques probably did more harm than good, and Anne died on July 31, 1714.