The Early Years of Queen Anne – Childhood and Girlhood

One of the 2014 Commemorative Coin themes is the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the death of Queen Anne. Events during Anne’s reign have a significance that still resonates today, so we want to take you on a journey through the life of this Queen, whose death brought to an end the era of the Stuart monarchs. As today is the anniversary of Anne’s birth, we thought this was the ideal date to start at the very beginning…

The 300th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Anne 2014 UK £5
The 300th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Anne 2014 UK £5

Anne was born into the Stuart royal family at St James’ Palace, London on 6th February 1665. She was the 2nd daughter and 4th child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Of their eight children, only Anne and her elder sister, Mary, survived beyond childhood, with both becoming Queen of England in due course.

Scandal surrounded her parents as her father, the heir presumptive to the English throne, married her mother, a commoner, only 2 months before the birth of their first child.

Anne’s Parents – James II of England and Anne Hyde

Although a devoted couple, her father maintained several mistresses throughout their marriage, in the royal ways of that time. He was said to be ‘the most unguarded ogler of his time’ and the royal couple were notorious for their ‘public displays of affection’, considered shocking for royalty in the 1660’s (and probably still so today).

Anne never enjoyed good health, and her personal life was rather tragic as a child and as an adult. In her early years she suffered from excessive watering of the eyes, known as ‘defluxion’. To treat this, she was sent to live in Paris with her paternal grandmother, who died in 1669. She went to live in another part of France with her aunt, the Duchess of Orléans. On the sudden death of her aunt in 1670, she returned to England, only to suffer the loss of her mother the following year. At still only six years of age, a young Anne had already endured illness, upheaval and tragedy.

It was around this time that Anne came to know her great friend, Sarah Jennings, who continued to influence her into her adulthood, both personally and through her husband. Sarah married John Churchill about 7 years after becoming friends with Anne. John went on to become the Duke of Marlborough, a hugely significant military figure and statesman during Anne’s reign.

After her mother’s death, her father, who had converted to Catholicism, married the much younger Catholic Princess, Mary of Modena in 1673. At 15, she was only six and a half years older than Anne and, happily, Anne got on well with her step-mother. Fortunately, her father was said to be a loving parent, so hopefully this was a rather happier period of Anne’s young life. Despite this, Anne and her sister lived separately from their parents, in Richmond, London, as was usual for royal children of those times. They were educated as Protestants under the care of Edward Villiers, a good man known as “honest Ned” to Anne’s father, maybe another indication of his affection and care for his children.

In 1683 the then 18 year old Anne married the 30 year old Prince George of Denmark. Sadly, she soon experienced the first of a string of difficult pregnancies, giving birth to a stillborn daughter in May 1684. She would go on to have a further 16 pregnancies in the 16 years to 1700.

Her father became King in 1685, when Anne was 20. Three years later he was deposed in ‘The Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 and her elder sister, Mary, ascended the throne with her husband, William III of Orange, The Netherlands. The era of William and Mary had begun. Although Mary died in 1694, William had inherited the throne for life and it was to be another eight years before Anne became Queen of England in 1702.

In this on-going series, we’ll soon bring you the next chapter, as Anne’s 12-year reign as Queen  begins.

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