For a Queen who seems to have attracted relatively little attention in comparison to other British monarchs, the extent of the legacy that Queen Anne left to this country is, actually, quite considerable. In the final article of this four-part series, I review the influential people who shaped far-reaching events during her life-time and summarise her achievements and the legacy of her era that remains with us today.
Sarah Churchill – a friend since childhood who, during their early years, Anne depended on personally and socially. In their adult years, Sarah’s closeness to and influence with the Queen (a Tory supporter) was of political value to her husband, the Duke of Marlborough and his Whig allies. However, a violent quarrel on Maundy Thursday 6 April 1710 was the last time the two friends saw each other and Sarah was dismissed from the Royal Court.
The Duke of Marlborough – whose military triumphs were undoubtedly important to the success of Anne’s foreign policy, for which he was well rewarded by the Queen. In 1709, following his defeat of the French at the Battle of Malplaquet during the War of Spanish Succession, he was given the huge and extravagant Blenheim estate. His influence declined following his wife’s dismissal from court, but rose again in later years with Anne’s successor, George I.
Abigail Masham – a distant cousin of Anne and, like her, a Tory supporter, succeeded Sarah Churchill as Anne’s closest companion. It’s said that she used her influence with Anne to further Tory policies. There are varying opinions on whether Anne manipulated her ministers or whether she was clever in manipulating them through her friends. It’s difficult to judge from this distance but, whichever it was, at least when the Tories came into power in 1710 they finally negotiated an end to the long-running War of Spanish Succession.
Sir Isaac Newton – held the office of Master of the Mint throughout Queen Anne’s reign. He was keen to ensure that the coins produced at The Royal Mint were as accurate as they possibly could be. He claimed that he had brought the coinage to a ‘much greater degree of exactness than ever was known before’. A set of treasured Queen Anne weights produced as a result of the Act of Union are still on display in the Royal Mint Museum. Newton was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705.
Sir Christopher Wren – the esteemed architect of St Paul’s Cathedral. To this day one of our most nationally significant and sacred landmarks, the cathedral beautifully demonstrates the architectural style of the era. Building began in 1675, continuing through Anne’s reign until its completion in the last years of her life. It was declared officially complete by Parliament on Christmas Day 1711 and Queen Anne’s statue stands at the front of it.
John Croker – an artist well-known to The Royal Mint as a designer of many beautiful coins and medals, still valued and admired today. He became Chief Engraver at The Royal Mint from 1705 and remained so until his death in 1741. Anne’s coinage effigies were his work and engraved almost all of the dies for Queen Anne coins. His Peace of Utrecht medal of 1713 shows the seated figure of Queen Anne as Britannia against a background that represents trade and agriculture. Notable for the well-known historical events they represent, the following are among his prodigious output of medals, some examples of which are held at the Royal Mint Museum:
The Coronation – 1702
The founding of Queen Anne’s Bounty – 1704
The Battle of Ramillies – 1706
The Union of England and Scotland – 1707
The Battle of Malplaquet – 1709
The Peace of Utrecht – 1713
The 1707 Act of Union joined the two nations of England and Scotland, creating Great Britain and raising the requirement for a uniform coinage for the newly-formed Great Britain (read more on this in the previous article ‘The Reigning Years of Queen Anne’).
Records show that Anne attended more cabinet meetings than any of her predecessors or successors.
The Stuart dynasty that came to an end with Anne’s death.
Having left no heirs, her death ushered in the Hanoverian dynasty with the succession of her second cousin, the German Protestant Prince George, Elector of Hanover.
Victory at the Battles of Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709) – lead by the Duke of Marlborough, one of Britain’s greatest generals.
An end to the War of Spanish Succession that had raged throughout her reign was finally negotiated during the last two years of her life. Peace was restored with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht by Britain and France in 1713.
The unification of England and Scotland resulted in a coinage of the same standard and value in both countries. The Scottish Mint in Edinburgh gratefully acknowledged the assistance they received from Newton after the Act of Union (read more on this in the previous article ‘The Reigning Years of Queen Anne’).
Numismatists generally agree on the importance of Queen Anne coins for the beauty of their designs and the rarity of some of the coins of the period – as referred to in the second article ‘The Rising Years of Queen Anne’).
The ‘Queen Anne’ style of architecture and furniture – although it usually refers to the period immediately following her death, the elegance and refinement it signifies is still internationally recognised and admired.
Blenheim Palace (built 1705 – 1722) and Castle Howard (built 1699 – 1712) – both examples of the elegant architecture of the period, were designed by the acclaimed architect Sir John Vanbrugh.
Literature flourished – the works of renowned writers such as Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift are of this period. Indeed the concept of the novel as a form of literature, with which we are so familiar today, was conceived during this period.
Ascot Racecourse – founded by Queen Anne, with the first horse-race meeting held there in 1711. The ‘Queen Anne Stakes’ is still always the first race run every year at Royal Ascot.
Queen Anne’s Bounty – an annual assistance to poor clergy that Anne instigated, was announced in the House of Commons on 7 February 1704, the day after her 39th birthday. The funds have long been taken over by the Church Commissioners who still assist the Church of England’s work nationwide, just as Queen Anne intended all those years ago.
In a sad continuation of the poor health she had constantly endured, Anne suffered from gout in her later years and eventually she could hardly walk. This immobility and the strain of sustaining affairs of state no doubt contributed to her final decline. Queen Anne died at Kensington Palace on 1 August 1714 at the age of 49. She was buried on 24 August 1714, in the tomb where her husband and children lay, at Westminster Abbey, London. In a reference to her difficult life, one of her doctors, John Arbuthnot, considered her death a release and is quoted as writing to Jonathan Swift, “I believe sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller than death was to her.”
I’ve become fond of Queen Anne in many ways while writing the four articles in this series about her life and reign, and hope she would approve if I sign off with her own, regal signature.
Figure and portrait sculptor Mark Richards FRBS, has styled his 2014 UK £5 coin as an eighteenth-century miniature that recalls an age of elegance and refinement and commemorates a Queen who presided over a period of great change in Britain’s history.